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CrisisWatch Kazakhstan

Deteriorated Situation

Localised protests over fuel price turned into nationwide rioting heavily repressed by security forces, killing over 200 people. Protesters 2 Jan flooded streets of petroleum-producing city of Zhanaozen in west after govt doubled fuel prices; protests spread rapidly across country, first in other oil- and mineral-producing regions and then to most regions. In Almaty city, thousands of demonstrators 5 Jan shouted “Old man out” in reference to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led country until 2019 and retained position of head of National Security Council thereafter. In response to unrest, govt 5 Jan resigned and President Tokayev same day removed Nazarbayev from security council position, as well as senior intelligence official Karim Masimov. Protesters 5 Jan took control of Almaty’s airport. Amid unrest, Tokayev 5 Jan requested regional alliance Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to send forces to guard govt facilities in capital Nur-Sultan; Russia 7 Jan announced regional forces, comprising notably Russian and Armenian troops, retook Almaty’s airport. Tokayev 11 Jan announced beginning of departure of CSTO forces on 13 Jan. Media reports indicated authorities detained up to 12,000 people and officials reported 225 deaths during unrest, with over 2,000 requiring hospital treatment. Last four Russian military transport aircraft with Russian CSTO peacekeepers on board 19 Jan departed from Nur-Sultan.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

7 Jan 2022
For Russia, if things do settle down [in Kazakhstan], it will be a substantial win, demonstrating how critical it remains, and also tethering Kazakhstan to it that much more. Reuters

Olga Oliker

Program Director, Europe and Central Asia
30 Nov 2017
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. EurasiaNet

Deirdre Tynan

Former Project Director, Central Asia

Latest Updates

What Just Happened in Kazakhstan?

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to Nurseit Niyazbekov, professor of international relations at Almaty’s KIMEP University, about the wave of protests that swept across Kazakhstan, why they happened and their implications for the future.

Stress Tests for Kazakhstan

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.

Also available in 简体中文

Russian Speakers of the Kazakh Steppe

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.