The Proletarian Struggle in Kazakhstan

by G.G. Zangar

According to Socialism Betrayed, Kazakhstan played a big role in catalyzing the downfall of the Soviet Union in response to Gorbachev’s gross neglect of the national question and blatant disregard for all the peripheral countries of the Soviet Union. A lot has happened in the country of Kazakhstan ever since the illegal dissolution of the USSR. The country has seen multiple rulers, forms of government, and a major nationwide protest as late as January 2022.[1] Kazakhstan is now officially a presidential republic which is not too dissimilar from that of the United States. There is a president that oversees an executive branch while there exists a legislative and judicial branch as well. The current president is Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who has been in place since 2019. Before Tokayev was the president, Nursultan Nazarbayev led the country immediately after his role as prime minister of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan since 1989. Tokayev was chosen by Nursultan and there remains the belief that Nursultan still runs things behind the scenes. [2]

It is by observing both the recent history and the very geopolitical location of Kazakhstan that should warrant investigation into the country. This now post-Soviet country is situated between two of the most contentious powers to US capital hegemony and is largely ignored by the Western media. Investigation into Kazakhstan from a class-conscious perspective could yield some reasons for Western news media’s apathy toward the country.  In assessing Kazakhstan from a proletarian perspective, one will rapidly come across a comrade of Kazakh origin; Ainur Kurmanov.

Ainur Kurmanov is the leader of the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan (Қазақстанның Социалистік Қозғалысы). The party and Ainur himself are deemed “Opposition” to the current government of Kazakhstan which has earned Ainur the status of “exile” and forced him to move to Russia. His channel on the online video platform, YouTube, however, is very active and highlights some of the current happenings in Kazakhstan. One of the longest-running threads of discontent among the Kazakh people is the situation regarding an oil field called Zhanaozen. In 2012, a strike broke out among Kazakh oil workers who were then gunned down by government forces resulting in 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries.[3] The oil workers triggered a wave of protests across the country for issues all too familiar to the proletariat of the United States: unemployment, clean drinking water, heightened gas prices, low wages, and inflation. The geopolitically significant location of Kazakhstan makes it hard to determine if any protests in the country are the result of genuine worker organizing or deliberately funded provocations from other countries.

In reading Ainur’s articles, he paints a picture of a country rich in every element on the periodic table, yet has yet fallen short of attributing a high standard of living to its people. It is the same story that every communist is painfully aware of; a bourgeois “democracy” hoarding capital at the expense of the people. Despite how rich the country is in resources, they are extracted at the expense of workers and then exported to other countries to the benefit of the local bourgeoisie and, to a greater extent, the benefit of foreign capital. Ainur states that, amidst high unemployment, oil is the largest industry Kazakh people turn to for work, yet the companies are owned by foreign capital and that “70% of Kazakh oil is exported to western markets”.[4] 

The answer to my earlier question (how is such a geostrategically significant country so seldom talked about in the Western world?) is directly answered by Comrade Kurmanov where in his article, he states “That’s why the imperialistic states are absolutely not interested […] it is already completely on their side.”[5]

Once the USSR was destroyed, Kazakhstan was left to find its own destiny and succumbed to the capitalist exploitation that now dominates the world. The Kazakh people, like most workers around the world, are being coerced to labor for the extraction of their own minerals and wealth for the benefit of foreign markets. The markets to which the Kazakh people are beholden to are those of their immediate neighbors Russia and China as well as the omnipresent U.S. The U.S pumps money into the country through its proxies like the National Endowment for Democracy and Radio Free Asia to keep the “oligarchic” (Ainur’s words) and nepotic rule of the country friendly to its capital in the name of  “defending human rights”.[6] [7] The current status of the “democracy” established in Kazakhstan is further evidenced by the fact that the Communist Party of Kazakhstan was banned in 2015.[8]

Kazakhstan’s beautiful landscapes hide the unfortunate reality that is a staging ground of monumental economic and geopolitical struggle between the East and West capitalist powers. It is painful to grapple with the thought that a nation once spearheading the global proletarian struggle is now feeling the pain of overt capitalist exploitation. Despite the grief brought about by this insight into the country we, as communists, should be proud and willing to reach out in solidarity to the proletarians around the world to bring about a world where exploitation is no longer the status quo. Kazakhstan is a country of proud people, abundant hospitality, beautiful landscapes, bountiful resources, and great comrades like Ainur Kurmanov at the forefront of the Kazakh proletarian struggle.


[1] Dan Bilefsky, “Revolt in Kazakhstan: What’s Happening, and Why It Matters,” The New York Times, January 5, 2022, sec. World,

[2] Shaun Walker, “Poverty, Inequality and Corruption: Why Kazakhstan’s Former Leader Is No Longer Untouchable,” The Guardian, January 5, 2022, sec. World news,

[3] Ainur Kurmanov, “Protests in Kazakhstan: A Color Revolution or a Working-Class Uprising?,” International Socialism Project (blog), January 11, 2022,

[4] Kurmanov.

[5] Kurmanov.

[6] Kurmanov.

[7] “Kazakhstan 2021,” NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY, February 10, 2022,

[8] “Communist Party of Kazakhstan Has Been Banned | International Communist Press,” accessed May 23, 2023,


The New York Times, January 5, 2022, sec. World.

“Communist Party of Kazakhstan Has Been Banned | International Communist Press.” Accessed May 23, 2023.

Kurmanov, Ainur. “Protests in Kazakhstan: A Color Revolution or a Working-Class Uprising?” International Socialism Project (blog), January 11, 2022.

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY. “Kazakhstan 2021,” February 10, 2022.

Walker, Shaun. “Poverty, Inequality and Corruption: Why Kazakhstan’s Former Leader Is No Longer Untouchable.” The Guardian, January 5, 2022, sec. World news.

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