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A portrait of Nursultan Nazarbayev. A portrait of former Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev is seen at the city hall building after clashes in the central square in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Jan. 10, 2022 (AP photo by Vasily Krestyaninov).

Kazakhstan’s Protests Helped Mask a Post-Nazarbayev Purge

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

The unprecedented violence that rocked Almaty—Kazakhstan’s largest city—and several smaller regional urban centers last week were shocking to longtime observers of the country. Though the initial protests began as spontaneous demonstrations against a planned hike in fuel prices, they were quickly overtaken by violence against state offices and security forces that was apparently instigated by provocateurs. 

Though much about the developments in the country remains uncertain due to an information blackout and the opacity of the inner workings of the regime, the events of the past week suggest that an elite power struggle has grafted itself onto the protests, pitting the old guard of longtime former President Nursultan Nazarbayev against supporters of his hand-picked successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who replaced him in a managed transition in 2019. ...

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