Appealing for outside help to quell protests that have rocked Kazakhstan this week, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev claimed his government was under attack by “terrorist” groups that had “received extensive training abroad.” In fact, ordinary Kazakhs have plenty reason of their own to be angry. Tokayev would be better off addressing that frustration than trying to violently suppress it.
The protests began in remote western Kazakhstan, after the lifting of gas subsidies on Jan. 1 caused prices to double. The region’s oil workers have long resented seeing their living standards stagnate despite the country’s natural riches. A host of wider grievances helped the unrest spread quickly: Rising inflation has eaten into pocketbooks and deepened already stark inequality. A wealthy elite is seen as siphoning off much of the country’s oil and mineral wealth. State services have languished, even as citizens have been allowed little say in their own governance.