Russians in Kazakhstan

There has been a substantial population of Russians in Kazakhstan since the 19th century. Although their numbers have been reduced since the breakup of the Soviet Union, they remain prominent in Kazakh society today.

Early colonization

The first Russian traders and soldiers began to appear on the northwestern edge of modern Kazakhstan territory in the early 17th century, when Cossacks established the forts that later became the cities of Oral (Ural'sk) [Original Russian names are given in brackets.] and Atyrau (Gur'yev). Ural , Siberian and later Orenburg Cossack Hosts gradually established themselves in parts of northern Kazakhstan. In 1710s and 1720s Siberian Cossacks founded Oskemen (Ust-Kamennaya), Semey (Semipalatinsk) and Pavlodar (Fort Koryakovskiy) as border forts and trading posts. Russian imperial authorities followed and were able to seize Kazakh territory because the local khanates were preoccupied by a war with Kalmyks (Oirats, Dzungars). Kazakhs were increasingly caught in the middle between the Kalmyks and the Russians. In 1730 Abul Khayr, one of the khans of the Lesser Horde, sought Russian assistance against the stronger Kalmyks, and the Russians in exchange for help gained permanent control of the Lesser Horde as a result of his decision. The Russians conquered the Middle Horde by 1798, but the Great Horde managed to remain independent until the 1820s, when the expanding Kokand Khanate to the south forced the Great Horde khans to choose Russian protection, which seemed to them the lesser of two evils. In 1824, Siberian Cossacks from Omsk founded a fortress on the upper Ishim River named Akmolinsk, which is known today as Astana, capital of Kazakhstan. In the same year they founded the fort of Kokshetau.

In the 1850s, the construction of Russian forts began in southern Kazakhstan including Fort Shevchenko (Fort Alexandrovsky), Kyzylorda (Fort Petrovsky), Kazaly (Kazalinsk) and Almaty (Verniy).

In 1863, the Russian Empire created two administrative districts, the Governor-Generalships in Central Asia of Russian Turkestan (the oasis region to the South of the Kazakh steppes and Zhetysu (Semirechye) region) and that of the Steppe ( modern eastern and northern Kazakhstan including the lands of the Siberian and Semiryechensk Cossask Hosts) with their capital at Omsk. The north-west of Kazakhstan was at the time part of Orenburg gubernia. First Governor-General Gerasim Kolpakovsky of the Steppe region (and all his future successors) was also ataman of Siberian Cossacks symbolizing the important role the Cossacks played in the Russian colonization of Kazakh territories. In 1869 Russian settlers founded the town of Aktobe (Aktyubinsk), in 1879 Kostanay. In the 1860s General Mikhail Chernyayev conquered the only towns that existed in Kazakhstan before the Russian conquest Hazrat-e Turkestan, Taraz and Shymkent that belonged to the Khanate of Kokand.Christianity spread in the predominantly Muslim region together with Russian colonists: the Russian Orthodox Church established a Central Asian bishopric in 1871 with its bishop first residing in Verniy and after 1916 in Tashkent. In the 1890s, many non-Cossack Russian settlers migrated into the fertile lands of northern and eastern Kazakhstan. In 1906 the Trans-Aral Railway between Orenburg and Tashkent was completed, further facilitating Russian and Ukrainian migration to Central Asia.Between 1906 and 1912, more than half a million Russian farms were started in Kazakhstan as part of the reforms of the Russian minister of the interior Petr Stolypin.By 1917 there were close to a million Russians in Kazakhstan, about 30 % of the total population.

oviet period

Russians of Kazakhstan together with other ethnic groups of the region suffered heavily during the Russian Civil War and Collectivisation in the USSR and endured repeated famines and unrest. In 1918-1931 Basmachi Revolt affected areas of southern Kazakh SSR often taking a form of an ethnic conflict between Russian and Ukrainian farmers and native Muslim nomads. Thousands of Russian settlers are thought to have been killed by the Kazakhs in the violence and this was followed by equally bloody reprisals against the nomadic population by the Red Army. During the 1920s and 1930s some Russians in Kazakhstan felt discriminated against by Communist authorities who promoted Kazakh language and culture in the region and targeted many local ethnic Russians as either kulaks or Cossacks.In 1925 despite local objections predominantly ethnic Russian North Kazakhstan Province as well as parts of Akmola Province, Aktobe Province, West Kazakhstan Province, Pavlodar Province, Kostanay Province and East Kazakhstan Province formerly considered southern Ural and Siberian oblasts of RSFSR were transferred to Kazakh SSR. Local Russians who opposed the land transfers were criticized by the Bolshevik leaders in Moscow as “chauvinists”.

Many European Soviet citizens and much of Russia's industry were relocated to Kazakhstan during World War II, when Nazi armies threatened to capture all the European industrial centers of the Soviet Union. These migrants founded mining towns which quickly grew to become major industrial centers such as Karaganda (1934), Zhezkazgan (1938), Temirtau (1945) and Ekibastuz (1948). In 1955 town of Baikonur was built to support the Baikonur Cosmodrome to this day its administered by Russia. Many more Russians arrived in the years 1953-1965,during the so-called Virgin Lands Campaign of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Still more settlers came in the late 1960s and 70s, when the government paid bonuses to workers participating in a program to relocate Soviet industry close to the extensive coal, gas, and oil deposits of Central Asia. By 1979 ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan numbered about 5,500,000, almost 40 % of the total population. In December of 1986 Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Gennady Kolbin, with no ties to the republic as the first secretary of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Kazakh SSR, breaking with a tradition of ethnic Kazakh dominance in the local administration. Following several incidents of ethnic unrest in 1989, Kolbin was replaced by Nursultan Nazarbayev who following the Collapse of the Soviet Union became the president of independent Kazakhstan.

Modern times

Although Nazarbayev is widely credited with peaceful preservation of the delicate inter-ethnic balance in Kazakhstan, hundreds of thousands of Russians left Kazakhstan in the 1990s due the lack of economic opportunities as well as alleged discrimination. By 1999 the number of Russians in Kazakhstan dropped to 4,479,618 people roughly 30 % of Kazakhstan’s population (From 6,227,549 in 1989). In 2000 22 people were arrested in Oskemen (north-eastern Kazakhstan) and accused of plotting to overthrow the local government and participating in an alleged Russian separatist conspiracy. The Russian community in Kazakhstan today exists not in a narrow ethnic sense but as a part of larger Russian-speaking community which also includes mostly Russophone Ukrainians, as well as many Volga Germans, Tatars and Jews and even a number of Russified Kazakhs. Russians are still an influential socio-political group in Kazakhstan they remain active in Kazakhstan's public, military, cultural and economic life.

Prominent ethnic Russians from Kazakhstan

* Nik Antropov
* Alexander Dutov
* Vassiliy Jirov
* Vsevolod Ivanov
* Andrei Kivilev
* Nikolay Koksharov
* Lavr Kornilov
* Ruslana Korshunova
* Elena Likhovtseva
* Yuri Lonchakov
* Sergey Lukyanenko
* Oleg Maskaev
* Vladimir Muravyov
* Evgeni Nabokov
* Viktor Patsayev
* Alexander Perezhogin
* Vitaly Savin
* Vladimir Smirnov (skier)
* Adolf Tolkachev
* Alexander Volkov
* Oleg Yankovsky
* Vladimir Zhirinovsky
* Alexander Vinokourov
* Andrey Keshechkin

References and notes

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4420922.stm Russians left behind in Central Asia] , by Robert Greenall, BBC News, 23 November 2005.
* [http://www.atimes.com/c-asia/BF16Ag01.html Russian 'separatists' highlight ethnic tensions] , by Sergei Blagov, Asia Times, 16 June 2000.
* [http://www.ca-c.org/journal/cac-09-2000/03.Aben.shtml Kazakh-Russian relations] by Erlan Aben Institute for Central Asian and Caucasian Studies, September 2000.


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