Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

The Notion of "Kazakhness" Behind the Symbolic Nation-Building of Kazakhstan

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

The Notion of "Kazakhness" Behind the Symbolic Nation-Building of Kazakhstan

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

After the breakdown of the Soviet Empire all post-communist regimes emphasized the role of ethno nationalism in establishing new nation-building projects. The model of Kazakhstan's nation building is quite unique in terms of harmonious interethnic coexistence of a multiethnic society. Since independence President Nazarbaev initiated serious programs in an effort to start active nation-building processes. As a matter of fact, Nazarbaev's nation and state building policies are represented for the Kazakhs as a civilizational endeavor. Nazarbaev took Kazakhstan through large scale administrative, legislative, social, economic and political reforms. Consequently, economic development was considered both a crucial aspect of nation-building and a process by which traditional Kazakh society became more modernized and complex. The article investigates one of the most salient manifestations of Kazakh modernization in the context of post-Soviet nation-building: the transfer and construction of contemporary capital of Kazakhstan. The decision to transfer capital from Almaty to Astana was result of long and meaningful discussions of public, presidential and parliamentarian level. According to September 15, 1995 presidential Decree on the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan a State Commission was formed to organize the transfer of the highest and central authorities to the city Akmola (Astana). (1) By another presidential Decree on declaring the city Akmola the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the city of Akmola became the capital of Kazakhstan and renamed Astana in 1998. (2)

Although Nazarbaev mentioned 32 criteria (climate landscape, seismic conditions, social and economic indicator, infrastructures, communications etc.) for transferring the capital (3), the decision had also significant national implications, which were affirmed by the demographic policy of Astana and new architectural and symbolic solutions. Furthermore, the article examines the negative legacy of Russian colonialism on Kazakh's national identity and urban consciousness. Soviet modernization (social, political) in line with industrialization an urbanization played significant role for Soviet Russia in establishing its colonial control in Kazakhstan. The urban areas and especially rapidly growing Astana were populated by non-Kazakh (mostly Russophone) ethnic population, and especially by Russians. The organized migration of ethnic Kazakhs from rural to urban areas during the post-Soviet nation-building processes can be seen a policy towards the becoming postcolonial. The mix of national icons and western architectural motifs of various buildings of independent Kazakhstan is a kind of Kazakh post-modernism tending to overcome the Soviet 'colonial' legacy of Kazakhstan.

The ethno symbolic approach encourages the processes of ethno-genesis, in which myths, memories, symbolism and especially language as mechanism of socio-cultural survival play fundamental role in analyzing formations of national identity. (4) The incorporation of symbols of Kazakh's nomadic culture has become essential in increasing national self-consciousness among ethnic Kazakhs. As case in point, the article also investigates the interplay between Kazakhstan's ethnic politics and state symbols in explaining civic or ethnic approaches of nation-building.

Following this introduction, the paper aims to set up meaningful coherence between various theoretical ideas and nation-building policies of Kazakhstan. The theoretical framework of this paper combines review of a choice of literatures on nationalism, literature, semiotics, ethno symbolism and post-Colonial studies. The ideas derived from the theories inclined to provide support for the interpretation of the nation-building processes of Kazakhstan. The subsequent section is dedicated to the state's decision on movement and construction of capital Astana in analyzing the nation-building implications behind the decision of Kazakhstan's elite. …

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