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.
Stifling of opposition continued amid calls for creation of new opposition party and adoption of limited reforms. Around 200 people 13 Sept gathered in authorised rally in Almaty to call for release of political prisoners and authorisation to form new opposition Democratic Party, which govt has repeatedly barred from official registration; demonstrators also called for expulsion of Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan, citing fear of Chinese economic “expansion” in country. After prominent civil rights activist Erbol Eskhozhin publicly called police officers “Nazarbayev’s puppies” during protest earlier this year, in reference to former President Nazarbayev, Almaty city court 14 Sept fined Eskhozhin $530 for insulting police. Almaty city court next day upheld April sentence of activist Alnur Ilyashev, convicted for criticising govt response to COVID-19 outbreak, to parole-like limited freedom. Authorities 25 Sept disrupted protests across country organised by exiled leader of opposition Mukhtar Ablyazov by reportedly surrounding public squares and preventing demonstrators from gathering; police reportedly detained protesters in capital Nur-Sultan, Aktobe and eastern Semey. President Tokayev 1 Sept called for “reset” of state structures, including implementation of direct elections for local governors from next year; move follows persistent calls from opposition groups for democracy reform in recent years. Tokayev same day announced creation of two new state agencies and more independence for Agency for Emergency Situations to tackle COVID-19 pandemic.
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.