Creating Kazakhstani Sociology

Central Downtown Astana, Kazakhstan

Creating Kazakhstani Sociology


Serik Seidumanov, Zarema Shaukenova, Sergey Konovalov and Aigul Zabirova

on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Kazakhstani Sociology Association



Kazakhstani sociology dates back to the 1960s and has been developed within the Soviet sociology. The first Department of Sociology appeared in 1988 at Kazakh National University in Almaty. The development of the Kazakhstani sociology started with the independence of country, the 25th anniversary of which is celebrated this year. Kazakhstani sociology primarily tried to accompany fundamental reforms initiated by the state and society.

Kazakhstan as a country consists of groups with different social, ethnical and cultural backgrounds. In a period of tsarist Russia and in the period of communist totalitarianism Kazakhstan became multinational country: Germans, Caucasians, Armenians, Azerbaijani, Koreans from the Far East, Turks, Kurds, Jews and many others were repressed and deported to the Kazakh steppe as disloyal nations for Soviet state. The Kazakhs, who for a long time were themselves in danger of extinction, hosted repressed nations on their lands and shared everything until the last piece of bread. Nowadays Kazakhstan is a home to more than a hundred ethnic groups, creating its own model of multicultural society. Within the historic opportunity that was given to the country in 1991 Kazakhstan successfully created a modern state, that integrated into the global economic system and that is starting to be recognizable on the international scene.

Much has been done due to the fact that sociology began to develop as an educational field and as a research activity; thus we can witness many cases of collaboration between research organizations and government. Moreover Kazakhstani sociologists are working not only in universities and research companies, but also are represented among policy makers and powerful groups. All this had an impact on the development of sociology in Kazakhstan. Social surveys, sociological studies have become part of the everyday practices of Kazakhstani society; the findings of researches, results of mass surveys are open to the public.

There are many government programs that aim to support education of the young people abroad. In 1993 Kazakhstan launched a special Program “Bolashak/Future”, within this program more than 10 000 people got their academic degrees in flagship Western and Asian universities. These graduates now form the base of the new management in government and economy, new culture and even new way of life.

Kazakh people originate from nomadic culture; it means astonishing openness to accept different cultures and different ideas, regardless where they come from, irrespective of the place of origin. Consequently in Kazakhstan unlike in some former USSR republics there is no resistance to western models of modernization and westernization. But in the process of modernization Kazakhstan gained its own unique attitudes, forming a special way of development. Here we can mention a number of major missions such as the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010 and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 2011. Furthermore, Kazakhstan hosts the tri-annual Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and the annual Astana Economic Forum with ambition to become a type of Davos in the heart of Eurasia.

Kazakhstan is changing from a totalitarian type of society with paternalistic attitudes to an open type of society. The basis for development of the country is to promote the principles of democracy and public participation. Strategic plans were formed as a reversal of the political system in favor of human development. This point is from the Government program “Kazakhstan 2030” which was introduced in 1997. Later in 2013 Kazakhstan had reached fifth position in the Global Index of the World Economic Forum; thus the government has developed a new Strategy Program: “Kazakhstan 2050”.

It is a well known fact that the governments of resource-rich economies, especially those lacking strong institutional and legal framework, tend to suffer from the “voracity effect”. In order to manage the challenges associated with the use of oil revenues, Kazakhstan set up the National Fund with the aim of creating new industrial products and new technologies. All oil revenues are being accumulated in this fund. Stabilization funds in such resource rich countries like Norway, Kuwait and Oman were the benchmarks of the fund.

Kazakhstani sociologists are proactive in the process of modernization; and sociology as an academic discipline became oneof the triggers of cultural and political changes in society. At the beginning of the 1990s sociology was represented by opinion polls, afterwards several sociology departments were launched across the country (Kazakh National University in Almaty, Eurasian National University in Astana, Karaganda State University etc.). Later in the 2002 Associationof Sociologists of Kazakhstanwas founded; in March 2003 ASK joined ISA as a collective member.

Subsequently ASK strengthened international collaboration as a part of the public mission of sociology. In the search for identity it was essential to look beyond the boundaries of the former USSR. During the sociological Forum at Kocaeli University (2005) Sociological Association of Turkish speaking countries was established.

The decision of transforming Sociological Association of Turkish speaking countries into Turkic Sociological Association – TURKSOY was taken at the Sociology forum of Turkic-speaking countries in Istanbul, December 2-4, 2015. The idea of transforming Association was due to desire to unify the title of Sociology association in accordance with a number of Turkic organizations established at the international diplomacy level. The executive committee was elected, professor Marat Tazhin was elected as a TURKSOY President.

One of the important steps of integration Kazakhstani Sociology Association into international arena is the development collaboration with the International Sociological Association. First who visited Kazakhstan as ISA official was Jan Marie Fritz, ISA Vice President for 2006-10; she took part at the congress of Association of Turkish speaking countries in April 2008. Professor Michael Burawoy visited Kazakhstan in 2012; it was a landmark event for Kazakhstan sociology. The annual Sociology Forum is held in Astana, in 2014 ISA Vice President Sari Hanafi and in 2015 ISA EC member Elena Zdravomyslova delivered their speeches.

Finally as a result of these ISA visits and contacts we are going to host the Fourth ISA Conference of the Council of National Associations in May 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We are looking forward to the upcoming forum as a chance to move into the world of advanced sociology.




Seidumanov _Serik - portrait2x3Professor Serik Seidumanov is Vice-President of Kazakhstani Sociology Association, Vice-President of Turkic Sociology Association, and Member of the Kazakhstani Parliament (2012-2016). His main research is in the areas of language policy and the building of a multi–party system in Kazakhstan.


Shaukenova_Zarema-portrait2x3Professor Zarema Shaukenova is Director of the Institute of Philosophy and Political Sciences, Vice-Rector of the Kazakh National University. Her research interests include the sociology of religion and ethnic studies.



Konovalov_Sergey - portrait2x3Dr. Sergey Konovalov is working at the Presidential Office.  He has expertise in political sociology and mass social surveys.



Zabirova_Aigul - portrait2x3
Aigul Zabirova
is Professor of Sociology at the Eurasian National University. Her current research focuses on the socioeconomic situation of private households in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.





Banner Image:  Downtown Astana with Bayterek Tower, photo by Ken and Nyetta, licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0.


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