The recent article by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, titled “The Seven Facets of the Great Steppe”, which is in the continuation of his earlier article “Ruhani Zhangyru (Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity): Future Course” published last year, deliberates upon civilisation’s aspects of the great steppe within the framework of history and its origin.
In the first article, Nazarbayev outlined the significant steps for the modernisation of social customs and precedence. In Nazarbayev’s opinion, traditional ways should be in the core of modernisation of Kazakhstan. He proposed a number of directions to modernise the approach of the nation and its people, especially in the context of spiritual revival. First, he talked about the competitiveness which should be based on knowledge, intellectual products and quality of human resources and the same are presented as the important chores for the people of Kazakhstan in the 21st century. Computer literacy, foreign language proficiency and cultural openness would be the pedestal to achieve competitiveness.
The President also discussed pragmatism as one of the approaches and urged intellectuals, professional and the people of Kazakhstan to evaluate existing theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. He also expounded that to preserve the national identity, the nation has to use its best traditions as prerequisites. Preserving the inner core of national identity while changing only some of its characteristics is significant and a number of archaic habits should be left behind for successful implementation of spiritual revival.
In the first article, President Nazarbayev also noted that education should be the number one priority and key value for the nation. The cult of education should be universal and technological revolution would play an important role in the future. He further elucidated that Kazakhstan has faced positive and negative impacts of revolutions on its territory in the 20th century and those impacts led the people of Kazakhstan to be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary as he himself stated: “We must clearly understand the lessons of history. The time of revolutions is not over. And while they have changed greatly in their form and content, our whole recent history says directly and unambiguously: only evolutionary development gives nations a chance for prosperity. Otherwise, we will once again find ourselves in a historic trap.”
According to the President, open-mindedness is also one of the directions in this context. Understanding contemporary situations in the world and in the region, preparing for transformations, especially through technological revolution and being able to adopt others’ occurrence and learn from others are the three important elements of open-mindedness.
Nazarbayev also noted some specific projects intended to implement these doctrines related to the modernisation of national identity, such as the transition the Kazakh language from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet. The transition allows more affinity with other Latin-writing Turkic languages, such as Uzbek, Azeri and Turkish, and influences the learning of English. Seventy percent of the world is using the Latin alphabet.
The President also called for new humanitarian knowledge with the 100 best textbooks of the world to be translated into the Kazakh language enabling youth to learn according to the best world values.
The other project, which is important in this context, is to transform the earlier “homeland” programme into a wider framework of “home country,” which would help to improve the business, educational and cultural environments of Kazakhstan’s regions. It includes conducting a serious study of local lore in the sphere of education, ecology and site improvement, the study of regional history and restoration of cultural and historical monuments and cultural sites of local significance.
The President also talked about the “Modern Kazakh culture in the global world” project, which would recognise the greatest examples of modern Kazakh culture, translate them into the six languages of the United Nation and communicate them to the world and “100 new faces of Kazakhstan” project that will share the stories of 100 people from different regions, representing different age groups and ethnicities that have succeeded during the years of independence. As the President stated, “Kazakhstan has a unique historic chance to build a better future through modernisation and new ideas and I am sure the people of Kazakhstan, especially the young generation, understand the importance of the proposed modernisation.”
So, with the first article, the President established the character as well as the structural measures of Ruhani Zhangyru programme where the new article deliberates upon its practicality. In this new article, the President mentioned as an example Indian, Roman and Italian history and the perception of their related civilisations. He bestowed the example of ancient India, especially in the context of opulent poly-ethnic culture, and precisely stated that modern Indian people are observed as one unique civilisation and still developing especially within the framework of its historical inheritances. According to the President, this is the accurate approach to understand one’s national history especially with all its insight and intricacies.
The President suggested that Kazakh history should be viewed holistically rather than in small sections. In this context, he described the contribution and achievements of Kazakh cultural predecessors, which not only shaped but was also born on the territory of Kazakhstan and then spread in all directions. He also illuminated that the recent finding proves the enduring association of the ancestors with the most advanced technological innovation and this leads to taking new dimensions of the great steppe’s place in global history.
With this reference, he described that there were some Kazakh tribes and clans even older than the ethnonym Kazakh and that’s why the Eurocentric perspective wasn’t able to give the actual fact. The President gave an example that the Sakas, the Huns, the Proto-Turkic ethnic groups were also part of the ethno-genesis of Kazakh nation. The President deliberates on the common history, which related to many ethnic groups in Kazakhstan. He notes there is a need to have a multidimensional approach to understanding the history of Kazakhstan in this context. The President described the seven facets of the Great Steppe: culture of horsemanship, ancient metallurgy of the great steppe, animal style, Golden Man, cradle of the Turkic world, the Great Silk Road and the land of apples and tulips.
In this article, the President also described extensively the modernisation of historical identity where he mentioned the seven-year programme called “Archive-2025,” which will include fundamental research of domestic as well as foreign archives. The President also focused on “Uly Dala Tulgalary,” which means the outstanding personalities of the Great Steppe like Al-Farabi, Yassawi, Kul-Tegin, Beibars, Tauke, Abylai, Kenessary, Abai and many more. He also said that it is needed to generate a contemporary gallery of images of great thinkers from different fields of the Great Steppe. The President talked about the genesis of the Turkic world and mentioned that, being an ancestral homeland of the Turkic world, Kazakhstan needs to launch the project “Turkic civilisation: from the beginning to the present.”
According to President Nazarbayev, the museum of ancient art and technology of the Great Steppe, development of tourism and the national club of historical reconstruction would be some of the significant aspects in terms of modernisation of the Kazakh identity. The President also talked about the modernisation of the thousand years of steppe folklore and music and its acquaintances with the modern audiences. To achieve this purpose, he notes the need to create some projects with domestic and foreign professionals to restore this art within the modern context. The President also mentioned that films and television would play a significant role in terms of the civilisational history of Kazakhstan. The President rightly mentioned that pride in the past, a practical assessment of the present and constructive outlook into the future are the significant aspects for the success of Kazakhstan.
In fact, both articles addressed an inclusive perspective on the modernisation of national identity. As discussed, the first article exhibited the structural perspective where the latest one indicated the functional measures to achieve the objectives of modernisation of national identity. With above references both articles would serve as an example of Nazarbayev’s model of spiritual revival not only in the context of people of Kazakhstan but also for the global community.
The author is the Associate Professor of Lev Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Astana.