Land unrest: how Kazakhstan is paying the price for the ambitions of the authorities

Ten days before the scheduled may 31 in Astana summit of the Eurasian economic Union, in many cities of Kazakhstan by force were foiled attempts to hold peaceful protests. People wanted to Express their attitude to the amendments to the new Land code, providing for the increase of the lease of land by citizens of foreign States with 10 to 25 years.

This kind of protest is the most economically developed country of the region did not know since December 2011, when the use of weapons were suppressed performances of oil workers in Zhanaozen. Then 15 people were killed.

This time the police acted tough, but the weapon, thank God, it was shrouded. According to the interior Ministry of Kazakhstan, were detained dozens of people, and according to others — much more. Among them dozens of journalists. A few hours later all were released, but interior Minister detentions of journalists has called a “misunderstanding”. The locking actions of the police video have been prohibited for distribution in the Kazakh Internet zone.

However, the behavior of the guards is quite consistent with the instructions of the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who on may 5 at a government meeting said that the attempts to destabilize the country and to carry out a coup will be tolerated. ‘The people do not want the Ukrainian events, I know it, let everyone hear, and who wants to bring here — we’ll take the most severe measures!”.

However, the President himself, without waiting for the planned nationwide protests, and hoping to forestall them, he compromised: he imposed a moratorium on the introduction of controversial amendments before 1 January 2017 and established by his decree of Land Commission to discuss possible revision of the amendments to the Land code. Opponents took it not so much as a victory, but as a recognition of the justice of their fears: after all, if the amendments are adopted in their current form, the land in Kazakhstan for many years will be the property of the Chinese.

The economic expansion of China into Central Asia. The ruling elite of the countries of the region are looking forward to the real arrival of billions of dollars in investment promised by Beijing in the framework announced in Astana in September 2013, the President of the PRC XI Jinping’s ambitious plan for Economic corridor silk road. The locals know and how the Chinese are busily developing are receiving jobs in the framework of the Beijing-funded projects: they are trying to start a family here, to get farming, quickly and deftly begin to cultivate the ground from which as are convinced the Kazakhs, for nothing then will not give up. After all, owning land is not only on the long-term lease: even though foreigners are forbidden to buy, plots to buy in front individuals possessing the nationality of Kazakhstan.

For Kazakhs, as they themselves say, the earth — the notion of the sacred. Historically it was never a private property. The Kazakhs took it all as their territory on which they roamed with their cattle from pasture to pasture. So the earth — along with religion and language — the three are inextricably part of the Kazakh national identity. And threatening the loss of one of these parts can be a serious trauma for the Kazakh mentality.

Living in emigration eks-the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Akezhan Kazhegeldin in an interview with opposition media, suggests that “under the guise of aliens, the earth will start buying all kinds of offshore companies, like Panama, which hide our underground millionaires and billionaires from Astana, with whom it will be easy to understand in the framework of the campaign for the return of capital, which sooner or later will start…”. “Much worse,” he says, “if they will buy the land real Chinese, Russian or Western investors, who will fight for their rights in international courts”. The former Prime Minister, calling himself “a consistent supporter of private property,” strongly insists that the discussion of land market in Kazakhstan to return no earlier than 40-50 years, or “one day we will find that half the country belongs to foreigners on their rented lands settled hundreds of thousands of foreign workers”.

Why this topic has arisen only now, in the spring, because the proposed amendments to the Land code have been known in the past year? It’s simple. Fits 1 July, the start date announced by the authorities of auctions for the sale of land, which can be taken from the current tenants if they are prior to this date will not redeem it in the property at the market price. But even, with serious discounts reaching 50%, the tenant has no such money, and take them nowhere. In Kazakhstan there is no land banks and the special credit.

But why such urgency? Yes, from what state Treasury in terms of times of falling oil prices (Kazakhstan commodity export-oriented country) is desperately short of money. Ahead of holding in Astana the world exhibition “Expo-2017”, another ambitious project, for which the right to exercise the Akorda presidential residence (residence of Nursultan Nazarbayev) fought and won in the fat years.

It’s hard not to agree with the Kazakhstani political scientist Tolganai Umbetalieva, which sees the nature of the current conflict in the country in the clash between two incompatible approaches of value: the government considers the land an economic resource that can be earned, and for the people of the earth — sacred value that must not be selling. And if the government responsible to the people it would have to find another way out of the economic crisis, otherwise the country can expect turmoil.

Now the conflict only escalates. From the composition of the Land Commission came out of famous Kazakhstan figures such as former Senator Zauresh Batalova, which, incidentally, was also arrested may 21 on suspicion of willingness to participate in an unsanctioned rally. Opponents of the government argue that it appoints all the members of the Land Commission, not including their representatives. This is expressed in the main issue exposed in the course of the “plot” of the protests — all decisions taken by the leadership of the country takes alone, real feedback with society is absent.

The national leader of Kazakhstan was forced to partly admit it, immediately after creating the first meetings in April, the new Ministry of information and communications, appointing him head of his press Secretary Dauren Abayev. However, even established in Kazakhstan autocracy, the effectiveness of which is recognized by the President, gives a strange and suspicious failures. While the leader of the nation their real actions acknowledges the existence of the problem, the state propaganda on television continues to brand the protesters as stooges of the “third parties” and “fifth column”, which does not disdain to receive from $50 to $150 for anyone who goes to protests. Such a strange tactic, offensive to decent citizens, only contributes to heating of the protest element. Someone in Kazakhstan’s power structures really want a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The authors ‘ point of view, articles which are published in the section “Opinions” may not coincide with ideas of editorial.