“I do not consider myself an expert on Kazakhstan, mind you,” political strategist and sociologist Pyotr Miloserdov warned me, agreeing to be interviewed.
But in the end, there are practically no other specialists in this distant, albeit bordering with us, Central Asian republic in Russia. This is not Ukraine.
Therefore, the opinion of a person accused of preparing a coup d’etat in Kazakhstan in 2018 and even serving time for it is especially valuable.
We asked Pyotr Miloserdov about the potential customers of the protests and what Kazakhstan will face next, as well as whether it is realistic to use the current mess to improve the situation of three million Russians in Kazakhstan.
– How sudden were the events in Kazakhstan? Everyone was somehow expecting an aggravation of the situation in Ukraine, and suddenly Kazakhstan flared up.
– You know, since we do not have full-fledged experts on Kazakhstan, then, of course, what happened seems to us sudden. As if there was a coup in some conditional Namibia, and we, too, would probably be surprised at this. Simply because we do not know anything about Namibia. I admit that the processes taking place now in Kazakhstan have been ripe for a long time. Unfortunately, few people in Russia were interested in this until recently.
– Yes, Kazakhstan is far away and incomprehensible for Russia, although we seem to have six thousand kilometers of a common border, more than with anyone else.
– Well, to be honest, not only Kazakhstan is far from us, but also, for example, Moldova, and even the same Ukraine. People who are ready to give an independent and competent assessment of what is happening there can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And it remains to be seen whether information from these specialists reaches those who make decisions in Russia.
– However, for some reason Tokayev turned to Putin to solve his problems? Moreover, he emphasized that some external malicious forces are to blame for everything, trying to shake the situation in the country in order to justify the legality of the CSTO intervention.
– It is practically unrealistic to organize a rebellion in Kazakhstan for external forces. Kazakhstan is a totalitarian state, like Turkmenistan, where, in principle, outside interference is impossible. So this version is ruled out immediately. As for the twenty thousand armed terrorists who allegedly infiltrated its territory, so that you understand: twenty thousand are two divisions. Their transfer physically will take at least a week. And also the infrastructure, weapons, food … This is obvious nonsense.
Nobody believed in him. The goal of everything, I think, was to prove that the previous security officials, appointed by Nazarbayev, screwed everything up. This was the excuse to remove them. Second, I am sure that all the local people organized, the core of the protesters was also gathered from the local youth. They brought them where they should be, gave them sticks in their hands and showed them where to go and what to beat. Who benefits from this? I will not say what I do not know about, but, most likely, the organizers of the riots decided to take part in the current transit of power, assets and money from Nazarbayev to Tokayev.
Moreover, it is also possible that Tokayev himself, in turn, was also pushed to such a decision. And due to the low political culture, those who joined the riots expressed their dissatisfaction with the authorities, Nazarbayev’s regime, social policy, as best they could. Well, Kazakhs do not know how to rebel otherwise, except to arrange pogroms. It’s not their fault. This is their problem. That for thirty years of independence there has not been a single day of the beginnings of democracy. Therefore, in the situation that has arisen, they do not know anything but how to take sticks in their hands. They do not know any other way to communicate with the authorities.
– Wait, Nazarbayev – he’s an old fox, an experienced apparatchik. How could he even allow such a thing?
– I think that when transferring presidential powers to Tokayev, Nazarbayev calculated everything, in principle, correctly, but two years have passed since then, and no matter how nominal and decorative figure the current president was, during this time he inevitably acquired an entourage, which became his push for the next big cut in Kazakhstan.
This is all within the framework of tradition. Let’s be honest: any big fortune here was made by robbing each other. From my point of view, the process of transferring power and assets from Nazarbayev to Tokayev was inevitable, although, perhaps, this transfer could be enough for the rest of Elbasy’s life, but it was not enough.
– And the same Westerners? British, who have their own business interests in Kazakhstan. So where are they now? Why is nothing being done? You wrote that the local economy is minerals, oil, gas, non-ferrous metals, most of the enterprises for their processing are owned by foreigners, mainly the UK. In general, the role of Great Britain here can hardly be overestimated. For example, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was an adviser to Nazarbayev. And Tony Blair’s brother, Judge William Blair, sentenced Nazarbayev’s opponent, Mukhtar Ablyazov, to imprisonment in England.
– We do not know whether the British are interfering or not, firstly, because I believe that intelligence in Great Britain is real and does not give itself out. And secondly, the observance of the interests of Great Britain is guaranteed by the property of the Kazakh oligarchs in London. If you google, you will see that it is quite comparable with the property of the Russian oligarchs in the same place.
– So they are all on the hook?
– The day before I read a post on a social network about closed Swiss schools, where the children of Kazakhstani millionaires are almost more numerous than Russian ones.
– And there is. And all the most terrible drunks and fights in London clubs, so that you know, are arranged not by young Russian majors, but by Kazakh sons.
– From foggy London we will return to rebellious Kazakhstan. More than three million Russians now live there. What should they do now? After all, the peacekeeping troops will be perceived precisely as the Russian occupation, even if they are Belarusians or Armenians.
– Any rebellion in Kazakhstan is organized and planned by someone, they will not put it on its own. Since the introduction of the CSTO troops is beneficial to the ruling clan, I think, at most, something can be hissed in the back of the Russians. So that the Kazakhs now, on their own initiative, begin to beat the Russians, this will not happen.
– Let me disagree with you. You know, as a schoolgirl in 1991, I went to see my relatives on the Mangyshlak Peninsula in the city of Shevchenko, now Aktau. On our train, while he was walking, they threw stones and sticks, broke glass, I was very scared.
– There is nothing surprising in this. The Adays live in these parts (they call themselves “Adays”) – a rather restless and passionate Kazakh subethnos. They threw stones and sticks at many people. Those who wish can find in the public domain information about how the Adays expelled the Chechens in the 1980s, and even earlier beat the Soviet youth who came to the “Komsomol construction sites” of oil and gas developments. So this is a special case. In fact, under Nazarbayev, such things were suppressed. Elbasy was well aware that Russians are an important detail of his political system, they are engineers and doctors. He was not interested in the Russian specialists leaving Kazakhstan.
– However, I changed the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet.
– Nazarbayev strove to identify himself. After the proclamation of independence – an almost inevitable story in the former republics of the USSR. But it must be admitted that relative interethnic peace and tranquility were preserved under the previous leader. And anti-Russian uprisings in a spontaneous form are now impossible, unless, of course, someone specifically organizes them, as was the case last year against the Dungan people.
– But now Russia can benefit from its assistance to Tokayev in terms of helping our compatriots?
– As for “Russians don’t abandon their own” – it’s only in the movies. Remember Chechnya and much more. Once upon a time, 20 years ago, I worked in one state of the former USSR. Quite a long time, several years. In order not to go into unnecessary details, he was engaged in political technological support of local oligarchs “oriented towards Moscow.” Funding for our “company” went through the same oligarchs. The policy of the “firm” was determined by them, but with an eye to Russia, from where comrades regularly came with “valuable instructions” and amateurish advice. Sometimes with envelopes.
As a result, not without some reason, it was believed that our “firm” protects the interests of Russia. And it seems like this activity looked stormy. We will win the elections there, here we will “build” a TV channel for ourselves. There is a media campaign, here is another oppositionist who hated Russia yesterday, will suddenly come to our side. We will announce the “Year of Friendship”, or even the whole minister will sign the necessary document, or the head of state will say something right. On the little things – constantly some delegations went, round tables on the topic of friendship were held.
A mind-boggling amount of money was spent. In fact, all this was a rather expensive provision for the “friendship” of some local elites with the Russians. So nothing, but “friendship” with ours had an exclusively commercial motive. On both sides, of course. The local elites were greedy for petty collective farm greed. Their own people could not stand them.
In the state itself, there was a gigantic Russian community. And there were even more of those whose native language and culture were Russians. And yet – there were quite a few of those who did not consider themselves to be Russians at all, but traditionally looked at Russia with respect. And somehow we had a drink with one good Russian man from the locals, who saw everything and understood everything. After another drink, he said:
“If Russia really wanted to protect its interests, it would not spend a lot of money on all of you and on the local bastard. This money could be used to distribute textbooks in Russian to all schoolchildren in the country. Open a couple of dozen Russian schools. Open training camps for young people.
And in 10 years you would have got a pro-Russian population here. ” He had nothing to argue with me. Ultimately, armored vehicles went to defend the interests of Russia in that country. As it is today in Kazakhstan. This money could be used to distribute textbooks in Russian to all schoolchildren in the country. Open a couple of dozen Russian schools. Open training camps for young people. And in 10 years you would have gotten a pro-Russian population here. ” He had nothing to argue with me. Ultimately, armored vehicles went to defend the interests of Russia in that country. As it is today in Kazakhstan.
This money could be used to distribute textbooks in Russian to all schoolchildren in the country. Open a couple of dozen Russian schools. Open training camps for young people. And in 10 years you would have got a pro-Russian population here. ” He had nothing to argue with me. Ultimately, armored vehicles went to defend the interests of Russia in that country. As it is today in Kazakhstan.
– Well, what do you think should be done now?
– To separate interstate commerce and ideological work with the local population. Work directly with the population of that country, without the mediation of local corrupt leaders. To work through organizations created by themselves, and it is better to have 100 organizations of 10 people each than 1 to 1000 – less theft and fraud, more competition and results. Work with all local elites – ruling, alternative, nationalists, communists, trade unions, church.
Focus on work with the education of children and youth. That is, for textbooks, courses, camps, schools. To the Russian population – an official document – the “map of the Russian”. With the right to visa-free, preferential employment and free education in Russia. Create a micro-grants system for any activists.
Support any small Russian-oriented project, from the exhibition of postcards in the library, ending with concerts. Protect pro-Russian activists, whoever offends them. We must not indifferently monitor the internal political situation in countries with a Russian community, as we do now. We, in fact, have to manage it. Somewhere subtly, somewhere demonstratively loud. Acting, of course, in the interests of the Russians. And the next Yanukovych-Nazarbayev should act with an eye on the national interests of Russia, and not on his business partners in Moscow.
– Do you think it is possible?
– I think this will never happen. Negative selection of personnel leads to the Russian civil service people who are indifferent and incompetent. In the bread places – all the same “thieves” – sons, children, mistresses. Russian elites have nothing to broadcast to the outside world. What can they offer other than peripheral capitalism built on kleptocracy, archaism and wildest social stratification? Nothing but a peacekeeper with a gun.
– That is, in your opinion, the introduction of the CSTO troops is not an unambiguous decision?
– This is a purely political step on the part of Tokayev to show the Nazarbayev clans that he relies on Russia, that he is supported here. All this protesting public from the streets does not need any CSTO troops; a couple of phone calls between the clans are enough to disperse them. And the looters and fools will be easily and quickly removed by the police. But for Russia, this situation is also a win-win. She becomes the guarantor of new agreements between the Kazakh elites. Just as a year before it became the guarantor of agreements between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Karabakh.
– Although you modestly called yourself “not the greatest expert on Kazakhstan”, however, it was you who were accused in 2018 no less of preparing a coup d’etat in this country and sentenced to two years in prison. You have not admitted your guilt.
– I was engaged in sociological research in Kazakhstan, came and talked with the local opposition, but since Kazakhstan is an authoritarian state that does not allow any manifestations of social and political life except those sanctioned from above, my work was interpreted as an attempt to probe the ground for preparing a coup.
My landing was carried out by the hands of the Russian special services, although I have an official paper from the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan that they have no questions or complaints about me. But – other Kazakh colleagues asked and a criminal case was initiated. Those who needed it agreed among themselves. In Kazakhstan, the saying is well known that a donkey laden with gold takes cities better than troops.
I want to remind, that even former British Prime Minister Tony Blair worked as an adviser to Nazarbayev, as far as is known, received an excellent salary for this in tens of millions of pounds. Agents of influence in Kazakhstan are bought on the vine and at a high price. And in the place of the leadership of the Russian special services, I would think about who their employees actually work for here. And how objective this work is.
– I wonder if Nazarbayev will return? Rumor has it that he is no longer in Kazakhstan. I heard a version that he is in Dubai.
– In any case, he is no longer a player, I think.
– How do you propose further development of events? How long-lasting, as in Ukraine, will the confrontation or the cleansing of the protesters be quick?
– I think that simultaneously with the introduction of the CSTO forces, the necessary consultations were held with the right people in the Moscow-Nazarbayev-Tokayev triangle, and, most likely, the solitaire has already been played out and everything will quickly come to naught, as if nothing had happened.