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The original article was published by Russkii Vopros in December 2018.


Kazakhstan, a former Soviet Republic, is an oil rich country resting in Central Asia. Bordering Russia and China on the north and east, the country at the geopolitical crossroads and its stance on many issues affects the position of the other countries in Central Asia, namely Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The shortage of arable lands and their location on the border regions was the main factor resulting in the population’s concentration in the north — at the border with Russia — and south — at the border with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Geographic features such as the Kazakh Steppe – ‘Ulu dala’ – divides the country into two economic parts: the northern and southern regions. This geographic division also leads to political, economic, cultural and agricultural splits within the vast territory of Kazakhstan.

Like the other oil- and gas-rich former Soviet Union republics, the country’s main source of income is the extraction and export of natural resources. The decrease of oil prices pushed Kazakhstan, as with all of the former Soviet Republics in the region, to declare plans for the rapid development of other sectors of the economy and attract foreign direct investment.

After the 2015 economic slowdown, Kazakhstan began rebuilding its economic areas, changing its strategic vision and adapting to the new realities inside and outside of the country. The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, published several articles revealing his vision for the country regarding the future of the economy, foreign policy and, most importantly, national identity of the citizens of Kazakhstan. The economic crisis, which triggered reforms in the economic decision-making institutions, were also the reason for the reshuffles in other areas of public administration.

Among the many recent changes in the country, the most important have been the introduction of the Latin-based alphabet to replace the Cyrillic, the country’s election as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, provided the Astana peace talks platform for the conflicting parties in Syria, and many others.

Kazakhstan is situated in a geopolitically sensitive location – it is certainly a country to watch. The effects and significance of developments in Kazakhstan’s recent history is not limited only to Central Asia; Kazakhstan’s stance is important for Russian-led economic and military projects, Russia’s reassertion in the former Soviet Union countries, and the advancement of China toward the Caspian Sea regions and beyond. Therefore, this paper assesses current developments in Kazakhstan and makes predictions for future developments.

The paper is divided into three parts. The first part, following the introduction, explains the role of Kazakhstan in regional politics and its unexplored potential. This section tries to expose the role of the current president of Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev’s, personality and the role of Kazakhstan in its neighbouring countries, including Russia and China. It also sheds light on Kazakhstan’s foreign policy regarding Collective Security Treaty Organization and Eurasian Economic Union.

The paper moves on to explore the recent developments in the country, especially following the slump in oil prices in 2015, and how the local government in Kazakhstan reacted to the new challenges.

The third part explores the role of Kazakhstan in dynamic processes in the region – Kazakhstan’s role in Russian-led initiatives and its stimulating approach to current regional conflicts – and how 2019 will be shaped by these developments, particularly mediation efforts which may produce positive contributions to the aforementioned issues. The paper will provide the conclusion at the end.

The full article can be downloaded here

Posted in Policy Analysis, Research Papers

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