Kazakh blogger Kuat Akhmetov, who became famous for his videos of “language patrols” on YouTube, was fined $ 340. The man posted videos on his channel, where he demanded from sellers to serve him in Kazakh. In other videos posted on Akhmetov’s channel, people apologized for using the Russian language.
The Russian Foreign Ministry discussed the situation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan over the phone; there was no reaction at a higher level. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin arrived in Kazakhstan the day before and thanked the Kazakh authorities for their “attentive attitude to the Russian language.”
Police officers detained Kuat Akhmetov in Almaty right on the street. After a short conversation, he was taken to a car and taken to the police station. The blogger became famous for his videos, which were nicknamed “language patrols” on the Internet. More than 20 thousand people have subscribed to Kuat Akhmetov’s YouTube channel. Videos appear almost every day. One of the most popular formats: a customer enters a store and demands to be served in Kazakh. Kuat Akhmetov himself calls his movement an online party, but does not consider himself a nationalist.
“I am a citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan, who wants to receive information in the state Kazakh language in my homeland,” he says.
The Russian Interior Ministry has banned Kuat Akhmetov from entering Russia for 50 years. He himself spoke about a criminal case that was allegedly initiated against him in Kazakhstan for inciting ethnic hatred. There is no official confirmation of this statement yet. The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that it supports the position of the Kazakh authorities, which had previously called such actions “cave nationalism”.
“The conservative patriotic community and compatriots in Kazakhstan itself see a weakness in this position and, most likely, it is expressed in the fact that our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is observing a certain diplomatic caution,” says Ivan Skorikov, an expert at the Institute of CIS Countries.
In early August in Kyrgyzstan, a drunk shopping center visitor hit a cashier for speaking Russian to him. A criminal case was opened against the man. And in July, the media reported that in a sports camp, peers beat a 9-year-old boy for being Orthodox. The Kyrgyz side insisted on the everyday nature of the conflict, and the parents, according to the Ridovka portal, were forced to withdraw the statement from the police. Russian Prime Minister Mishustin, who arrived in Kazakhstan the day before and then will go to Kyrgyzstan, did not touch on the topic of language conflicts.
“I would also like to thank you and the entire leadership of Kazakhstan for your attentive attitude to the Russian language. The Russian language in Kazakhstan has the status of an official one. It is a key instrument of both interstate and interethnic communication,” he said.
Similar events in Ukraine and the Baltic countries, according to political scientist Ivan Skorikov, could cause much more attention from Russian politicians and state media.
“Here, after all, these are our partners, strategic partners, and the topic of everyday nationalism was raised in a telephone conversation between Lavrov and his colleague,” he says.
The Russian language in Kazakhstan has the status of “official in state organizations and local self-government bodies.” It can be used in office work, financial records, military, law enforcement, legal proceedings. According to a study by the German “Ebert Foundation”, 51% of the population of Kazakhstan is fluent in Russian, and only 39% in Kazakh.
Galym Ageleuov, a human rights activist and head of the public foundation Liberty, told the Present Time about the state of affairs with the Kazakh and Russian languages in Kazakhstan.
– How would you describe the position of the Russian language in Kazakhstan now?
– The position of the Russian language in Kazakhstan is always good. The only thing is that the number of Russians is decreasing, because there is a massive departure from the country, and, according to the latest data, the number of emigrants is growing and increasing every year. Therefore, mostly Russian-speaking and Russians are leaving.
This is not so much connected with the policy of nationalism, no, things are just fine here, namely, with the fact that the economic component and poverty of the population is growing, and the government is simply engaged in more personal enrichment, that is, it is creating a kleptocratic state. And due to this, all state programs do not reach the population.
– That is, it is not connected with the language?
– It’s not connected with the language. In language, the situation is very simple, because for 30 years the authorities avoided answering a single and clear question, which had to be answered in the very first year: we are building a non-discriminatory state, a state where there is no discrimination, where everyone is equal, where languages function, in this case Kazakh, Russian, please speak any, as it is in Kazakhstan.
But such a situation is proclaimed and said in the high tribunes, but nothing is being done to popularize the Kazakh language. And because of this, Kazakh groups, these are significant groups in cities, young people – they are people discriminated against, because in their homeland, in their country, they are limited in the right to use the language.
– That is, according to your estimates, the discriminated stratum of the population is precisely those who speak Kazakh, and not those who speak Russian?
– It depends on the circumstances, because it can be both Kazakhs and Russians, it does not depend on the language. The fact is that the authorities did not give a clear answer: we are building a legal state where there are civil rights and freedoms, where there is equality and non-discrimination of ethnic groups, or we are building what many Kazakhs often like to emphasize that “we are the titular nation “.
Accordingly, if we are the titular nation, for example, Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, Russians in Russia, respectively, many have such a desire to have more privileges. Accordingly, this is discrimination, which is possible and, one way or another, at the everyday level there are such manifestations.
But the authorities, through persecution, the elimination of civil rights and freedoms, the suppression of rallies and meetings, simply did not give the opportunity, first, to raise this issue and solve it collectively, to give the people the right to govern the state, did not develop local self-government. Because the case of Kuat Akhmetov is a direct non-intervention of the state, which should have created just such bodies at the level of local self-government that would themselves look in accordance with the language whether there are signs in Kazakh and Russian.
That is, there would not be that some people simply took the initiative themselves and simply demanded in such a sometimes rude form to resolve the issue with the Kazakh language. And therefore the state simply disappeared, and it had to, on the contrary, rely on the population and solve this issue together, and then there would be no problems.
– Is the story with this blogger widely discussed in society among your acquaintances, friends?
– In the last few days, yes. Because for 30 years we see that we have massive thefts at the level of functioning of the development of the Kazakh language, these are courses, training, for some period we saw that they function in all cities. But then they all died deafly, and we now have a problem with the fact that there is no free practice in the Kazakh language, because we do not see it with advertising, we actually have a huge state order for the media for propaganda, and this order is now even more than advertising. And it turns out that the nationalization of the media has led to the fact that the state simply sends money to the wrong place, it just launders this money.
– I realized that this is again about corruption. According to your observations, what percentage, I don’t know, can you talk about a percentage, does society support such views of this particular blogger?
– I think there are many among the Kazakh population who want to be able to speak the Kazakh language, to preserve the Kazakh language as the dominant status, among them this percentage is growing. That is, there is still a fraction of the fact that the state language should function in the same way as the Russian language in Russia, as well as the Kazakh language in Kazakhstan, then this is inevitable. This is the way to clearly state to the authorities that we support both the Kazakh and Russian languages, but we give a clear answer to the question: we solve this problem for everyone, we involve society in solving these problems. The state simply declared that it is a listening state, but in fact did nothing in this matter.
– Galym, I want to clarify, for example, I am Kazakh, I live in a small village, I come to a big city in Kazakhstan, I go and address a saleswoman in Kazakh, and she may not understand me and ask me to switch to Russian?
– Yes, that’s the point. The problem is that the most discriminated against in our country are the Kazakhs from rural areas, who come to big cities due to the fact that the situation in the villages is quite deplorable, and cannot realize themselves, cannot be understood by sellers who speak only Russian.