ASTANA – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev revealed his reflections on the tragic events that unfolded in January 2022 in Kazakhstan and shed light on what he deemed was a multifaceted conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the country’s socio-economic stability. He said as a nation, Kazakhstan’s citizens collectively navigated through this crisis, stood their ground, and emerged even stronger.
“Qantar demonstrated the necessity of constructing a resilient and efficient system of state institutions that operate in accordance with the Constitution. United together, we overcame this crisis, stood firm, and emerged even stronger,” he said in his interview with Egemen Qazaqstan newspaper on Jan. 3.
“I have thought long and continue to ponder over these questions. In my view, the tragic events in January resulted from long-standing unresolved socio-economic problems and a general stagnation that evolved into the degradation of both the government and society. It was evident, as they say, to the naked eye,” said Tokayev.
The tragic January events, also dubbed Qantar (January in Kazakh) refer to the protests that broke out on Jan. 2, 2022, in western Kazakhstan’s Mangystau Region after a double spike in price for liquid petroleum gas, widely used in the region. The protests in Mangystau triggered a chain of reaction, spreading to other cities, including Almaty, Astana, Shymkent, Aktobe, and Atyrau, with demands extending beyond just the support of fellow citizens in Mangystau to political demands.
“After my election as President in 2019, a course was set towards the democratization of the political system, the liberalization of public life, and the de-monopolization of the economy,” he said. “I will be frank: this new course faced sharp opposition from influential figures who perceived it as a threat to the deeply rooted state of affairs in the country and their privileged status within the power structures.”
According to Tokayev, this group of high-ranking individuals, though not disclosing their names, wielded significant influence over law enforcement and criminal networks, choosing the extreme measure of orchestrating a violent seizure of power.
The President narrated a timeline of events, from peaceful protests escalating into extremist acts to the subsequent involvement of criminal gangs and coordinated attacks on government structures. He said the conspirators “exploited” peaceful protests.
“In the midst of chaos, armed bandits and terrorists joined in, coordinating attacks on government buildings, security forces, weapons stores, and the arsenals of law enforcement and military units simultaneously, following a unified command. This was not limited to Almaty; several regional centers were also affected,” said Tokayev, noting that over 3,000 weapons were seized, including rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers.
Tokayev reiterated the country was on the “verge of plunging into chaos.”
“The Ministry of Internal Affairs provided information about the preparation of various attacks on the Akorda [presidential residence], including using trucks. I was repeatedly advised to leave the residence, even to evacuate abroad. Still, I firmly disagreed and, in one of my televised addresses, stated that under any circumstances, I would remain at my post. For two weeks, I stayed in the official residence of the Akorda,” he explained.
Tokayev expressed concern over $3 billion worth of damage inflicted during the unrest, ranging from looted stores and burned vehicles to attacks on government buildings and police stations.
The President also discouraged speculative interpretations of the causes and consequences of the events, rejecting notions of a supposed popular uprising.
“I will be straightforward: discussions about a supposed popular uprising contribute to justifying and whitewashing criminal actions,” he said.