Reviews

Not disheartened by the relative paucity of statistical and sociological data on Kazakhstani Russians, nor by a lack of direct access to individual memory, the authors have embarked on an examination of the present situation of these populations through different aspects like: the management of the national question in Kazakhstan since independence; the main current issues of the country’s ‘Kazakhisation’; the place of religion in history writing; the Cossack question and its territorial issues in the north of the country; the dilemma of migrating, or not, to Russia the other way round. Among the numerous subtle considerations conveyed by their work, one can notice the identification of a series of discrepancies between the Russian population and their political representatives in the course of the past twenty years. The role of ethnic associations has been examined in detail, and the evolution of their varied discourses carefully analysed. The Russians’ vision of the Kazakh national idea as a simple non-native version of Russian nationalism has been well identified for instance in the case of Ataman Beliakov’s Russian Party. The evolution of this perception is also reconstructed, until the present representation of the Western conspiracy against the Slavic world, and the rehabilitation of Islam in Central Asia as a mere epiphenomenon of globalisation and Westernisation. Among the different options successively contemplated by Kazakhstani Russians, the authors remind the lack of popularity, and the absence of support from Moscow, of the idea of secession, justified by the original Russian character of regions like the Altai, the Ural, or the Cossack forts in the north of the country. They cast light on the rapid withdrawal of public organisations and parties towards the promotion of communitarian claims. Proposing a history of these organisations and of their discourses in the short duration of the past two decades, the authors cast light on the change of strategy of associations like Lad and Russkaia Obshchina, from political engagement towards better integration in Kazakhstan to the collective organisation of emigration towards Russia ― Russian associations coming then to perceive their community as a diaspora. This strategic evolution has also driven numerous protagonists to support the idea of the Federation of Russia as an ethnic Russian state, and to recommend its russification at the expense of all other populations. Typologically, the case of Kazakhstan is compared with other situations in the former USSR, notably with Ukraine. On the longer duration, the re-emigration towards Russia is relocated within the overall phenomenon of reduction, largely begun in the 1970s, of the geographical space occupied by Russian populations. The attitude of Kazakhstani authorities is also analysed with subtlety, from the viewpoints of the inner functioning of the Nazarbaev administration (through promotion of a rising class of new city dwellers of rural origin who occupy the place emptied by Russian emigrants), but also from the viewpoint of geopolitics (through Astana’s growing fear of Uzbekistan and of China, and through its will of maintaining harmonious relations with Russia). The attitude of Kazakh social élites is rendered through their combination of a promotion of Kazakh nationalism and struggle for the preservation of Russian language. In all, the present book provides the readership with a precious and pioneering contribution on a key aspect of the evolution towards mono-ethnicity of many post-Soviet states, and on its multiple consequences for non-eponymous groups.

The Redaction
CER: II-2.4-88