Kazakhstan, an oil-rich country that became independent nearly three decades ago, is currently going through its worst phase. The new year started in Kazakhstan due to the increase in the price of oil, on which public anger erupted. On seeing this demonstration became so fierce that incidents like arson and sabotage started taking place. The situation got so bad that emergency had to be imposed in the country. The current situation can be gauged from the fact that Russia has to send its troops to control the protesters, about 100 people have died, including 18 policemen. The demonstration that started against oil prices has now taken the form of civil war.
On Friday, news broke that the protesters, who would now be more appropriate to be called rioters, were killing policemen by slitting their throats. In response, the police are firing on the crowd. The country’s President Qasim-Jomart Toktawey on Saturday gave an open army to open fire on people to control the crowd. The protesters entered government buildings and set them on fire. The government has also resigned after the demonstrations. Protesters again took to the streets in Almaty, the largest city in the Central Asian country, despite a strong response from the administration. Protesters have also stormed the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Mayor’s office.
Powerful neighbors like Russia and China
Kazakhstan is surrounded by two powerful countries of the world. Kazakhstan’s two neighbors Russia and China are concerned about its current situation as Kazakhstan is Russia’s important strategic partner and China’s largest oil exporter. Kazakhstan is also included in the five countries that got independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Its size is as much as Western Europe and it is situated in the lap of natural wealth. Not only oil but also natural gas, uranium and several major metals are available in abundance in Kazakhstan. Despite all this, the average per capita wage in the country is less than $600. Due to non-payment of loans, the banks of the country are facing deep economic crisis and the corruption spread in government departments is not allowing them to emerge from it. Because of this the country is passing through a crumbling economy.
How did the performance start?
The Kazakh government on Tuesday evening increased the price of oil in Mangistau province by 50 tanges, or about eight and a half rupees. But this increase should not be seen from the point of view of eight and a half rupees. Demonstrations against the increased prices started at the end of the week. Soon they spread all over the country and now the issue is not just the price of oil. People are protesting against corruption, poverty and inequality and the anger of the suppressed public against the government is being seen on the streets. The protesters are angry with Toktaevye and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan from 1991 to 2019.
What do the people of Kazakhstan want?
Protesters no longer just want a return of the 50 tange in oil prices. They want reforms and a better standard of living but they do not have any leader to guide the movement. There is neither a strong opposition leader in the country nor an alternative who can lead the protest. For this also the present regime is responsible which has not allowed any kind of opposition politics to rise in recent years. The country’s power is in the hands of Toktavey, but behind the scenes it is run by Nursultan Nazarbayev, who himself chose his successor in 2019. He currently holds the position of the head of the Security Council, which holds a powerful position in the country. The capital of the country ‘Nur-Sultan’ is also named after him.
Russian soldiers arrived due to CSTO membership
Nursultan Nazarbayev has not appeared in public since the protests began and there are rumors that he has left the country. Protesters demolished his statue in a city. For years, his image of ‘nation builder’ has now been demolished. Russian troops are present in the country to control the protesters who are part of the CSTO. Its full name is ‘Collective Security Treaty Organization’ which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
How will Kazakhstan be tomorrow?
It is a mutual defense agreement but it is not intended to deal with internal issues. This is probably the reason why Toktawey has labeled the protesters ‘terrorists’ so that the organization’s help in taking action against them can be taken. Russia is also helping Kazakhstan because the two countries share a long border and have a large ethnic Russian population. The question is, what will be the future of Kazakhstan surrounded by such crises?
The current situation in Kazakhstan is extremely unpredictable. Internet and telephone services were snapped in most parts of the country on Thursday, making the situation more unclear. But there is a possibility that Toktawey’s rhetoric and mob anger could escalate violence in Kazakhstan in the coming days.