Surreal events, “TV zombies,” and social media in postsocialist Kazakhstan: Reflecting on violence in Russia’s sphere of influence

Ainur Begim


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which came on the heels of violent domestic protests in January 2022, elicited powerful reactions in postsocialist Kazakhstan. For the past thirty years Kazakhstan has been a close economic and political ally of Russia but in the aftermath of the invasion, the relations between the two countries are fragile. Kazakhstanis are split over the war in Ukraine along ethnic and generational lines. The pro-Russia camp is anxious about Kazakhstan moving away from Russia while Ukraine supporters are concerned about Kazakhstan’s territorial integrity and their future in Russia’s “sphere of influence.” While outside observers have focused on Russian TV broadcasting as the main means of Kremlin propaganda in Kazakhstan, ethnographic data suggests that it is but one of many tools of information warfare. Social media emerged as a powerful means for pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian supporters to exchange information, communicate with like-minded people, and filter out opposing views.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/722633