Insight Turkey Volume 18 No. 4, 2016
In the fall of 2015, Kazakhstan officials celebrated the 550th anniversary of what they consider the beginning of their statehood. Not only was this sort of celebration unknown in the past, but the festivities were a major state event. They were broadly celebrated in Kazakhstan and had international implications as well, particularly in the United States. A movie related to the event was shown in Washington, and Kazakhstan officials in the U.S. made a special presentation related to a book on the beginning of Kazakhstan history in front of representatives of American officials and academics; the presentation was done in connection with the 550th anniversary of Kazakh statehood. This extraordinary interest of Kazakhstan officials in what seems to be a purely academic subject had clear political implications. Possibly one of the most important implications of the year-long celebration – definitely noted by the Kremlin – was the message sent to Moscow that Kazakhstan will follow its own policy regardless of Moscow’s wishes and will deal harshly with those who challenge them. Several arrests in fall 2015 by Kazakh authorities targeted ethnic Kazakhs, who claimed that Russian and Kazakh history are closely integrated and that therefore Kazakhstan should be geopolitically and economically close to Russia.