Mukhtar Senggirbay

Mukhtar Senggirbay is a Senior Lecturer at the Suleyman Demirel University (SDU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  He holds Ph.D. in Political Science from Al-Farabi University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, MSc in Global Conflict and Peace Processes from the University of Aberdeen, UK and MA in Journalism and Media management from Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, Tbilisi, Georgia. His major research topics include ethnic relations and conflicts in the former USSR; national, religious and ethnic identity in Central Asia; ethnic minorities, radicalization and resistance. He teaches political science, conflict studies and conflict reporting. Besides that, he provides policy analysis and consultations to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and other state and non-state actors in Kazakhstan.

He extensively writes on political and social issues in Kazakhstan and abroad. His monograph “Techniques to prevent and regulate ethnic conflicts” (in Kazakh) was published in 2015 in Almaty. Moreover, he is a co-author of the National Report on Youth of Kazakhstan published by the Ministry of Education of Kazakhstan (2016) and a “Practical Journalism” textbook printed by the MediaNet Journalism Center (2017). He is a contributor to the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Kazakh Service and an editor of the Q-Analytics project run by the Central Asian Program of the George Washington University, US.

Presented lecture: “Roots of religious radicalization in Central Asia”

The lecture will focus on the Central Asian region, which includes five Central Asian republics of the former Soviet  Union. We will start from the geographical, demographic, economic and cultural peculiarities of the region. Then we will focus on the historical and cultural preconditions for the radicalization in the region.

The magnitude, intensity and content of radicalism have been expanding across the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some people argue that Central Asia, historically part of the Islamic civilization, never in its history knew this type of violence and hatred, and the radical ideas are being imported into the region. While the other scholars argue, that radicalism is a local phenomenon, and based on  the social, political and economic circumstances of these countries. This lecture will weight two different positions on the root causes of radicalization in Central Asia and will look for exceptional reasons unique to this region that made it prone to radicalization.

  1. Radicalism as an imported idea. After the collapse of the USSR, the radical ideas infected the region in the very period of reorganizing all the state and social structures of the newly independent countries of Central Asia. The overall success of the foreign radical groups is explained by the tactics that they employed. Karagiannis points out that by 1980s mosques in Central Asia played a role of socializing hub, where people found answers to all their routine questions. Adapting their rhetoric to the mentality of local people, Wahhabists and other fundamentalists promoted the idea of “internal” or “mild” jihad, which was closer to the worldview of Central Asian residents.
  2. Radicalism as a homegrown phenomenon. The worsening social and economic situation twined by corruption and inequality has discredited the government and the religious clergy, leaving people alone with their problems. The parallel with the “lost generation of Muslims in Europe” could be used in case of Central Asia, where the young children of “communist parents” wanted more satisfaction of their spiritual needs. Moreover, independence has opened an opportunity for the formerly isolated and oppressed people look for a pure Islam and a meaning of life in Arab countries in order to “rehabilitate” their blurred ethnic identities.

Selective list of publications:

  • Sufi Ideology, Shamanist Rituals: How Religious Groups Became Popular in Kazakhstan? Central Asian and the Caucasus. Vol. 19, Issue 1, 2018. p. 77-83.
  • National Report “Youth of Kazakhstan”. Ministry of Education and Science of Kazakhstan. Astana, 2017. (Co-author)
  • Roots of Religious Radicalism in Central Asia. KazNU Bulletin. Philosophy series. Cultural science series. Political science series. №4 (58). 2016, p. 266-271.
  • Techniques to prevent and regulate ethnic conflicts. Almaty, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. 2015 (Monograph).
  • Predotvrascheniye destruktivnuh konfliktov v Kazakhstane: probelmy i protivorechiya [Preventing destructive conflicts in Kazakhstan: problems and contradictions]. Voprosy Politologii,.№ 2 (6). Moscow, 2012. p. 128-136 (co-author G. Nassimova).
  • Main approaches to the definition of ethnic conflicts. International Journal of Academic Research. Volume 3. №1. 2011. p. 889-891.

Recent presentations:

  • The history reinterpretation and nation-building in Kazakhstan: fluctuating official historiography and popular narratives. Third Annual Tartu Conference on Russian and East European Studies, 11–12 June 2018 (upcoming)
  • The place of traumatic Soviet legacy in the history (re)interpretation and nation-building processes in Kazakhstan. (Joint ESCAS-CESS Conference. Bishkek, 29 June – 3 July, 2017).
  • Socio-Psychological Conditions Influencing Ethno-Cultural Identity Shift of Kazakhstani Russians. (CESS Annual Conference. 5-9 October 2017. Seattle, US).