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Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan: A Model of Unity and Harmony

Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan: A Model of Unity and Harmony
Фото: Akorda.kz 07.06.2024 15:38 2033

Around thirty years ago, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan was established. Since then, this institution has been dedicated to fostering inter-ethnic harmony in the country. What began as a consultative-advisory body during the early years of independence has evolved into a symbol of peace today.

Recently, with the participation of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan held its "Unity. Creativity. Rise." session. During the meeting, the Head of State spoke about the unity and cooperation among the people, emphasizing the tasks entrusted to the APK (Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan). In this context, we have analyzed the President's speech's resemblance to the ideas expressed at the National Assembly and the role of the Assembly in fulfilling its assigned tasks.

Strengthening Unity, Building Progress

In his recent address to the 33rd Session of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev emphasized the critical role of unity, creation, and progress in navigating the challenges faced by the nation. The Assembly, he emphasized, has demonstrated its effectiveness in coordinating relief efforts during times of crisis, such as the recent floods, showcasing the power of collective action and solidarity.

“We, the people of Kazakhstan, must follow our own ideological agenda, free from negative external influences. Our ideology is based on the independence of the state. In addition to the right words and intentions, concrete deeds and daily efforts are important. Concrete work should never be replaced by mere lip service. The principles of “We are different, but we are equal” and “One nation of Kazakhstan” should resonate throughout the educational process. These principles are absolutely unshakable and firm. Unity is, in fact, the core line of state policy and a powerful factor in strengthening national identity”, said Tokayev.

The President lauded the active involvement of volunteers from ethno-cultural associations, highlighting their crucial role in providing timely assistance to flood victims. He stressed that the Assembly is not merely a symbolic organization but a vital agent promoting unity and solidarity, with a track record of impactful initiatives like the "Heart to Heart" campaign.

President Tokayev outlined the strategic goals of the nation, emphasizing the ongoing political reforms aimed at fostering civil society and enhancing citizen participation in decision-making processes. Economic modernization and social renewal were also highlighted as key priorities, with a focus on fairness, inclusivity, and improving living standards for all citizens.

Addressing the importance of ideological education, President Tokayev underscored the need to promote values of patriotism, unity, and respect for cultural diversity among the youth. He emphasized the role of the Assembly in shaping the nation's civic identity and fostering a sense of belonging to a common homeland.

In light of global challenges, including rising extremism and geopolitical tensions, President Tokayev stressed the importance of fostering tolerance and countering ethnic exclusivity. He called for strategic restraint in language policies, emphasizing the gradual development of the state language while respecting linguistic diversity.

Furthermore, President Tokayev highlighted the need to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Assembly and enhance its collaboration with state bodies and local authorities. He underscored the importance of effective partnership in addressing societal issues, including drug addiction, violence, and vandalism.

Looking ahead, President Tokayev outlined plans for the 30th anniversary of the Assembly, emphasizing the significance of celebrating its role in promoting inter-ethnic harmony and national unity. He called for a concerted effort from all sectors of society to build a better future for Kazakhstan.

President Tokayev reaffirmed the government's commitment to supporting citizens affected by the recent floods, outlining measures to provide financial assistance, housing, and support for small businesses and farmers. He reiterated the state's responsibility to ensure the well-being of its citizens and build a more just and prosperous Kazakhstan.

The Origins of Inter-ethnic Peace

Thanks to the welcoming and generous nature of our people, the Kazakhstani populace has historically embraced all who crossed their thresholds with open arms. Even during the Soviet era, ethnic groups subjected to political persecution and forced relocation did not feel estranged within the Great Steppe, owing to our hospitable disposition. Subsequently, during the development of virgin and fallow lands, there was an influx of international migration to the northern regions of the country.

As a result of these successive waves of resettlement, Kazakhstan became a melting pot of nations. Perhaps those implementing Soviet policies viewed this as a means to exert control over the local population. However, following the Soviet Union's dissolution, t Kazakhstan inherited a diverse, multi-ethnic population. Events in the Balkans and the Caucasus demonstrated the challenges of maintaining peace and harmony in newly liberated countries.

Historical events underscore the absence of a universal "recipe" for fostering friendship among peoples and ensuring inter-ethnic harmony. A tailored internal policy is essential for young nations. Thus, a structure was needed to serve as a unique platform for dialogue aimed at preserving Kazakhstan's solidarity, forged by a shared historical destiny. Hence, on March 1, 1995, the foundation of the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan was laid.

 

An Unparalleled Initiative

Through deliberate decisions, inter-ethnic confrontations were averted, preventing conflict and internal strife in the country. Kazakhstan weathered the post-Soviet isolation crisis of the 1990s through the establishment of international relations. In this regard, the work undertaken by the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan has been monumental.

Initially established as the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan, the institution has undergone several stages of development. In 2007, following constitutional amendments, the APK was granted constitutional status. Notably, its name was simplified to the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan from that year onwards. Subsequently, in 2008, the law on the "Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan," unparalleled globally, was enacted, firmly embedding the APK within the country's political system and defining the regulatory framework for its operations.

Termed by foreigners as the Kazakhstani model for preserving inter-ethnic harmony, the Assembly has demonstrated its resilience and garnered significant support from esteemed platforms. During his official visit to Kazakhstan, Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, commended the work of the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan, noting its alignment with the UN's principles and objectives. Such praise from an organization dedicated to fostering global camaraderie is a testament to the APK's endeavors.

Despite some in the country questioning the necessity of the Assembly, it remains a fundamental institution for maintaining inter-ethnic harmony and contributing significantly to the nation's foundation. Much like living organisms, both the state and inter-ethnic harmony require continuous nurturing and improvement.

 

A Prosperous Nation through Unity

President K. Tokayev underscored the importance of unity and solidarity in his addresses at both the National Congress and the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan session. The primary focus of these gatherings was Kazakhstan's ideological orientation towards these values.

During the National Congress in Atyrau, the President delineated the core values shaping our nation's identity. These values, integral to our citizenship, resonate with the principles of the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan. Consequently, President Tokayev instructed for the coordination of the APK's work with the country's new humanitarian ideological doctrine.

This coordination is essential for several reasons. Firstly, any large-scale project, particularly a national doctrine, requires support from leading social institutions to implement the ideological framework that unites the nation. Thus, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, as an institution fostering unity among ethnic groups and diasporas, should play a pivotal role in this endeavor. Independence and patriotism, enshrined in our National Constitution, are foundational values every citizen should embody.

However, during national debates, such as protests against foreign land acquisitions, the absence of diaspora voices is noticeable. While many representatives from various ethnic groups in Kazakhstan cherish our freedom and possess patriotic fervor, their voices often go unheard amid the clamor. Therefore, the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan should not only contribute to nurturing patriotic sentiments but also champion the fact that diaspora members are equal stakeholders in defending our freedom.

 

The Key to Harmony

Secondly, another fundamental value of unity and solidarity mentioned in the National Congress is directly related to the work of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. The key to the peaceful coexistence of every diaspora and ethnic group inhabiting the Great Plain lies in the concept that "the people of Kazakhstan are united."

If we examine the history of the formation of the Kazakh people, we can draw parallels with the period of independence. It is known that the statehood of Kazakhstan traces back to the great Jochi Khan. Members of the Golden Horde, which stretched from Altai to the Volga, lived harmoniously under one roof. Different cultures interacted, and a unique system of state management emerged. Later, with the establishment of the Kazakh Khanate, descendants of Genghis Khan became integral parts of the nobility and lords from the Arab steppes. In other words, our people did not divide anyone.

During the Soviet era, representatives of many ethnic groups were forcibly deported. In the middle of the last century, many families were relocated to the Great Steppe under the guise of developing virgin and fallow lands. Our people welcomed them with open arms and provided them with a new home. Perhaps because of this, those who were politically exiled still speak fondly of the hospitality of the Kazakhs. Eventually, these migrants put down roots and raised families, considering Kazakhstan their homeland. Today, they are an integral part of our people.

Here lies the primary similarity between the Golden Horde and the Republic of Kazakhstan. All peoples, representatives of various ethnic groups, and adherents of different religions who have settled in the great steppe live harmoniously under one vast roof adorned with a sky-colored flag. The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, established immediately after liberation, has made a significant contribution to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of various diasporas in the country.

During times of crisis, our unity as a nation becomes evident. We extended a helping hand to our brothers in Arka and to the people in Zhaiyk during floods. We demonstrated genuine sympathy for those affected by disasters. It is worth noting that the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan also played a pivotal role in these efforts.

For instance, both republican and regional headquarters of the Assembly were established, and a large-scale campaign called "Heart to Heart" was organized. Over 1,500 tons of food and essential goods were sent to flood-affected regions, totaling approximately 770 million tenge. Ethno-cultural associations also mobilized about 12,000 representatives to aid in disaster relief. All of this undoubtedly reflects our nation's compassion, care, and solidarity.

 

Adapting to the Time

Presently, the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan is creating conditions for tens of thousands of people to preserve their culture and traditions. The country's ethnic groups, cognizant of their historical roots, understand how history brought them to Kazakhstan. Similarly, the APK contributes significantly to the promotion of our mother tongue, with many Kazakh speakers among different ethnic groups today.

The Assembly has undertaken projects of national importance aimed at strengthening our shared spiritual values. It serves as an incentive for volunteering and charitable activities, promoting qualities such as compassion, sympathy, and care. Moreover, it fosters the idea of social responsibility within society and collaborates closely with young people. In summary, the work carried out by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan is substantial.

While the Assembly's initial task at independence primarily focused on maintaining inter-ethnic harmony, its appearance and mission have evolved over time. It now not only advocates for inter-ethnic peace but also encourages unity under the banner of "one people" to build a cohesive nation. It emphasizes the importance of learning the state language while nurturing a diverse culture. As stated by the Head of State, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, it promotes the principles of "different views, one nation" and "our unity in diversity."

A glance at history reveals that a renewed focus on the Assembly's orientation is crucial. During the Soviet era, Kazakhstan became a "laboratory of nations." Therefore, it is imperative to prevent our country from becoming a "Second Balkans" peninsula due to external threats and negative influences from within. In the early years of independence, the concept of "Kazakhstan as a multi-ethnic state" was widely promoted. Moreover, internal challenges arose due to difficult economic conditions.

As the socio-economic situation stabilizes and the proportion of titular nationalities forming the state increases, it becomes apparent that the concept of a single nation should take precedence. The People's Assembly of Kazakhstan is actively working in this direction.

 

The World Knows Us as Kazakhs

President K. Tokayev has repeatedly emphasized the concept of inter-ethnic peace, stressing the need to unite all ethnic groups living in Kazakhstan under one flag. He particularly highlighted that across the country, we are known simply as "Kazakhs." This assertion by the head of state holds significant weight. Indeed, our athletes competing in international competitions are universally recognized as "Kazakh athletes," irrespective of their backgrounds. Similarly, the world views our politicians as representatives of Kazakhstan. This is the first point.

Secondly, we've witnessed numerous occasions where individuals from various ethnic groups in our country proudly identify themselves as Kazakh. For instance, the renowned boxer Gennady Golovkin once stated, "When asked about my nationality, I answer as follows: my father is Russian, my mother is Korean, and I am Kazakh!" His sentiment is echoed by the late Denis Ten, a bronze medalist at the Sochi Olympics, who asserted in one of his interviews, "First of all, I am Kazakh in my thoughts, understanding, and actions." These expressions from celebrated athletes, who have achieved global recognition, are undoubtedly sincere affirmations of their Kazakh identity.

Notably, Asyly Osman, a scientist and philologist exiled from her historical homeland to Kazakhstan due to the Soviet Union's coercive policies, frequently declared, "I am Kazakh," in her interviews. Few individuals have contributed as significantly to the development of the Kazakh language as Asyly. Similarly, Herold Belger, a prominent figure in Kazakh literature referred to as the Geraga of Kazakh, always asserted, "I am as much German as I am Kazakh." The declarations of these individuals are heartfelt messages rather than mere populism or hype. While preserving the individuality of each diaspora permanently residing in Kazakhstan is essential, those bound by a common historical destiny must unite under one flag to maintain inter-ethnic peace and harmony. This is a cause that should concern every inhabitant of our country. Notably, part of the work carried out by the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan is dedicated to this endeavor.

 

Big Impact to the Youth Education

However, it's evident that we can no longer rest on our laurels regarding the work already accomplished. When we speak of "the future of the country's youth," it becomes imperative to focus on educating the younger generation and instilling the values of our people. President K. Tokayev has instructed prioritizing the principle of "We are different, but we are all equal" in the education process. Clearly, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan bears the majority of responsibility in this regard.

Currently, the "Council of Elders" and "Council of Mothers" operate within the framework of the APK at the President's initiative. As many contentious issues in our society are traditionally resolved by respected elders with a single word, their guidance will be invaluable in youth education. Hence, it's essential for these councils to engage in substantive work rather than merely serving as rubber stamps for mayoral decrees. The education of the Kazakh people is rooted in the concept of "respect for the elder, respect for the younger."

Additionally, the republican public association "Assembly Youth" has been active since 2021, involving over 9,000 young people. In the latest session, President K. Tokayev proposed appointing a deputy head from the youth to the Assembly's structures and ethno-cultural associations. This initiative is commendable. Young people are well-acquainted with the concerns and aspirations of their peers and should play an active role in shaping youth policies within the APK.

Moreover, during the National Congress, President K. Tokayev outlined five pressing issues threatening the country. In yesterday's meeting, the Assembly was tasked with playing a crucial role in combating drug addiction, gambling (ludomania), domestic violence, vandalism, and extravagance. Clearly, addressing these social maladies is the responsibility of society as a whole, and the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan, as the organization uniting the leaders of all ethnic groups and diasporas, is at the forefront of this endeavor.

 

A Sign of Integrity

During last year's session of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, President K. Tokayev emphasized that the Kazakh language is a common value that unites the people and organizes the country. He noted that the issue of learning the state language remains a strategic direction of our policy.

"The Kazakh language is an effective tool of civil integration, a bright manifestation of cultural and spiritual integrity. Also, the Kazakh language should become a tool that paves the way for scientific progress and advanced achievements in education... Only when the demand for the Kazakh language increases will it become widely used. After all, knowing several languages is a sign of each person's cultural refinement. Proficiency in the state language, particularly the native language, Kazakh, reflects a citizen's cultural background and civic responsibility, as well as their patriotism," said K. Tokayev.

The People's Assembly of Kazakhstan significantly contributes to promoting the values mentioned by the President. For example, backyard clubs are being established as part of the "Speak at Home" project, where residents gather to learn the Kazakh language. Considering the recent increase in the number of representatives from various ethnic groups who know and identify with the Kazakh language, we can confidently say that the Assembly is fulfilling its duties honorably.

"To become a strong state, national unity is extremely important. Indeed, organized unity leads to victories," said the Head of State. International experience demonstrates that national unity and integrity entail citizenship under one nation. The People's Assembly of Kazakhstan greatly contributes to realizing this idea. It ensures that every resident doesn't lose touch with their historical roots and promotes social harmony in an era of unity and solidarity.

 

A New Era for the Kazakh Language

In the coming years, Kazakhstan is witnessing a positive trend. The number of representatives from various diasporas proficient in Kazakh is increasing. Many citizens have independently mastered the language and are actively promoting it in society. Several such individuals were recognized at the APK session. It can be said that the Kazakh language is becoming fashionable. It's now the language of business, science, and technology. Songs by Kazakh singers have gained popularity on social networks like TikTok and even become hits in distant countries. Even some internet fraudsters have started writing their scams in Kazakh. All this indicates the strengthening position of the state language in society. Therefore, the President expressed confidence that over time, the Kazakh language will become the language of inter-ethnic communication.

History has shown that solving language issues significantly contributes to the stability of the social and political situation. Therefore, the People's Assembly of Kazakhstan should lead efforts in this direction. It's commendable that it has made substantial contributions to emphasizing that the Kazakh language is not just the language of Kazakhs but also the state language, and it's the duty of every citizen who considers the Great Steppe their homeland to know it. Many members of the Assembly, including well-known public figures and deputies, have a high level of proficiency in the state language. Notably, there are many young people among them.

In this regard, it's essential to recognize that education is the key to solving language issues. The proportion of Kazakh language books in the country has increased, and world bestsellers such as "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" are being translated into the national language. The APK can contribute significantly to this cause. For instance, selecting and translating the best works from the main diasporas in the country into Kazakh and presenting them to the public would be highly beneficial. This would not only allow representatives of the titular nation to immerse themselves in the traditions and culture of the diasporas but also provide representatives of those ethnic groups with the opportunity to read advanced works in Kazakh.

In conclusion, the tasks assigned by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the session of the National Congress and the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan are aligned. If the main values defining the new direction of the country were established at the congress in Atyrau, the task of implementing this work during the APK session is assigned to the Assembly. Therefore, it's fair to say that a golden bridge has been built between the National Assembly and the People's Assembly, with the latter established as the primary institution implementing the ideological direction.

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