IAN BIRRELL investigates the fall of former Kazakhstan leader Nursultan Nazarbayev

The dictatorship was once well likened to riding a tiger, because there is such a high risk that it will be swallowed up in the saddle of power.

It was Sir Winston Churchill’s color analogy that explained why the despots stuck. History shows that they tend to leave office either in a coffin or overthrown by a violent coup.

In 2019, Nursultan Nazarbayev – the last living leader of the Soviet era in power – thought he had found a third way when he resigned after 30 years of rule in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, a nation the size of Western Europe and rich in valuable natural resources. resources.

He manually chose his friend Kassym-Jomart Tokajev as his successor – and then insisted on chairing the Security Council, retaining the title of leader of the nation, placing his daughter in a key political position, and stripping him of lifelong immunity from any prosecution.

But even this careful strategy of self-preservation has not worked well enough.

Because this vain 81-year-old strong man – who demanded admiration from 19 million people and saw the capital renamed in his honor – allegedly fled in panic after arousing anger this week over his long bad government and control over state assets.

In 2019, Nursultan Nazarbayev - the last living leader of the Soviet era in power - thought he had found a third way when, after 30 years of rule in the Central Asian republic, Kazakhstan resigned (pictured: Nazarbayev speaks during a televised speech, 19, 2019)

In 2019, Nursultan Nazarbayev – the last living leader of the Soviet era in power – thought he had found a third way when, after 30 years of rule in the Central Asian republic, Kazakhstan resigned (pictured: Nazarbayev speaks during a televised speech, 19, 2019)

January 5, 2022 in the Almaty region, Taldykorgan - protesters tear down a monument to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev

January 5, 2022 in the Almaty region, Taldykorgan – protesters tear down a monument to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who shot dead 14 people in a 2011 anti-government uprising in 2011 when Kazakh security forces put millions in their pockets with “public relations advice.”

Protests erupted across the nation, and crowds chanted “Old Man, Go Away” and overthrew his statue – an event with amazing symbolic power for Kazakhs, many of whom had known no other leader in their lifetime. However, the significance goes far beyond the collapse of Nazarbayev’s cult of personality. Or some fresh embarrassment for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who put millions in his pocket by providing “public relations advice” after Kazakh security forces shot dead 14 people in an anti-government uprising in 2011.

Blair also appeared in a video praising the leadership of his Kazakh payer to the fury of human rights groups.

As blood flows again in the streets – claiming that dozens of protesters have been killed – and Russian forces arrive, the impact of events in this predominantly Muslim nation, sandwiched between China and Russia, could extend far beyond its borders.

Kazakhstan threatens to become another source of tension between the Kremlin and the West as Vladimir Putin seeks to control the disruptive events or the flickering of democracy in neighboring countries.

Just look at what happened in Belarus and Ukraine – in two other former Soviet states, where demonstrators calling for reforms met with brutal reactions organized by Moscow.

And if the situation worsens, it could further increase energy prices – which are already rising sharply – with detrimental global consequences.

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of uranium and also a major exporter of oil, gas and coal.

It is also strategically important for Beijing – not least because it supplies more than 5 percent of Chinese gas.

Armed forces in Kazakhstan shot more protesters today as Almaty streets turned into a “war zone”, with Russian news agency protesters blaming three police officers. Pictured: A man stands in front of the mayor’s building, which was set on fire during protests caused by rising fuel prices in Almaty, January 6, 2022

Pictured: A car (top right) enters the Kazakh security forces in Aktobe, Kazakhstan

Pictured: A car (top right) enters the Kazakh security forces in Aktobe, Kazakhstan

The riots, which began over the weekend, were triggered by the abolition of price caps for liquefied petroleum gas, which is widely used to power cars. This has led to more than double the price in a country where gross domestic product per capita is less than £ 7,000.

Demonstrations, which reportedly began with dozens of people in a fighting city called Zhanaozen, spread rapidly as the snowball spread to wider protests of the population, which is full of corruption, inequality, low wages, rising prices and unemployment.

There is intense frustration behind them, fueled by a pandemic, of promises of change in a regime detached from ordinary people and without resistance in a country where the parasitic elite enjoyed mineral wealth.

Last year, British police lost a Supreme Court offer to force Nazarbayev’s daughter and grandson to detail how they found money to buy three £ 80 million properties in London (his son-in-law also paid a strangely high £ 15 million for Sunninghill). Park, the former marriage house of Prince Andrew, in 2007 – which was £ 3 million more than the asking price, despite being stuck in the market for five years).

When Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took office, he spoke of democratic reform, but did not achieve it. And this week he tried to avert protests in the freezing streets of Kazakhstan by lowering fuel prices and recalling his cabinet.

Protesters attend a rally for rising energy prices in Almaty on January 5, 2022

Protesters attend a rally for rising energy prices in Almaty on January 5, 2022

Pictured: The statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev – the self-proclaimed “Father of the Nation” – is torn down. Nazarbayev, 81, gave up his last role in overall security leadership in the country yesterday. Rumors suggest that he may have fled to China or Russia

However, the spark ignited and riots exploded across the country. The videos show police officers joining the protesters, waging street battles and attacking public buildings.

Tokaev therefore responded by interrupting the Internet, declaring a state of emergency, releasing its security scoundrels, labeling the demonstrators “terrorists” and resorting to the usual accusations of foreign agitators.

He then called on the help of a “peacekeeping force” – led by Russian paratroopers – from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-led alliance of six former Soviet states.

Kazakhstan is home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch base for Russian-manned space missions, and there is also a significant ethnic Russian minority – something Putin has used elsewhere to stir up tensions and subvert democracy. Few believe the Kremlin’s claim that its troops are here to “stabilize” the nation. Although the geopolitical consequences of the unrest in Kazakhstan are alarming and wide-ranging, we should not forget that the anxiety of the people trapped in the abominable, thieving regime is at heart.

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