Two Countries, Five Years: Islam in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan through the Lens of Public Opinion Surveys

In: Central Asian Affairs

Drawing on two waves of public opinion surveys conducted in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, we investigate the rise in religiosity and orthodoxy among Central Asian Muslims. We confirm that a religious revival is underway, with nearly 100 percent of Kazakhstani and Kyrgyzstani Muslims self-identifying as such in 2012—up from 80 percent in Kazakhstan in 2007. If we dig a bit deeper, however, we observe cross-national variations. Religious practice, as measured by daily prayer and weekly mosque attendance, is up in Kyrgyzstan, but has fallen in Kazakhstan. While the share of those who express preferences associated with religious orthodoxy has grown in both, this group has more than doubled in Kazakhstan. We attribute these differences to political context, both in terms of cross-national political variation and, within each country, variation based on regional differences.

  • 1

    Shirin Akiner“The Politicisation of Islam in Postsoviet Central Asia,” Religion, State, and Society 3, no. 2 (2003): 97–122.

  • 2

    Mohammad Karim“Globalization and Post-Soviet Revival of Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs25, no. 3 (2010): 439–448; International Crisis Group, “Is Radical Islam Inevitable in Central Asia?” (2003).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3

    Eric McGlinchey“Islamic Revivalism and State Failure in Kyrgyzstan,” Problems of Post-­Communism56, no. 3 (2009): 16–28.

  • 4

    Mariya Y. Omelicheva“Islam in Kazakhstan: A Survey of Contemporary Trends and Sources of Securitization,” Central Asian Survey30, no. 2 (2011): 243–256; Ghoncheh Tazmini, “The Islamic Revival in Central Asia: A Potent Force or a Misconception?” Central Asian Survey, 20, no. 1 (2001): 63–83.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5

    T. Jeremy Gunn“Shaping an Islamic Identity: Religion, Islamism, and the State in Central Asia,” Sociology of Religion64, no. 3 (2003): 389–410; Chris Hann and Mathijs Pelkmans, “Realigning Religion and Power in Central Asia: Islam, Nation-State and (Post)Socialism,” Europe-Asia Studies, 61, no. 9 (2009): 1517–41; Sebastien Peyrouse, “Islam in Central Asia: National Specificities and Post-Soviet Globalisation,” Religion, State and Society, 35, no. 3 (2007): 245–260; Galina M. Yemelianova, “Islam, National Identity, and Politics in Contemporary Kazakhstan,” Asian Ethnicity, 15, no. 3 (2016): 286–301.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6

    Akiner“The Politicisation of Islam in Postsoviet Central Asia”; Kathleen Collins and Erica Owen, “Islamic Religiosity and Regime Preferences: Explaining Support for Democracy and Political Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus,” Political Research Quarterly20, no. 10 (2012): 1–19; Emmanuel Karagiannis, “Political Islam and Social Movement Theory: The Case of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kyrgyzstan,” Religion, State, and Society, 33, no. 2 (2005): 137–150; Karim, “Globalization and Post-Soviet Revival of Islam”; Adeeb Khalid, Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia (Berkeley, ca: University of California Press, 2007); Hann and Pelkmans, “Realigning Religion and Power in Central Asia”; McGlinchey, “Islamic Revivalism and State Failure in Kyrgyzstan”; Russell Zanca, “Believing in God at Your Own Risk: Religion and Terrorism in Uzbekistan,” Religion, State, and Society, 33, no. 1 (2005): 71–82.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7

    Sergei Abashin“The Logic of Islamic Practice: a Religious Conflict in Central Asia,” Central Asian Survey25, no. 3 (2006): 267–286; Pawel Jessa, “Aq Jol Soul Healers: Religious Pluralism and a Contemporary Muslim Movement in Kazakhstan,” Central Asian Survey, 25, no. 3 (2006): 359–371; Farideh Heyat, “Re-Islamization in Kyrgyzstan: Gender, New Poverty and the Moral Dimension,” Central Asian Survey, 23, nos. 3–4 (2004): 275–287; Adeeb Khalid, “A Secular Islam: Nation, State, and Religion in Uzbekistan,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 35, no. 4 (2003): 573–598; Maria Elisabeth Louw, Everyday Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia (New York: Routledge, 2007); David W. Montgomery, “Namaz, Wishing Trees, and Vodka: The Diversity of Everyday Religious Life in Central Asia,” in Jeff Sahadeo and Russell Zanca (eds), Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 355–370; Sean R. Roberts, “Everyday Negotiations of Islam in Central Asia: Practicing Religion in the Uyghur Neighborhood of Zarya Vostoka in Almaty, Kazakhstan,” in Jeff Sahadeo and Russell Zanca (eds), Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 339–354; Yaacov Ro’i and Alon Wainer, “Muslim Identity and Islamic Practice in Post-Soviet Central Asia,” Central Asian Survey, 28, no. 3 (2007): 303–322; Manja Stephan-Emmrich and Abdullah Mirzoev, “The Manufacturing of Islamic Lifestyles in Tajikistan through the Prism of Dushanbe’s Bazaars,” Central Asian Survey, 35, no. 2 (2016): 157–177; Tazmini, “The Islamic Revival in Central Asia.”

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10

     E.g., Akiner“The Politicisation of Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia”; Hann and Pelkmans, “Realigning Religion and Power in Central Asia”; Scott Spehr and Nargis Kassanova, “Kazakhstan: Constructing Identity in a Post-Soviet Society,” Asian Ethnicity13, no. 2 (2012): 135–151; Yemelianova, “Islam, National Identity, and Politics in Contemporary Kazakhstan.”

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 30

    R’oi and Wainer“Muslim Identity and Islamic Practice,” 306.

  • 53

    Kelly McMannEconomic Autonomy and Democracy: Hybrid Regimes in Russia and Kyrgyzstan (New York: Cambridge University Press2006).

  • 54

    Azamat Junisbai“The Determinants of Economic System Legitimacy in Kazakhstan,” Europe-Asia Studies, 66, no. 8 (2014): 1234–52.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 55

    Jacob Hacker and Paul PiersonWinner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon and Schuster2010).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 483 324 22
Full Text Views 237 10 1
PDF Downloads 16 10 2