Another «Feast in Time of Plague»

On September 30, 2019, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev signed Decree 176 «On the Creation of the State Commission for the Preparation of the 30-year Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan Celebration». There are three things in this document that we find interesting.

First, it is the scale of the celebration of the upcoming anniversary.

Second, it is the persons chosen as the members of the State Commission for the anniversary preparation.

Third, it is the political short sidedness of those who, today, are in charge of the internal political sector in the so-called «Library».

Let us start by saying that, in our opinion, the anniversary does deserve a celebration regardless of how the people perceive the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the authoritarian political system built under his leadership, the domestic policy pursued by the authorities, etc. What concerns us is the scale with which Akorda has decided to hold the celebration.

There is no doubt that the necessity to strengthen Nursultan Nazarbayev’s personality cult that has somewhat weakened and begun to get tarnished after the transfer of the presidential chair to Tokayev and the forming of the two power «towers» within the super-presidential vertical is the main reason for such a notable governmental enthusiasm.

With that, it is not at all certain that those who are ruling the state today have been sincere in their support of the initiative of Nursultan Nazarbayev and his allies. The thing is that the luxuriant celebration and the ultra-active glorification (both are unavoidable) as well as the invitation of a number of official and semi-official guests will invariably damage the reputation of not just the «Leader of the Nation» but of the state as such since the festivities are likely to look like «a feast in time of plague».

Due to the fact that, today, the protest sentiment is dominating in the society (of course, it is not always directed against the Leader of the Nation specifically), it would be a mistake to artificially create a cause for discussing of Nazarbayev’s achievements and justifying his policy and actions.

However, it looks like the internal political inertia has prevailed and Akorda has decided to hold a celebration since there is a cause for it. Then, by Tokayev’s order, they have created the State Commission to prepare for the celebration. By December 29, the Commission must develop the concept of the festivities while the Government must «devise and approve the plan of the event» by February 29.

There is zero doubt that the upcoming celebration will become a nation-wide event. In the sense that it will involve all the organizations, structures and people that are impacted by the authorities. This is evident, among other things, from the list of the State Commission members. Not surprisingly, the second President has personally become its leader while the Head of the Presidential Administration Erlan Koshanov has been appointed his deputy. By the looks of it, the only difference between this State Commission and Noah’s Arc lies in the fact that, in the latter, there were two of every kind while, in the former, there is just one.

On the other hand, in this case, we are interested not so much in the personnel per se (it is traditional for Kazakhstan and has not changed since the Soviet times) as the fact that, on the membership list, Makhmud Kasymbekov, the «Head of the Office of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan — the Leader of the Nation» is placed lower than the State Secretary of the Republic of Kazakhstan Krymbek Kusherbayev but higher than First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan — Minister of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov.

In our opinion, this is something new in the state order of ranks.

We have already got used to the fact that, in Kazakhstan, the Prime Minister, formally, ranks higher than the Presidents of the Senate and the Mazhilis of the Kazakh Parilament, therefore, we did not find it surprising that the First Deputy of the Head of the Presidential Administration has been placed lower than the First Vice Prime Minister. However, the fact that he, nonetheless, is placed higher than the other members of the Government is we believe rather curious.

Another thing that baffled us was the absence among the members of the State Commission of such an influential figure as Chief of the NSC Karim Masimov. For without this agency responsible for the information security in the country, it will be impossible to have a successful celebration.

We, for instance, have no doubt that Akorda’s and Nursultan Nazarbayev’s opponents will seize the opportunity and use such a significant newsworthy event to expose (vilify, slander, humiliate and offend) Nursultan Nazarbayev, to refresh the people’s memory not so much on the subject of his achievements, successes and victories as his defeats, failures, mishaps and crimes.

And, since the enemies of the current authorities and the Leader of the Nation have more than enough written and oral evidence, one may predict a noticeable revitalization of the Kazakh information space. And it is not at all a given that, in the course of the information conflict, Akorda will be able to reduce it to a stand-off or to lose by the narrowest margin. As likely as not, it will be the other way around.

We even suspect that, due to the animus towards the state of even those who work for it or abuse it, the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the Kazakh independence may signify the start of the funeral of what we may call «nazarbayevschina»*.


*The suffix -schina in Russian has a negative connotation and is similar in function to the English -ism. In this article, Nazarbayevschina is a used as a derogatory term criticizing the realia of the time of Nazarbayev’s rule.


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