Below are the few episodes reflecting our thinking while we were following the events in Kazakhstan in the first days of January 2022. We present the pieces which were translated by the CrimethInc collective from Russian to English.
Who are behind the “violent” resistance?
In the whirlpool of events we are still trying to analyze something, not to dissolve in the information noise.
Perhaps the most interesting question for us is: what groups and forces are involved in the events in Almaty, where the scenario of confrontation is the most radical and violent at the moment? It is impossible to answer unequivocally right now.
Everything is mixed up in the media-rumor: “militant nationalist squads”, “aggressive youths beating up journalists”, “drunken marauders from the outskirts”, “protesters”… and it’s all in one mess. We don’t know the disposition of forces among non-state actors of Kazakhstani events. But we are running the risk to suppose, that some people were going out to street marches, some people were taking away the vodka from the broken show-windows, and probably the third or probably the first were in arsenal of KNB.
The journalist Maksim Kurnikov said some very interesting things on Ekho Moskvy’s morning broadcast. He remarked that the scheme “to take weapons from gun stores and then attack security forces” is not new in Kazakhstan.
Exactly the same thing happened in the city of Aktobe in June 2016: several dozen young men, divided into groups, took weapons from two gun stores, seized vehicles, and attacked a part of the National Guard, where they were defeated. The authorities of Kazakhstan have been much muddled about the case: It is still not very clear what the basis is for their claims of an “Islamist connection.”
Kurnikov also spoke of paramilitary guards at illegal oil refineries in western Kazakhstan, made up of local villagers, disparagingly called “mambets” (collective farmers) by Kazakhstani townsfolk. These groups have also at times engaged in armed confrontations with police officers.
What does all this tell us? Of course, President Tokayev’s words about “terrorist groups carefully trained abroad” are pure propaganda and most likely a gross lie. That armed cells capable of seizing security institutions and arsenals suddenly materialized from a motley crowd also sounds unlikely. That said, we have no evidence of Islamist or nationalist involvement in the Almaty events. However, as we can see, organized groups capable of active armed resistance exist in Kazakhstani society in principle. It is likely that those people who engaged in direct confrontation with the security forces were partly representatives of such groups and partly spontaneous self-organized protesters. There is an analogy with the 2014 Maidan [i.e., the protests in Kiev], where the defense was organized both spontaneously by the crowd and with the participation of radical organized groups that joined in.”
The question about the real balance of forces among non-state actors of the events is still urgent:
Opposition journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov, on Ekho Moskvy radio station, expressed confidence that the armed attack on the authorities in Almaty was the work of Nazarbayev’s people. The arguments for this confidence are not clear.
It is noteworthy that Akhmedyarov noticed in his native Uralsk on the square next to the protesters a group of several dozen organized people calling for an assault on the Akimat. A small group of “identically dressed instigators” was also reported from Kostanai.
What is it? Some shadowy organized rebel force, criminal groups or really provocateurs from state services? Or maybe a “non-violent” narrative, seeking to immediately label supporters of direct action as such? There are no answers.
One thing is clear: dividing protesters into “peaceful” and “terrorists” is a distortion of reality. Even before the events in Almaty, there were clips from the same Uralsk, where the demonstrators were bravely liberating the detainees from the police.
Let’s allow ourselves a truism: yes, a radical “violent” protest does not guarantee success at all, nor is it immune to provocations. But a purely “non-violent” protest in our authoritarian reality is simply doomed in advance. “You have been heard, we’ll sort it out, and we’ll put the most violent of you in jail”—that’s always the answer from the powers that be in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan…
Reflections on state propaganda…
It turns out that the terrorists can’t be shown to the public even if they are dead. Their comrades-in-arms kidnapped the dead right from morgues!
And the main thing is that Kazakhstani authorities with no shame openly state that radical demonstrators dressed up as the police and the soldiers (!!!) Now any atrocity of the punishers can be attributed to the revolutionaries themselves. Maybe the protesters were shot by those “in disguise”? And if it now turns out that the children and journalists were shot by men in uniform and with shoulder straps – then you already know: of course it was the disguised “rioters” and not the brutal executioners of the Tokayev special forces.
Martyrs can mobilize the people
The current uprising in Kazakhstan began with the protests in Zhanaozen. The same city where, in December 2011, the authorities shot striking oil workers. The tragedy in Zhanaozen has left a mark on the protest culture in Kazakhstan. The people have cherished the memory of the dead. The duty of the living was to continue the work of the fallen.
And in January 2022, Zhanaozen rose again. The first city in the country, an example for all the others. The formal reason for the protests was the increase in gas prices and rising food prices. But, as noted by Mikhail Bakunin, mere dissatisfaction with the material situation is not enough for the revolution, a mobilizing idea is needed. In Kazakhstan, one such idea was the loyalty to the fighters who died in 2011. The workers who died then under the bullets will never see the world they dreamed of, but death for the sake of a dream became a testament to the living to continue their cause. And so for the rebels of Kazakhstan there is no way back now.
Kazakhstan’s rebellious culture has much to learn from. We, too, must keep the memory of the martyrs of the liberation movement in Russia and Belarus. About Michael Zhlobitsky, Andrey Zeltzer, Roman Bondarenko and other heroes. They died to make us braver and stronger, and we are indebted to them. We must tell how they lived and what they gave their lives for. As events in Kazakhstan show, fallen martyrs are capable of raising people to revolt.”
Possible factors for the next uprising
1) CSTO intervention. All more or less sane sources among the Kazakhs perceive this as an intervention and an attempt of “Big Brother” on their sovereignty. Every hour of presence of these forces in the country multiplies the aversion and anger;
2) Authoritarian rule has not disappeared. President Tokayev has concentrated more power in his hands, invited foreign military, ordered his troops to “shoot without warning”… But Kazakhstanis are not used to government brutality. It does not stop them, and the dissatisfaction with the government is not going away.
3) The economic crisis will not cease without fundamental reforms towards social justice. Enforcement is essentially just a postponement of price increases. No measures to overcome poverty and reduce inequality in society are offered by the authorities. Consequently, the discontent they have created will not abate either.
Larger picture and reflections from Russian-speaking anarchists on Kazakhstan in English you’ll find here.