You see banners all across Kazakhstan, strung across government buildings, on airport runways, and on billboards lining the streets of provincial capitals. They all say the same thing: “The primary values of the state are stability and the unity of the people of Kazakhstan. – N. Nazarbayev.”
For much of the last decade, that slogan seemed to define Kazakhstan. But in the past year, Kazakhstan’s reputation for stability and unity has faced a formidable challenge. First, there was a series of terrorist attacks, beginning in Aktobe in May. Then, in late 2011, there occurred a bloody clash between police and striking workers in Zhanaozen.
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Nate Schenkkan most recently spent three weeks in western Kazakhstan reporting for EurasiaNet.org.