The Shymkent Gambit

Nursultan Nazarbayev’s decision to separate Symkent from the South-Kaakhstan region may have rather serious consequences for the Southern clan. But will it decrease the heat of the elite fighting inside the region? That is the question.

On the eve of the Astana Day and, therefore, his own birthday, President of Kazakhstan signed two decrees.

The first one was signed on June 19, 2018. It was the decree on moving Shymkent to the category of the cities of the national status, on renaming the South-Kazakhstan region as the Turkestan region and on moving its regional center to the Turkestan city.

The second one was signed on June 28, 2018 — on renaming the Ministry for Religious Affairs and Civil Society as the Ministry for Social Development.

As for the second decision, it is of a purely technical nature and, most likely, was initiated by the new head of the agency Darkhan Kaletayev. We believe the «Ministry for Social Development» is no better than the «Ministry for Religious Affairs and Civil Society». One can offer a dozen other similar names — the Ministry for Social Agreement, the Ministry for Social Progress, etc. No difference whatsoever.

We even allow for the possibility that this initiative was attempted solely for the purpose of obtaining «the authorities and responsibilities to implement the state policies in the sphere of the social agreement». All the more so, since it will be supported by the handing over the staff size and the budget financing. As a result, the role and significance of the Ministry in the overall system of the state power is to increase. However, this does not mean that it will fulfill its key task — to establish the normal contact and even collaboration between the state and the society.

As for the separating of Shymkent from the South-Kazakhstan region, it deserves a special comment.

Clearly, this is a political decision and has been made for a number of reasons. Not the least one of them is the fact that, as of the beginning of 2018, the total number of people in the region has surpassed 2.9 mln. However, we believe something else has played the crucial role in this decision — the President’s desire to weaken the so called «Southerners» and to lessen the heat of the elite fighting in the region.

Nursultan Nazarbayev had already done something similar with Almaty when, in just two steps, he transformed the former center of everything imaginable in Kazakhstan simply into a city of the national significance. Note that, first, having moved the capital to Akmola, he systemically decreased his dependency on the ruling elite that we formed during the Soviet times and knew all too well how he became the top public official. Then, having moved the regional center of the Almaty region to Taldykorgan, he weakened his political ill-wishers even further.

Now the same thing (albeit in a shorter version) is happening with the South-Kazakhstan region.

As a result of its division into the Shymkent city and the Turkestan region, the Shymkent clans whose fight has already become the talk of the town will receive more opportunities for realizing their political and economic ambitions since the total size of the state apparatus and the budget capabilities of the region will grow. Apart from that, one can expect that the «Southerners» who have been growing weak during the past ten years will become even weaker since they will be divided into the «Shymkenters» and the «Turkestaners».


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