Claims that Kazakh lands were 'gifts from Russia' stoke territorial anxiety

By Aydar Ashimov

A December 10 screenshot of the Russian TV programme 'Bolshaya Igra', in which Vyacheslav Nikonov referred to Kazakh territory as 'a big gift from Russia'.

A December 10 screenshot of the Russian TV programme 'Bolshaya Igra', in which Vyacheslav Nikonov referred to Kazakh territory as 'a big gift from Russia'.

NUR-SULTAN -- A number of recent territorial claims by pro-Kremlin politicians and journalists have provoked anxiety and outrage in Kazakhstan.

On December 10, for example, speaking on Russia's government-backed Channel One TV, Vyacheslav Nikonov, chairman of the Committee on Education and Science of the Russian State Duma, directly undermined Kazakhstan's sovereignty.

"Kazakhstan simply did not exist. Northern Kazakhstan was not settled at all [before the arrival of Russians]. The territory of Kazakhstan is a big gift from Russia and the Soviet Union," Nikonov, who hosts "Bolshaya Igra" (The Great Game), said on his show.

"Half of Ukraine is also a gift from Russia," said Aleksey Pushkov, a Russian senator and TV host, who was a guest on the show.

Russian Chargé d'Affaires Alexander Komarov, left, confers with Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Marat Syzdykov in Nur-Sultan on December 12. [Kazakh Foreign Ministry]

Russian Chargé d'Affaires Alexander Komarov, left, confers with Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Marat Syzdykov in Nur-Sultan on December 12. [Kazakh Foreign Ministry]

"The Soviet Union was the Russian Empire, which was made up of various conquered and annexed territories," said another guest, TV personality Vladimir Pozner.

This was not the first time Russian figures make such statements about Kazakhstan, which is rich in natural resources and has the largest ethnic Russian minority in Central Asia.

On December 13, Yevgeny Fyodorov, another deputy in the Russian State Duma, said on the Belrusinfo YouTube channel that Kazakhstan "should be grateful for the gift", referring to the country's territory.

"Russia needs to say if you are not acknowledging this as a gift, give it back because you took it unlawfully," Fyodorov said.

Russian 'gifts'

Recent statements by Russian officials echo Russian President Vladimir Putin's earlier statement that former Soviet republics "owe" Russia for leaving the Soviet Union.

Post-Soviet states should return the "gifts from the Russian people", namely land, Putin said in an interview on June 21, which was broadcasted on Russia-1 State TV.

The treaty establishing the Soviet Union in 1922 articulated the right to exit it but did not outline the procedure for doing so, he said.

"So the question arises: what if a republic joined the Soviet Union but received a massive amount of Russian land that was ancestral, historic Russian territory and then decided to exit the Soviet Union? In that case, it should have left with what it brought -- not take along the gifts from the Russian people," Putin said.

On the heels of the Channel One programme, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry on December 12 summoned Russian Chargé d'Affaires Alexander Komarov regarding recent territorial claims.

During the meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Marat Syzdykov said his ministry was bewildered to hear Nikonov's comments about Kazakhstan.

Syzdykov handed Komarov a statement on the Kazakh government's position regarding recent claims.

The ministry's statement read in part, "Increasingly frequent provocative insinuations by some Russian politicians regarding Kazakhstan are seriously harming our states' friendly relations."

The Kazakh ministry expects Russia to appropriately assess making such comments and calls on it to prevent Russian officials from making similar statements in the future, the statement read.

What the tsar is thinking

"Russian politicians have begun to make such statements frequently. It's impossible for them not to provoke anxiety. The reaction in Kazakhstan is understandable, and the principled position taken by the Kazakh Foreign Ministry is the right one," said Yernar Beisaliyev, a political analyst in Nur-Sultan.

"It most likely wasn't a deliberate provocation, but rather the imperial attitude of Russia and its politicians who want to dominate in the region," he said.

"It is a big mistake on the part of the Kazakh leaders . . . that in Kazakhstan all these provocative statements have been interpreted as the noise of political clowns. Clowns actually often say what the tsar and his retinue are thinking," Dosym Satpayev, a political analyst from Almaty, wrote on Facebook.

"Russia's leaders spit on diplomatic notes from high up in their Kremlin tower," he said.

"All individuals who feel entitled to make provocative and insulting attacks on Kazakhstan, its territorial integrity, history and language should be ... banned from visiting our republic," said Satpayev.

"The next step needs to be for Kazakhstan to exit the EEU [Eurasian Economic Union] and then pull out of the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organisation], as Uzbekistan did previously," Satpayev wrote, referring to Kremlin-donated economic and military blocs. Uzbekistan never joined the EEU and withdrew from the CSTO in 2012.

Kazakhs have voiced their disapproval online in droves.

"There was no Kazakhstan? So that is the nonsense the deputy chairman [sic] of the State Duma is putting out there. Then they are surprised that anti-Eurasian sentiment is growing in Kazakhstan", "We demand an apology", "The USSR collapsed; serves it right", were among the comments Kazakhs have posted under the Nikonov video on YouTube.

"Russian politicians have lost their minds. Do they really not grasp that anti-Russian sentiment rises in Kazakhstan after they say things like that? We live here, we consider Kazakhstan our homeland, and we don't want to hear those sorts of comments," Yelena Shepeleva, a resident of Shymkent, told Caravanserai.

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In general, one can draw a picture of a Russian: this Russian looks for how, what, and where they can steal or get something for themselves or the Russian society, what is easy to get ahold of, and whether the environment is inviting for stealing. I mean seizing foreign lands as they did for centuries and, alas, it was like that for centuries and it will be like this forever. All this nastiness with taking foreign lands sits firmly in the veins and genes of the Russian people. This nastiness cannot be beaten out of them or erased. So a new war is looming because of the Russians; they are the reason for all problems. You all recall how Russians HAVE BEEN WAGING WARS for centuries through to the present day. So many folks have died from them. People everywhere have gone and are going through so much grief due to Russians. Even Russian authors themselves admitted to the fact that we Russians bring suffering, hardship, and travails to other people from the beginning of time, and there is no justification for this. They always did it to seize someone else's territories, all while promising a bright future. As early as the 6th-7th centuries, when the first tribes of Russian Slavs appeared on the shores of Ladoga Lake, they started annexing foreign lands. Since that time, the borders of Moskoviya had reached as far away as Alaska, and Russians would tell you half of the world was theirs if you listened to them. Recently Putin opened a memorial on the Ladoga lakeshore to commemorate w


Russia itself is spread over other people's lands. From the Caucasus to Yakutia, that's all not Russia.


It is the Throne of the Russian Empire; no one can shake it. A great many did try, and the result was pitiful for those countries. Yes, the Turkic peoples live in modern Russia, and they are not like you... You sometimes lean on the Mongols and then on the Turks. You better sort it out. Otherwise, you will soon become Chinese. We acquired our lands with weapons sometimes, that's life. But whatever you say, never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you. Don't dig a pit for Russians (and the Russians are not only those ethnically Russian) or we will use it as a trench. Speaking of the Turkic names, what do you have to do with it? Protect your country; we will take care of Russia without you. Your khans asked us to take them; Russians lost their lives for your land. " seems she is strong if she barks at an elephant."


We, Turks, have been temporarily occupied by Russia, and we know ourselves whom we want to be with.


Russian territories are the marshes and peat bogs around Moscow. The rest belongs to someone else.


Yes, people must learn history. And speaking of Turkic names... How about Ust-Kamenogorsk, Akmolinsk, Serebryanka, Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk, etc.? And how in the hell (Orenburg is a German name anyway) how in the hell did you become Turkic? Essentially, fools are abundant in Russia as well. We've been living together for so many centuries; the borders were recognized after the USSR collapsed... And it's a fact that Russia transferred some of its lands to the republics. There's nothing to it - just acknowledge this and live your life. And don't incite strife. Of course, it is necessary to know the history of your country, instead of chanting anti-Russian mottos. As we can see, it does not lead to anything good (Ukraine, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Georgia...). So, let's be friends, and the borders will remain the same.


Most of the Russian lands belong to the Turks


I don't get it why all these Zhiriks [Zhirinovskiy supporters] scream that northern Kazakhstan is Russia. Northern Kazakhstan is still part of Russia - Omsk, Orenburg, Tyumen, Barnaul, Kemerovo. These cities even have completely Turkic names. So, [the Russians] don't have to sweat their asses off about that.


They probably don't want the situation with the Crimea repeating itself somewhere else, but this piece could be very hard to swallow with its insatiable mouth


The truth is that Putin wants to re-create the USSR. And all these memorials to Russian soldiers fallen while taking Tashkent near Samarkand, Darvoz in 1865. Then turning May 9th from Memorial and Honor Day into Victory Day; the opening of Victory Park; Maria Zakharova's interference with the official language in legislation in Uzbekistan; Duma parliamentarians crying bloody murder, and the hysteria of Russian propaganda talking about the infringement of Russian speakers' rights, and so on. These are links in a chain. The Russian economy is in a recession; they need new markets for their mostly non-competitive goods. Putin's geopolitical ambitions are skyrocketing through the roof. He is attacking windmills with his spear, like Don Quixote de la Mancha, over and over again. When will people understand that ALL EMPIRES COLLAPSE?! Sooner or later. It's an irreversible historical process.


Putin's throne is shaking already. And then Russia will be ready to collapse.


Historically, Russian native lands make up the territory of the Golden Ring. They annexed everything else from the Turkic, Caucasian, Finno-Ugric, Siberian, and other peoples.


From now on KALININGRAD is a gift from Poland to Russia. It should thank [Poland]. Otherwise, Russia needs to give that territory back!!!


Let Russia hold these provocateurs accountable and teach them about the history of Kazakhstan.


Is there any history? It looks as if it is rewritten every year.


Russia is losing Kazakhstan; so that's why they are trying to instill fear.


Putin sucks