Can centuries of clan rivalry explain Kazakhstan’s crisis? | news

The ancient Turks built a nomadic empire that stretched from Mongolia to Eastern Europe.

Thirteen hundred years ago, when the Arabs expanded the caliphate and Western Europe fell into feudal strife, the inscriptions left by the Turkic rulers were called “Turkic runes”.

The inscription mentions several tribes that still exist in modern Kazakhstan.

Dozens of tribes and hundreds of clans form the Three Lords (tribes) or alliances. Many Kazakhs remember the detailed genealogy of their ancestors, the battle cry and flags of their clan.

After surviving the communist era, tribal identities still shape public and political life in this arid Central Asian country four times the size of Texas — though not as dramatically.

“The relationship between different clans or tribes is an aspect of Kazakh society that is not immediately visible to outsiders, even those who live and work in the country,” said Ivar Dyer, senior policy adviser at the Norwegian Helsinki Council, a rights watchdog. Dale), who has lived in Kazakhstan for several years, told Al Jazeera.

Kazakhstan’s founding President Nursultan Nazarbayev, his successor Kassim-Jomart Tokayev, and many senior government and security officials are from the most populous regions that dominate the southeast The Major or Elder Juuz.

But the cornerstone of Kazakhstan’s post-Soviet wealth is hydrocarbons drilled in the Younger or Minor Zhuz stomps in the country’s west, near the Caspian Sea, one of the largest sources of untapped hydrocarbons on Earth.

In the eyes of many, the unfair distribution of wealth – coupled with inflation, economic stagnation and corruption triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic – has sparked protests in western Kazakhstan.

On the first day of nonviolence last week’s rallies, most of the protesters were blue-collar workers who believed their financial woes were the result of tribal inequality, said Shapra of then-first president Nazarbayev. The Shiti clan control all areas of political and economic life.

Andrei Zubov, a Moscow-based historian, wrote: “The Kazakhs know their demands very well – they want to abolish the power of the Shaplashti clan and allow all Zhuze clans and clans to participate equally in the country’s affairs. social and financial life.”

The current president, Tokayev, may have also voiced their displeasure, as he is from another clan among the Juuz elders — and is widely seen as a titular puppet appointed by Nazarbayev, his relatives and The clan retains real power, including control over intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

“Be a President in name and not control the Treasury [Central] Clan societies in Asia are a double disgrace,” Aleksey Kushch, a Ukrainian analyst who spent his childhood in Mongolia and studied Central Asian politics for 20 years, told Al Jazeera.

By the middle of last week, the protests had spread to Most Kazakh cities and became violent in some of them.

Almaty, the former capital and largest city of Kazakhstan with more than 2 million inhabitants, has become the epicenter of the unrest.

Almost invisible to the police and military, hundreds of protesters seized weapons and stormed government buildings on January 4-5, looting shops and burning cars.

President Tokayev says protesters are trained ‘terrorists’ who plan A coup d’état”.

“It is critical to understand why the government has ‘postponed’ the underground training of militants for terrorist attacks,” the bespectacled, gray-haired leader said in a national address on Jan. 7.

His predecessor, Nazarbayev, was the top security official and head of the powerful security council, and his protégé controls the main intelligence agency, the National Security Council (KNB).

Tokayev fired Nazarbayev and KNB head Karimov Massimov.Massimov later detained on suspicion “Treason”.

Analysts blame the appearance of armed “protesters” on Nazarbayev’s protégés and nephews, who decided to use peaceful rallies to overthrow Tokayev.

One of the nephews is Samat Abish, vice president of KNB.

Some observers claimed he was also fired last week, but KNB said he was still “carrying out his duties”.

Abish’s brother is Kayrat Satyboldy, a powerful businessman who has advocated strict Islam for many years, especially in southern Kazakhstan, the stronghold of the Elder Juz.

Observers say the brothers worked together by flooding thousands of supporters into Almaty and arming them.

“Obviously, Nazarbayev left the scene…but there was strong resistance from his family, his family’s law enforcement and business empire because they didn’t want to lose financial assets and power,” said Daniel Daniel, a Moscow-based Central Asia expert Kislov told Al Jazeera.

“Seeing their loss of power, Nazarbayev’s nephews quickly mobilized those who were simply illiterate in the South,” writes historian Zubov.

Officials did not support their claims but said they had arrested Satibaldi’s right-hand man, Arman Zhumadeev, known as “Wild Arman.”

‘Wild Oman’ was among nearly 10,000 people detained or arrested last week as death toll Rose.

The death toll from last week’s protests is unclear because reliable information is difficult to verify in the tightly controlled former Soviet state. At least dozens of people have been killed, including citizens and police, but officials have withdrawn from their announced death toll of 164 – calling it a mistake.

On January 5, police and troops returned to clash with protesters in the streets and squares of Almaty.Interactive - Kazakhstan CSTO

At the time, Tokayev asked the former emperor of Kazakhstan for help. He urged the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Moscow-led security group that unites Russia and five former Soviet states, to send troops.

Russia sent the 45th Guards Special Forces Brigade, which fought in two Chechen wars, the 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict and the 2014 annexation of Crimea, to help beleaguered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad retake much of the country.

Other contingents included Armenians, Belarusians, Kyrgyz and Tajiks.

On Monday, Almaty appeared unusually calm.

Police patrol cars moved in twos and fours next to burned buildings, looted shops and city dwellers, taking pictures with their cellphones and having ID cards ready for inspection.

“It all looks like Game of Thrones,” an Almaty resident told Al Jazeera.