National Unity Doctrine

On the eve of the Day of Unity of Kazakhstan People on May 1, 2010, the authorities and civil society groups achieved consensus on the final version of the National Unity Doctrine, a project initiated by President Nazarbayev in October 2008 at the 14th Session of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan and designed to reflect the common ideals consolidating all citizens of Kazakhstan into a single nation, regardless of one’s ethnic heritage, religion, or social class. The first draft, designed by the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan and published in news media in November 2009, created much public interest and encouraged a wide debate on the ways to enhance social cohesion in the country of more than 140 ethnicities and 40 religious denominations.

A number of representatives of Kazakhstan’s strong-minded intellectuals, however, argued against some provision of the draft, claiming the document underestimated the role of the Kazakh language and ethnic culture in consolidating the nation. Responding to criticism, the government engaged in a direct dialog with those intellectuals to consider their proposals aimed at improving the initial draft. Later, some opposition parties and activists also put forward their suggestions for the concept of national policy. Thus, a working group on generalization of proposals and doctrine refinement was formed. After the final resolution of the Council of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan (APK), President Nursultan Nazarbayev has approved the Doctrine of National Unity. Deputy Chairman of the Assembly, Head of the working group on the doctrine refinement Yeraly Tugzhanov announced the news on April 29 press conference, presenting the doctrine in Astana. Some authors consider the doctrine to be one of the most successful projects accomplished as a joint effort of the civil society and authorities in Kazakhstan.

The Doctrine of National Unity, a blueprint for strengthening the inter-ethnic harmony of Kazakhstan for years to come in a country destined to maintain its multicultural character and consolidation around common values, has caused a significant debate, which ultimately made good for stimulating dialog between the government and civil society. The final text states the modern Kazakhstan is a logical continuation of a long tradition of statehood on this territory, which combines with a shared tragic and glorious history of all peoples living here and those who made the country their hone.

The strategic priority for the contemporary Kazakhstan is achieving a national unity is based upon acknowledging a common system of values and principles for all citizens of the country. The key ones are embodied is the three stated National Unity Principles: “One country, one destiny”, “Various origins, equal opportunities”, and “Development of a national spirit”. The first one refers to the conscious identification of every Kazakhstan citizen with the nation-state, one which is based upon embracing the idea of a common mission to create a better future for their children in this country. The second principle justifies the core value of a democratic society, i.e. equal opportunities to achieving a better life for each individual regardless of their heritage, religion, or social class. The last one considers the great role of the spiritual (cultural) component in shaping an inclusive national identity. This heavily centers on the idea of developing the Kazakh language as the priority for the national unity, with the strict provision of the legal right of all ethnic groups to safeguard and use their own languages.

The Doctrine provides that implementing its provisions aims at activating and mobilizing the country’s human and intellectual potential for the goals of a consistent development of Kazakhstan, improving life standards for each citizen, delivering the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the country’s Constitution. “Economic growth, social progress and democratic development for the country are only possible if accompanied by consolidation and maintaining the unity of our society”, the doctrine states in the conclusion.

Talking about the final text of the Doctrine, many commentators called it a highly relevant and adequate document, capable of encouraging better management of the country’s diversity and developing a stronger national identification for all citizens of the country. “Some critics of the Doctrine claimed it was redundant as there is the Constitution to do the job. I have always supported, however, the need to develop such a document. Constitution is a Law, but Doctrine is a Spirit. We need a spiritual consolidation of people of Kazakhstan around the principles that we all share and understand,” a prominent intellectual and philologist Murat Auezov said.

“The doctrine’s final version proved that we can reach agreements and understand each other. This wasn’t forced upon us, people discussed it and felt it through their hearts”, he said referring to the public debates around the draft.

“The words we have written there we need to support with real deeds and political will. Only then will it be implemented and help consolidate the nation and people… The Doctrine is an example of document that came into existence thanks to mutual understanding. When we all gathered at the round table, people with absolutely different credentials, we all, nevertheless, believed we could understand each other. And that’s what happened,” said Aydos Sarim, a journalist and politician, one of the members of the joint working group responsible for the final version.

“What we have achieved in maintaining interethnic friendship in Kazakhstan, we must fix through documents, provide a solid fundament for that. I believe we already have a spiritual unity in Kazakhstan. We shouldn’t, however, simply boast about our accomplishment. We must move further. And that is how we developed this doctrine,” Kazakh Senator Anatoliy Bashmakov stated.

“Everyone needs to grow up, including myself. I feel discomfort that I don’t know the Kazakh language. I am confident that for non-Kazakhs learning the state language should be a criterion of being a cultured person. I understand Kazakh but I cannot speak. The Doctrine lets us all feel we can learn Kazakh, and I see that our youth, our children understands that,” the ethnically Russian lawmaker added.

Now that the Doctrine is approved by the President, the Government has been tasked with adapting its provisions to the operating policy acts and other documents. “The Doctrine is not a declarative project, but has a real mechanism of implementation within the existing programs of the republic’s ministries and state agencies”, Yeraly Tugzhanov noted.