Kazakhstan: The Ethnic Controversy
The Kazakhstan nation provides an interesting social setting compared to the United States. This is because Kazakhstan offers a social role-reversed setting, where the majority is discriminated against. Currently, in the United States, White-American dominance is threatened, specifically by the growth of the Hispanic population. In Kazakhstan, the ethnic Kazakh majority has been suppressed due to the domination of the Russian language. Research on linguistic studies has shown, “language conflict is a result of ideologies that determine the goals of society” (Smagulova, 2006, p308). As Russian became the dominate language in schools, knowledge of the language became key to social mobility. Although there have been several attempts in Kazakhstan to restore the national language, all proposals have been seen as discriminatory. Despite the language conflict in Kazakhstan and Kazakh expressed concerns for more privileges. Ethnic stratification remains weak. Survey results have shown that income, occupational and educational levels between Kazakhs and Russians remain marginal (Smagulova, 2006). Even though disparity in Kazakhstan does not incorporate ethnic identities, the dominate use of the Russian dialect has constructed a stratification system that has left Kazakh’s marginalized.
Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia. Ethnic Kazakh consists of a blend of “Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes that migrated into the region in the 13th century” (Central Intelligence Agency, n.d, Kazakhstan Background). Today, Kazakhstan has evolved into an ethnically diverse nation with 126 ethnic groups and languages. According to the 2009 Census, the ethnic diversity within Kazakhstan consists of 63.1% Kazakh (Qazaq), 23.7% Russian, 2.8% Uzbek, 2.1% Ukrainian, 1.4% Uighur, 1.3% Tatar, 1.1% German, and 4.5% of the population is categorized as other (Central Intelligence Agency, n.d). Major religions in Kazakhstan consist of Islam and Orthodox Christianity. Globally, Kazakhstan is known for its spare population, with an average density of six people per square kilometer; and regionally known as the most urbanized republic in Central Asia, 60% of the population resides in urban type settings (Advantour, 2013).
Kazakhstan differs from most ethnically diverse nations in that it has been revered for maintaining ethnic pluralism. This has been contributed to Kazakhstan Constitutional provisions that protect individual ethnic cultures. All Kazakhstan citizens enjoy the ability to freely communicate in their native language, although the use of minority languages is typically reserved for ethnic enclaves. Government institutional structures require the use of both Kazakh and Russian. This is due to the common usage of both languages, and the typical citizenry knowledge of usually only one language. This has resulted in a struggle over what constitutes the national identity, Kazakh or Russian.