The author seeks to fill a noticeable gap in the study of the responses of non-Russian and non-titular ethnic groups of Central Asian states to the “nationalisation” process that has followed the break-up of the USSR. Germans and Koreans, two “punished peoples” with a common past, deported to Kazakhstan under Stalin, have been chosen for comparison. Using the results of a survey (1997) and his own interviews conducted in 2000 and 2002, the author comes to a conclusion that the Germans’ perceptions of Kazakhstan appear less “territorialised” than those of the Koreans. The latter, for instance, tend to think more emotionally about their belonging to their country of residence; they are more inclined to identify themselves with a country as a whole, rather than with a concrete locale in it (p. 214); they are also more inclined to accept a civic, Kazakhstani, identity (p. 216). In my view, these results, to a large extent, are self-evident due to the facts well-known to any student of interethnic situation in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. While most Germans have clearly opted for emigration (between 1989 and 1999, between 63 and 76 percent of Kazakhstani Germans have left the country, pp. 219, 234), the majority of Koreans have chosen to adapt to changing realities. Actually, the Germans’ case is a good illustration of the enormous impact that the welcoming politics of a kin-state (accompanied by generous funding of repatriation) have made on the loyalties and allegiances of an expatriate group.
In my view, in terms of scholarly findings comparison of the two groups’ reaction to post-Soviet transformation in Kazakhstan could have been more productive if the author had not relied so heavily on the survey presentation, to the detriment of interviews. Quantitative surveys impose more limitations on the peoples’ ability to express themselves; moreover, in the case under study, as it was recognised by the author himself, conditions of massive emigration have affected Germans’ answers to the survey questions (p. 227). Besides, the article is overloaded, in my view, with a huge number of endnotes (covering more than 12 pages, compared with the 22 pages of the text itself). The topic for the sake of which the paper has been written seems to be nearly lost in a mass of details related to Germans’ and Koreans’ presence in the USSR/Kazakhstan, including historical essays. A. Diener’s efforts to satisfy both an absolute newcomer to the area and a person with a good expertise complicate reading and grasping of the author’s ideas.
Natalya Kosmarskaya, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow