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Location & Connections


Central Asia Fellows 2015

Burkhanov Aziz, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

“Media and Nationalism:  National Identity and Language Discourse in the Media Outlets of Kazakhstan”
(June 2015)

Aziz Burkhanov is an Assistant Professor at Nazarbayev University (Astana, Kazakhstan). Dr. Burkhanov received his PhD at Indiana University (Department of Central Eurasian Studies) in 2013 and his dissertation research dealt with national identity policies of post-Soviet Kazakhstan and the public discourse on identity and language issues in Kazakhstan’s Kazakh- and Russian-language newspapers. He completed his B.A. in History at Al-Farabi National University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, followed by an M.A. in Political Science at the University of Paris-II Panthéon-Assas. His areas of interest include national identity and language policies, theories of nationalism, and current political developments and governance in Central Asia.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, like many other post-Soviet states, had experimented with a search for a new sense of national identity. Despite calls and temptations for more revengeful and nationalistic policies, the country’s leadership depicts Kazakhstan as a model of a peaceful coexistence of multiple ethnic groups and at several occasions mentioned a need to form a ‘Kazakhstani nation’, based on the civic supranational identity. This study illustrates how the Kazakhstani supranational identity project is reflected in the Kazakh- and Russian-language media outlets and how do the media shape and channel societal reaction to the government’s nation-building efforts. By analyzing media coverage of national identity policies and interethnic relations, this paper suggests that there are different attitudes towards ‘Kazakhstani nation’ highlighting the civic-nationhood regardless of ethnic background and a ‘Kazakhstani’ identity understood as a supranational identity on top of ethnic identifications; thus, a community of all ethnic groups living in the country. If the former was met with resistance because of the anxieties about cultural loss and potential disappearance of Kazakhs as a result of mixing with other ethnic groups, the latter seems to enjoy a larger degree of acceptance as a marker of civic identity, at least in the Russian-speaking domestic political discourse.

Email: aziz.burkhanov [at]