Monday, October 23, 2006

Who Lives in Kazakhstan?

While other sources (including US government estimates) have stated the population to be just over 16 million, according to Kazakhstan’s Statistics Agency, the population was just over 15 million people as of January 2006, and represented over 120 different “nationalities” (ethnic and language groups).

At the time of independence in 1991, four-fifths of all Kazakhstanis were either Kazakh (42%) or Russian (37%). This demographic has shifted substantially in 15 years, primarily through immigration and emigration, and the overall population figure has decreased. Large numbers of European Kazakhstanis emigrated to the coutries of their forebears, especially the Russians and Volga Germans, while the government has encouraged expatriated ethnic Kazakhs in other countries to return (900,000 lived in Uzbekistan alone; 1 million Kazakhs live in Xinxiang in Western China, and another million or so in other Central Asian countries & Russia). This movement, combined with a higher birthrate among the Kazakh population, has dramatically changed the ethnic balance over the past 15 years and given Kazakhs a clear majority. In 2006, the population is 58.6% Kazakh (almost 9 million people) while the percentage of Russians has dropped to 26.1% (just under 4 million).

A list of ethnic groups making up the remaining 15.3% of the population includes Ukranians, Uzbeks, Germans, Poles, Uighurs, Tatars, Koreans, Chechens, Turks, Jews, Azeris, Ingush, Kyrgiz, & Karakalpaks, just for starters. Given Stalin’s penchant for shipping annoying people to party exile and/or gulags on the steppe, pretty much any nationality that was ever under Soviet rule can still be found in Kazakhstan.

Who Lives Where?

Concentrations of nationalities are where you might expect them to be. Russians/Europeans/Slavs live mostly in northeastern Kazakhstan, in East Kazakhstan, Karaganda, Pavlodar, Kostanai, and Akmola, nearer Russia. More Kazakhs live in the south (and more Kazakhs who speak Kazakh); Uzbeks live in South Kazakhstan & Zambyl regions (bordering Uzbekistan). Every nationality is found in Almaty and its surrounds. In the official report (at least as published by Kazinform in May), there is no mention of any nationalities in the northwest or west. Everybody in Uralsk, Aktau & Atyrau, not to mention the thousands of foreign oil company managers and workers in the regions, must commute from Astana!

Semantics; or, Citizen of Kazakhstan ≠ Kazakh

In the United States, there is an understanding of the “hyphenated American,” as in Japanese-American, Afghan-American, Irish-American (as well as Native American), to describe the ethnic or national heritage of a United States citizen. The citizenship itself is simply “American.”

In Kazakhstan, the citizenship is “Kazakhstani” (Kazaxstanski), no matter the nationality/ethnicity. You’ve got Tatar-Kazakhstanis, Russian-Kazakhstanis and Kazakh-Kazakhstanis, but not the hyphenated system; it’s just Tatars, Russians and Kazakhs, all of whom are Kazakhstanis.

We English-speakers love to abbreviate, but “Kazakh” isn’t a short way of saying “citizen of Kazakhstan” -- and it’s not nearly as funny as the time President Kennedy declared he was a pastry (by mispronouncing “Berliner” in Berlin).


ChrisM said...

Thanks for the clarification on the correct terms to describe the residents of this country, most appreciated. Not seen it so succinctly put before :)

Hooligan girl said...

Guys, go watch the Borat movie. It's better than I expected... The most amazing thing was when the movie was over, Borat said: now please stand for the national anthem of Kazakhstan, - some of the audience stood up. And he sang about prostitutes of Kz, and bla-bla-bla... Wow! I love you, America!