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Cablegate: Ethnic Harmony in Northern Kazakhstan

VZCZCXRO5410
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHTA #0023/01 0120427
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120427Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7167
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 2323
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1685
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2391
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1880
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1730
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000023

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON SOCI RS KZ
SUBJECT: ETHNIC HARMONY IN NORTHERN KAZAKHSTAN

ASTANA 00000023 001.2 OF 002


REFTELS: A. ASTANA 0010
B. 09 ASTANA 0959

1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: During recent visits to Kazakhstan's Kostanai
and North Kazakhstan Oblasts, interlocutors emphasized the tolerant
nature of Kazakhstani society and government efforts to encourage
ethnic harmony. According to Viktor Sayko, Director of one of the
North Kazakhstan Oblast's three organizations of ethnic Russians,
ethnic Russians are generally content as Kazakhstani citizens, but
some worry about potential compulsory study of the Kazakh language
and employment discrimination. END SUMMARY.

KOSTANAI OFFICIALS PRAISE INTER-ETHNIC TOLERANCE

3. (SBU) Tatyana Zueva, Kostanai Oblast's Internal Policy
Department representative, told PolOff that the oblast's 950,000
residents represent more than 120 nationalities. The region's main
ethnic groups include Russians, Kazakhs, and Germans. Zueva, an
ethnic Russian, spoke often about Kazakh traditions and their
importance in Kostanai. Zueva mentioned her studies of the Kazakh
language at the Akimat (regional administration), and pointed out
tributes to Kazakh culture, by artists of various ethnicities, in
Kostanai's art gallery. Zueva emphasized that Kazakhstan has
experienced no major incidents of ethnic violence since its
independence in 1991.

HOUSE OF FRIENDSHIP FLOURISHES

4. (SBU) At Kostanai's House of Friendship, a large two-story
building with 16 small offices for some of the major ethnic groups
in Kazakhstan, PolOff met its young director, Anton Trukhanov. A
former journalist and television commentator, Trukhanov explained
the importance of teaching the children of various nationalities
about their cultures and languages in order to continue the city's
development as a harmonious, multi-cultural and artistically-vibrant
locale. Student dance and musical performances for a New Year
celebration occupied the House of Friendship's theater during
PolOff's visit. Kostanai's largest ethnic groups -- Russians,
Germans, Ukrainians, and Tatars -- have centrally-located offices
near the Director's, while a statue of a sheaf of wheat, hung with
the flags of ethnic groups in Kazakhstan, dominates the building's
lobby.

NORTH KAZAKHSTAN TOUTS ETHNIC HARMONY

5. (SBU) Erlik Zhandildin, Director of North Kazakhstan Oblast
Akimat's Internal Policy Department, joined Kostanai Oblast
officials in touting inter-ethnic accord in northern Kazakhstan. He
noted his oblast's 650,000 residents represent 100 nationalities,
mainly Russians, Kazakhs, Poles, and Germans. The region also
established a 125-house settlement, called Bayterek, for Oralmans.
(NOTE: The Kazakhstani government has been encouraging ethnic
Kazakhs, most of whom left Kazakhstan before the Soviet period, to
return to Kazakhstan. Returnees are called Oralmans. END NOTE.)
Zhandildin, an ethnic Kazakh, attributed the region's ethnic harmony
to waves of migration over the last 100 years, as well as to the
central and local government's continuing efforts to foster harmony,
for instance, by funding ethno-cultural associations. As Zhandildin
told PolOff, "each person here has their own world view; in North
Kazakhstan oblast, we believe in letting people live."

ETHNIC RUSSIANS LIVE COMFORTABLY IN NORTH KAZAKHSTAN

6. (SBU) In an arrangement similar to Kostanai Oblast's House of
Friendship, North Kazakhstan Oblast's Akimat provides rent-free
space and modest funding for cultural events to 20 cultural centers,
including Viktor Sayko's "Russian Community" organization. Sayko
asserted that ethnic Russians, who constitute 80% of the region's
population, live very comfortably in North Kazakhstan Oblast. He
argued that emigration decreased in the last few years due to good
relations between ethnic Russians and Kazakhs. Sayko further noted
that most of the thousand citizens who left Kazakhstan within the
last few years went to Omsk, close to Kazakhstan, and Kaliningrad,

ASTANA 00000023 002.2 OF 002


which is seen as a gateway to Europe. According to Sayko, most
emigres were either unemployed, or "moved out of concern for the
long-term future of their children." Sayko said most patrons of his
organization's free consultations about emigration issues thought
they could more easily obtain jobs or live on their pensions in
Russia. However, many have found Kazakhstan's economy better, he
underlined, and have returned.

DIFFERING VIEWS OF ETHNIC RUSSIAN ORGANIZATIONS

7. (SBU) According to Sayko, Petropavlovsk's two other Russian
organizations "complain more" about ethnic Russians' difficulties in
modern Kazakhstan, especially the study of the Kazakh language. In
addition, he mentioned their criticism of his organization for
"accommodating" the Akimat. Sayko highlighted job discrimination as
the most important concern. At the same time, he acknowledged that
the refusal of many ethnic Russians to learn Kazakh makes it
difficult for them to occupy certain positions.

WHAT ROLE SHOULD THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT PLAY?

8. (SBU) Sayko, who praised the Kazakhstani government and
President Nazarbayev for maintaining inter-ethnic harmony, said he
gathered one million signatures in support of Nazarbayev in 2005.
Noting the 40 million ethnic Russians worldwide, Sayko advocated
that ethnic Russians develop a sense of community and ethnic pride
-- within an overarching identity as Kazakhstani citizens -- based
on the model of strong Armenian, Jewish, and Korean communities.
According to Sayko, the Russian Embassy sometimes provides small
grants to Russian cultural centers for special activities, and his
organization encourages participation in events, such as the third
congress of Russian-speaking populations. However, Sayko asserted
ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan should not involve themselves in
political issues between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation.
Commenting on a Russian initiative to distribute Russian "identity
cards," Sayko told PolOff, "I have a Kazakhstani passport, and that
is the only identity document I need." Sayko added that his
organization is considering carefully the proposal even though he
personally sees no benefits.

AN ETHNIC RUSSIAN ORGANIZATION'S VIEW ON THE CUSTOMS UNION

9. (SBU) In response to PolOff's inquiry about the Customs Union
effect on the North Kazakhstan oblast, and particularly ethnic
Russians, Sayko highlighted the positive response of businessmen
involved in trade with Russia. However, he also asserted ethnic
Russians are more concerned about the movement of people than goods.
According to Sayko, Kazakhstani citizens previously could travel to
Russia for up to 90 days without a visa, but had to register with
immigration authorities within three days of arrival. Sayko praised
amended regulations, which allow visa-and-registration-free travel
to Russia for up to one month.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: Ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan sometimes have
been portrayed as a fifth column of support for the Russian
Federation. Post considers this assessment grossly inaccurate.
While most Russian-Kazakhstanis have relatives and other ties to
Russia, the vast majority perceive themselves as loyal Kazakhstani
citizens. While some worry about the perceived employment bias in
favor of Kazakhs, most have chosen to remain in Kazakhstan. A few
ethnic Slavs, most considered to be of Russian ethnicity, occupy
influential positions within the government, notably Vladimir
Shkolnik, President of KazAtomProm, and Roman Vassilenko, one of
Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev's right-hand men. Despite the
plethora of views about ethnic relations in Kazakhstan, authorities
throughout the country have clearly worked hard -- and generally
succeeded -- in the creation of a peaceful and harmonious society.
Although all seems relatively well now, any significant rise in
Kazakh nationalism could cause problems in the future. END
COMMENT.

HOAGLAND

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