Explaining Kazakhstani Identity: Supraethnic Identity, Ethnicity, Language, and Citizenship

Nationalities Papers, April 2017, DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2017.1288204

42 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2016 Last revised: 13 Nov 2019

See all articles by Kristoffer Rees

Kristoffer Rees

Indiana University East

Nora Webb Williams

University of Georgia

Date Written: September 14, 2016


The demographic composition of Kazakhstan after the fall of the Soviet Union presented a dilemma to the new Kazakhstani government: Should it advance a Kazakh identity as paramount, possibly alienating the large non-Kazakh population? Or should it advocate for a non-ethnicized national identity? How would those decisions be made in light of global norms of liberal multiculturalism? And, critically, would citizens respond to new frames of identity? This paper provides an empirical look at supraethnic identity building in Kazakhstan – that is, at the development of a national identity that individuals place above or alongside their ethnic identification. We closely examine the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan to describe how Kazakhstani policies intersect with theories of nationalism and nation-building. We then use ordered probit models to analyze data from a 2014 survey to examine how citizens of Kazakhstan associate with a “Kazakhstani” supraethnic identity. Our findings suggest that despite the Assembly of People’s rhetoric, there are still significant barriers to citizen-level adoption of a supraethnic identity in Kazakhstan, particularly regarding language. However, many individuals do claim an association with Kazakhstani identity, especially those individuals who strongly value citizenship in the abstract.

Keywords: Supraethnic identity, ethnicity, language, citizenship, Kazakhstan

Suggested Citation

Rees, Kristoffer and Webb Williams, Nora, Explaining Kazakhstani Identity: Supraethnic Identity, Ethnicity, Language, and Citizenship (September 14, 2016). Nationalities Papers, April 2017, DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2017.1288204. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2839077

Kristoffer Rees (Contact Author)

Indiana University East ( email )

2325 Chester Blvd.
Richmond, IN 47374-1289
United States
765-973-8455 (Phone)
765-973-8590 (Fax)

Nora Webb Williams

University of Georgia ( email )

Athens, GA 30602
United States

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