Rights of National Minorities

Presently, many countries of the world community face a new challenge. The economic crisis all over the world has resulted in exacerbation of social, economic, political, ethnical, and inter-religious relations.

Complicated geopolitical relations are developing between the principal world strategic participants of Eurasia, and Central Asia and Kazakhstan are granted important roles owing to their resources and strategic position in the region between the East and the West.

An open secret is that the rules of this political game become tougher, which is proved by events in the Caucasus and the Middle East and by the spread of extremism and terrorism in the world. The economic crisis looks more and more political and its impact in different countries increasingly results in growth of intolerance and the tendency to take extreme measures.

The Head of State, Nursultan Nazarbayev, pointed out that the unity of the people of Kazakhstan is the main condition for overcoming the crisis. In this respect, today as never before, interethnic peace and harmony have become more meaningful for Kazakhstan, and have become a provision for social security and its development.

Under crisis conditions, even the greatest world powers realize that the unity of the people is the main factor for the development of any country and for overcoming the threats and challenges of the modern world. We were eyewitnesses that the day before the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the USA held the “We the United People Walk.”

Another important task in the achievement of the unity of the people is the cultivating of patriotism in Kazakhstan. In this regard, it is difficult to overestimate the role of the Assembly of Nations of Kazakhstan.

The next vital task with regard to the preservation of the unity of the nation is the cultivation of tolerance.

Even now, tolerance is characteristic of the people of Kazakhstan, and it is necessary to fully protect Kazakhstan’s society against any attempts to destroy it.

Governmental policy in the sphere of interethnic relations in Kazakhstan is based on five crucial principles:

  • Ethnic, religious, cultural, and language variety is an invaluable treasure;
  • The Government creates all the conditions necessary for the development of culture and languages;
  • The most important values of the nation have become tolerance and responsibility;
  • The consolidating role of the prevailing ethnic group;
  • The unity of the people.

These principles are proven in practice, are tailored to every individual situation, and can be applied in any country.

Kazakhstan’s policy in the field of interethnic relations is also being built in strict compliance with international human rights standards. In particular, the Republic of Kazakhstan has acceded to many multilateral universal international agreements in the field of human rights.

In this respect, Russian experts (N. Haritonova, A. Vlasov, R. Nazarov and others – The Informational and Analytical Center of the Moscow State University) point out that the legislation of Kazakhstan completely meets the requirements of the principal agreements in the field of security of the ethnic rights of citizens, such as the document of the 1992 Copenhagen Conference on the Human Dimension, the Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities (1996), the Oslo Recommendations Regarding the Linguistic Rights of National Minorities (1998), the Lund Recommendations on Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life (1999), and the OSCE

Guidelines on the use of Minority Languages in the Broadcast Media (2003).

In whole, the trend and nature of ethnic policy in Kazakhstan is increasingly affected by commonly acknowledged standards of international law establishing the basic criteria of human rights.

Like the majority of OSCE countries, Kazakhstan adopted the special legal documents for implementation of ethnic policy, since the legislative security of ethnic rights is the most effective way of their protection.

Thus, the Law “On Languages in the Republic of Kazakhstan” meets the recommendation of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities made to countries in the course of establishing ethnic policy. The Government pays much attention to teaching the languages of ethnic groups and arranging studies in these languages. In Kazakhstan, there are 88 schools where studies are completely held in the Uzbek, Tajik, Uighur and Ukrainian languages. In 108 schools, the languages of 22 ethnic groups of Kazakhstan are taught as a self-standing discipline. 195 special ethnological linguistic centers are functioning where all who apply can learn the languages of 30 ethnic groups. More than 7,000 people are currently studying in these centers. In the opinion of specialists, one of the most developed educational systems for ethnic languages has been created in Kazakhstan.

In accordance with the Government Program for functioning and development of languages for the years 2001- 2010, the government supports the teaching of native languages to representatives of ethnic groups. Funds allocated for the financing of Sunday schools keep increasing. To improve the knowledge of the Kazakh language, students of the Sunday schools annually arrange Summer Camps for the Kazakh language.
35 newspapers and magazines in 11 languages of Kazakhstan’s ethnic groups are published in Kazakhstan with a printing of over 80,000, not counting Kazakh and Russian mass media, and radio programs are being conducted in 8 languages and television programs in 7 languages.

In addition to Kazakh and Russian theaters, in Kazakhstan there are four other national theaters – Uzbek, Uighur, Korean and German. Moreover, three of them are unique in the territory of the CIS and the Baltic countries.
Legal safeguards and the respectful attitude toward all languages in full measure protect the inherent right of ethnic groups to develop their languages and culture. Based on the study of the language policy in Kazakhstan during 2005-2006 done by OSCE agencies, on December 12, 2006 the OSCE Office of High Commissioner on National Minorities declared that the language policy in Kazakhstan was the most loyal of all former Soviet countries.

Small ethnic groups in the territory of Kazakhstan such as Assyrians, Iranians, Nogai, and Dungans also have all possible opportunities to develop their language and culture. This is especially exemplary given the fact that, according to the latest information of the UNESCO language atlas, out of 7,000 existing languages in the world, 2,511 are under threat of disappearance.

In whole, ethnic and language problems in Kazakhstan are being resolved in line with the civilized standards applied by the OSCE member countries.

Ethnic aspects prevail in all economic, social, political, and spiritual developments of modern Kazakhstan, and fill an important place in the activity of the Head of State and agencies of governmental authority and management.

In answer to the question posed by KISI research, “On which individual of public society do you rest your hopes regarding the resolution of interethnic relations in the Republic?” the absolute majority of experts named the President (94%). Obviously, this is explained by the fact that, in the opinion of the experts and the majority of the population, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is a real guarantor of interethnic and social stability and personifies and defines the policy of the state including the policy in the field of interethnic relations.

For comparison, the following are the results of the sociological study done by the Association of Sociologists of Kazakhstan with regard to the evaluation of institutions ensuring human rights: 84.4% of respondents positively evaluated the work of the President of Kazakhstan in the field of human rights, the courts (72.4%), the Prosecutor General’s Office (65.7%), the police (59.2%), and NGOs (52.9%). These facts prove that the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the guarantor of the rights and freedoms of humans and citizens, and that he ensures the coordinated functioning of all branches of governmental authority and responsibilities of governmental agencies to the people.
In the course of preparation for Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE, in the second half of February 2009, in Brussels, a “round table” was held on the subject: “The Way to Europe: Preparation of Kazakhstan for the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010” arranged jointly with the Center for European Policy and the Institute for Strategic Studies in Brussels.

This activity showed that the European countries placed high expectations on the chairmanship of Kazakhstan.

In particular, the special representative of the European Union for Central Asian countries, Pierre Morel, emphasized that the role of Kazakhstan as a future chairman of the OSCE was very important since Kazakhstan should be worthy of its choice, which will affect the entire Central Asian region. He pointed out that Kazakhstan as a chairman faces serious challenges – the fight against drug traffic from Afghanistan, the increase of public awareness on this problem, the regulation of water resources in Central Asia, and others.

Within the framework of the 17th annual session of the Parliament Assembly (PA) of the OSCE in Astana, the High Commissioner of the Parliament Assembly of the OSCE, Knut Vollebek, stated, “as a chairman of the OSCE in 2010, Kazakhstan could play great role in the solution of interethnic problems.” However, he noted that today, OSCE countries face challenges related to the variety of ethnic groups, globalization, and relations between various religions.

Upon the adoption of the Law “On the Assembly of Nations of Kazakhstan,” the Assembly became one of the unique key components of the political system of Kazakhstan and acquired constitutional status and representation in the highest legislative body of Kazakhstan. Decisions of the Assembly’s sessions are subject to compulsory consideration by governmental agencies and officials.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyotaka Akasaka, confirmed that the experience of the Assembly of Nations of Kazakhstan with the objective of international and inter-religious harmony was very important and relevant to the whole world community. (Before the positive evaluation of the interethnic situation in Kazakhstan was given by the UN ex-Secretary General Kofi Annan, ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, the President of France Jacques Chirac, the President of the Swiss Confederation Pascal Couchepin and others).

Welcoming the efforts of Kazakhstan to increase the representation of national minorities in the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the OSCE High Commissioner K. Vollebek expressed his concern that 9 members of the Assembly of Nations of Kazakhstan (ANK) were elected by the members of ANK and not by the nation-wide voting, and that this situation did not fully comply with international standards; in particular, with the provisions of the OSCE Copenhagen document.

In this regard, Mr. K. Vollebek has suggested rendering expert assistance for further improvement of the system of ANK representation in the Parliament of RK. For this purpose, the parties agreed to discuss this issue at a “round table” with the experts of ODIHR/OSCE with participation of representatives of ANK, Parliament, and lawyers.
It should be noted that Kazakhstan, on principle, evaded the quota of representation along ethnic lines. The Deputies of Parliament elected from the Assembly represent the interest of all of Kazakhstan’s ethnic groups and not just one of them. This allows pursuing a united ethnic policy on a national scale.

The fact that the Chairman of the Assembly is the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan himself – guarantor of the Constitution and human rights – proves that the ethnic groups of Kazakhstan possess all necessary instruments for the realization of their interests, and that in the country there are all necessary prerequisites for the balanced development of ethnic relations.

Experienced gained by Kazakhstan in the framework of this model was used in Russia, which pursues a similar ethnic policy.

Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE falls in a period of complicated dialogue between the East and the West, and misunderstandings are worsened with the global economic crisis.

At the same time, problematic developments continue on the European territory of the OSCE related to the migration from countries of Africa, the Near and Middle East, Central and South-Eastern Asia, and China, to the expansion of Islam in Europe, and to the adaptation of migrants.

In this regard, Kazakhstan is ready, not only to keep on playing the role of initiator of continuous dialogue between civilizations, cultures, and religions, but also to act as its champion.

Kazakhstan has already made the first steps: in Astana, the international forum took place entitled “Common World: Progress Through Diversity” with the participation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Muslim and Western countries. Presently, cooperation with the group “The Alliance of Civilizations” is being intensified, relationships are developing in the framework of the Congress of World Religions, and new outlooks for inter-parliament cooperation, possibly within the framework of “The Group of the Wise,” are presenting themselves.

Issues of ethnic policy and interethnic relations are of special importance for the Republic of Kazakhstan owing to the variety of ethnic groups living there. Representatives of 130 nationalities live on its territory. According to information from the latest population census in Kazakhstan (February 2009), 67% of the population is ethnic Kazakh.

All the historical wealth and uniqueness of cultures and languages of nations of the Republic of Kazakhstan make up the common property of Central Asia, the CIS, and all of mankind. Interethnic relations in the Republic of Kazakhstan in whole are characterized by stability and sustainability, which is explained on one hand by reasons of objectiveness and historicity, and, on the other hand, by subjective and political reasons. As a result of the centuries-old interaction of Turkic, Slavic, and other nations on the territory of the Republic, settled traditions of mutual respect and tolerance have been formed. However, interethnic peace and harmony is continuously sustained by the reasonable national policy of the governmental authorities of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

It should be noted that there are situations when some representatives of ethnic groups turn the crimes and administrative offences committed by individuals of other nations into the category of interethnic collision, and exaggerate such facts by means of mass media, concealing the essence of the crimes themselves.

The Government does not try to assimilate all nations into some kind of uniform nation, and refuses any kind of artificial separation of the non-native population. Kazakhstan advocates that every nation should live a full life, revive its traditions, culture, and language, and that all the people of Kazakhstan have equal rights and opportunities regardless of their nationality, language, or religion, and feel that they are citizens of independent Kazakhstan and are proud of this. Today, the positive experience of our Republic in the preservation of interethnic harmony is supported and studied by a number of CIS countries, the Baltic countries, Eastern Europe, and other foreign countries.

According to the results of the sociological studies conducted by the Association of Sociologists of Kazakhstan within the framework of this National Human Rights Action Plan, 56.8% of respondents positively evaluated the protection of the rights of national minorities in Kazakhstan and 14.8% of respondents think that the rights of national minorities in Kazakhstan are poorly protected. 28.5% of respondents found it difficult to evaluate the situation in the field of protection of the rights of national minorities.

In harmony with the Constitution and the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Governmental Service” (further referred to as “the Law”), the citizens of the Republic including representatives of all national minorities have the right to equal access to governmental service. Requirements for candidates of governmental servants depend only on the nature of job responsibilities and are stipulated by the Law.

In accord with Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Governmental Service,” the right to hold administrative governmental office belongs to citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The administrative governmental office is competitive.

However, equal access to governmental positions is granted on the basis of competitions, which include a series of consecutive phases: the publication of the announcement of the competition in the Kazakh and the Russian languages, an examination with regard to knowledge of the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan in either the Russian or in the Kazakh languages, and an individual interview.

In conformity with the provision of Article 12 of the Law On Governmental Service, no restrictions are permitted for employment in governmental service with regard to gender, race, nationality, language, social origin, property status, place of residence, attitude to religion, beliefs, membership in public unions, or any other circumstances.

The main condition for employment and realization of governmental service by citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan is their compliance to the Standard Qualifying Requirements for offices approved by the order of the Chairman of Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan for governmental service.

It should be noted that on August 20, 2004, during the 65th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a report by the Republic of Kazakhstan on implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was discussed with the participation of a Kazakhstan delegation. In whole, the UN Committee positively evaluated Kazakhstan’s report. Experts of the UN Committee emphasized that necessary conditions for the peaceful co-existence of various ethnic groups and religious have been created in Kazakhstan.

The joint fourth and fifth regular reports on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the Republic of Kazakhstan were approved by the Enactment of the Government of RK of July 17, 2008 No. 701 and through the Ministry of the Interior were sent for consideration by the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Thus, in the Republic, all necessary conditions have been created to satisfy the needs of representatives of all national minorities and to balance interethnic relations. Measures for the protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the national minorities of Kazakhstan comply with the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious, or Linguistic Minorities, and the CIS Convention concerning the Rights of Persons Belonging to National Minorities.

With the purpose of securing the rights of national minorities guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan and international legislation, we recommend that the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan implement the following activities into practice during the years 2010-2012:

  1. In an effort to implement the requirements of Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopt the special Law of RK “On Counteraction of Racial (National) Discrimination,” or legislatively determine the administrative and criminal liability of individuals promoting racial (national) or ethnic superiority or displaying racial discrimination against other individuals.
  2. In 2012, ratify the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
  3. Consider the possibility of including the history and culture of national minorities in the list of compulsory disciplines in the curriculum of secondary public schools.
  4. Ratify the CIS Convention concerning the Rights of Persons Belonging to National Minorities of October 21, 1994.