This article classes the positions of contemporary Kazakh intellectuals into two categories, “cosmopolitan” and “ethno-nationalist”. First up, the author seeks to demonstrate that “ethnic boundaries” are not really at work in the self-identification of post-Soviet intellectual circles since “ethno-nationalist” theories do not have the support of the majority of Kazakhs. He then goes on to explain that, until the turnaround in 1997-1998, the public authorities had to contend with two contradictory expressions of nationalism, that of the Russian minority and that of Kazakh nationalist milieus, whose organisations and political parties have been gradually marginalised. Ever since these years, the country’s president N. Nazarbaev has sought to accelerate the ‘Kazakhization’ of the country, whilst maintaining a discourse about the country’s “Eurasian” character and its role at the crossroads of civilisations. The author then gives an analysis of the way in which both “cosmopolitans” and “ethno-nationalists” see the modernisation of Kazakh society: For the former, surpassing Soviet-time nationalism constitutes a sign of modernity, while for the latter the proof of modernity lies in the rejection of internationalism and the adoption of the model of the nation-state. Both currents thus use the same cultural references, but from opposite standpoints: If the nomadic past is glorified by both as a symbol of democracy and of Kazakh modernity, for the former the hordes’ tribalism is condemned as a revival of pre-Soviet archaism, and for the latter it is a Soviet construction to move beyond. Thus, as the author concludes, both currents are intimately complementary and build their positions in and through rhetorical opposition to one another.