Transformation of Post-Soviet Kazakhstan: Economy First, Politics Later
Keywords:Post-Soviet Kazakhstan, political transformation, social contract, reforms
This paper examines the development and modernization path of post-Soviet Kazakhstan. It is traditionally considered as a leading state of the Central Asian region. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, independent Kazakhstan has succeeded in economic transformation but, it has not avoided the so-called “resource curse” – the common problem of the countries that are rich with natural resources and paradoxically have the non-democratic types of government. According to the Freedom House, Kazakhstan is a real consolidated authoritarian regime (Freedom House 2021). The different scale of transformation in politics and economics poses a question why has Kazakhstan failed to conduct radical political reforms toward establishing democracy? The paper identifies three causal factors that explain the failure of Kazakhstan in the political transformation: (i) The different types of a social contract established between Kazakh elites and society based on economic development and people’s alienation from the political processes; ii) Strong leadership and harsh restrictions imposed by the government, which undermined any attempt to change the regime; (iii) The historical legacy of Kazakhstan – challenges in demographic equity, the lack of national cohesion, and national identity. The paper uses the social contract theory of political philosophy and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis from the social sciences in order to analyze a given subject and reach conclusion.