Formation of Kazakhstan’s national identity as foundation for the prosperity of the country

The process of nation-state building includes both the development of state institutions and the formation and structuring of national identity. The successful solution of this two-pronged task is a necessary factor for sustainable national development.

Kazakhstan is an example of this. The last few years have been a turning point for our country. The institutional reforms carried out under the leadership of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev have contributed to strengthening democratic norms, ensuring the rule of law and respect for human rights. Kazakhstan’s citizens supported constitutional reform through a national referendum in June 2022. The amendments affected 8 out of 9 sections of the Constitution, including 33 out of 98 articles – a third of the Constitution. Subsequently, amendments were made to seven constitutional laws, 15 Codes and 29 legislations. As a result, governance has been transformed. The powers of the Parliament and local representative bodies have been strengthened. The Constitutional Court began its work in January. A single seven-year term for presidents has been introduced. Following parliamentary elections in March, the number of parties represented in the Kazakh parliament has doubled from three to six. As noted by President Tokayev, Kazakhstan has become the only country in our region that has implemented such significant reforms in the political system in such a short time.

However, the country’s leadership understands that institutional reforms should be supported by progress in the spiritual and cultural sphere.

This was the main message of President Tokayev’s speech at the second meeting of the National Kurultai (Congress) in Kazakhstan’s city of Turkestan on June 17. The location for the National Kurultai was not accidental, as Turkestan is considered the spiritual capital of Kazakhstan and the Turkic world.

The National Kurultai, a civic institution and a key advisory body under the President, was established last year on the initiative of the Head of State to generate new ideas and proposals to ensure social consolidation, unity and development of Kazakhstan.

Although our country gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kazakh identity can be traced back centuries all the way to the Golden Horde, which was founded in the 13th century. Then followed the Kazakh Khanate, which was founded in 1465. It was ruled by khans from the Genghisid dynasty for more than six centuries. And the roots of our culture extend even deeper, to the times of the Saks, the Huns, the Great Turkic Khaganate. It is extremely important for our people to preserve their roots, as a clear cultural and historical identity is key to the spiritual consolidation of society.

Speaking about the cultural heritage and social values of Kazakhstan, President Tokayev stressed that our new social ethics should be based on the values of unity and stability, justice and solidarity, law and order, trust and responsibility. Patriotism, humanity, thirst for knowledge, professionalism, thrift and diligence – these are the principles that should be the foundation for creating a prosperous and developing state.

Today, representatives of 130 ethnic groups and 18 religious denominations live in our country. This requires strengthened unity of our country. In this regard, President Tokayev noted that one of the most important qualities of a person that needs to be appreciated is a reverent attitude towards his land and country.

This may be natural for citizens of countries that have been independent for centuries. However, for Kazakhstan, which gained independence just over three decades ago, promotion of healthy patriotism is a continuous and necessary work. Patriotism should not be confused with nationalism or xenophobia. A patriot in Kazakhstan is defined as a person who consistently cares about his home and country. As noted by President Tokayev, a patriot is “a person who sincerely loves his homeland and protects the nature of his country in every possible way.” Having a strong national identity is the key to such an attitude towards one’s nation.

In his speech in Turkestan, President Tokayev set several tasks for the coming years in order to implement large–scale projects in the spheres of education, culture and science – the three pillars of modern society.

President Tokayev believes that it is extremely important to promote comprehensive development of a person’s character. This is especially true today, when anyone in the world can make an impact through social media, regardless of whether their message is positive or negative. Since children are being bombarded online with contradictory messages that often harm their mental health, it is important to create a space for them to develop spiritually. That is why President Tokayev, in his speech at the Kurultai, proposed to organize regular visits to theaters, museums and historical locations for schoolchildren. Meanwhile, teachers, in addition to knowledge, should instill humanistic values in students. Parents should also instill ecological awareness in their children and set a good example of caring for the environment. In Kazakhstan, about 40% of the population lives in rural areas. Therefore, the President Tokayev’s initiative to improve the conditions of rural schools will contribute to the progress of the nation.

The centuries-old history of Kazakhstan is our national pride, an important component of the cultural code of our people. That is why we will continue to actively promote our culture at home and abroad, whether through cinema and literature, through the expansion of the use of the Kazakh language, and through the inclusion of our monuments and sites in the UNESCO list to promote the natural and cultural heritage of Kazakhstan. We will encourage knowledge about the outstanding historical figures of our people, who will become one of the key symbols of the national identity in the country and abroad.

Moving towards building a Just Kazakhstan will require the contribution of responsible citizens. This, in turn, means that Kazakhstan should harmoniously combine its traditional values with modern cultural norms. We must honor and cherish the heritage of our ancestors and at the same time ensure that our individual and social values and character are modern. This is the formula proposed by the President to form a new and prosperous nation and strengthen our role in the world. 

Erlan Karin
Erlan Karin
Erlan Karin is the State Counsellor of the Republic of Kazakhstan.