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Neither Exit nor Voice: Loyalty as a Survival Strategy for the Uzbeks in Kazakhstan

Discussion Papers


March 2011


The June 2010 conflict between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in southern Kyrgyzstan once again demonstrated the complexity of the ethnic question in Central Asia. Little is known, however, about the Uzbeks in Kazakhstan, whose settlements are concentrated in the south of the republic, in areas adjacent to Uzbekistan. What problems did the Kazakhstani Uzbeks face after the collapse of the Soviet Union and how did they seek to address these issues? This paper examines the attempts of Uzbek leaders to secure their share of power in their compact settlements and how they were co-opted or marginalized under the Nazarbaev administration. This paper shows that loyalty to the regime, not migration to the ethnic homeland or political mobilization, is an option available, and also preferable, for this ethnic minority in Kazakhstan.

Keywords: ethnic minority, mobilization, co-optation, Uzbeks, Kazakhstan

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Please note that discussion papers are works in various stages of progress and most have not been edited and proofread and may contain errors of fact or judgment. Revised versions of these papers may subsequently appear in more formal publication series. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). The IDE does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included and accepts no responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.