Point of View

Perestroika – the Nazarbayev way. Crisis and reforms in Kazakhstan


Kazakhstan is a unique country in the post-Soviet area. Governed by an authoritarian regime and widely thought to be a close ally of Russia, the country has been making efforts to modernise and has been searching for new development models free of Soviet legacy. This in practice makes it more and more distant from Moscow. At present, Kazakhstan is set to face a multidimensional crisis of a social, political and economic nature. President Nazarbayev initiated a reconstruction of the state, reminiscent of perestroika in the 1980s in an attempt to slow down this tendency. Nazarbayev’s goal is to transform and streamline the system to make the country more capable of surviving and maintaining its previous achievements. To attain this goal, he is trying to selectively copy Western solutions, while taking care not to undermine the authoritarian nature of the regime in any major way. The reform process is impeded by the socio-political order existing in Kazakhstan (which he himself co-creates), resistance from the bureaucracy and political and business groups, and by the divides existing among the Kazakh public. Given the present situation in Kazakhstan, carrying out the reforms is as risky as giving them up. Thus the perestroika is a risky attempt to escape from the crisis and from the country’s being ever more overshadowed by Russia in civilisational terms.