New Research: IRI Focus Group Discussions in Kazakhstan Reveal Key Points on National Identity, Internet Use

Washington, DC—Two new reports released today by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Survey Research (CISR) examine how the people of Kazakhstan conceive their national identity and perceive the role of the internet. A total of 12 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were held in Astana, Almaty, Atyrau, and Shymkent for each report.

On national identity, FGD participants differentiate between the terms Kazakh and Kazakhstani, and prefer to use the former only to refer to ethnic Kazakhs. Ethnic Kazakhs view “Kazakhstani” as an ephemeral term. Non-Kazakh minorities tend to identify more closely with civic rather than ethnic identity.  

Such distinctions are subtle, but very important as a demonstration of Kazakh pride and national identity

Stephen Nix, Senior Director for Eurasia at IRI

While participants are aware of the challenges of living in a multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic country, they expressed being comfortable dealing with these challenges, considering bilingualism an asset and referencing the importance of tolerance to their country’s identity.  

Participants with regular access to the internet have described such access as a human right and believe that internet shutdowns are serious violations of democratic principles.  

“The internet is where many people can practice their freedoms of speech and expression and read the news,” said Nix. “It makes sense that an internet blackout is perceived as an attack on people’s rights.”  

The report found that many people consume internet content in Russian and Kazakh, although they rely on Russian content more heavily for technical information which is not translated into or developed in Kazakh. 

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