Kazakhstan crisis exposes flaw at the heart of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian model


There is a chance that president Kasymzhomart Tokayev, with a combination of concessions and coercion, will ride out the protests yet.

It is unlikely to slip out of Moscow’s orbit even if the current government falls, although Moscow will be anxious to ensure the successor does not quit pet projects like the Eurasian Economic Union.

Nor would it be wise to predict trouble in Russia on the basis of the uprising across the border.

The grievances that saw crowds storming government buildings in Almaty have deep and specific Kazakh roots.

Mr Putin has also built deep defences against any such occurrence in Russia.

He has jailed or forced into exile all notable leaders of organised opposition. He keeps his security forces well trained and well paid. And he has sought to honour a Soviet-style social contract that offers stability and wages in exchange for political quietism.

The presidential administration in Moscow also keeps a hawkish eye on opinion polls and focus groups to give it fair warning of shifts in the public mood.

Some pro-Kremlin media outlets were already referring to a “Maidan” on Wednesday – a reference to Ukraine’s revolution that in official Russian eyes epitomises foreign interference.

Whatever happens in the next few days, Moscow will be watching closely.


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