Professor Mark Bassin’s book deals with Lev Gumilev, the seminal Russian historian, ethnographer and philosopher, who is quite popular in Russia. Gumilev’s popularity was especially strong in the last years of the Soviet regime and the early post-Soviet era, as Bassin makes clear.
In 2015, Kazakhstan celebrated 550 years of Kazakh statehood. The extraordinary interest in these events, both among Kazakh officials and some members of the international community, has a clear political message. It underscores Kazakhstan’s independence from Russia regardless of Kazakhstan’s entering the Eurasian Union in 2015. The celebration also underscores the fact that the borders of present-day Kazakhstan have historical roots and are not just a recent “gift” from Russia. Some Russians living in Kazakhstan, and even some ethnic Kazakhs, protested the 2015 interpretation of Kazakhstan history and the relationship it implies between Kazakhstan and Russia. Ironically, Moscow provided no help for these protestors, and actually helped Astana deal with the Russian Nationalists. The reason was simple: the rise of Russian Nationalism could create problems not just for Astana but also for Moscow.