Flowers and Detentions: Kazakhstan's 31 Years of Independence.


Kazakhstan celebrates one of the main state holidays on December 16 – Independence Day.

31 years ago, on December 16, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic adopted the law on state sovereignty. Kazakhstan was the last union republic of the former USSR to declare its independence.

Kazakhstan is still a young country, but many reforms and transformations have taken place over the years. The implementation of a national currency, a capital has been built, a judicial system has been created and a bicameral parliament has been established.

Kazakhstan experienced severe economic shocks in the 90s, the protests in Mangystau, and Bloody January.

Zheltoksan – 1986

Kazkhstan's independence is closely intertwined with the largest protests in the entire former Soviet space – the December 1986 events in Almaty. People came to the now Independence Square to express their dissatisfaction.

According to the official version, the unrest began because of Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to replace the first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Dinmukhamed Kunaev, with Gennady Kolbin. Gennady at that time held the position of the first secretary of the Ulyanovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU.

The protestors demanded a local representative for the post of head of the republic.

Everything began with a demonstration on December 17, when the first groups of Kazakh youth came out demanding the cancellation of Kolbin's appointment. Moscow reacted with lightning speed and launched operation "Blizzard-1986".

The government immediately instructed the Interior Ministry to disperse the rally. Telephone communication was disconnected in the city.

Special force units from the Siberian military school and cadets from the local border school arrived to drive the students from the square. Fire trucks, sapper shovels, batons and service dogs were used. Mass riots then followed.

On the morning of December 18, special units from other cities of the country arrived in the city. The ousting of demonstrators from the square began in the evening. According to official data, two people were killed during the riots in Almaty, 11 vehicles were burned and 24 damaged, 39 buses and 33 taxi cars were destroyed, and 13 dormitories, five educational institutions, six trade enterprises and four administrative buildings were damaged.

Exactly five years after these events, Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare its independence. Many documents concerning Zheltoksan are in the archives of Moscow and Almaty. They are still not public.

Celebrating Independence

The holiday is celebrated annually in all cities of Kazakhstan. Before 2022, December 17 was also a national holiday, but starting this year, only December 16 is considered as such.

Almaty residents and guests of the city can still come to Republic Square and lay flowers at the Independence Monument. In honour of the December 1986 events, flowers are laid at the monument "Tauelsizdik tany" on December 17.

The opening of the winter sports season was held in the capital in honour of Independence Day. There were competitions in such sports as cross-country skiing, weight lifting, arm wrestling, tug of war and belt wrestling.

The Palace of Independence will organize an open pair dancing championship in the capital for all categories and ages from December 16 to 18.

National dance sports games will take place in the capital from December 16 to 19. The opening ceremony was at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation on December 17.

Against the backdrop of festive events detentions of participants of the Oyan, Qazaqstan! occurred on December 16.

Journalist Asem Zhapisheva reported that the police took activists Fariza Ospan, Bota Sharipzhan, Nagashybek Bekdair and Mira Ungarova from the house. Zhapisheva then reported on her own detention.

Later information surfaced about the detention of six more Oyanm Qazaqstan! members. They were taken to different Almaty police stations: Almaly, Auezov, Nauryzbay, Bostandyk and Medeu.

Original Author: Dilara Yahyarova

DISCLAIMER: The original article has been modified to fit the current timeline of events.