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Culture & Identity of Kazakhstan

Introduction

The way of life in Kazakhstan is undergoing some growing pains as the people, their culture, traditions, and historic way of life are be questioned. The people have always lived a life based on nomadism and moving with the animals and seasons. However, the Soviet changed this and forced the people to settle the lands, shifting them from herders to farmers. Today nearly everyone is settled, but only about half the population is actually urbanized as the daily way of life in Kazakhstan is still based on the land and nature for a large number of people.

Although over half the people are urbanized, many of these people are ethnic Russians, who live a lifestyle similar to that of other Russians. City life is the norm for many of these people as they maintain regular working hours and jobs. Many Kazakhs have also adopted this way of life as work and school set a schedule for the people, essentially dictating the daily routine. For these people the work day tends to last about eight hours and schools often teach for a couple fewer hours per day.

Despite the settlement of the people and the changing way of life, the culture is still rooted in the land and over a quarter of the working population of Kazakhstan still works in the agricultural industries. For these people life and livelihood are heavily dependent on the seasons and weather. Daily schedules shift from season to season, but long hours are not uncommon during the warm summer months when days are longer.

In addition to the daily routine, the people still seem to see family and community as the center of their lives. In the past to survive everyone had to rely on others and this attitude is still present in Kazakhstan. Although years of distrust developed from Soviet rule, today the people are again turning to both family and neighbors for survival and company. The community is again becoming the center of the individual. As many towns and villages are quite small and isolated in the vast country reliance on those around one's self are again taking over.

Identity

The people of Kazakhstan tend to identify as Kazakh or as Russian, both of which are ethnic-based identities. The Kazakhs are struggling to define what it means to be Kazakh; prior to the Soviet takeover the Kazakhs were generally nomadic people who claimed Islam as their religion. Due to Soviet rule, the Kazakhs are no longer nomadic and now fewer people are devout Muslims, or practice at all. Because of this, the people cling to an ethnicity that is still trying to find or create a culture affiliated with it, a process that is slow-moving and makes it difficult to define what it means to be "Kazakh."

This page was last updated: October, 2012