Kazakhstan in revolt over the price of gas, but it is the Soviet legacy that weighs a lot

Kazakhstan in revolt over the price of gas, but it is the Soviet legacy that weighs a lot
Kazakhstan in revolt over the price of gas, but it is the Soviet legacy that weighs a lot

Revolt was in the air. The increase in gas tariffs, especially LPG, was presented as the the spy is clear perfect.

Traveling in Kazakhstan it was not difficult to see on people’s faces the embarrassment towards a ruling class obsolete. In the Eurasian country, everything revolves around the galaxy Nazarbayev, a clan headed by the old lion Nursultan, now over eighty, has been clinging to power since 1991, the year of independence from the former Soviet Union, as of March 2019, the moment of his abdication in favor of the “dolphin” Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Not the words but the faces. It is not easy for a Kazakh to let himself go with a foreigner, even more so if he is a Westerner, who asks questions about the political or social condition of the country. It is hard to win the suspected to be heard by indiscreet ears, sometimes it is nationalist pride that prevails, it is impossible to speak ill of a country that in a few decades has passed from semi-nomadism to modernity through the exploitation of the riches of the subsoil. Therefore it is up to rely on the interpretation of gestures, or on a grin that signals a profound malaise towards a family clan that has always held the yoke of power tight on people’s necks.

The Nazarbayevs are at the top of a small nomenklatura that controls the executive power, Parliament, universities, the media and above all mineral resources. The hierarchs have a lot to do with the management of gas and oil fields in the Caspian, in the hands of Ersai, a consortium once also participated by the Italian Saipem-Eni. Not a few believe that very little of the profits and royalties remains in the state coffers: the benefits for the community are poured into the low fuel price at the distributor and in the reduced tariffs for gas for domestic use. Benefits that boost consumption in the very long Kazakh winter or lead to the widespread use of cars on the streets of Nur-Sultan, from Almaty, the most important economic center, or along the paths that cut the steppes of the Mangystau region, the epicenter of the revolt.

With the policy of limiting the price of LPG no longer in favor of solutions entrusted to the free market, the service stations in a few days rates doubled going from 60 tenge – the local currency – (equal to 0.14 dollars) to 120 tenge (0.28 dollars) per liter.

The rise of LPG was the spark that triggered the revolt, but it is theSoviet heritage to weigh like a boulder on civil society, the suffocating squeeze on information, the rigorous control over human rights organizations, the impossibility in fact of expressing apolitical opposition, with the electoral consultations reduced to the staging of the regime.

And then the great national cancer, the corruption. A state system that claims to be republican perceived as genuine kleptocracy, a rampant phenomenon in the folds of the bureaucracy, in the offices of the courts, in the police apparatus, in every facet of public affairs. The country is 94th in the special indices developed by Transparency International on perceived corruption, but the impression is that the population is feeling everywhere, and with increasing intensity, malpractice and ethical degeneration.

This is the moment of repression, after days of blockades, on both fronts, with the state of emergency that has paralyzed cell phones, the internet, the media, and with workers united with rioters to stop the oil fields on the Caspian Sea, industries, the large Arcelor Mittal steel plant in Temyrtau, in the Karaganda region. There are massive unrest in every corner of the country, in the north as well as in the south, in Taraz, near the border with the Kyrgyzstan, police stations are under attack.

The regime is wavering, probably the allied forces will save it (Russians in the lead, flanked by Belarusians, Tajiks, Kyrgyzs and Armenians) which, based on the “Collective Security Treaty Organization” (CSTO), will be able to deploy in the territory of a member country for the first time . AND’ Vladimir Putin leading the game in the area, the Russian minority is substantial (over 20% of the total) and influential despite government policies aimed at limiting its weight, including in the linguistic field.

The Kremlin has imposed a forced interpretation of Article 4 of the Security Cooperation Treaty, according to which military aggression justifies the intervention of joint forces. The rules must be readjusted to the circumstances, and here is a revolutionary bowel movement is “qualified” as aggression by terrorist gangs formed abroad. The heavy hand, Putin’s hard power, has the right prescriptive support.

Hundreds of lawyers have declared their willingness to free defense of demonstrators incarcerated and under identification by order of the Attorney General. It is a clear turning point in a country where it is difficult to find a lawyer who, in peacetime, is willing to sponsor a private individual even in a civil case against a state body.

Who knows, it will still take some time, but one day the capital Nur-Sultan – so baptized by decree to celebrate the old Nazarbayev at the time of his transfer of power – will once again be called Astana.

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