RUSSIA-KAZAKHSTAN The ‘Russian world’ of northern Kazakhstan

The Petropavlovsk region even bears in its name the memory of the Russian tsarist government, and many indicators, not only political but also social and economic, confirm the separatist moods of a large part of the population.

Astana () – In the Russian and international press, inquiries about the prospects for northern Kazakhstan, a region with a strong presence of ethnic Russians also called Crimea or Kazakh Donbass, are multiplying. Although there are no tensions of an equivalent level in the southeast of Ukraine, many believe that separatism in this region will continue to grow.

The Crimean analogy has an obvious historical basis: as with the Black Sea peninsula, which was transferred from Russia to Ukraine, party secretary Nikita Khrushchev decided in the early 1960s to create what he called the “Tselina district”. or “of the Virgin Lands” with 5 regions of Kazakhstan (Kokshetau, Kustanaj, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk and Akmola, today Astana), which were incorporated into the Russian Soviet republic RSFSR, according to a redistribution plan of the territories decided “from above” . At that time, the Chairman of the Council of the Kazakh Republic of KASSR, Zhumabek Tashenov, opposed it and managed to stop the initiative, although he personally paid for it with the loss of his position.

North Kazakhstan today partly coincides with the Petropavlovsk region, which bears in its name the memory of the Russian tsarist regime, and numerous indicators, not only political but also social and economic, confirm the separatist sentiments of a large part of its population. It is not only or mainly a question of “oppression of the minority” or of the imposition of the Kazakh language, as in the case of the Ukrainians in Donbass, because this process is much less aggressive than in Ukraine or other ex-Soviet countries despite to be the order of the day. On the other hand, supporters of the Russkij mir ideology are growing in the area, which assumes Russia’s guiding role with respect to all the peoples historically linked to it.

Russians in northern Kazakhstan only watch Russian TV shows, only communicate in Russian on social media, and many even hold Russian passports – generously provided by Moscow – along with their Kazakh one, and for that reason they can also receive a Russian pension. Nostalgia for Soviet times is widespread, along with anger over backward economic conditions in the region – which has a lower standard of living than the rest of Kazakhstan – and ethnic Russians have turned from colonizers to ” marginal”.

Currenttime correspondent Timur Yermashev toured the cities and villages of northern Kazakhstan to try to understand how deeply rooted these sentiments are among the inhabitants. The investigation arose out of a stir caused by a video released in Petropavlovsk in April, in which about twenty people calling themselves the “Workers’ People’s Council” declared their intention to secede from Kazakhstan on the basis of the 1937 Soviet Constitution, which recognizes “the independence, autonomy and sovereignty of the Soviet peoples”. The Kazakhstan General Prosecutor’s Office immediately opened proceedings to investigate this group, and two people, Denis Rudnik and Kristina Kolchenko, were convicted in June on charges of “inciting division and separatism in society”.

Both had also expressed their support for a possible “special military operation” by Moscow in northern Kazakhstan, stating that “Uralsk has always been a Russian city”, like Pavlodar, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Semipalatinsk, some of the main centers of the region, and launching a cry for help to Russia: “We want to be with you!”. The capital of the region, Petropavlovsk, is in fact the only city in the country where Kazakhs are not the majority ethnic group and represent only 33% of the inhabitants, compared to 53% of Russians, although so far no problems have been reported. of coexistence. There is even a monument, the only one of its kind, in which the statues of the two main poets of both peoples, Aleksandr Pushkin and Abaj Kunanbaev, rest on the same base.

From Russia, the Kremlin’s propaganda continues to affirm the “Russianism” of these regions and the need to support the “nationalism” of compatriots and the defense of their cultural and political identity, with tones very similar to those used for years regarding from Donbass. The conductors ask the public – who would be Russian Kazakhs – “Are you there waiting for the Russian world?”, and all respond enthusiastically “Yes, yes, yes!”. In Khrushchev’s time, many Russians came to cultivate the “virgin lands”, and now they claim the “Russian virginity” of this vast territory that stretches between the Siberian tundra and the Kazakh steppes.

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Written by Editor TLN

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