> Kazakhs Must Create Their Own Nationalism to Address Problems and Survive, Tatilya Says
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Kazakhs Must Create Their Own Nationalism to Address Problems and Survive, Tatilya Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – Because of their history, Kazakhs in sharp contrast to most of the other post-Soviet nations, have never developed a full-fledged nationalism, but they desperately need to do so now, Kenzhe Tatilya says, or they won’t be able to solve the problems they now face or even ensure that their nation and state will survive.

            The Kazakhstan political commentator says that Vladimir Putin proudly declares that he is a Russian nationalist, but many Kazakhs, like some other non-Russians, are afraid to do the same about their peoples.  This is more, he suggests than just a question of Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi (camonitor.kz/33821-nuzhen-li-nam-kazahskiy-nacionalizm-esli-da-to-kakoy.html).

            In most places, Taatilya says, the philosophy of nationalism served as the catalyst for processes which led to the appearance of new state formations. But in Kazakhstan, the situation has been different and Kazakh nationalism “did not become a key motivating factor which made possible the appearance of Kazakh statehood.”

            The reasons for this are historical, the commentator continues.  While some Kazakhs have talked about nations and nationalism, in almost no case did they let alone the society they hoped to appeal to accept nationalism as a doctrine and guide for action. Even the Alash Orda limited itself to demands for autonomy.

            However strange it may seem, “the most powerful outburst of Kazakh nationalism” were the events of 1986. “But even then, these December events did not become for our ethnos a moment of truth” and did not acquire “an all national character” or promote “the consolidation of the Kazakhs as a nation.”

            A year or two later, with the appearance of glasnost, national movements worthy of the name arose in Lithuania, Georgia and elsewhere, Tatilya says; but again not in Kazakhstan.  The republic’s acquisition of independence was not the result of a national movement but rather something else, the collapse elsewhere of the empire. 

            After 1991, “all movements of a nationalist type in our country came to nothing,” a development some explain by the harsh policies of the regime and others by the calculations about the existence of more than one nation int eh country and the absence of a charismatic leader who might assume charge of a genuine national movement.

            But Tatilya says there are three critical reasons that are often ignored, reasons that in and of themselves show why Kazakhs must now form a national movement. First, “we Kazakhs even now have not fully formed as a nation in the commonly accepted meaning of that term.” Instead, the Kazakhs have not been able to “overcome survivals of traditional society.”

            Second, Kazakhs remained mired in the post-colonial syndrome even 30 years after gaining independence and still blame everyone but themselves for their problems. And third, they lack a longstanding tradition of state independence that could serve as the basis for nationalism as commonly understood.

            Today, Tatilya argues, Kazakhs desperately need a nationalism of their own and “for one simple reason: Until political nationalism takes shape in their country, “all our current problems will remain in a state of permanent irresolution,” including identity, language modernization, conceptualization of history, and overcoming the post-colonial syndrome.

            But even these aren’t the main reason for working to develop Kazakh nationalism, he concludes. Instead, it is this: a country lacking such political nationalism “cannot but generate feelings of concern about our future.”

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