“De-Kulakizing” Nazarbayev And His Clan*

On June 6, 2022, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made his latest address to the citizens. It was related to the nationwide referendum on making the amendments to the Constitution of Kazakhstan that took place a day earlier. 

While Nazarbayev’s successor has said a lot, these are the statements that have caught our attention:

a) “the overwhelming majority of the citizens has supported the proposed constitutional changes”,

b) “the referendum was conducted to a high standard”,

в) “the voting was conducted in complete agreement with the democratic procedures; there was no coercion”.  

We are not going to argue either with Tokayev or pro-governmental political experts, politicians and bloggers actively supporting the current leader of the authoritarian political system and the “super-presidential” vertical. After all everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

We will, however, categorically disagree with the statement that “the results of the referendum serve as a vivid symbol of our political makeover”.

We have already expressed our thoughts on the subject (the latest example is the article titled ”What’s Important to Know about the Referendum Results”).  Continuing on the topic, we would like to draw the reader’s attention to Tokayev’s words that, in building “New and Fair Kazakhstan”, the citizens must show the same “commitment and patriotism” as they did during the referendum as well as demonstrate their solidarity.

The thing is that the slogan “New and Fair Kazakhstan” implies:

a) restoring fairness in the matter of the state property privatization,

b) punishing those guilty of very serious abuse of authority, first and foremost, Nursultan Nazarbayev, his closest relatives and allies,

в) returning their illegally-obtained assets, stolen money, profits from the businesses obtained both legally and with violations.

However, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Akorda are unlikely to encroach upon Nursultan Nazarbayev and his closest (and, therefore, richest) relatives and allies. And not only because the former Elbasy still has the suitcase full of the kompromat on his successor hidden somewhere (most likely abroad). But because such attempts will invariably and very soon make the entire Kazakh ruling elite rise against the current authorities: in the Kazakh ruling elite, everyone is dirty, to only question is to what extent.

Therefore, Akorda’s attempts to do something in regard to this matter are bound to exist only on paper and be limited to just-for-show actions. Case in point is Presidential Decree 908 of June 5, 2022, on creating the intra-agency commission for issues related to illegal concentration of the economic resources.

At the same time, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Akorda will probably be unable to get out of this simply doing nothing. Hence the campaign to call to account certain Nursultan Nazarbayev’s relatives whom he betrayed and sacrificed to the public. (See more on this subject in the article ”On the Main Aspects of Nazarbayev’s Interview”).  

However, the public’s demand to “de-kulakize” the First President of Kazakhstan and his main helpers in the stealing of the national assets is not going to disappear from the political frontstage. Moreover, due to the further decline of the social and economic wellbeing of most Kazakhs, more and more citizens are going to support this demand.

And here everyone who understands the peculiarities of Kazakhstan’s domestic political development as well as the complexity of the tasks dumped on Tokayev’s head finds themselves in a difficult position.

On one hand, they are supposed to support the public’s demand to “de-kulikize” Nursultan Nazarbayev and the representatives of his clan.

On the other hand, they cannot but realize that this is not going to result in restoring fairness but only in accelerating these two on-going processes:

  • the redistribution of property,
  • the revision of the results of the first capital accumulation.

At the same time, we believe that, for Kazakhstan, going back to the socialist system and the planned economy (even China-style) is not feasible in the nearest future.

Therefore, both the redistribution of property and the revision of the results of the first capital accumulation will lead to the Nazarbayev clan being stripped off everything they own and to the people affiliated with the current authorities taking it all under their control. Note that we are talking about the real redistribution of property and the revision of the results of the first capital accumulation regardless where they stem from – the protest-minded citizens or the new people in the highest echelon of power.

Unfortunately, we see no other option. In view of which, the question arises – which of the oligarchs will retain their fortunes and the spheres of influence and which ones will not?

Photo-list of the persons from Nursultan Nazarbayev’s immediate circle is far from complete

We have no doubt that the possible figurants of this list have already begun taking care of this problem and are now deciding what to de next:

  •  to prepare to emigrate (likely a minority),
  •  to try and fit into the new system (likely the majority),
  •  to drop off the radar (this is about those who have been doing it all along),
  •  to shift the blame onto others (the most highly visible and risk-takers).

These are the developments of which Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will not speak publicly but with which he is certain to deal both personally and through his entourage.

To most Kazakhs who will not be allowed to take part in redistributing state property and revisioning the results of the first capital accumulation, the President will say something along the lines of what he said in his address of June 5, 2022:

 “The consistent political reforms will facilitate the development of the national economy and the strengthening of the local business. Now we are to create the transparent and fair rules of the game, to conduct a reform of our legislative system. It is important to eradicate all the artificial monopolies, to stave off corruption.

We must support the initiatives of our entrepreneurs, ensure a complete private property protection, boost competition.

We have got a lot of work to do to truly diversify the economy.

We are to take steps to develop highly-productive agriculture, a strong system of transportation and logistics, to establish the digital ecosystem everywhere”.  

So, the “New Kazakhstan” Tokayev-style is actually the “Old Kazakhstan” Nazarbayev-style albeit more refined and embellished. If it does undergo certain changes, it will be on the individual, not systemic, level. All because the Elbasy’s successor is still facing the same main task as before – to preserve the internal political stability of power and himself as its leader. 

 *Dekulakization (Russian: raskulachivanie) was the Soviet campaign of political repressions, including arrestsdeportations, or executions of millions of kulaks (prosperous peasants) and their families. Was most active in the 1929–1932 period of the first five-year plan (quote from Wikipedia)


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