ISSN 2330-717X

Kazakhstan Must Seek To Repatriate 1.5 Million Kazakhs From China – OpEd


China says it will allow 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang to emigrate to Kazakhstan, and Kazakhstan has an annual quota of 2500 such immigrants. But those figures are a drop in the bucket, Kazakh political analyst Aydos Sarym says, given that there are some 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs in China that Astana must attract home.

If it continues to allow so few in each year, Kazakhstan would not manage to get all of them back in less than 600 years, he continues, adding that he doubts Kazakhstan has that much time given the Sinification of Kazakhs in China and the departure of ethnic Russians from Kazakhstan (

Most of the Kazakhs from China will want to settle near where their families came from, in the villages of the southern and eastern portions of the country, or in the big cities. But the oralmans, as these people are called, need to be encouraged to move to the northern part of the republic which will otherwise see a dangerous depopulation with the exit of ethnic Russians.

Many in Kazakhstan are afraid of such mass immigration, fearful that the returnees will be more nationalist than those who never left and thus destabilize the situation or that they will be less skilled than Kazakhs already here and become a burden. But such fears are overstated, Sarym says. Kazakhstan needs people and not just IT workers.

China is the largest potential pool of immigrants, he continues, and Beijing has an interest in getting rid of Kazakhs whom it finds more difficult to assimilate than other groups.  But Astana must also be on the lookout for other opportunities to attract ethnic Kazakhs back to Kazakhstan.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

One thought on “Kazakhstan Must Seek To Repatriate 1.5 Million Kazakhs From China – OpEd

  • January 29, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    This is a great suggestion! Yes all Kazakhs in China want to move back to our motherland Kazakhstan where we came from more than a hundred years ago. We don’t belong to China. We belong to Kazakhstan. China persecutes us. Only Kazakhstan can protect us. We don’t want to become Chinese. Therefore, the only solution, just like Paul Goble, said is for all of us, 1.5 million, Kazakhs to return to Kazakhstan for good.


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