Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Several protests took place throughout month, while number of reported COVID-19 cases surged. After govt late May amended law to permit certain protests if organisers notify authorities ahead of time, opposition parties Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and Democratic Party organised 6 June protests calling for range of democratic reforms; police same day detained over 100 protesters on grounds of violating COVID-19 regulations, sparking public outrage. Dozen activists 10 June gathered in front of EU office in capital Nur-Sultan calling for release of three activists, sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 days. NGO Human Rights Watch 12 June called on authorities to release rights activist Asya Tulesov, arrested and sentenced for “violence against the police” after participating in 6 June protest, citing “disproportionate charges”. Meanwhile, more than a dozen women 8-10 June staged “silent protest” in Nur-Sultan over lack of financial assistance from govt; after protesters refused to leave site, authorities 10 June forcibly placed them in quarantine. Senate 11 June approved bill decriminalising libel; free speech advocacy group Adil Soz called change “partial” given custodial sentences of 25 days remain in place. Health authorities 17 June claimed COVID-19 situation was getting “out of control” following spike in infections among govt officials; press service of former President Nazarbayev next day confirmed Nazarbayev tested positive for disease. Govt next day tightened public health restrictions in Nur-Sultan and five other major cities and President Tokayev 25 June dismissed health minister.
Kazakhstan’s wish for stability and continuity under long-serving President Nazarbayev trumps the will for political change, especially given turbulence elsewhere on Russia’s borders. But without economic reform, full ethnic equality and a political succession plan, the Central Asian country risks becoming another brittle post-Soviet state vulnerable to external destabilisation.
Resource-led economic growth cannot mask the need for reforms in Kazakhstan as labour unrest, social divisions and a growing Islamist movement threaten the country’s stability.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
The Annual Meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) commencing on 3 May 2003 is an opportunity to assess frankly and honestly the records of the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Competition for water is increasing in Central Asia at an alarming rate, adding tension to what is already an uneasy region.
The new Kazakh military doctrine is a clear reference to Ukraine. The Kazakh doctrine is very similar to the doctrine Belarus adopted in 2016, but Minsk was more explicit about learning lessons from Ukraine.
Originally published in Eurasianet
In late 2014, consultant and former Crisis Group researcher, Varvara Pakhomenko, journeyed to the northern Kazakh steppe, and the towns and villages along Kazakhstan’s Russian border, to learn more about the interwoven relationship between the Kazakh and Russian speakers of the area.