Kazakhisation: the formation of oil elites in late- and post-Soviet Kazakhstan

The declaration of an independent Kazakhstan in 1991 triggered a renewed rhetoric of national awakening and ‘post-colonial’ resistance against the industrial dominance and colonialism imposed from the European part of the Soviet Empire. This paper analyses the correlation between these transformations and the development of hydrocarbon resource industries along the Kazakhstani Caspian coast. While drawing attention to the continuities of Soviet and post-Soviet institutions in charge of international trade, technological exchange and imports of equipment, this paper explores the role of the emerging Kazakhstani elites in negotiations around the prospective exports of the natural resources from their country, how it impacted them, as well as Soviet and Post-Soviet economic planning. Initially, the decision to invest in the development of hydrocarbon reserves in the Northern and East Caspian Basins (such as the Tengiz oil field), was already reached in 1979. Following this decision, follow-up plans went in diverging directions at the all-union, republican and provincial levels, spurring ahead horizontal and vertical forms of competition amongst party, ministerial and other elites and state structures. In addition, international oil companies entered negotiations on the Tengiz oil field from the early 1980s onwards. Based on available sources from the former Soviet archives, statistics and a number of interviews, the paper explores rivalries around the ‘ownership’ and appropriation of the expected revenues during and after the disintegration of the USSR. Finally, the paper also touches upon the production of poetry related to Kazakh oil during the 1990s.