Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 121

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbaev presented three symbolic concessions to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during Nazarbaev’s June 19-20 “working visit” to Moscow. He offered to open a bilingual “Kazakhstani-Russian University” in Kazakhstan under the two presidents’ joint sponsorship, create a society of the Kazakhstani scientific and artistic intelligentsia (to be named “Society for the Eternal Friendship of Kazakhstan with Russia”), and initiate establishing a Foundation to Promote the Russian Language in CIS Countries at the organization’s June 21 summit. Nazarbaev, moreover, gift-wrapped his offers in rhetoric straight out of the Soviet nationality and language policy: “It is the Russian language that has given the Kazakhs access to the heights of science and culture and to world literature. Kazakhs need the Russian language just as they need their daily bread.” Not long ago, Nazarbaev had been saying that he stakes his hopes for the country’s modernization on the spread of English as the language of world civilization and medium of communication with Western companies in Kazakhstan.

Nazarbaev’s concessions, reflecting his reading of current trends in Russia, attempt to cater to the nationalism creeping into Moscow’s foreign and CIS policies. While his gestures are, for the time being, confined to symbolism, his Kyrgyz counterpart Askar Akaev has gone further. Last month, Akaev pushed through a set of constitutional and legal changes which placed the status of the Russian language on a par with that native Kyrgyzstani. Kyrgyzstan and its leadership are, however, more economically and militarily vulnerable to Russia and depend more on its goodwill than Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev holds fast to the view–which he reasserted in his discussions with Putin–that Kazakhstan’s Russians are fully equal citizens, neither discriminated against nor entitled to privileged treatment on the basis of ethnicity or language.

Citing the 1998 “Treaty on Eternal Friendship” among the two countries, Nazarbaev strongly defended Kazakhstan’s economic interests. “The discussions were very frank, nothing was left unsaid,” he said of his two-day talks with Putin. “As a result we drew much closer to each other than we had been; relations not only did not deteriorate, but improved. [They] are now entering a new phase of pragmatism and normal cooperation.” The two presidents agreed that “there are no insoluble problems” between Russia and Kazakhstan. Such a picture is one of a relationship in need of repair, rather than one of eternal friendship.

Russia’s use of Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Space Center topped Nazarbaev’s list of concerns in Moscow. He presented Putin with a number of demands. First, that environmentally dangerous Russian launches be banned, specifically of Proton rockets, two of which crashed last year, spraying their toxic fuel over parts of Kazakhstan. Second, that Moscow make more punctual rent payments for its use of Baikonur. Third, that the US$110 million annual rent, or at least the hard currency portion of it, be increased. Fourth, that a share be reserved for Kazakhstan from the profits of Russian commercial launches. Fifth, that Kazakhstani personnel participate more significantly in scientific research, in launch operations and in environmental protection activities. Sixth, that Russian extraterritorial privileges in the Baikonur enclave be reduced. Last, that Kazakhstan have a role in providing military security for the space center and in policing it. Nazarbaev and Putin only managed to agree in a memorandum that these issues will be considered in detail by their governments. Nazarbaev takes the position that all these issues must be included in upcoming negotiations on prolonging Russia’s lease on Baikonur.

The brightest spot in relations is the improved access of Kazakhstan to Russia’s oil pipeline network. The transit quota for Kazakhstani oil exports has been increased to some 14 million tons this year, including some 11 million tons destined for non-CIS countries. Moscow, however, demands Kazakhstani investments in the overhaul of the Atyrau (Kazakhstan)-Samara (Russia) pipeline as a precondition to any further increases in Kazakhstan’s transit quota (Habar, ORT, Itar-Tass, June 19-20).

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions