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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Uneasy calm in Kazakhstan

by New Worker correspondent

AN UNEASY CALM has returned to the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan following a week of riots that pushed the country to the brink of civil war. The draconian price hikes have been suspended for six months. The hastily despatched Russian-led peace-keeping force is preparing to leave, and the government is trying to pick up the pieces following days of looting and violence that ended with 18 law enforcement.

Some 10,000 people have been detained amidst the unrest that began when the government doubled the price for liquefied petroleum gas and bumped up the tariffs on water supply, sanitation and heating at the beginning of the new year. But the mass street protests supported by the independent unions and the underground socialist movements soon turned ugly after an angry mob torched the presidential palace in the former capital, Almaty, whilst gunmen emerged to confront the police and security forces in the new capital, Nur Sultan, and many other cities in Kazakhstan.

Who’s behind it nobody knows. A former Kazakh minister living in Paris has offered to lead the protest movement. Mukhtar Ablyazov, who fled the country after being accused of stealing $6 million from a Kazakh bank, sees himself as the “leader” of the ongoing protests and claims that he has routinely consulted people on the ground in Almaty on tactical issues. He says he’s ready to return to his homeland and lead a “provisional government” once the protests reach the right magnitude.

The Russian media say the rapid descent into bloodshed shows the hidden hand of the Western powers trying to orchestrate regime-change in this strategic, oil-rich Central Asian republic, whilst the Tokayev government openly accuses sectarian Muslim movements of being behind some of the violence.

ISIS and Al-Qaeda

ISIS and Al-Qaeda are said to be operating in the south of the country, and a man from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan who was arrested in Almaty told the police he was paid $200 to cross the border and take part in the protests.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the corrupt Kazakh communist government of Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev carried on Yeltsin-style to plunder the country in the name of the ‘free market’ for nearly three decades. Whilst most Kazakhs were reduced to near-poverty, these former communists amassed untold riches and spent millions more on ludicrous vanity projects designed to boost the international image of the Nazarbayev clan.

Although the “Leader of the Nation” stepped down in 2019, Nazarbayev kept his seat on the powerful State Security Committee until now. Many now believe that his successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has taken advantage of the chaos to finally shunt the old man into political oblivion.

In Moscow the decision to send peace-keeping troops to Kazakhstan has divided the communist forces. All of them support the basic demands of the protesters. But the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) says the intervention was an “adequate and timely measure” to prevent an imperialist “colour revolution” whereas the much smaller Russian Communist Workers Party gives full support to the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan, which is calling for “organised resistance to military-police terror” in their country.

The Union of Communist Parties – CPSU, however, warns that: “having unleashed the bloody massacres in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, global imperialism, led by the United States, is getting closer and closer to the borders of Russia and Belarus. Hybrid war against them is already being waged on the territories of Ukraine, Moldova and the Transcaucasian states. Now the Central Asian republics are on the line. Today, it is especially important not to allow the state sovereignty of the largest of them-Kazakhstan-to be undermined. Terrorist centres that are generously financed from abroad have been active there for a long time. It is they who play a key role in fomenting pogroms, destabilising the system of government, and brutal massacres of law enforcement officers and soldiers…we support those political forces of the Republic which, defending social justice, are now resolutely fighting against the looting and lawlessness which prevailed in these days of January.”