President Nursultan Nazarbaev has praised the Kazakh intelligentsia for its contribution to interethnic peace in the republic but deplored their tendency to display animosity toward "power of whatever kind." Addressing the government’s commission on public accord and national history, he exhorted Kazakh intellectuals to adopt a "healthier" attitude toward the state. (Russian agencies, March 17)
Nazarbaev did not specify which intellectuals he had in mind, but the group undoubtedly includes various ethnic Kazakh academics and social movement leaders who express their views in both the Russian-language and Kazakh-language press. The Kazakh intelligentsia is weak and divided. Many of those who might have played the role of today’s "grand old men and women" of Kazakh letters were wiped out by Stalin in the 1930s. Today’s intellectuals have succeeded in putting forward no uniform concept of Kazakh national identity.
The Kazakh intelligentsia has traditionally been divided into two groups. First are those who adhere to Russian culture and use the Russian language professionally and even in the family. Second are those who reject Russian cultural hegemony, write in Kazakh and look to Islam for the expression of their own cultural identity. Moreover, as Nazarbaev observed not long ago in an address devoted to the same topic, a Western-oriented Kazakh intelligentsia is rapidly emerging and will develop in step with the Western economic presence in the country.
Nazarbaev himself fits into neither of the traditional categories. As a southern-born Kazakh proud of his roots but with strong Soviet-era connections to Russia, and as a leader who has consistently displayed his awareness of his country’s multiethnic character, he gained early popularity by straddling both visions of Kazakh society. Nazarbaev’s deliberate pursuit of inclusive citizenship policies — typified by the decision to name the country Kazakhstan instead of the Kazakh republic — have played an important role in preserving interethnic peace. These policies have come under fire from both of the traditional groups of intellectuals. The russified group faults those policies for not going far enough to appease the resident Russians and other "Russian-speaking" groups. The nationally minded intelligentsia views Nazarbaev’s policies as little less than betrayal of Kazakh national identity.
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