By Svante E. Cornell
January 2, 2024
In January 2022, Kazakhstan experienced its most serious internal crisis since independence. Popular protests over energy costs turned into riots that in turn took on the shape of an attempted coup d’état that required President Tokayev to request support from the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Kazakhstan’s outlook appeared bleak. While some elements of the January events are still being investigated by the Kazakh law enforcement, the overall picture of what happened is clear. Overall, however, the events led to a gradual purge of older elements within the state institutions, a further distancing from Russia, and a redoubling of the overall reform process in the country.
Svante E. Cornell
October 24, 2023
Almost four years have passed since President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev embarked upon an agenda to bring thorough reforms to Kazakhstan’s politics and society. This article looks at the process of implementation of these reforms in a highly precarious geopolitical environment, where Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to increasing threats to Kazakhstan’s integrity by leading Russian figures. This analysis shows that Kazakhstan has proceeded on institutional reform, including modest but meaningful steps in sensitive areas such as separation of powers and electoral systems.
By Svante E. Cornell and Albert Barro
November 7, 2022
In his September 2022 address to the nation, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev spent an inordinate amount of time on social issues, and in particular on reforms in the education and healthcare sector. This stems directly from the growing inequities in the provision of services in the country, where rural and remote areas in particular do not benefit from the same level of service provision as larger cities. The social reforms introduced by President Tokayev aim at correcting these problems, but their success will be dependent on the broader political reforms that intend to change the relationship between citizen and state in Kazakhstan.
By Svante E. Cornell
April 18, 2022
In January 2022, Kazakhstan went through an unprecedented crisis. While it was since overshadowed in the eyes of the world by the events in Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s crisis marked a turning point in the country’s history and will have considerable implications for Central Asia. This analysis of the events and their implications, building on an attached chronology of events, concludes that while the initial peaceful public protests were the result of socio-economic frustrations that had long been building in the country, the violent turn of events was the result of a premeditated effort to unseat President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. While the exact nature of this challenge remains unclear, what is clear is that it resulted from resistance to Tokayev’s reform agenda among the forces that benefited from the political and economic system he sought to reform. While the crisis raised concerns regarding Kazakhstan’s future course in both domestic and foreign policy realms, evidence thus far suggests the contrary: President Tokayev has redoubled his commitment to reform and to the country’s sovereignty and independence, promising to build a “New Kazakhstan.” As the U.S. and EU recalibrate their regional strategies in the wake of the war in Ukraine, learning the right lessons from Kazakhstan’s January crisis will be of utmost importance.
By Richard Weitz
April 11, 2022
The resistance of Kazakhstan’s government to supporting the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine shows that, despite the brief Russian military intervention in Kazakhstan in January 2022, Kazakhstan still pursues a multi-vector foreign policy. Western governments can reinforce this stance, by which Kazakhstan strives to cooperate with all major powers while preventing the hegemony of any, through targeted support and other measures.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.