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Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Summit, Istanbul, Turkey, April 14, 2016 (Anadolu Agency photo via AP).

Kazakhstan’s Unprecedented Land Protests Only the First Wave of Discontent?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Over the past quarter-century, citizens of Kazakhstan have developed a reputation for relative staidness. Unlike residents of other post-Soviet republics like Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine or Georgia, Kazakhstanis have largely avoided public protest, opting to sideline complaints on longstanding corruption and political repression in favor of enjoying the fruits of the country’s massive hydrocarbon windfall. Over the past three weeks, however, that reputation has begun to shift. And considering how much collapsed energy prices have gouged Kazakhstan’s economic prospects—and how myopically Astana has managed the country’s finances since—recent frustrations may be just the beginning.

In late April, a series of large-scale, spontaneous protests burst through Kazakhstan, catching flat-footed officials by surprise. Unlike prior attempts at localized demonstrations, these protests scoured the entire country, without any geographic focus, and were effectively unprecedented in tightly controlled Kazakhstan. ...

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