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Modern Kazakhstan

Image and Realities

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Edited By Aydar Amrebaev, Hans-Georg Heinrich, Ludmilla Lobova and Valikhan Tuleshov

Against the backdrop of its mineral wealth, Kazakhstan has been touted a Central Asian tiger state. In contrast to most other Central Asian countries, it was able to evade civil war and large-scale bloodshed and to assume a leadership position which won international recognition and respect. At the same time, the country could not evade the global financial crisis and its human rights record is far from being immaculate. This volume analyses the economic, political and social dynamic of modern Kazakhstan as seen by insiders and Western experts. Their opinions converge on the assumption that there are hard times ahead but that Kazakhstan has the potential to weather the storm.

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Hans-Georg Heinrich, Ludmilla Lobova, Summary and Conclusions

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The record of post-Soviet Kazakhstan is a mixed bag of rich opportuni- ties, dashed hopes and drab realities. Kazakhstan won early rounds of applause for its handling of regional policy and has a catastrophic image in the West for its human rights conduct. This, however, eclipses cau- tious but real advances in bottom-up democratization. There are certainly unwritten rules which set limits for political opposition and criticism. Nev- ertheless – and this volume is a case in point – open criticism is a feature of Kazakhstan’s authoritarian system. Unsurprisingly, the Achilles heel of the grand schemes projected by an up-to-date legislative framework is implementation on the ground. The shortcomings of evolving or continuing practices prompt demands for the revision of the legislative basis in their turn. The country can boast a vi- brant civil society which is definitely no fig leaf put up by the government in order to improve its international image. It is, among other things, a provider of important social services, it fills a gap in the activities of gov- ernmental and budget-financed institutions; and last not least, it is a pro- vider of jobs. Civil society regards itself as a champion of modernization. Modernization and Europeanization implies looking for and adopting Eu- ropean and, where appropriate, post-Soviet best practices. The Euro- pean Union recognizes the importance of Kazakhstan as a regional front runner, a fuel provider and security partner, particularly as a backstop for the ISAF and other missions to Afghanistan. The various strategies and dialogues, however, are...

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