On February 28, 2021, the Kazakh opposition held one unauthorised (in Uralsk) and several unauthorised rallies. Because the number of the participants was small (not more than 200 people across the country), these rallies did not look particularly impressive especially against the backdrop of the recent protests in Belarus and Russia.
Nonetheless, despite the small number of the protestors and the absence of any kind of aggression on their part, the police and the secret service were more then eager in their efforts not to let the citizens assemble in the publicly announced places and hold the rallies.
Let us present the general picture of the repressions (by quoting the Facebook page of the Qaharman.kz human rights advocacy fund.
“The list of the political repressions related to the peaceful protests held on February 28, 2021, in Kazakhstan”
“In collaboration with our partners, we release the following information –
Preventive political persecutions prior to February 28, 2021 (starting from February 22):
61 instances in 15 cities and residential areas. They include –
- 2 politically-motivated criminal cases: that against Aybek Sabitov (Astana), Berik Nogayev (Aktobe) – 2 months of house arrest for the duration of the investigation.
- 20 administrative arrests (2 for “defamation”, 18 for “violating the peaceful demonstration law”).
- 1 administrative warning for “violating the peaceful demonstration law”.
- 37 instances of other forms of persecution.
The political repressions of February 28, 2021:
- 210 instances of political persecution in 23 cities and residential areas. They include:
- 2 politically-motivated criminal cases against civil rights advocates Zhanibek Zhunusov (Astana), Aydar Syzdykov (2 months in pre-trial detention centre for the duration of the investigation).
- 156 random arrests in 17 cities and residential areas.
- 4 administrative arrests (for the duration of 5-15 days).
- 3 administrative fees (up to $486)”.
In our opinion, this kind of repressions that have become the norm in the recent years stem from the abnormal sensitivity of the authorities to the expressions of civic activism that they cannot control. Hence the toughness and the imprudence of the law-enforcement agencies against the rally organisers and participants.
The usual fears of the people who have a lot to lose and the realisation that they do not enjoy a massive-scale support of the citizens (therefore, no one will defend them if something goes wrong) are some of the factors contributing to Akorda and the Library’s abnormal sensitivity.
At the same time, one must agree, that the Kazakh authorities are acting quite reasonably (from their own standpoint, of course). Yes, their actions are tough and imprudent, they disregard the law and the ethical norms, however, they are doing this not just for the sake of but in order to convince most citizens that one should not go against the authorities for it is a very dangerous thing to do.
For this reason, the siloviks do not break up unauthorised rallies via batons and water jet cannons but simply block the participants and keep them surrounded in order to morally destroy them and then force them to back out of further actions. And, judging by the fact that the total number of the rally participants across the country is small and amounts to hundreds, Akorda and the Library are currently defeating their political opponents. There is no guarantee, however, that this trend is going to continue.
The thing is that the composition of the politically-engaged citizens opposing the Kazakh political system, the rules of the game and the practices is changing right before our eyes.
If we draw a parallel between Kazakhstan and neighbouring Russia, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, in terms of its founders and belonging to the ruling elite, may be compared to the Decembrists* while the defeat of the latter in 1825 may be compared to the destruction of the DCK.
Out of all the DCK’s initial founders, only Mukhtar Ablyazov remains Akorda and the Library’s opponent in the political domain. The rest have either “recovered sight” and returned to power (Berik Imashev, Kayrat Kelimbetov) or broken off the fight altogether (Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, Bulat Abilov).
Currently, the Kazakh authorities are being opposed by the people from all walks of life. We may compare them to the 19th century Russian “raznochintsy*”. Their reasons for opposing the authorities are just as diverse. It is they – the people who don’t articulate their political position clearly but who categorically disagree with the authorities and are ready to fight them (mainly on social networks) – that have become the modern nihilists.
However, history tells us that, in such political systems as modern Kazakhstan with its loathsome Nazarbayev-style authoritarianism, the number of nihilists is bound to rise and a natural selection of leaders, ideas and organisation forms is going to happen. And then Akorda (at this point, the Library will probably be non-existent) will have to fight not against people but against ideas. Those very ideas that may mould into a material force and, having “infected” the masses, change Kazakhstan.
Obviously, we are not to predict when and under which slogans (Marxist, leftist, nationalist or whatnot) this will happen.
*Raznochintsy (in the 19th century Russia) - people not belonging to any of the established social classes (nobility, merchantry, clergy, etc). In the Russian culture, raznochintsy were often seen as bearers of the liberal, revolutionary or nihilistic ideology. Decembrists – the participants of the Russian anti-governmental movement of the 1810-1820s. They owe their title “Decembrists” to the revolt they held at Senatskaya Square in St. Petersburg on December 14, 1825. The Decembrists belonged to the Russian noble elite of the time.