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Oleg Panfilov,
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Dmitry Alyaev,
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Elena Dorokhova,
Boiling point
Vyacheslav Tairov (Almaty)
In Almaty oblast, in the south-east of Kazakhstan, for the second time in several months, major unrest occurred. The Kazakhstani authorities call the events “hooliganism”, trying to get ahead of those who are ready to assume that these clashes are nothing but an interethnic conflict.

A mass brawl took place in the village of Kazatkom in the Almaty region on March 18. In the village where the Chechen Makhmakhanov family lives, a large group of residents of the village of Malovodnoe and other neighboring villages, the Kazakhs, arrived. She arrived to punish the offender - one of the Makhmakhanovs. Quarreled young people tried to sort out the relationship the day before, but the conflict was not exhausted.

In a fight, during which firearms were used, according to various sources, between 9 and 12 people were injured, three of them died. The young people who came to the Makhmakhanov to sort out burned down the house and car, which belonged to the family of the offender.

The first reports of a mass brawl came only in the afternoon of March 19. Representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan were quick to note that events in the Almaty region cannot be classified as an interethnic conflict.

At a press conference in Astana, Kazakhstan today reported, the head of the press service of the Interior Ministry, Bagdat Kozhakhmetov, said that "this conflict cannot be viewed as a conflict on a national basis."

At a time when a press secretary spoke in Astana, a rally of local residents was held in the village of Malovodnoe, demanding to investigate the situation, punish the guilty, and also evict all Chechens from the region. Later, the protesters blocked the Republican highway passing through Malovodnoe. The villages were taken under the control of the police, and the locals were forced to disperse.

According to the chairman of the Association for the Development of Culture of the Chechen and Ingush Peoples of Vainakh, Ahmed Muradov, in the following days the situation remained tense in Malovodnom and Kazatkom.

“It would seem that all this should have subsided. But, unfortunately, the situation is still not calmed down. Last night there were again cases of arson and destruction of shops and houses. The process has acquired a systemic nature. Despite the work being done and the actions of the law enforcement agencies, if in one place it is possible to block the situation, in the other it continues to heat up immediately, ”he told the online edition Zona.kz.

First calls

A few dozen kilometers from the villages of Malovodnoye and Kazatkom is the village of Shilik, where in November last year, events similar to the present took place. Then in Shilik there was a fight between the Kazakhs and the Uighurs. Local and republican authorities, public figures, journalists made a lot of efforts to ensure that the fight in the minds of Kazakhstan’s people remained a case of hooliganism, but by no means a manifestation of hostility between two ethnic groups. Only national patriots, who terribly reminded those who were considered wrong, about whose land they lived, did not undertake such efforts.

Now, after the events in Kazatkom, similar statements are being made: there is no crisis in relations between the Kazakhs and the Chechens, but the Chechens must restrain some of their fellows.

According to the 2004 census data, about 35 thousand Chechens live in Kazakhstan. The Chechen diaspora exists in almost all regions of Kazakhstan, it is especially numerous in the Almaty region and Almaty. So far, there have really been no clashes or special disagreements between the Kazakhs and the Chechens in this region. At the same time, in the relations of two peoples in the history of Kazakhstan there was already a serious crisis. Almost fifteen years ago, in October 1992 in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Chechens who did not live permanently in Kazakhstan killed four young Kazakhs. This provoked serious unrest: twice crowds of people tried to storm the village in which the Chechens lived. Then the conflict was resolved, and in Eastern Kazakhstan for some time there was a “special regime” - meetings, meetings and demonstrations were banned, a ban on the sale of alcohol was introduced, and checks on vehicles were intensified.

After the March events in Malovodny and Kazatkom, the authorities stabilize the situation in a similar way: round-the-clock patrols are conducted in the villages, there are special police units. In the first days after the events, government offices, schools, shops and bazaars did not work here.

Relationship crisis

Events in the Almaty region, may indeed have nothing to do with interethnic relations. However, this conflict, like the November events in Shilik, allowed once again to start talking about the problems in relations between various peoples living in Kazakhstan and the reluctance of the authorities to solve the contradictions existing between them. Comments accompanying the discussion of events in Kazatkom on Kazakhstani political sites are full of hatred and anger, and proposals for the early eviction of "those who dared."

The events in Shilik sharply aggravated the already very difficult relations between the Kazakhs and the Uighurs, the events in Kazatkom led to tensions in the relations between the Kazakhs and the Chechens. Whether the crisis will become systemic, nobody knows. The authorities of Kazakhstan once again ignore the topic of growing tension in relations between different ethnic groups. In the republic, research data on the level of tension in relations between various ethnic groups are never made public. It is unlikely that such studies are not conducted at all, but their results can not be found on the websites of state bodies. The authorities of the republic are sluggish in responding to alarming calls, limiting themselves to the demands of journalists - not to dwell on this topic, not to talk about interethnic contradictions.

Such an approach throughout the years of independence brought the desired effect - the topic of interethnic relations was presented exclusively in bright colors, and growing nationalism, both Kazakh and non-Kazakh, was not noticed. But how effective will this tactic be now, when tension in relations between ethnic groups in Kazakhstan reaches a critical point?

So far, the authorities have limited themselves to holding several official events - round tables and conferences and a statement about the need to allocate several seats in the Senate - the upper house of parliament - for representatives of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan, the body designed to strengthen the friendship of peoples. Other methods of removing contradictions have not yet been made public and it is not clear whether they will be applied. Perhaps the position taken by the authorities many years ago - not to notice the problems and talk only about the good - will not change even now. Against the background of the calmness of the authorities, there appeared chances for new leaders who are able to rally all those who are dissatisfied and ready to demand changes in national politics.

New Leaders

In Kazakhstan, national and mono-ethnic movements have never been strong. The republic remained multinational even after the collapse of the Union. Representatives of various nationalities have always competed among themselves for the right to occupy high positions in government departments and public institutions. National movements submitted serious applications for participation in the political struggle only before the presidential elections of 2005, when the new Kazakh national-patriotic organizations were officially registered, bringing together moderately popular Kazakh nationalists.

They, representatives of national-patriotic movements, such as “Ult Tagdyr”, are now becoming the main commentators of the events taking place in Almaty region - in Shilik and Kazatkom. They claim to be the new leaders.

National patriots in their speeches are not as aggressive as they could be, but already now their main message is “no one is dissatisfied with life in Kazakhstan here”.

Now, after two serious turns of tension in interethnic relations, of course, the best moment to invite national patriots to join their ranks is those who are more persistent in demanding compliance with the rules of the game, which are established in Kazakhstan by the main ethnic group. In the event that it is the nationalists who become the new leaders in shaping the policy of interethnic relations, Kazakhstan will pass the point which is usually called the point of no return. And it will be much harder to change the situation than now, when the point of no return in the republic has not yet been passed.

From the statement by the chairman of the Association for the Development of Culture of the Chechen and Ingush Peoples of Vainakh, Ahmed Muradov:

“This action was organized by forces that do not like stability and peaceful coexistence in the country. The victims of this action were ordinary civilians who died in this skirmish.

We express our condolences to the families and friends of the victims, their families, and we sympathize with them. Everything that happened for Kazakhstan is an emergency. Now in place that we can, we do. We work together with law enforcement agencies and local akimats. We try to reassure people, caution against thoughtless actions, talking with elders, restrain young people. In order to not repeat the case, as in the village Kazatkom.

Our law enforcement forces allow us to hope that they will cope with the situation. In such close contact with the staff of the operational headquarters, we have full mutual understanding and joint actions.

At the same time, the fact that not only people from other villages and districts, but also from other areas gather in the Enbekshi-Kazakh district, indicates that there are organized forces here.

The voiced demands for the immediate eviction of Chechens are not even subject to comment. The Chechen people will remain in Kazakhstan, where many were born, grew up, work, built houses. First, Chechens always maintained friendship and peace with the Kazakhs. Secondly, we support those forces in Kazakhstan that are in favor of stability, prosperity and peaceful coexistence in the country. ”
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