Kazakhstan's Oralman Project: A Remedy for Ambiguous Identity?

This dissertation analyzes the public debate in Kazakhstan on the government’s ethnic returnmigration policy. Ethnic return migrations are prone to create public debates because they privilege oneethnic group over another or others. The implications of ethnic migration policies are particularly importantduring periods of political and social transformation, when new elites attempt to redefine the identity oftheir states. This dissertation traces the discourse concerning the return of Kazakh oralmans, whichparalleled debates on language and demography; it demonstrates that discussion of these issues provided aforum for the expression of divergent views on the nature of the identity that should be fostered inKazakhstan. As the discourse on language and demography, the debate on ethnic migration served as anarena for public debate about whether Kazakhstan’s identity should be ethnic or civic. The analysis of thepublic debate in Kazakhstan is based primarily on an analysis of print media. Over the 16 years since theinitiation of the ethnic migration policy, both Kazakh- and Russian- language publications have devotedspace to the issues pertinent to the oralman policy. The examination of the debate is also informed by fivemonths of field work in Kazakhstan that included expert interviews and informal discussions with returnmigrants as well as long-time residents in the country. The different perspectives on the return migrationpolicy reflect deeper divisions between the “nation-state” and “civic-state” visions of Kazakhstan’s future.“Nation-statists,” seeking to make Kazakhstan the Kazakh homeland, vigorously support ethnic returnmigration; “civic-statists,” envisioning a multi-ethnic country, oppose it. The ethnic return policy hasdemographic, cultural, and economic implications that would profoundly affect every citizen living inKazakhstan. This explains the contentious nature of the debate over the oralman project. And over the timeeconomic and social concerns may lead the homeland states’ to adopt a more realistic policy tilting towardscivic statists’ position.


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Citation Formats
I. Kuşçu Bonnenfant, “Kazakhstan’s Oralman Project: A Remedy for Ambiguous Identity?,” 2008, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/92725.