Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 81

According to the director of Russia’s CIS Affairs Institute, Konstantin Zatulin, a demographic investigation has established that the population of Kazakhstan consists at present of 40 percent Russians and 39 percent Kazakhs as the predominant ethnic elements.

In a public statement yesterday, based on these figures, Zatulin described Kazakhstan as a “bi-ethnic” state. Refuting alleged attempts to turn it into a “mono-ethnic” state of the Kazakhs, Zatulin called for, one, conferring on the Russian language the status of a state language and, two, turning Kazakhstan into a Russian-Kazakh federation. (Radio Ekho Moskvy, April 27)

Zatulin cited figures published last week by the Moscow-based INDEM Foundation, which conducted–in Kazakhstan–the first in a series of “surveys” of the newly independent states. INDEM actually claims that Kazakhstan’s current ethnic composition is 41 percent Russian, 39 percent Kazakh, and 20 percent “other nationalities” (Russian agencies, April 24).

These figures are suspect. Although Soviet rule had turned the Kazakhs into a minority in their own republic, that trend has clearly been reversed by demographic and migration dynamics in recent years. A January 1995 census recorded 7.6 million Kazakhs and 5.8 million Russians in the country’s population of 16.6 million. Demographers project that these trends will accelerate in the years to come. (Ekologicheskii vestnik (Almaty) cited by Xinhua, January 7, 1998). The Kazakh leadership aims neither for a “mono-ethnic” nor for a “bi-ethnic” state, but for a state concept that would accommodate both ethnic diversity and allegiance to one common state (see Monitor, December 19).

Zatulin’s statement seems timed to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s arrival in Moscow for talks with President Boris Yeltsin today and for tomorrow’s CIS summit. Although it does not express official Russian policy, the statement may be designed to remind Nazarbaev of the leverage available to Moscow in any discussion of unresolved bilateral issues. –VS