Images Of Post-Soviet Kazakhstan: A Cosmopolitan Space with Borderland Anxieties

Suchandana Chatterjee

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The study revolves round the relationship between space and transitional identity in Kazakhstan in the post-Soviet period. Emergent discourses about cosmopolitanism suggest multiple interactions in a transitional space. The cosmopolitanism of our times implies the dynamic responses of communities in transition. The diversities and heterogeneities instead of the specifics, the encounters, the networks, the challenges, the ways of living, the multitude of fates need to be considered. and this is what contemporary debate on cosmopolitanism is all about. The images are of the many and not of the one and only one. So, The picture is far bigger as there are infinite ways of being and belonging.

The images are of the many, and as suggested here, relate to the Kazakh conscience. The Kazakh conscience represents a repertoire of diverse opinions regarding Eurasianism, intellectuals’ reformist agenda, zhuz legacy, people’s histories. What stands out is the wider milieu of a cosmopolitan Almaty which is the home of a cultural elite or a citified Astana that has been showcased as the “appropriate site” of the Kazakhs’ steppe identity. The variety is also seen in the case of Uyghur neighbourhoods of Almaty, in the frontiers of Akmolinsk oblast reminiscent of Tsarist Russia’s Cossack military fortresses, in gulag memorials near Akmolinsk/Tselinograd/Astana and in the Caspian hub Atyrau that is iconised as the oil fountain of the present century.

Kazakh borderlands have a completely different profile—that of shared spaces. The Kazakhs’ attachment to their homeland is a constant—but the question is whether that territorial reality fits into other paradigms of identity and belonging. Such questions arise in the case of Mongolian Kazakhs and Uyghurs of Semirechie—in both cases the sentiment of place is strong compared to the overwhelming global experiences of the mainland Kazakhs.

Suchandana Chatterjee Suchandana Chatterjee is Honorary Associate, China Centre, University of Calcutta. Her areas of research include connected spaces, shared histories and shifting identities of Eurasia. As Fellow of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS), Kolkata, she has worked on projects related to Central Asia, Eurasia and Buddhism in Asia which have been published as books, book chapters, journal articles and edited volumes. At Maulana Azad Institute, she has been co-convener of conferences on Eurasia, Buddhism in Asia and Asian dynamics. She has represented the institute in several national and international conferences on Eurasia and Central Asia. In 2016, she has worked as researcher of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) on declassified files related to INA activities and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose that are available in Kolkata Police Museum and State Archives of Government of West Bengal. A student of history, she was awarded doctorate degree in 2002 by Department of Arts (History), University of Calcutta for her thesis on Emirate of Bukhara, 1868-1924: Encounters with Transition. She can be contacted at;


1. Competing Narratives
2. Relational Shifts: From Soviet to Post-Soviet Times
3. Development Dynamics: The Big Picture and the Little Picture
4. Myriad Concerns
5. Impressions



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