A poet in Russia is more than a poet, and a minister in Kazakhstan is much more than a minister – at least when it comes to the new Minister of Information and Social Development Askar Umarov. The appointment of this functionary became a loud, even shrill signal from President Tokayev to our country. And this signal does not belong to the category of those that could be expected after Russia played a decisive role in saving Kazakhstan’s statehood from complete collapse.
These are the views that the new Minister of Information and Social Development has publicly expressed more than once in the years leading up to his career rise.
Askar Umarov about the May 9 holiday: “When everyone gets drunk with vodka and celebrates the incomprehensible day of victory, you will remember with a prayer our unfortunate grandfathers who did not return from someone else’s war. Whom did you win, what did you win? “
Askar Umarov – to the Russian residents of Kazakhstan: “Do not forget that you are an imposed diaspora here, not autochthons (an indigenous people -“ MK ” ), and say thank you that your rights are respected and you, as colonialists in other countries, are not being driven away “.
Askar Umarov on the foreign policy choice of Kazakhstan: “For the black-Russian Kazakhs to think: to stay with Rashka or with the civilized world”.
Askar Umarov on internationalism: “In Kazakhstan, the ideology of universal friendship between peoples is the ideology of only a transitional period. Today, only nationalism demonstrates effectiveness, and regardless of the ethnic component. “
Of course, in Kazakhstan, the Minister of Information and Social Development is not a first-class figure. All the threads of governing the ideological front now converge in the hands of the newly appointed Secretary of State Yerlan Karin, a much more subtle and sophisticated political player who manages to combine close ties with the United States with the role of his man in our Valdai Club. However, ministers are still piece goods.
Appointing a person with such ideological baggage as a member of his government, President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev could not have been unaware of his views. Therefore, this is a deliberate action, a deliberate gesture. What is its meaning? Stalin once said: “Gratitude is such a canine disease.” Not all public servants are ready to express themselves in such a cynical way. However, the laws of the political game are ruthless.
Tokayev knows that now he has the image of a president who was able to stay in power only thanks to mainly Russian bayonets (the fact that in the end the CSTO forces remained in reserve is of secondary importance in this case). It is important for the President of Kazakhstan to demonstrate in the most vivid manner his independence from Russia.
Appointing a well-known supporter of Pan-Turkism Askar Umarov as minister, he at the same time distanced himself somewhat from Moscow and made a curtsey towards Ankara. We are dealing with a particularly rude manifestation of the traditional for Kazakhstan course of multi-vector foreign policy, which was born almost simultaneously with the country’s independence.
My “handbook on the behind-the-scenes political history of Kazakhstan” – a biography of Nazarbayev written by retired British politician Jonathan Aitken – provides, for example, the following colorful description of the visit of US Secretary of State James Baker to Alma-Ata on December 11, 1991: “Nazarbayev invited guests to his home to a family dinner that included singing Kazakh and American songs – the president’s daughter Dariga sat at the piano – and
toasts to what Nazarbayev called “a strategic alliance between the United States and Kazakhstan.” He later explained the need for such an alliance. “If you drive through my country, you will see Russian children beating Kazakh children … It’s not easy to live with them,” he said, explaining the potential threat to Kazakhstan’s borders from Russian expansionism. ”
“Are brutal Russian children terrorizing frail Kazakh children?” Any person who knows at least something about Kazakhstan in the era of the decline of Soviet power, such a thesis can only cause an explosion of Homeric laughter.
Nazarbayev deliberately put noodles on Baker’s ears – not for fun, but with meaning, for the sake of building the right balance in foreign policy. For Tokayev, building the right balance is “our everything”. Until very recently, he was at best a “junior president” and at worst just a “semi-president.” Of course, he had a certain amount of freedom in the area of personnel appointments.
For example, the post of ambassador to Russia under Tokayev was received by Ermek Kosherbayev, a man who, according to rumors, was a roommate of the future president in a student dormitory during their joint studies at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow in the early 90s. But Tokayev was decorated with red flags on all sides.
The most egregious example of such flags. Acting rank Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich received the head of state on March 20, 2019. And a month before that, the National Security Committee, already headed by Karim Massimov at that time, arrested a well-known Kazakhstani expert, a specialist in China, Professor Konstantin Syroezhkin, on charges of high treason. He was soon found guilty of espionage for a “neighboring nuclear power” and sentenced to ten years in prison.
What has Tokayev got to do with it? Despite the fact that Syroezhkin was an expert and scientific consultant close to him. Tokayev’s diplomatic specialization is also China, a country that causes a sense of panic in many of Kazakhstan’s residents. If at some stage it was required to “sew a case” on the incumbent president, then this could easily be done by “throwing a bridge” to the Syroezhkin case.
Isn’t there an internal contradiction in the wording “to sew a case for the current president”? If we talk about the very recent Kazakhstani political realities, then no. “The special services treated the official head of state with poorly concealed disdain,” a veteran of the Kazakhstani political scene, who had friendly relations with both Tokayev and Masimov, told me the other day. With some reservations, the same was true of the previous government of Kazakhstan. Many of Tokayev’s presidential orders were openly blurred by the cabinet.
Has everything changed so much now, when Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev has turned from the “second king” into the first and only one? Yes and no. In his speech to parliament earlier this week, the president made several significant statements: “Thanks to the first president, Elbasy (Nazarbayev – MK ), a group of very profitable companies and a stratum of people rich even by international standards have appeared in the country. I believe that the time has come to pay tribute to the people of Kazakhstan and help them on a systematic and regular basis. “
Or here’s another: “The key beneficiaries of economic growth are financial and oligarchic groups.”
Having finally gained access to the levers of power, the president did not confine himself to this general rhetoric and gradually began to call “addresses, addresses and passwords.” Targeted criticism and promises to “sort it out” were awarded to certain specific structures like customs. Translated from the bureaucratic, this means the beginning of nibbling on the interests of the former ruling families.
However, at the same time, Tokayev remains a supporter of the evolutionary, not revolutionary path of development, a politician who fulfills his obligations in relation to his predecessor and ensures continuity. In practice, this still leads, among other things, to the fact that the top character of the political tragedy that took place in Kazakhstan is being erased in every possible way and is slowly being thrown out of the political field.
It turns out that there was a putsch, but there were no putschists, except for Karim Massimov. I guess about the motivation for this position of Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev. If you start pulling all the strings at once, it will create a new risk of collapse of the entire political system.
But an attempt to nullify some risks creates others – no less dangerous in the long term.
Here is a message I received from one of my Kazakh friends in response to the question “How are you?”: “My friend’s son in Almaty was killed from a passing military convoy. He carelessly filmed it on his phone … 26 years. I remember him “in the tummy.”
The real culprits of this tragedy are not the one who pulled the trigger, and even less the one who did not understand that it is better not to joke with a military column now. The real culprits are the shadowy puppeteers of the Kazakhstani tragedy from the upper strata of the local society. Are these puppeteers sure to go unpunished?
Will this not become the forerunner of a new, even more terrible national tragedy? And where is the general limit to the usefulness of a policy based on rewarding enemies and “punishing” friends? Ahead of Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, there are still many difficult problems and difficult moral and political dilemmas.