Kazakhstan’s Latin America

by Nathan Hamm on 10/26/2005 · 19 comments

Whatever the Central Asian Expert Council is, its third session is underway in Almaty and one analyst there called Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan threats to Kazakhstan’s security. Not military threats though.

Several thousand strong or even tens of million armies of refugees will jeopardize the securoty if any political crisis occurs there. To date the great numbers of labor emigrants from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are considered to be the direct country’s national safety hazard.

Cheap and plain man power imported from the adjoining countries reduces Kazakhstan labor professional qualification. In future the strata as highly qualified Kazakhstan worker may disappear at all enforcing the state to attract highly skilled craftsmen from abroad and introduce special quotas.

Okay, there’s a little something of a “They took our jobs!” to that, and tens of millions (what, 2/3 of the population of the countries?) is ridiculous. But, the point stands. Major crises in either of the two countries would have an enormous impact on Kazakhstan.

Frankly, I’m impressed it was even reported on by Kazinform. Given how touchy Tashkent is, that’s a pretty incendiary remark.

UPDATE: From the same conference, here’s someone questioning whether or not the Kyrgyz state can be said to exist.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Denzil Uz October 26, 2005 at 11:15 pm

Kuzmin’s statement is not only ridiculous, but also…obvious. It is not a big “analytical” discovery, that crises in ANY state worldwide affect the neighboring states.
But, let’s better look to the nowadays alarmism of Kazakh experts (you neatly pointed to Kazinform too) on the threats of regional divergences. What’s that – accent maneuver before elections? Or intended inhibition of integration tendencies?

Nathan October 26, 2005 at 11:19 pm

I think this is a genuine policy concern on Kazakhstan’s part. It’s not just that instability next door would impact them. It’s that political collapse next door looks all but inevitable in one country and increasingly likely (and increasingly dangerous should it happen) in the other.

Denzil Uz October 27, 2005 at 12:19 am

Nathan, if you noticed (and you did), Kuzmin’s notion was about “Kazakhstan labor professional qualification” and “introduce special quotas”. I.e. mostly on the issue of labor migration, rather then on “after-collapse’ refugees”. Probably, two targets in one shot: local electorate with the sensitive “neighbor-labor threat” and externals (far ones) with the Phasmatidae of “constantly dangerous surrounding”? 8)

Nathan October 27, 2005 at 12:32 am

No, it was definitely on both. They are linked. What he’s suggesting is that a significant reason for the migration to Kazakhstan is the poor situation in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. And were it to get worse, Kazakhstan would only be in a tougher spot.

That being said, I think his suggestions are extremely silly. If Kazakh labor cannot fill the jobs, there’s nothing wrong with Uzbek or Kyrgyz labor doing so.

WLB October 27, 2005 at 7:22 am

My impression is this opinion is widespread in Kazakhstan, and Uzbek-Kazakh relations are strained by these labor migrants. In the same way many Americans think of Latin Americans as stupid manual laborers, so Kazakhs think of Uzbeks. Uzbek jokes are very common.

Probably kaz-inform saw no harm in pointing out what they see as objectively true, Uzbeks want to come to prosperous Kazakhstan and work to escape their nasty lives down south.

Uzbek October 27, 2005 at 7:27 am

On the bases of my own experience I can tell for sure that if You go to Kazakhstan You already feel the pressure and the look “You not one of us what are You doing here” and the emergence of Immigration service, something which is very odd in this part of the world.
As soon as You come to the Passport desk at the Airport You are given an immigration card and told to keep it with You during Your stay at any time and when You leave the territory of Kazakhstan You have to show this immigration card and if it is not with You, which means that You have entered the Kazakh Republic illegally, You are penalised and have to pay a fine.
All this is the natural course of events and I do perfectly understand the concerns of Kazakhs, the simple truth is that they do not want to give away what they have achieved to Uzbeks or to anyone else.
Furthermore, I think that Denzil does remember how we in Uzbekistan would close our borders and shun the Kazakhs when they used to come to Uzbekistan to buy huge amounts of bread in the beginning of 1990’s.

Uzbek October 27, 2005 at 7:38 am

But as an Uzbek it does make me really angry, the appalling state of our economy, minimum monthly wage of around 9$ when 1kg of beef costs 2$, which is making our people, who are capable and ready to work given the right circumstances, beg Kazakhs!!!
With all their talk Kazakhs do understand perfectly that Uzbeks are much more patient, will do any work You tell them to do and do the work with very high quality, willing to work from 7am till 9pm, good in commerce, each of them approached the life with the philosophy – “40 skills is not enough for a man” and Kazakhs are using it and most of them do admit that they can not do without Uzbeks when it comes to the development of Southern Kazakhstan.

Denzil Uz October 27, 2005 at 9:22 pm

Nathan, any concrete facts of prosecution of foreign journalists in Uzbekistan (now and under Soviets)?

Nathan October 27, 2005 at 9:26 pm

I think you wanted that here

Denzil Uz October 27, 2005 at 9:33 pm

Oops, somehow, it appeared here. Sorry. How to delet or make reductions of own responses? Again, sorry for offtop.

Nathan October 27, 2005 at 9:35 pm

No worries. Once you submit, only I can make changes. If it’s ever a big deal, i just delete the comment.

J. Otto Pohl October 28, 2005 at 4:42 am

One thing I just noticed is that the migration of labor from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is related to the drop in cotton production. I have little piece on my blog about this. But, in the last 25 years cotton production has declined considerably in Central Asia. In Uzbekistan it has gone from more than 2 million tons a year to only 1.125 million. Tajikistan is down from 334,000 tons to 172,000.

Denzil Uz October 28, 2005 at 7:34 am

Little correction: by the mid October official data for the cotton harvest was more then 3.6 mln tons. Even if we consider that 50% of it is upward distortions, it’d be almost 2 mln.
I don’t have data from Tadjikistan, but, asaik, Turkmenistan’s cotton production considerably suffered because climate and irrigation problems.
If we link labor migration with cotton, it’d be more precise to mention inadequate costs’ development and one-crop factor.

J. Otto Pohl October 28, 2005 at 7:59 am

The figure I have is for 2004 “production” that is post-ginned cotton, not harvested raw cotton, comes from the World Bank. The give a figure of 1,125,000 tons for Uzbekistan just as I put in the post. I will note again my post said cotton “production” not harvest. It is measuring cotton lint (post-ginning). There is a difference. The same measurement for 1980 production in Uzbekistan is 2,061,00o tons. Please read my comments more carefully in the future and do not be so obtuse.

Denzil Uz October 29, 2005 at 3:50 am

Otto, thanks for re-correction. My bad, I made a mistake. Word “obtuse” reminded me one of the Peace Corps’ English teachers (NB: rare case for this respectful organization), who couldn’t endure even few months here. Thus, don’t worry, I’d better ignore your comments “in the future”.. Best wishes.

J. Otto Pohl October 29, 2005 at 5:12 pm

Sorry, for my rudeness. I mistakenly thought you were trying to score points by pointing out that I was wrong. I should probably not post after going 36 hours with sleep.

J. Otto Pohl October 29, 2005 at 5:14 pm

Oops, I meant going 36 hours without sleep. I still haven’t made up for it evidently.

Denzil Uz October 30, 2005 at 9:28 pm

🙂 Peace. Hope you had a rest.

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