Kazakhstan: Not Like the Other “Stans”?

11 Feb

Following the worldwide media frenzy that resulted from President Nazarbayev’s impromptu remark about changing Kazakhstan’s name to Kazak Yeli/Qazaq Eli, kazaxia has decided to investigate claims that Kazakhstan is essentially different to the other “stans”  and should drop the “stan”  (Editor’s note: What’s wrong with Kazaxia as a new name for the country? ).

Just how different is Kazakhstan to its Central Asian neighbours? Let’s look at some key areas:

Politics – in the political sphere Kazakhstan shares some common ground with Uzbekistan in that it has only had one president since becoming independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. However, it is different to Turkmenistan, which is on its second incumbent, Tajikistan, which is also on number two and Kyrgyzstan, now on number four.

Leader popularity – there is a clear difference here as Kazakhstan is  only one of two “stans” where the president scored more than 95% of the popular vote in the last presidential election. President Nazarbayev was re-elected with a whopping 95.55% of the vote in 2011. Turkmenistan’s President Berdymukhamedov topped that with 97% in 2012 In contrast,  Uzbekistan’s President Karimov got 90.76% in 2007,,  Tajikistan’s President Rahmon received only 86.9% of the vote in 2013 and Kyrgyzstan’s President Atambayev trails in last place with a mere 63.2% in 2011.

Dealing with unsanctioned public protestkazaxia has spotted some differences in dealing with participants in unsanctioned public protests between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In the most recent cases, four bloggers have been arrested in Kazakhstan – at the time of writing three have been imprisoned, a fourth, Dina Baidildayeva, is on trial on February 12 and could face some time inside. So that makes 75%. In Uzbekistan eight protesters were arrested for holding an illegal rally outside the Ukranian embassy – three were given 15-day jail terms. So that makes 37.5%.

President Nazarbayev, speaking at a meeting with cultural figures, where he was asked about changing the country’s name, in Atyrau on February 6, cited  Mongolia (which, of course,  has no “stan” ) as an example of a country that “foreigners show interest” in. Mongolia is unusual in Central Asian countries in that is an island of freedom in a sea of not-free countries, according to this infographic from Freedom House. 

So, we can conclude that Kazakhstan sure is different form its neighbours, but whether matters will be helped by a name change is up for debate.


4 Responses to “Kazakhstan: Not Like the Other “Stans”?”

  1. Stan Rogers February 11, 2014 at 5:09 am #

    ASHGABAT — I hate to break it to you, but the people of Turkmenistan love their dear leader more than the people of Kazakhstan love theirs. Berdymukhamedov received 97% of votes cast (at least 102% of those) in the 2012 election. I fear Kazakhstan is not exceptional enough to drop the “stan.”


    • kazaxia February 11, 2014 at 6:22 am #

      We apologise for any offence caused and will do our utmost to rectify the situation asap.
      Kazaxia Moderation Team.

  2. Anonymous February 15, 2014 at 5:23 am #

    When I went to Kazakhstan in 2010 my visa was $45, now it’s $160. But in August 2013 it was $240. We also get raked over the coals by airfare. Guess what, Mr. Nazarbayev, it’s not the name that turns people away! Your people are plenty nice and hospitable – it’s the price of admission.

    • kazaxia February 16, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

      Yes, I agree that Kazakhstan could potentially attract more tourists with a more friendly visa regime. It should look to Kyrgyzstan as an example – it abolished tourist visas a few years ago and now nationals of many countries can get a visa on arrival.

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