Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev
Last month, Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Russian Duma’s education and science committee, observed that “the territory of Kazakhstan” was formed as a result of “a big gift from Russia.” The Kazakhstan foreign ministry denounced this statement, and now President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev has joined this attack.
On 5 January 2021, in a major article published in Kazakh in Egemen Qazaqstan and released in Russian by his office, Tokayev says that “no one from the outside gave Kazakhs this enormous territory” and that, contrary to the views of some, “our history did not begin in 1991 or 1936.”
Instead, he continued, “our people have lived and grown here from the times of the Kazakh khanate and earlier, under the Golden Horde, the Turkic khanate, the Huns, and the Sakhs.” That is something “certain foreigners who have doubts about our territorial integrity” should remember because Kazakhs will defend their own.
In one of the most nationalistic speeches he has ever delivered, Tokayev responded to Nikonov’s remarks – and by implication those of Vladimir Putin earlier – by celebrating the anti-Moscow resistance of the Alash Orda after the 1917 revolution and condemning the famines that cost so many Kazakhs their lives and forced others to flee.
Moreover, he pointed out that 2021 is the 35th anniversary of the December 1986 events in Alma Ata when “the sons and daughters of the Kazakh people, unafraid of the anger of Soviet power, went into the streets in order to defend the honor of their nation. Symbolically, this happened just five years before our Independence was proclaimed.”
The Kazakh nation rests on its land, its language, and its unity “which helps us to overcome all difficulties,” Tokayev continues. They have been claimed and continue to be defended. They are in no case some gift from others. Historians, not politicians should write history because some of the latter don’t know what they are talking about.
The Kazakhstan president said he was especially pleased that ever more non-Kazakhs living in Kazakhstan are learning Kazakh and that those Kazakhs who did not grow up speaking it are turning to the language now. “Better late than never,” Tokayev stresses, because this is one of the things holding the nation together.
And in his conclusion, Tokayev says that “we reject the predictions circulated by many foreign experts about some explosion of ‘the powder keg of Eurasia’ or the fate of a ‘failed state.’” The people and government have and will continue to prevent such outcomes and do so by integrating all the peoples of Kazakhstan into one nation.
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