POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT & ETHNIC CONFLICT:
KAZAKHSTAN & AZERBAIJAN
M.A. University of Central Florida, 2018
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Political Science in the Department of Political Science College of Sciences at the University of Central Florida
© Danny Krikorian 2018
Throughout history, states have endured various forms of internal and external conflict. This research focuses on a particular kind, ethnic conflict. The 20th century has seen many instances of ethnic conflict, and this research seeks to understand why it occurs in one place and time and not the other. Traditionally the literature on ethnic conflict reflects on economic conditions, regime type, historical context as significant variables. Little focus is given to political development as a potential variable in this equation. Much of the world’s modern cases of ethnic conflict occurred in the era following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of new states & national identities. In the years leading up to the demise of the Soviet Union ethnic conflict broke out throughout the former Socialist Republics. It seemed almost certain that ethnic conflict would arise in states like Kazakhstan, while other nations in the region, such as Azerbaijan haven’t been as fortunate. Under the leadership of Nazarbayev, it appears Kazakhstan has, despite significant institutional shortcomings with regards to democracy, stood out as a beacon of stability & ethnic harmony in an era & region rump with instability & chaos. While Soviet disintegration played a role in destabilizing the region, it does not adequately explain why ethnic conflict broke out in some areas, like Azerbaijan and not in others, like Kazakhstan. I argue that Kazakhstan managed to avoid ethnic conflict through political development that enabled inclusiveness and harmony. Such measures are absent wholly in Azerbaijan, despite immense oil wealth; it exhibits violence & threats to regime survival. This research posits that politically developed states are more inclined towards ethnic tolerance, inclusion & harmony, while underdeveloped states lack the apparatus’ there in, resulting in exclusion and conflict. It does so through a twofold method. The literature review covers a cross-sectional logistic regression model of 33 ethnically exclusive states that controls for other variables such as oil wealth and colonial legacies (and elaborate on the various cases therein), which span beyond just post-soviet states and the Asian continent to include Africa & the Middle East. This is a global dataset. It is complemented by Ethnic Power Relations, a broader dataset that demonstrates the relationship on a global scale. This section is followed by a qualitative comparative case study of two states with many political, economic & social commonalities – Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan – in order to demonstrate the uniqueness of the latter, and to further the argument that ethnic conflict is best stymied by political development as observed in Kazakhstan.
Table of Contents
Shared Histories in Post-Soviet Caspian……………………………………………
Inclusion & Harmony…………………………………………..…………..
Exclusion & Conflict………………………………………….……………
This research is an attempt to answer the question of why ethnic conflict occurs is some states and not others. In order to properly address the question, I’ve chosen a multi-method approach, including a logit regression as well as a comparative case study. I’ve chosen two Caspian states, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, rich with oil. The Caspian Sea region, or Central Asia rather, has become of growing importance, particularly since the dissolution of the USSR, but even more so perhaps, following the rise in Islamic fundamentalism. This has resulted in coordination between western and Caspian states like Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan in security measures in attempt to prevent instability.
More importantly for this research, instability has also taken the form of ethnic conflict, such as in the Caucasus, but also in CA states like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Kirgizstan. Out of the CA states, only Kazakhstan has oil abundance, and is thus vulnerable to the resource curse argument. That is Kazakhstan has averted any major conflict or crises altogether through a rentier system (Franke et al 2009). To counter this argument, and in order demonstrate that a lack of ethnic conflict (ethnic harmony) is not caused by oil wealth but rather by institutional accommodation I compare Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan.
In this research my aim is to demonstrate a relationship between the extent of political development, indicated by the degree of ethnic inclusion, and the extent of ethnic conflict, defined in the upcoming sections, exhibited in these two oil-rich post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim, Caspian & Turkic states. Beyond their security relevance, Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan serve as prime examples of states with variance in ethnic conflict and institutional development, despite the presence of oil in both states. I argue that more politically developed states are more likely to form institutions that protect, preserve and encourage ethnic inclusion. As a result, they exhibit less ethnic conflict. My independent variable is political development. The proxy for the extent of political development is the degree of ethnic exclusion or inclusion. My dependent variable is the degree of ethnic conflict or harmony. The research is organized into the following sections respectively: introduction of theory & key concepts therein; summary of shared histories of both cases, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan; review of data results from logit regression; and finally a conclusion.
Theory & Key Concepts
Before analyzing this relationship, it is important to define four major concepts in this research: Ethnicity, Ethnic Conflict, Ethnic Exclusion (discrimination) or Ethnic Inclusion.
Ethnicity is defined as “subjective experienced sense of commnality based on belief in a common ancestry and shared culture. Indicators of common ancestry and culture include common language, phenotypical features, and belonging to same faith (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).
Ethnic conflict is described as mass violence between two communities that each belongs to a distinct cultural group with common heritage and other subjective commonalities. In order to be classified as an ethnic conflict, armed organizations must seek to achieve “ethnonationalist aims, motivations & interests and recruit fighters and forge alliances on the basis of ethnic affiliations” (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009). Ethnic conflicts are distinct in their “armed organization, recruitment and alliance structures. In other words, ethnic conflicts are typically fought over ethnonational self-determination, ethnic balance of power in government, ethnoregional autonomy, ethnic and racial discrimination, and language and other cultural rights” (Sambanis 2009).
In many cases, antagonist ethnic groups will not be able to agree on new constitutional arrangements or a peaceful separation. These kind of ethnic disputes consequently become violent, some escalate into all-out inter-ethnic war. This is the situation in Angola, Kashmir, Shi Lanka, Bosnia, and Caucasus. Some scholars explain reasons of ethnic conflicts with collapse of the authoritarian rule. As an example, the main reason why ethnic conflicts have sprung up in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere, because the authoritarian rule has collapsed and made such conflicts possible. This is the conventional wisdom. This argument offers an inadequate explanation of the causes of ethnic conflicts. Scholars generally fail to explain why conflicts have broken out in some places, but not others, and why some ethnic conflicts are more violent than others (Ismayilov 2008). To elaborate further, ethnic conflicts can be defined as conflicts between ethnic groups within a multi-ethnic state, which have been going on some time, which may appear to be unsolvable to the parties caught up in them. An ethnic conflict is a dispute about important political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993). The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.
It is also important to define ethnic exclusion, or discrimination rather, so as to demonstrate how this exclusion is being gauged. Members of an ethnic group that are excluded from government or discriminated against are subject to intentional, targeted disenfranchisement. Discrimination entails limiting access to government positions to citizens who speak a certain language, exhibit phenotypical features or members of a particular faith. Discrimination can be informal too, that is – it can exist without legal enforcement, if a society actively prevents a particular ethnic group from mobilizing in that society (Tezcur & Gurses 2017). An example of ethnic exclusion or discrimination includes African-Americans until the civil rights movement. Some might argue that informal discrimination persists today (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).
On the other hand, inclusion can be described as institutional accommodation, beyond nominal laws, intended to help raise social status and political representation levels of ethnic minorities. The Civil Rights Act of 1995 & Affirmative Action are two examples of such accommodations in the US (Porter 2003).
Inclusion is a key concept in this article, particularly because I focus on Kazakhstan’s unique institutional infrastructure, the APK, which reduces the risk of ethnic conflict. The theoretical basis of my argument on the positive relationship between ethnic inclusion and ethnic conflict draws from Remmer’s model of Natural Cultural Autonomy. Remmer’s model suggests that ethnic inclusion does reduce the chances of ethnic conflict, but that this inclusion must go beyond mere laws. In other words, institutions and policies must be in practice that wholly address and accommodate the needs of ethnic minorities based on their experiences in given states (Porter 2003).
Ethnic conflicts occur in a multi-ethnic state, have been going on some time, and appear to be difficult to resolve. An ethnic conflict is a disagreement about political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993).
The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.
The literature is vast on ethnic conflict, but there is almost no focus on the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict (Fearon 2003). Instead most researchers focus on secessionist movements or insurgencies, but not on mere violent clashes, pogroms, and massacres. Furthermore, the literature suggests that most ethnic conflict is the result of collapsing authoritarian regimes, but this does not account for the occurrence of ethnic conflict in one region, and not the other (Ismayilov 2008).
The emergence of ethnic nationalism, such as in Azerbaijan, makes ethnic conflict much more likely. The rise of ethnic nationalism in one group can be seen as threatening by others. But even Kazakhstan, and most other post-soviet states exhibited high rates of nationalism for the sake of nation building. The mere disintegration of the authoritarian, cross-national empire of the USSR left a vacuum of power and the need for new states to emerge and address collective political needs. Not all states exhibited the same degree of nationalism. There is a distinction between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in this regard. Neither country is democratic by any means, but Kazakhstan has clear institutional differences in terms of ethnic minority inclusion. So what is this difference? A degree of political development, or institutionalized representation and inclusion has the potential to help mitigate ethnic tension by allowing for the establishment of an inclusive means of governance to address the needs of all ethnic groups in the state. This inclusiveness goes beyond just mere protection of minorities but accommodates and addresses grievances (Porter 2003). Now that we understand these important concepts and their definitions, of ethnicity and ethnic conflict, and the various sources of dispute, and expression of grievances, we can apply this reasoning to the two cases. I’ll begin first with Kazakhstan followed by an assessment of its ethnic harmony and the presence of robust institutions that enable it, followed by a section on ethnic exclusion, discrimination & ethnic conflict.
Exclusive states with higher oil are stable, but if not inclusive and young, can be unstable like Azerbaijan & Nigeria. China is old, and more populous. In other words having oil can reduce chances of violence in exclusive states between ethnic groups but only in situations where the state is old and robust. All three have colonial legacies, either Soviet or British. Exclusive states with lower oil are more likely to be unstable.
Data & Theory
This section illustrates with the use of two major databases focusing on ethnic minorities the relationship between inclusion and stability. The first set is UNPO and it demonstrates 33 cases of ethnic exclusion. These cases help to contextualize the dynamics of each state within each ethnic conflict & exclusion occurs, by comparing levels of oil wealth, imperial past, conflict & inclusion.
The second database is broader & the sample size is 192, and illustrates on a quantitative level the relationship between inclusion and stability by controlling for variables like oil, colonialism, and geography. These databases serve to complement & reinforce my hypotheses, which are listed below. Furthermore, they lead to the more integral, close-up look into Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan’s own specific cases.
Most oil rich states are stable but not enough to deem it a significant variable, given forty percent of oil rich countries remain unstable, throughout the second half the twentieth century, experienced much violence.
Ethnic Power Relations 3.0 is a dataset that demonstrates the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict. The dataset identifies 150 politically relevant ethnic groups and their access to state power between 1946-2010. The dataset includes 157 countries and 758 ethnic groups, and measures the degree of exclusion from government ranging from total representation to over discrimination.
In their regression, when the variable “excluded population” increases (Wimmer, Cederman, & Min 2009), it results in a 25% increase in the likelihood of ethnic conflict. Imperial rule after the 19th century, another control variable, increases the chance of armed conflict by 13% only. As a whole, the data demonstrates that changes in exclusion of ethnic groups produces the greatest increase in the risk of ethnic conflict.
Variables such imperial past did not have an effect as statistically significant on ethnic conflict as the variable of ethnic exclusion. In other words, the USSR’s legacy of imperialism in the Caspian region is not as statistically significant to overall ethnic conflict as one might expect. The same logic applies to oil. The data indicates that oil is nowhere near as significant as ethnic exclusion in its relationship to conflict.
Case Selection – Shared Histories, Language & Religion
The history of the Caspian is rather unique, rich with a prevalence of tribalism, nomadism, and clan relations. This was further enriched by the arrival of Islam, and the legacy of imperial dominance by Russia & Iran. The USSR would eventually encompass the entire region. It’s eventual collapse lead to the modern independent Kazakh & Azerbaijani republics. The purpose of this segment is to demonstrate how these historical similarities, while sharing some resemblance, do not ensure a shared degree of political stability and ethnic harmony.
The history of the Caspian region as populated with nomadic, tribal people with clan-based hierarchies greatly reflects in the political structures of the states therein. Nomadism has played a huge role in the histories of both Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan. In modern times, this is expressed through informal social institutions such as nepotism and patronage. That these societies embrace informality arguably induces corruption. Neither Kazakhstan nor Azerbaijan experienced autonomy until after the dissolution of the USSR. Before the USSR, Kazakhstan was mainly under the auspices of Russia, and Azerbaijan was ruled by Iran.
Traditionally, the influx of ideas, religions and cultures came along what is now called the Silk Route, connecting the east and west through trade networks and other forms of cultural interaction. Prior to the introduction of Islam by Arab warriors into the region in the 8th century, the Caspian region exhibited a diverse religious demography, including the mystical Shamanism, Tengrianism & Buddhism (Edelbay 2011).
USSR & Independence
Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan’s integration into the USSR only reinforced the tradition of authoritarianism and the centralization of power. They have carried on even into the post-soviet era (Tokaev 2004).
The disintegration of the USSR produced a vacuum of power. This vacuum was either to be filled by extremists or a continued legacy of authoritarianism. Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, like most Caspian states, chose the latter. Similar security measures to the USSR were adopted, continuing the legacy of Soviet-inspired police-state. The only difference was that Moscow had essentially less control over the region it once easily swallowed up.
Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan also share linguistic roots. Both languages are Turkic in origin. This renders them an even more ideal comparison. Perhaps most importantly of all commonalities – both states are among the top twenty-five oil-exporters in the world.
THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF KAZAKHSTAN
The political stability of Kazakhstan cannot be understood without analysis of its political structure and process. In this section I argue that the internal politics of Kazakhstan, while negatively affecting its stability, due to corruption, fraudulent elections and opposition suppression, is also a source of stability with regards to the strength of the state and its overall legislative structure. Of the eight variables, only political development and economic conditions pose a challenge in analysis. In a sense, both the endurance of the state, and the vast endowment of oil, which I discuss in the economic section, are a “gift and a curse”. While the political development of Kazakhstan shares a negative relationship with its political stability, it arguably serves as a window of hope for its future, noting its resilience in the face of radicalism and foreign pressure. Still, recent legislation passed by parliament has abolished executive term limits for President Nazarbayev, securing his role as leader of Kazakhstan for life. This dims the hopes for democratic reform. Furthermore it underscores the urgency of an impending succession crisis.
Kazakhstan is a unitary republic, with its president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, as the head of state. Legislative powers reside in a bicameral legislature, with includes the Majlis, the upper house and the senate, the lower house (16). Political parties are allowed to compete, but the authenticity of the election process is challenged by internal and external sources (42). Some parties however are deemed illegal, wholly banned and actively suppressed (16). Neither of the opposition parties possesses enough support or power to pose a significant threat in the election process. Furthermore, private media is largely suppressed, with the majority of publications being in support of the current administration (42). This is telling of the credibility and reputation of the constitution of Kazakhstan, which nominally protects private media — nominally.
Kazakhstan’s leadership under President Nazarbayev has been remarkably effective in stabilizing the country (38). It has endured less attacks and Nazarbayev has done well to smear his opponents as “gangsters and criminals” (36). He has displayed his effectiveness in maintaining a steady economy, while appeasing both his Russia, American, and Chinese counterparts, in what has been deemed a “multi-vector foreign policy” (28).
Kazakhstan has made many strides with regards to political reform, but it has also been guilty of backpedaling (23). Nonetheless, with careful consideration of the diverse forces forming the political fabric of Kazakhstan, there is reason to believe that its successes are equally worthy of attention as its shortcomings (43). Key points must be considered in order to clearly understand why the country’s progress towards democracy has lagged and been the subject of criticism. Kazakhstan has been independent for barely 30 years. To compare the status of its political institutions to those of the West, where independence and democracy have hailed for centuries, would be premature (40).
In context, compared to its neighbors, especially Uzbekistan, it has undoubtedly surpassed them in terms of stability and progress (27). Research indicates unprecedented civic activism and voter turn-out rates in Kazakhstan’s presidential elections (43). That being said, opposition parties are largely disenfranchised and discouraged from participating in the political process, often echoing accusations of fraudulent elections (7). In this regard, Kazakhstan’s leadership has been able to deploy the rentier mechanism by which political reform is substituted with public services funded by oil-wealth. The immense importance of the role played by oil in shaping the political dynamic of Kazakhstan can thus not be ignored, for they have been the pretense for tension between the various domestic and foreign political forces influencing Kazakhstan’s political stability (45).
The persistence of the authoritarian model of governance in Kazakhstan is arguably a product of President Nazarbyev’s initiative to secure his power for life. Both houses of the parliament voted to abolish his executive term limit, thus sidestepping the 2017 presidential election – an exception made only for Nazarbayev. Future leaders would have to abide by the original two-term limit. Despite the face of modern Kazakhstan, this is largely considered another step away from democracy. Furthermore it underscores the succession crisis faced in the country. How can Nazarbayev’s reputation as stabilizer, modernizer and developer be reconciled with his tainted legacy of crackdowns, corruption scandals and cult-like rule? In reality it cannot, but the presence of foreign powers in the region, as well as the early stages of political development within which Kazakhstan currently finds itself in a post-Soviet world, should make critics of Nazarbayev more considerate of the political dynamic. There is reason to believe that while Kazakhstan has been characterized by relative stability, Nazarbayev’s policies might incite terror and conflict in the long run, as is evidenced by sporadic cases of violence today. The presence of a robust, internationally supported security apparatus has perpetuated political underdevelopment, but the hand played by the West, in its oxymoronic mission of simultaneously promoting security and democracy, cannot be overlooked. Therefore another likely scenario might trace Kazakhstan’s reluctance towards democracy to the stubbornness on the part of both domestic political elites and global powers, like Russia, Europe, China & the US. Furthermore, how can the promotion of democracy and a robust security initiative be reconciled if the strategy is contradictory and counterintuitive? It appears that prospects for democracy are threatened equally by Nazarbayev’s grip on power as much as by foreign meddling and terrorism, together. From this regard, Nazarbayev appears to be more of a pragmatic ruler, who compared to his peers, performed effectively in ensuring Kazakhstan’s development and stability. This is an impressive feat as it was accomplished in the face of competing forces for power. It suggests that Nazarbayev’s power-hunger might have more to do with resisting subjugation to foreign powers, which might be detrimental to Kazakhstan as a whole, than it does with his own self. Seeing that foreign powers do in fact benefit from the persistence of authoritarianism, it appears that promoting democracy is not in their best interests, which raises the question of legitimacy of both the West’s double standard as well as the institution of democracy itself. Both Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs have viewed Nazarbayev as the harbinger of Kazakhstan’s sovereignty, which has propped him up politically. Perhaps if foreign powers exercised less coercion over the region, democratic movements might be more possible, reducing the allure of both authoritarianism and radicalism. Equally if Kazakhstan exhibited democratic institutions like term limits, free speech, political competitiveness, fair elections and civil liberties wholly, the country might be less imbalanced politically, socially and economically. More importantly, it might be less subservient to foreign pressures because in democracy a leader draws legitimacy from his constituents, not by accommodating foreign powers, as exhibited in Kyrgyzstan following the civil war and the institution of democracy (51). In revealing the complicity of the US, leader of the democratic world, in helping authoritarians, raises questions about the West’s intention, but also about the nature of democracy itself. It might be a stretch to suggest that democracy is either slipping or unattained in the US even. Authoritarianism is not entirely absent from American history therefore allying with authoritarians is not completely surprising, whether it is cooperating with authoritarian governments of Russia or Kazakhstan.
Tensions in Kazakhstan’s domestic politics—whether they are between members of the political elite, or between the political elite and the mass—have often been the subject of exploitation by global powers, using the fragility of the region to their own advantage. This leads us directly to the next variable.
In the realm of foreign politics, Kazakhstan is a key player in “The New Great Game” (24). Russia is arguably the greatest threat to Kazakhstan’s political stability. Managing the longest contiguous border in the world, Kazakhstan’s leadership perpetually fends itself against the threat of Russian imposition (3). However the US has also played an influential role in this regard. As global hegemonies play tug-o-war over the region, it becomes more apparent that its foreign relations share a negative relationship with Kazakhstan’s political stability.
Statements made by Vladimir Putin at the Selinger Youth Camp in 2014 reveal Kazakhstan’s vulnerability to Russian domination, especially with a significant Russian population living in mainly Northern Kazakhstan. The Georgian and Ukrainian crises, and Russia’s post-soviet neo-imperialism tradition, have done nothing to mitigate Kazakh fears of Russian influence. (22). The threat of Russian separatism emanates from the Northern Kazakhstan Province (4). For this reason, Nazarbayev moved the capital of Kazakhstan from Almaty to Astana, which is along the Northern border, closer to Russia (24). An act of defiance against Russian hegemony, Nazarbayev further proved himself a prolific player in the great game.
Russia’s proximity to Kazakhstan has served as somewhat of a double-edged sword. Despite the constant fear of Russian imposition, President Nazarbayev has utilized his close relationship with Russia as a means of resisting western influence, namely pressure from the US for democratic reform. Nazarbayev has lifted term limits on executive leadership and a lack of political development prevents power sharing and encourages corruption. In another sense however this close relationship with Russia is a way of preserving both Kazakhstan’s national sovereignty in the face of what is perceived to be western imperialism. Not only does it help to keep Nazarbayev in power, it prevents the West from being the arbiter of the East. Equally, Nazarbayev’s flirtatious relationship with Russia can be viewed as an attempt to solidify his rule and establish a so-called pro-Russian nationalist dictatorship for life. Criticism of the SCO as a multinational means of preserving autocracy in the region echoes this sentiment.
On the other end of the foreign political dynamic rests Kazakhstan’s intimate economic relationship with the US. Nonetheless, by associating demands for democracy with neocolonialism, Nazarbayev has legitimized his ideology. By balancing the priorities autonomy, growth and stability, he has solidified what has been coined as his “multi-vector-foreign policy” (4). That he has maintained Kazakhstan’s independence, autonomy, and economic progress, has further legitimized his position. But Russian hegemony is nothing new to the Central Asian giant; as the stains of Imperial Russia surely remain engrained in the memories of Kazakhs (13). But the demise of the USSR has essentially opened a vacuum of power it could be argued. The world, having transitioned from a bipolar to a unipolar political dynamic, with the US essentially having grip on global power, has essentially allowed the US to reign in on the region’s vulnerability and economic appeal.
Like its eastern counterparts, the West, namely the US, has simultaneously played an inconsistent role in the region; often indirectly propping up extremists, neglecting delayed reforms, and dipping their hands in scandalous oil politics (24). Despite pro-democratic rhetoric, it seems neither hegemony, Russia, China or the US are genuinely committed to the “democratic process” in Kazakhstan (34). This factor is perhaps the most overlooked in current literature on political stability in Central Asia.
With regards to its regional and local allies, Kazakhstan has maintained a positive relationship for the most part. The greatest threat to its stability comes from its relationship with the global powers of Russia, China, the US and the EU, who have engaged in double-dealings, policy inconsistency and moral negligence. Kazakhstan enjoys a positive reputation among international organizations, especially the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, of which it was a founding member (9). Nonetheless, it faces continued scrutiny over the process of its elections and accounts of corruption various international organizations, despite being an active member of the U.N (35).
The SCO however has played a more direct role in the region (49). On one hand, it has served a stabilizing force, enabling coordinated security efforts, economic fluidity and immigration. Furthermore, it has counterbalanced European and American influence in the region, which may or may not serve the overall security interests of the region (48). But considering sovereignty as a crucial variable for stability, it would appear that the SCO serves this purpose effectively. On the other hand, the SCO has strengthened the grasp of autocratic regimes, raising the question as to whether international organizations promote or discourage democratization. (47). Equally, such criticism may be premature considering the region is still in early stages of post-Soviet political development.
In 2008, Russia annexed South Ossetia from Georgia, prompting international ridicule and fears of a reemerging Cold War. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, following with the annexation of Crimea and Abkhazia, these fears seemed almost perfectly vindicated. While such aggression by Russia is unsurprisingly of alarm to the international community and particularly the West, the actions themselves must be of little surprise, that is – if one is to look through the lens of Moscow’s leadership. Expanding NATO global operations as well as increased US military involvement in the Middle East, prompted fears of a Western encroachment on Russia’s sphere of influence. From this angle, it might be less difficult to grasp the motives for Russia’s behavior in the past five years.
This segment of the research is of particular importance as I argue later in the paper, it is the most crucial variable in the relationship with political stability. The threat of Islamic fundamentalism is perhaps the greatest security issue for Kazakhstan. The threat of Russian separatism, though very real, especially following the Georgian and Ukrainian crises, has been thus far contained. In this section I demonstrate how the security and military condition of Kazakhstan has made it less stable.
National security poses a very unique challenge for Kazakhstan. However Kazakhstan has been essentially able to mitigate the threat relative to its neighbors. The threat is both foreign and domestic, with large swaths of ideological fanaticism being imported from abroad, mainly from Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, in the form of Wahhabism (34). Kazakhstan has remained stable despite the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. Repressive retaliation by Central Asian governments has only aggravated the situation (10). Various influential terrorist and extremist networks operate in the region, such as the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, Soldiers of the Caliphate, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (5). There also exists a threat from Uyghur separatist groups within Kazakhstan as well as a threat from external sources of radicalization emanating primarily from the Middle East (4). These forces altogether represent obstacles to Kazakhstan’s national security, which is evidently a significant factor of consideration in the political stability of Kazakhstan. They suggest another reason why democratic reform has lagged. Furthermore, they focus attention on the authoritarian nature of the regime, and the relationship of that authoritarianism with the rise of dissenting groups of radical Islamic persuasion. On the other hand, the existence of these extremist networks is perhaps another reason why Nazarbayev has been able to maintain power—by portraying himself as a champion of the cause against terrorism, he has garnered immense support from the U.S. and has replaced Uzbekistan as Central Asia’s primary force against Islamic fundamentalism (41). These forces also underscore the immense responsibility bestowed on the government of Kazakhstan in balancing the agendas of all power players and potential threats to Kazakh stability and autonomy. Since the inception of the post 9/11 era, and the ensuing “War on Terror” as led by the US, there has been little success in mitigating the overall threat of terrorism in the region, further underscoring the need for reconsidering policy measures (2).
It becomes uniquely difficult to isolate the security threat from the other variables. There have been instances in which groups like the IMU have engaged with global hegemonies directly and indirectly (24). If this is true, it could be argued that religious radicalism is exploited by foreign powers as means of destabilization.
In sum, the there is a negative relationship between the security conditions of Kazakhstan and its overall political stability. Despite its leader’s attempts to mitigate the threat compared to his neighbors, especially Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the threat remains. Since 2011, there has yet to be an attack (19). Furthermore, Kazakhstan’s military has been relatively dormant in terms of full-fledged combat. This is a signal of its relative stability compared to its Central Asian neighbors.
Ethnic Inclusion & Harmony in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, this accommodation exists via the establishment and continued involvement and development of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan or APK.
Prominent ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Tatars, Uighurs, Chechens, Koreans, Turks, Azerbaijanis & Germans (Nyussupova 2011). Kazakhs make up 65%, Russians 21.5%, Uzbeks 3%, Ukrainians 1.8%, Uyghurs 1.4%, Tatars 1.2% & Germans 1.1%. There are many others, as Kazakhstan boasts 120 various ethnic groups, but their numbers are drastically smaller.
It is important to note that the population of Russians is the second largest. Before independence, Kazakhstan’s own national ethnic group, the Kazakhs, comprised less than 40% of the total population. During this time Russian was more widely spoken. Following independence however, Kazakh was nationalized as the official language. Furthermore, quite recently, Kazakh’s became the official ethnic majority within their own national boundaries for the first time in their history (Karin 2002).
To highlight the significance of demography, the presence of Uzbeks in southern Kazakhstan provide insight into the assertion that modern Central Asia is an artificial creation traced back to the initial “cutting up” of the region by USSR leaders. It is likely that the environment and conditions created by these “partitions” created much of the imbalance and instability in the region today. Despite being Uzbek by ethnicity, Kazakh Uzbeks are loyal to the soil in which they have inhabited for centuries. That ethnic irredentism really highlights the role of the New Great Game in determining the overall demographic structure and dynamic of Kazakhstan, and Central Asia altogether (Oka 2009).
Relative to his Central Asian neighbors, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has witnessed under his rule a relatively stable and harmonious interethnic relationship in his country. This is most likely attributed to Kazakhstan’s overall moderate approach to policy, which sees a balancing of foreign, domestic, and minority interests, contrary to Ilham Aliyev’s cult-like rule in Azerbaijan.
Nazarbayev rules with more pragmatism. Kazakhstan has witnessed no significant episodes of violent deteriorations of society.
More importantly perhaps, is how Nazarbayev’s vision of stability and harmony expressed itself domestically. Through the establishment of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan in 1995, ethnic minorities are represented in this legislative body, which is intended to protect, preserve and celebrate their rights as well as the ethnic pluralism, which defines Kazakhstan. The APK (Assembly of People of Kazakhstan) consists of 384 representatives of all ethnic groups in the state (Jones 2010). The APK elects nine members to the Majlis; Kazakhstan’s lower-chamber of Parliament. Finally, all laws passed by the legislature must meet a certain criteria ensuring ethnic harmony, a significant check on executive power protecting ethnic minorities.
Kazakhstan has successfully employed national efforts to promote cultural tolerance and cohesiveness through its making of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan. National efforts to promote cultural/ethnic tolerance include: insuring each ethnic group has a voice within the government through policies, organizations, assemblies etc., granting all minorities equal rights and representation within the country, not using ethnicity as a tool for political mobilization but instead creating a “national identity” for everyone to be apart of equally (one that does not have to do with ethnic background at all but rather being a citizen of the said country), creating equal opportunities in the business realm for all ethnic groups, instilling strict laws against ethnic discrimination even down to ethnic slurs, as well as promoting peace through cultural events, parades, and the alike. The APK exemplifies directly national efforts in promoting cultural/ethnic tolerance and cohesiveness.
It has become evident that Kazakhstan’s politicians are aware of the need for inter-ethnic accord, in order to maintain political stability. Institutionally, Kazakhstan’s laws prevented the formation of political parties along ethnic lines; instead, in 1995 – by order of executive decree, President Nursultan Nazarbayev established the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan in March 1995, a legislative and presidential consultative body, largely touted by Kazakh officials as a representation of the nation’s progressive policies.
Ultimately though, the APK has served mainly as a means for controlling ethnic minorities and securing a national Kazakh identity. This was underscored by the APK’s name-change, which was meant to signify its purpose as a unifying project. In other words, while the mission is to encourage harmony between ethnicities; the more underlying purpose is the stabilization of society under a unifying Kazakh identity.
The main objectives of the APK include the preservation of inter-ethnic harmony and political stability, developing new mechanisms for fostering healthy relations between various ethnicities and nationalities within the state; to promote spiritual and cultural enrichment; development and equality. Despite its ambiguity, and its close ties to the executive branch, considering it was the APK, which proposed extending Nazarbayev’s term, the APK enjoys a level of autonomy and influence on legislative matters, but a new decree centralizing the aim of the APK around Kazakhstani identity might raise some eyebrows (Jones 2010). The APK’s overarching goal is to essentially supervise ethnic groups and their leaders so as to make sure inter-ethnic harmony preserves Kazakhstan’s stability. The APK has been generally used to portray Kazakhstan’s image as an inter-ethnic paradise.
The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan has generated many benefits for both Kazakh society as well as its political infrastructure. Since its creation over two decades ago, The APK has enabled minority ethnic groups the ability for representation, protection and preservation, a guarantee that does not exists not only in developing states, but in even some of the most developed states in the world experiencing minority and ethnic tensions today.
While many have criticized and simplified the APK has an extension of President Nazarbayev’s arm into political affairs, seeing as he is the official Chairman of the institution, these criticisms are premature and lack a clear objective understanding of the regional landscape and history. This isn’t to suggest that Kazakhstan is a democratic paradise, on the contrary. Kazakhstan exhibits significant shortcomings in press freedom, political opposition, and economic competition. Furthermore, its tremendous oil wealth, dubbed the resource curse, has often paralyzed the process of modernization. Still, the extent of ethnic inclusion, representation and national unity are unprecedentedly higher in Kazakhstan than any other Central Asian state (Oka 2004). As demonstrated in the research, ethnic conflict was rampant in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. A lack of representation and guaranteed protection for minorities, as well as a robust mechanism for preserving ethnic traditions, was accompanied by violent episodes between ethnic groups. In Azerbaijan, ethnic minorities are suppressed and institutions like the APK in Kazakhstan are absent. There are no constitutional provisions that protect minorities like Uzbeks, Tajiks, Ukrainians, Russians, Germans, Kurds, Armenians, etc.
The mere fact that the APK has legislative authority, representation and leverage as well as the presence of explicit constitutional provisions that protect ethnic minorities both underscore the distinct degree of internal political development in Kazakhstan (Jones 2010) This cannot be easily dismissed as a product of its resource abundance relative to its neighbors, considering, even other post-Soviet states endowed with oil, like Azerbaijan, are substantially more discriminatory towards ethnic minorities. Oil itself has neither stifled nor promoted political development to coincide with economic development. Rather, it has existed as a mere backdrop feature, while ethnic minorities’ fates remain largely in the political landscape and culture of the host nation. That is why in Kazakhstan, cultural and religious tolerance together have resulted in a less contentious atmosphere, the necessary precondition for ethnic inclusion and institutional development in that regard.
The most important element of this research is the consideration of the regional implications as well as the theoretical implications. This research does not suggest that Kazakhstan is in any way an advanced democratic state, but rather, that it has made significant and commendable strides to protect its ethnic minorities which have in most other cases suffered tremendous discrimination, violence and destitution. Ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan contrarily, have access to social, political and economic capital to advance their ethnic groups in society, protecting their heritage’s past and future (Oka 2010).
Furthermore other research on the region vindicates these assertions as Kazakhstan has exhibited political stability and interethnic harmony since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. This has not been the case for other Central Asian & Post-Soviet States, where ethnic conflict and exclusion are simultaneously prevalent. Even where there is abundant oil, or the lack there of – when there are ongoing wars, or the lack thereof – ethnic conflict exists wherever there is an absence of political institutions designed to accommodate and advance their needs.
Even in the US and in most European countries like Germany, Northern Ireland and Denmark, there are various institutions and accommodations designed to integrate minorities into society and politics. The EPR data indicates that in situations where such accommodations are made, ethnic conflict is less likely to occur. Contrarily, the absence of institutional provisions meant to protect and integrate ethnic minorities beyond mere cultural tolerance will result in conflict.
Equally said is the need for more improvement for political development and minority protection in Kazakhstan, given that most provisions are often nominal, at the discretion of the Chairman & President, Nazarbayev. Furthermore, the low level of democracy in Kazakhstan renders even the most genuine of efforts to accommodate minority groups as politicized interests. The APK itself is limited in that it can likely be abolished or ignored at the discretion of Nazarbayev given the two branches clash (Tussupova 2010). As with most cases in Kazakhstan, the executive branch tends to overpower the others. Kazakhstan boasts of a many ethnic minorities, but it appears that granting the APK only 9 seats in parliament or the Majlis, is disproportionate to their population. Such improvements could further legitimize the APK as an institution of minority protection and ethnic harmony. Furthermore, Kazakhstan must work to integrate ethnic minorities into all facets of Kazakh society, include the economy. Limits on free press and political opposition also stifle the representative potential of the APK (Jones 2010).
Still it is worth noting that its mere existence is a stride towards democracy. As demonstrated, in places around the world where ethnic groups are excluded and underrepresented, there is higher chance that conflict might spur (Jones 2010).
THE POLITICAL STURCTURE OF AZERBAIJAN
Ethnic Exclusion & Conflict in Azerbaijan
In stark contrast, on the other side of the Caspian Sea, is the case of Azerbaijan. There are four major cases of ethnic conflict in Azerbaijan, including tensions with Armenians, Kurds, Lezgins & Talysh. A 2009 census reveals ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan, represent 8.9% of the population, including Lezgin (the largest minority group, making up 2.0% of the population), Russian (1.3%) and others, such as the Talysh making up 1.5%. The Armenian population of Azerbaijan in the 1900s was 12% it is now 1.5%.
Armenians & Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh):
The situation with Armenia is likely the worst, and involves a ‘secessionist’ movement in Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefor the NK conflict can be seen as a product of three ambitions, ethnic power balance in Azerbaijani politics as well as self-determination & territorial secession. The history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be traced to the dissolution of the USSR. The decentralization of power, and the vacuum of power left by the absence of an authoritarian central authority, led to the emergence of nationalist movements. In many cases, arbitrary boundaries and geographic heritages were even further confused. Following the establishment of post-soviet republics such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, conflict ensued between Azerbaijan and its Armenian population. Nagorno-Karabakh is 80% Armenian in population, but remains within the boundaries of Azerbaijan. Without independence and disconnection from its Armenian homeland, Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh to Armenians) has become another symbol of Azerbaijan’s ethnic nationalism & aggression.
An utter suppression and discrimination of Armenian culture, language and freedom is part of policy in Azerbaijan. While the conflict is arguably territorial, the pogroms of Armenian-Azerbaijanis as well as other mentioned characteristics of the Azeri state demonstrate that necessary national provisions such as ethnic minority protections were not only unsecured, they were blatantly averted so as to strengthen the ruling party’s grasp on power under the banner of Azerbaijani ethnic nationalism. Various pogroms and massacres of Armenians prompted a mass exodus to Armenia and NK from the Azerbaijani mainland. This mass exodus numbers up to 350,000 Armenians (Country Report 2015). Prior to the onset of the conflict, which began in the 80s, inter-ethnic tensions were brewing. A series of pogroms, such as the Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad or Maraga targeted Armenian minorities in Azerbaijan. In essence, “Armenophobia is institutionalized and engrained into Azerbaijani statehood & Karabakh is at the center of this “policy”.
Some of the approximately 20,000 to 30,000 citizens of Armenian descent living in the country reported discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of social services. Ethnic Armenians often concealed their ethnicity by legally changing the ethnic designation in their passports. There were no reports of violence against Armenians during the year. Some groups reported sporadic incidents of discrimination, restrictions on their ability to teach in their native languages, and harassment by local authorities. These groups included Talysh in the south, Lezgins in the north, and Meskhetians and Kurds (Country Reports on Human Rights 2015).
Destruction of cemeteries so as to erase Armenian history and heritage, the targeting of religious infrastructure, denying entry, linguistic suppression are all policy practices of the Azerbaijani state, which explicitly target and discriminate against Armenians. Such harassment of Armenians by the Azeri state persists today.
The Lezgins exhibit a different condition. They are now considered the most vocal minority claiming discrimination in Azerbaijan (Fayos 2014). They make up the second-largest group in Azerbaijan. Lezgins often disguise themselves as Azeris to avoid losing job opportunities or discrimination in education. As a result, current official statistics in Azerbaijan have arbitrarily reduced the population.
In 1989, another ethnic minority, the Talysh (on which I elaborate more further along) gained the right to register as a distinct ethnic group. The accurate number of Talysh in Azerbaijan may be much higher than census results, which is due to the suppression of their identity, language and culture, “leading to internalized self-repression”. Azerbaijan lacks any robust, comprehensive legislation regarding ethnic minorities. The presidential decree of 1992 is insufficient in this sense. It lacks a “national framework for minority rights protection” and limits the focus to arts and crafts. Azerbaijan also lacks legislation to tackle anti-discriminations issues (Fayos 2014).
Institutionally level there is no specific body to deal with minority issues, unlike the APK in Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan does have the “Office of the Ombudsman”, which aims to compensate for this void. The focus of the state is less on minority inclusion and more on preventing secessionist movements. Such is symbolic of the paranoia, which dictates the Azerbaijani regime, compared to Kazakhstan’s harmonious and unifying approach.
There are few institutions as mentioned before which aim to support ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan, but none of them, neither the Forum of Religious Communities of Azerbaijan nor the Coordination Council of the Cultural Centers of National Minorities are involved in policy-making . They serve merely as consultative bodies and nominal entities. This is in sharp contrast to the APK in Kazakhstan, which not only protects and preserves ethnic minority culture – it grants them representation in the national legislature and the ability to propose laws.
Furthermore indicative of Azerbaijan’s ethnic exclusion is the fact that it has still not ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. The fact that Azerbaijan actively promotes the usage of the Azeri language underscores the need for some type of institutional protection for ethnic minority groups. Unlike Kazakhstan where the populace relatively respects laws and institutions, the “Law on State Language” in Azerbaijan, undermines any of the constitutional provisions, which guarantee minority ethnic groups linguistic rights. There is, however, a lack of national legislation for preserving and promoting the use of minority languages (Fayos 2014).
The downside of being accepted into greater Azerbaijani society is that minorities risk losing their languages. Indeed, while some minorities appear to be maintaining their level of linguistic other ethnic groups appear to be losing ground to linguistic assimilation; many members of the largest groups (e.g. the Talysh and the Lezgins) have expressed displeasure at this outcome, requesting greater government attention (Marquardt 2011).
Some researchers claim that Azerbaijani policy of appeasing minorities without giving them real rights is in fact comparable to Kazakhstan’s ‘multiculturalism’. I challenge this notion because in Kazakhstan ethnic minorities have legislative representatives that can actually vote on national policy (Marquardt 2011).
To the Azerbaijani state, ethnic identity is associated with the events in Nagorno-Karabakh; the Talysh state which was briefly declared in 1993 and the Lezgins independence movement, which began in the early 1990s. Likewise, these groups are seen as easily manipulated by outside forces that wish to harm Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The Azeri government sees all ethnic identity movements as imperial schemes by Russia to instigate separatism, whether it is among the Legniz or the Armenians (Marquardt 2011).
Kazakhstan is more politically developed as a result mainly of its political culture and history as a diverse state.
The comparison of these two post-Soviet states is to demonstrate that the imperial soviet legacies were not as significant as expected in determining future stability. In Kazakhstan, the establishment of an institution that promotes ethnic diversity and tolerance, the APK reflects the pluralistic ideology of Kazakhstan, contrary to what has become the ethno-nationalistic character of the Azerbaijani state.
Unlike Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan has a cognitive national preference & political culture inclined towards ethno-nationalism/centrism. This ideology is wrapped around Aliyev’s cult of personality, and therein shields the authoritarian structure of Azerbaijan’s state. The system is designed to suppress any attempt at decentralizing power for the sake of minority representation and indigenous ethnic rights such as linguistic education for Talysh & Lezgin minorities.
The Talysh peoples are an ethnic group with a distinct language and culture seeking greater autonomy within Azerbaijan. They have their own language, Talyshi, which is suppressed by law enforcement. The largest concentration of Talysh people is in southern Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran with major population center in the city of Lenkoran. Azerbaijan’s Turkic linguistic nationalist policy discourages the Talysh minority from practicing and preserving its own language.
Talysh press & literature enjoyed free distribution until Stalin came to power. This era saw Talysh being sent to gulags & closures of local media. Talysh were encouraged to assimilate into Azerbaijani SSR culture. Ironically, being part of the USSR also prevented them from being entirely vulnerable to Azerbaijani nationalism, and thus enabled the Talysh heritage to carry on until today. While the Talysh were never fully realized by any of their more powerful neighbors like Russia or Iran, it wasn’t until the birth of the Azeri state that ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism became a major threat to their persistence and survival.
There is no formal education in the Talysh language and Talysh people are encouraged to speak in Azeri or Persian. According to UNESCO, the number of young people being educated in Talysh is dropping significantly. One of the key aims of the NTM is greater linguistic freedom. In 1993, violence overslept the Caucasus. The Talysh seized this opportunity and established Talyshstan, an autonomous republic within Azerbaijan. The Azeri coup, which ushered in the Aliyev family rule, ended this brief autonomy abruptly. This might underscore the association between the significance of Aliyev’s distinct authoritarian and nationalist policy agenda versus his predecessors as the primary cause of minority suppression and ethnic conflict with Armenians. Official census figures place Talysh population at 500,000 but they claim the number is much higher, closer to one million, another tactic perhaps to suppress minority rights movements. It is important to note there are 43 known unrepresented indigenous peoples across the globe. Of them, two are in Azerbaijan. That is telling.
The Lezgin are the second minority group in Azerbaijan. The population of Lezgins in Azerbaijan is between 650,000-8000,000. They have their own language. They are predominantly Sunni Muslims, unlike their Talysh Shia counterparts. Since both groups are discriminated against regardless of their sect, this suggests religion plays little role in determining ethnic policies of the state.
The national cultural autonomy model suggests that exclusion results to conflict. In Azerbaijan, a stubborn centralized ethnonationalist government that is authoritarian towards its subjects and dictatorial towards minorities shapes the political culture. This is a cognitive, conscious choice; a reflection of political culture in Azerbaijan, whereas in Kazakhstan, the culture is more bent towards tolerance and harmony and thus sees a less authoritarian involvement in the suppression of minority languages and politics.
The Lezghins upset over underrepresentation in the Azerbaijani Parliament (Milli Meclis) after a change in political structure, a shift away from proportional representation in the parliamentary elections of November 2005. The Lezghins previously had two representatives in parliament but now numbers only one.
It is important to note that, much like many ethnic dilemmas, particularly in the post-Soviet regions, irredentism is a common case, with ethnic groups divided along “artificial” national borders. For example, the state border between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan divides a single, compact area of settlement of the Lezghins. This is comparable to the Kurdish problem in the Middle East. Lezgistan is essentially Russian Dagestan & Northern Azerbaijan. Before the Russian Revolution, “Lezgin” was a term used to describe all ethnic groups living in present-day Russian Republic of Dagestan.
The Lezgins have a rich ancient history, and one of statehood that went recognized both by Russian & Ottoman Empires. In the early 18th century, the State of Shirvan inhabited by the Lezghins under the leadership of Haji Dawood Myushkyursky existed for some time, and was recognized by the Russian Empire and the Porte (the Ottoman Empire).
Lezgins & Talysh suffer similar condition of Kurdish irredentism, split among many country borders, usually as a result of neocolonial legacies, but perpetuated by their post-colonial authoritarian reincarnations.
SADVAL was created to unite Dagestan & Azerbaijani’s Lezgin nations, considered a terrorist organization by Azerbaijan, it has the main aims of advancing the status of Lezgins in the region. In 1994, a terrorist attack in Baku was attributed to SADVAL & the Lezgin movement. This might be in response to suppression of linguistic disbursement and absence of legislative representation.
[Add Federal Lezgian National & Cultural Autonomy & Lezgin National Front]
The Kurdish community in Azerbaijan was nearly gone by 1920. Many moved to Armenia to establish villages. Kurds in Azerbaijan had their own region called Red Kurdistan in the Lachin region. In 1930 Red Kurdistan was abolished and Kurds were officially re-categorized as Azerbaijani. This would lead to the Soviet authorities deporting most of the Kurdish population of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Kazakhstan. That Kurds found refuge in Kazakhstan but not in Azerbaijan is of note (Minahan 2000).
The Kurdish history in Azerbaijan has been erased. In a 1979 census no Kurds were recorded. Turkey and Azerbaijan coordinated a policy against the Kurds, like “forced assimilation, manipulation of population figures, settlement of non-Kurds in areas predominantly Kurdish, and the suppression of publications and abolition of Kurdish as a medium of instruction in schools”. Kurdish historical figures were required to be described as Azeris. Kurds who retained ‘Kurdish’ as their nationality on their passports as opposed to ‘Azeri’ were unable to find employment. (Olson, Pappas & Pappas 1994).
The purpose of this research is to demonstrate that ethnic inclusion leads to ethnic harmony and less conflict. This is because institutional representation of ethnic minorities addresses their grievances. As exhibited in Kazakhstan, proper measures to address ethnic minority rights can mitigate the possibility of conflict altogether. In sharp contrast, Azerbaijan has restricted minority rights, which has coincided with inter-ethnic war with Armenia, pogroms targeting Armenians, desecration of cemeteries, linguistic discrimination, deportation of Kurds, and the suppression of Lezgin & Talysh national movements. The presence of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan ensures harmony and representation between ethnic groups. Furthermore, it protects, promotes and encourages minority languages, enabling them to be taught in schools and used openly without discrimination. The APK in Kazakhstan serves as a model for other developing countries struggling with ethnic conflict. Better policies aimed at ethnic inclusion and accommodation will lead to more harmony. The research & data indicates that even powerful forces like the resource curse – that is, the abundance of oil, does not ensure a decrease in the risk of ethnic conflict.
Brown, Michael 1993. Ethnic Conflict and International Security.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. 2015. “Azerbaijan.”
United States Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor.
Cornell, Svante E. “Azerbaijan: Going It Alone.” Putin’s Grand Strategy. The Eurasian Union and Its Discontents, Washington, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute (2014): 145-155.
De Waal, Thomas, and Anna Matveeva. Central Asia and the Caucasus: A Vulnerable Crescent. International Peace Academy, 2007.
Edelbay, Saniya. 2012. “Traditional Kazakh Culture and Islam.” International Journal of Business and Social Science 3:11.
Fayos. 2014. Minorities in the South Caucasus: New visibility amid old frustrations. European Parliament Policy Department. European Union.
Fearon, James D., and David D. Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war.” American Political Science Review. 97:1-16.
Franke, Anja, Andrea Gawrich, & Gurban Alakbarov. 2009. “Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan as Post-Soviet Rentier States: Resource Incomes and Autocracy as a Double ‘Curse’ in Post-Soviet Regimes.” Europe-Asia Studies 61.1: 109-140.
Ulasiuk, Iryna. National Minorities and Migration in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. 2013.
ISLAMIC AND ETHNIC IDENTITIES IN AZERBAIJAN- EMERGING TRENDS AND TENSIONS
Ismayilov, Gursel G. 2008. “Ethnic Conflicts and Their Causes.” Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 3.4: 50-63.
Jones, Nathan Paul. 2010. “Assembling a Civic Nation in Kazakhstan: the Nation-Building Role of the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan.” Caucasian Review of International Affairs 4.2. 159.
Karin, Erlan, and Andrei Chebotarev. 2002. “The Policy of Kazakhization in State and Government Institutions in Kazakhstan.”
Marquardt, Kyle L. 2011. “Framing language policy in post-Soviet Azerbaijan: political symbolism and interethnic harmony.” Central Asian Survey 30.2: 181-196.
Matveeva, Anna. The South Caucasus: nationalism, conflict and minorities. Minority Rights Group, 2002.
Popjanevski, Johanna. Minorities and the State in the South Caucasus:: Assessing the Protection of National Minorities in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center, Washington/Uppsala, 2006.
Karasik, Theodore. Azerbaijan, Central Asia, and Future Persian Gulf Security. No. RAND/N-3579-AF/A. RAND CORP SANTA MONICA CA, 1993.
Matveeva, Anna, and Clem McCartney. “Policy responses to an ethnic community division: Lezgins in Azerbaijan.” International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 5.3 (1997): 213-252.
Markedonov & Sergey. 2009. “The Big Caucasus: consequences of the’Five Day War’, threats and political prospects.”
Minahan, James 2000. Reasons for the dispute around the number of Talysh in Azerbaijan: One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Greenwood.
Nilsson, Niklas, and Johanna Popjanevski. “State Building Dilemmas: The Process of National Integration in Post-Revolutionary Georgia.” Metreveli, E., Nilsson, N (2009).
Nyussupova, Gulnara, and Irina Rodionova. 2011. “Demographic situation and the level of human development of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Regional Aspects.” Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series 16: 78-87.
Oka, Natsuko. 2009. “Ethnicity and Elections Under Authoritarianism: The Case of Kazakhstan.”
Oka, Natsuko. 2004. “The ‘Triadic Nexus’ in Kazakhstan: A Comparative Study of Russians, Uighurs, and Koreans.” Slavic Studies. 51: 158.
Olson, Lee & Pappas. 1994 An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires Greenwood Publishing Group.
Porter, Kirsten. 2003. Macquarie Law Journal. The Realization of National Minority Rights. 51(3).
Rezvani, Babak. “The Uniqueness of the Caucasian Conflicts?.” MIGRATION, SOCIETY AND LANGUAGE (2008): 11.
Sambanis, Nicholas. N.D. “What is an Ethnic War? Organization and Interests in Insurgencies.” Yale: Department of Political Science.
Shafee, Fareed. “Inspired from abroad: the external sources of separatism in Azerbaijan.” Journal of Peace Research 39.1 (2002): 27-50.
Siroky, David S., and Ceyhun Mahmudlu. “E Pluribus Unum? Ethnicity, Islam, and the Construction of Identity in Azerbaijan.” Problems of Post-Communism 63.2 (2016): 94-107.
Tezcür, Güneş Murat, and Mehmet Gurses. 2017. “Ethnic Exclusion and Mobilization: The Kurdish Conflict in Turkey.” Comparative Politics 49.2: 213-234.
Tokaev, Kassymzhomart. 2004. “Kazakhstan: from renouncing nuclear weapons to building democracy.” American Foreign Policy Interests. 26.2: 93-98.
Tussupova, Dinara. 2010. “Mass Media and Ethnic Relations in Kazakhstan.” Problems of Post-Communism 57.6. 32-45.
Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. University of California Press.
Wimmer, Cederman, and Min. 2009. “Ethnic Politics & Armed Conflict. A Configurational Analysis of a New Global Dataset”. American Sociological Review. 74(2).
Wynne Russell, M. S. I. “Azerbaijan at the Crossroads.” (2004).