Kazakhstan Culture

Kazakhstan Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Kazakhstan

According to FRANCISCOGARDENING.COM, Kazakhstan is a country located in Asia. Of the hundreds of newspapers and magazines officially registered in Kazakhstan, some 30 are commercially operated. The predominant number is published in Russian and Kazakh, but also in a number of minority languages ​​including German. The largest of the newspapers is the Kazakh government agency Pravda (founded in 1920, former body of the Communist Party), which is published in 115,000 copies. and Yegemen Kazakhstan (Kazakh-speaking) in 55,000. Russian-speaking Ekspress-K (founded in 1922 as Leninskaja smena, 80,000 copies) is an independent newspaper.

Both radio (founded in 1923) and television (founded in 1958) are mainly state-controlled, but there are local independent channels. The broadcasts are mostly in Russian and Kazakh. In the 2000s, the official KazInform news agency replaced KazTag, which was founded in 1923.

In 2007, 8.5% of the population was estimated to use the Internet. In 2008, the state strengthened its control over the media when the major TV channel Chabar (formerly owned by one of the president’s daughters) was nationalized and a former press secretary to the president took over the popular magazine Karavan. Freedom of expression is limited by legislation which means that journalists can easily be brought before a court for slander.


According to ANIMALERTS, during the Soviet era (1920–1991), some Kazakh folklore was allowed to live on, but Kazakh culture was helplessly mutilated when the very foundation – nomadic life on the steppe – disappeared. However, most Kazakhs still learn today to play the national instrument dumb – a two-stringed lute.

The Kazakh nomadic culture has given rise to oral traditions of song, poetry and storytelling. In the past, professional skaldes, acynes, long and partly improvised epic songs, which often began with a loud, drawn out scream.

In the 19th century, the Russian-influenced poet Abaj Kunanbajev connected with the traditions of the Akinians and recorded Kazakh songs. The blind acne Djambul Djambayev (1846–1945) dictated numerous songs of tribute to Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Around the turn of the century, a written literature on Kazakh began to emerge. The author Muchtar Äuezov (1897–61) is known for the great poem Abaj, which commemorates the national poet Kunanbajev.

The contemporary poet Olzjas Sülejmenov is a connoisseur of Kazakh history but writes in Russian. He became involved in the opposition to Semipalatinsk in the late 1980s (see Modern History) and later joined politics. The award-winning author Abdi-Zhamil Nurpeisov is best known for Blood and Sweat (in Swedish 2013) as from the beginning three short stories, written in the 1960s. Blood and sweat is described as an epic tale of life in a Kazakh village. The ultimate duty (in Swedish 2013) concerns the environmental disaster at Lake Arals (see Natural Resources, Energy and Environment).

Since independence in 1991, song festivals have been held, where acynes from China and Mongolia have participated. In those countries, more traditional Kazakh culture remains than in Kazakhstan. Kazakhs who live in the cities are heavily battered. Many people no longer speak their own language. Kazakhstan was a feared place of refuge during the Stalin era, to which many Russian intellectuals, such as the late Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, were deported after surviving camps in Siberia.



All children must be registered

December 27

The Tokayev government decides that all children born on Kazakh land should be registered, regardless of the nationality of the parents. It reports the UN, which commends the decision as an important step away from statelessness.

Tokayev promises legislative changes in the democratic direction

December 20

President Tokayev announces that the demand for permission from the authorities for demonstrations will be abolished, and that the penalties for hate speech and slander should be lowered as well as it will be easier to register new political parties.

Regimental-critical protests

December 16th

Police arrest about 40 people participating in demonstrations organized by the banned group of Kazakh Democratic Elections (DCK) on Independence Day. It reports media and opposition activists. The protesters protest against the rulers and demand that President Nazarbayev be deprived of his great political influence. Voices are also heard protesting China’s investments and presence in Kazakhstan, and accusing Beijing of persecuting ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang Province in western China.


Chinese-critical protests

October 26th

Demonstrations are held in Almaty and Nursultan against the government and China’s increasing presence in the country. The protest actions are organized by the banned group Kazakhstan’s democratic elections, led by regime critic Mukhtar Abljazov. The police arrest a total of 26 participants.

Tokayev gives Nazarbayev more power

21 October

President Tokayev gives Nazarbayev’s far-reaching influence in appointing a number of important key positions. According to the decision, the president should be consulted when appointing ministers and heads of government agencies. Exceptions are made for the foreign, home and defense posts. The powerful National Security Committee (KNB), a kind of successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is an example of a government agency that can now only get a new head with Nazarbayev’s approval.


Easier to demonstrate

2 September

President Tokayev eases the restrictions imposed on peaceful demonstrations in connection with the elections three months ago (see June 2019).


Debt relief for the poorest

June 26

President Tokayev decides that the country’s poorest households should have debt written off for a total of millions of dollars. A quarter of a million people will have their debts fully written off, while thousands of others will have debt relief. Some analysts believe that Tokayev orders the amortization of debt to increase its popularity among the country’s poor after the mass demonstrations in connection with the election when 4,000 people were arrested.

Worried when Tokayev swears presidential speech

June 12

Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev swears the presidential plea in Nursultan. At the same time, at least a hundred protesters are arrested in Almaty. The authorities state for media that nearly 1,000 people have been sentenced to prison or other punishments for participating in the demonstrations in connection with the presidential election criticized by international election observers.

Tokayev wants to strengthen ties with Moscow

June 10th

President Tokayev presents his political agenda for the next term. The Government will give priority to closer cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and strengthen relations with Russia. General health care will be improved, wages will be increased and work against corruption should be intensified.

Tokayev wins the presidential election

June 9

As expected, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor, diplomat and acting president Kassim-Jomart Tokayev, in the recent election for the presidential post. Tokayev gets 71 percent of the vote against 16.2 percent for the second election, journalist Amirzjan Kosanov. In third place with 5.1 percent comes Daniya Jespajeva, who is Kazakhstan’s first female presidential candidate. The electoral authority states the turnout to be 77.5 percent. Protests erupt in Almaty and Nursultan against the election, which the protesters believe has been settled in advance. About 500 people are arrested. According to OSCE election observersthe election does not hold international standards because of a lack of respect for fundamental rights, including the arrests of peaceful protesters, and widespread irregularities in the voting process. However, Tokayev thanks the police for the strike against the protesters, which he believes are ruled by regime opponents in exile.


IS Kazakhs are transported home

May 10

Acting President Tokayev reports to the media that 231 Kazakhs linked to the Islamic State (IS) have been transported to Syria’s homeland in recent days. 156 of them are children, the majority under six. 18 are orphans. In January, 47 Kazakh citizens were reportedly returned home. It is unclear what happens to them after returning home. In the years of IS propaganda, there have been videos over the years showing how Kazakh children were trained as warriors.

Opposition candidate is approved

May 6

Amirzhan Kosanov is approved by the electoral authority as a candidate for the opposition party National Conscience (Ult Tagdyry) in the June 9 presidential election. Assessors believe that the regime allows an opposition candidate to stand in order to avoid questioning the legitimacy of the elections or arranging for further protest actions.

Protesters call for boycotts

May 1

Hundreds of people walk the streets of Almaty and Nursultan (formerly Astana), demanding that the June presidential election be boycotted and all political prisoners released. The protesters believe that real opposition will not be able to take part in the elections, which they say have the sole purpose of giving Tokayev a clear mandate to continue leading the country.


The Social Democrats boycott the presidential election

April 25

The opposition Social Democratic Party (NSDP) boycott the new election for the presidential post in June. The party says that all contenders for Tokayev will only be exploited by the ruling Fatherland’s light as puppets to legitimize the election of their presidential candidate.

Tokayev elected as presidential candidate

April 23

The Government of the Fatherland Lights will elect Acting President Kassim-Jomart Tokayev as his candidate in the June 9 presidential election. The election comes after President Nursultan Nazarbayev publicly gave his support to Tokayev, who is closely allied with the Nazarbayev family. Tokayev has previously been a diplomat, foreign minister, prime minister and president of the Senate.

New election to the presidential post in June

April 9

President Tokayev announces that presidential elections will be held on June 9, that is, almost a year in advance. At his sudden departure (see March 2019), Nursultan Nazarbayev said that Tokayev would sit out the current term, that is until April 2020, but Tokayev explains that he has been in contact with the powerful president and that he has approved the new election. Assessors say that Tokayev is likely to run for office, win and continue to run Nazarbayev’s policies, but that he needs a stronger mandate for his rule, which he would get through a electoral victory. Nazarbayev has retained the title of “Leader of the Nation”, he is still chairman of the Government Party of the Fatherland Light and sits for life as chairman of the influential Security Council.


Saghyntajev gets top job

24th of March

President Tokayev appoints former Prime Minister Saghyntaiev as his new Chief of Staff. Saghyntaev was recently dismissed as Prime Minister by President Nazarbayev (see February 2019). Nazarbayev has continued to have great political influence through his life-long and constitutional status as “the nation’s leader”. The title means that he leads a powerful Security Council and is chairman of the Government Party of the Fatherland.

Astana is renamed Nursultan

March 20

President Tokayev’s first decision is for the capital Astana to be renamed to the Nursultan (Sultan of Light in Kazakh) to honor Nursultan Nazarbayev. Parliament votes for Tokayev’s proposal to change its name.

President Nazarbayev resigns

March 19

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, is leaving unexpectedly. He will be replaced by Senate President Kassim-Jomart Tokayev, who will be running for office until March 2020. Nazarbayev does not say why he is choosing to step down right now. Nazarbayev’s daughter Dariga Nazarbajeva replaces Tokayev as president of the Senate, the second highest post after the president. Regime-critical protests are being carried out in the larger cities.


Nazarbayev replaces the government

February 21st

President Nazarbayev dismisses Prime Minister Saghyntaev and his government. The reason is that Kazakhstan does not experience economic development despite the country’s large natural resources. The Kazakh economy plunged when oil prices dropped significantly in 2014, and the country has since struggled to get the economy on its feet. Western sanctions against Russia since 2014 have also contributed to Kazakhstan’s problems. Some analysts believe that even social unrest, with protests for better living conditions, has contributed to Nazarbayev’s decision to change government. New Prime Minister will be Askar Mamin, who was previously the first Deputy Head of Government, Transport and Communications Minister and Mayor of Astana.

Kazakhstan Culture

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