Patriotism Parades in Northern Kazakhstan
Lest anyone get the wrong idea about who controls northern Kazakhstan, a golden man and his silver maiden consort were out in Pavlodar on June 4 drumming up Kazakhstani patriotism.
These symbols of Kazakhstani identity rode white horses through the streets in the northern city where ethnic Russians slightly outnumber Kazakhs, reports Bnews.kz.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March alarmed Central Asian leaders who fear Moscow could have an eye on their territories. Kazakhstan looks especially vulnerable because it shares a 6,846-kiliometer border with its former imperial overlord, along which live large ethnic Russian populations. Just in case, Astana has moved to criminalize calls for separatism.
The flag-waving parade in honor of the day Kazakhstan's national emblem was adopted in 1992 culminated with a crowd of 5,000 young patriots gathering in Pavlodar's football stadium to sing the national anthem.
Symbolism hung heavy on the football pitch. The original Golden Man (“Altyn Adam” in Kazakh) was a Scythian prince dressed in gold-plated armor whose remains were discovered in a burial mound near Almaty in 1969. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Kazakhstan adopted the Golden Man as a symbol of independence, representing a nomadic, warrior heritage.
Ethnic Russians are still Kazakhstan’s largest minority, but their numbers are waning. Population figures for January 2014 posted recently online by Kazakhstan's Statistics Agency show that ethnic Russians accounted for 21.47 percent of the population, down from 22.35 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the proportion of ethnic Kazakhs is on the rise, climbing from 64.55 to 65.52 percent over the same period. Other ethnic groups including Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Uyghurs and Tatars make up the rest of the population.
In all but two of Kazakhstan’s 14 regions, ethnic Kazakhs are the absolute majority. North Kazakhstan – where Pavlodar is located – and Kostanay regions are the only areas where ethnic Russians outnumber ethnic Kazakhs, though in many smaller towns and cities the Russian population dominates. In the largest cities – the capital Astana and the commercial hub Almaty – ethnic Kazakhs number just under 75 percent and 56 percent respectively.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.