The Kazakhstan protests: A fuel for change?


    Security task forces in Almaty, Kazakhstan.


    Kazakhstan has had its equilibrium thrown off balance as the state becomes engulfed in protests. Starting off as a demonstration against the fixed increase in fuel prices, the demonstrations had slowly spilt over to the rest of society. Citizens became emboldened to voice their discontentment with the government and had decided to join the series of protests across Kazakhstan. Subsequently, leading to the involvement of security forces where there had been fatal confrontations between armed forces and civilians that resulted in losses on both sides. 

    Key judgement 1:

    It is highly likely that the methods utilised to suppress the protests will cause the situation to deteriorate in the next 1 month period since the start of protests. [FEB, 2022] 

    • The state had mandated the discontinuation of services such as: Internet connectivity, monetary services and the closure of the Almaty International Airport (AIA). (refer to figure 1)

    • Governments often utilise such methods in order to discourage the continuation of demonstrations and also create internal disorganisation of the movement. 

    • Yet, as the demonstrations had become more violent, the state had mandated the use of lethal force. (source)

    • Security task forces have been enabled to use a ‘shoot to kill’ mode of operation without the need to present any warnings. (refer to figure 2)

    • Such policing of discontent citizens is highly likely to create a hostile dynamic between civilians and the security task force, as both perceive the other as a threat. 

    • The division between state and civilian created by issuing such orders will exacerbate the violence and justify the notions that the movement is based on. 

    Key judgment 2:

    It is likely that the civil unrest and discordance present in Kazakhstan will not be resolved within the next month period. [FEB, 2022]

    • The genesis of the movement was caused by the fixing of higher fuel prices. This had eventually spilled-over to other issues of discontent such as corruption and inequality. (source)

    • Solving issues such as fuel prices pose logistical challenges. However, social issues relating to corruption and inequality cannot be resolved as quickly. 

    • Given the current situation in the Kazakhstan protests paired with the hard-line response by the state, a reconciled solution is unlikely to occur in the near future.
    • The head of state calling for reinforcement by members of the CSTO to bolster the capabilities of the security task force is likely an indicator to the approach chosen. (source)

    Key judgment 3:

    There is a realistic probability that there is a power struggle at the higher echelons of government which will continue until equilibrium is reached in the next 1 month period. [FEB,2022] 

    • Given the protests and dissatisfaction with other former Soviet states namely Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. With Kyrgyzstan’s government once overthrown, the Kazakh civil unrest is likely to be seen as by some as an opportunity to achieve political goals.

    • An indicator to the likely struggles is the series of arrests and expulsion from governmental positions. (source)

    • Preliminary reports made by the KNB have stated that the chief of intelligence has been arrested for high treason.

    • Some have indicated that sections of the KNB would not take instructions from the current head of state. As they only accept the commands of former chief of intelligence and president, Karim Massimov. (Source)

    • This points to the possibility that there has been an effort by the head of state to secure their power and oust anyone that threatens the efforts amidst the instability.


    Figure 2: Security forces engage with civilian protestors
    Naif Alshaikh
    Naif Alshaikh
    Naif Alshaikh is a current graduate candidate at King’s College London, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in Global Affairs. The major focus across his work, is rooted within geopolitics and the security sector apparatus. His interest in the topics was derived from his time at City, University of London, in which he attained a BSc International politics with Distinction. In his work, he often utilises the nexus between the topics of his interest, to provide a holistic examination of the cases he analyses.

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