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Accepted Paper:

Kazakhstan, a middle power in search for identity  
Olivier Arifon (Nice Cote Azur University)


Landlocked in the heart of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is involved in regional partnerships, even if the pressure to take a stand between Russia, China and the European Union is strong. This cocktail is the challenge of so-called middle power, as a country developing multi-factor diplomacy.

Since February 2022, the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s connectivity project, no longer pass through Russia. And Kazakhstan is at the centre of the EU-funded Asia-Europe Transport Road. This is one example where the economy, originally considered by Joseph Nye as a resource of hard power, becomes a factor of attractiveness and image for a country.

In the context of multilateralism, it is necessary to structure actions for a convergence between its interests and those of the partners rather than on an ideology. And beyond this community, by the public, which comes down to finding its place on the world map in the long term, when the country becomes known and better identified. Middle-power countries must balance their national interests, common international challenges and building alliances and coalitions.

The second axe of the identity building relies on Russia’s colonial past in Central Asian countries. The war is accelerating awareness of the social and political influences imposed by Russia and the Soviet Union. It takes on two dimensions: the colonial and post-colonial dimension of the Russian presence and the reflection on the founding elements of Kazakh culture and identity.

Movements of fragmentation, separation and reactivation between old and new political protagonists began and continue today. The 21st century inherits these complex paths, torn by often antagonistic visions and actors, to deal with the myths and narratives of nation states, between identity and politics in spaces with known, digitised boundaries.

A proactive diplomatic discourse, with the construction of an identity emerging from a colonial past, forms the dominant axis of our observations. Kazakhstan conducts its communication to promote these registers, and, in terms of culture or economy, the country aims to diversify its relations to stabilise its rentier economy and forge links with other regions of the world. Interviews and fieldwork in Brussels reveal that (by active participation to events by Kazakh embassy and the 4 other), a system is in place to help ‘put the country on the map’ and to engage with different audiences on social media.

Panel MED2
Dynamics of New Media: Challenges and Opportunities
  Session 1 Saturday 8 June, 2024, -