Narek A. Mkrtchyan
Key words – Kazakhstan, Russia, nation building, national identity, Islam, Turkic Identity, securitization, Turkism .
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Central Asian leaders approached the nation building process as an innovative idea to their states. Former communist leaders also relied upon the discourse of nationalism to achieve public consent and to legitimize the continuity of their regimes with strong patrimonial features. Indeed, the groundwork and basis of national ideas were formed during the Soviet Union, which as the architect of national ideas in the Central Asian region created union republics based on ethnic belonging. Moreover, it would provide unique national space for the formation of cultural-national identity aimed at destroying the overarching Islamic identities. In this context, it is quite interesting to focus on the paradigm of Kazakhstan’s nation building in the post-Soviet era. The Kazakh paradigm of nation building is a result of multidimensional responses to the challenges of post-Soviet history. Kazakhstan stands out among other post-Soviet countries as an example of inter-ethnic understanding, which provides not only rational but also inclusive ideas of the collectivity of diverse ethnic commonalities. In the present article, the issue under scrutiny is the challenges of Islam and Turkism in the post-Soviet Kazakhstan. President Nursultan Nazarbayev came to pursue an ambitious project of nation building, which contained components of patrimonial use of authority, ethnicizing and civic policies with emphasis on western style administration. The ethnic and civic approaches of nation building policies of Kazakhstan are unique not only in terms of multiculturalism and political stability but also for addressing Turkic and Islamic challenges. The breakdown of the Soviet Union left an ideological vacuum in Central Asia. This situation contained serious challenges and risks concerning possibly filling the vacuum with Islamic ideologies. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan did not provide Islamic responses to the challenges of post-Soviet realities; instead, it tried to overcome traditional/tribal relations and to establish innovative tendencies for the development of national ideas. Next, for the government of Kazakhstan, the exclusion of radical Islam became one of the most strategic priorities of nation/state building processes. To this end, the Nazarbaev administration pursued a policy of “securitization of foreign Islam” to keep Kazakstan far from the external influence of radical/political Islam and have balanced relations with the Christian Russia. Compared to other Central Asian countries Kazakhstan is more open to the world. To maintain the balance of power among Russia, China, Iran, United States, European Union and Turkic states the Nazarbaev administration proclaimed about Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy.