Kazakhstan’s Succession Turns Adversarial
Groomed for leadership by founding father Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh President has abruptly asserted his position against Nazarbayev and his family.
On January 2, 2022, precipitated by the removal of a price cap on fuel, hundreds of people began protesting in Kazakhstan’s western city of Zhanaozen. Remarkable stability and economic growth over the last thirty years has helped the former Soviet republic achieve a GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power parity higher than Argentina, Chile, or even the EU member state of Bulgaria.1 Nevertheless, many people in the country have felt left behind. Western Kazakhstan—where the oil itself is extracted—includes some of the poorest areas of the country. Fuel is essential to living in Kazakhstan’s spacious steppe, which made the 50% rise in price too much for many to stomach. In response to the protests, which quickly spread across the country, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced he was reversing the policy.2 When that didn’t quell the unrest, he also dismissed parliament.3 But as the protests continued and escalated into unprecedented levels of violence, further action became necessary. He eventually declared a state of emergency in the areas where the unrest was taking place, which soon became nation-wide.