Kazakhstan is Central Asia’s largest country: this former Soviet republic has worked to chart its own course in a restive region, navigating the geopolitical tensions of its over thirty year existence. Much of that period occurred under longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. That was, until the dawn of 2022. Mass protests in Kazakhstan began peacefully, with marchers denouncing a sharp rise in fuel prices. The scope and the agenda of the demonstrations expanded quickly from the western part of Kazakhstan to more populous areas, eventually reaching the largest city of Almaty and the capital Nur-Sultan. Large crowds vented their frustration with worsening living conditions and severe wealth inequality under the authoritarian government that has maintained a tight grip on power since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This triggered a call for an incursion into the country by a Russia-led military alliance, and the presence of Russian boots on Kazakh ground. On today’s episode, we ask: what was the uprising in Kazakhstan? How did it emerge? What came of it? And, perhaps most importantly, what does it mean for the future of Kazakhstan, a country occupying the beating heart of the Eurasian continent?
Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili is the Founding Director of the Center for Governance and Markets, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on issues of self-governance, security, political economy, and public sector reform in the developing world. Murtazashvili has advised the United States Agency for International Development, the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, the World Bank, the US Department of Defense, the United Nations Development Program, and UNICEF. Murtazashvili served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. She is the President-elect of the Central Eurasian Studies Society and a member of PONARS Eurasia, a research organization focused on security issues in Eurasia.