Kazakhstan: Reserving Judgment Is the First Step to Wisdom
If you have it all figured out, you don't
Here is a primer on the importance of reserving judgment:
Musician Vikram Ruzakhunov returns to Kyrgyzstan, says he made false statement to return home soon
Kyrgyz musician Vikram Ruzakhunov was brought back to Kyrgyzstan after he was detained in Kazakhstan.
“I have heard from cell mates that if I make false confession in front of a camera, I will be extradited to Bishkek,” Vikram told reporters in Bishkek explaining the video on which he confessed that he allegedly participated in rallies in Kazakhstan.
“I decided to make false statement. All confessions on the video are false. It was an easy way to get home soon. It worked,” the musucian said.
He said after detention he told law enforcers that he is a famous musician.
“I was not forced to confess. No tortures were used. The bruises on my face are the result of what happened in Samsy village during tough detention. Military used brutal force. They detained everyone – citizens of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and even Kazakhstan. 5 Kyrgyzstanis were in my cell together with me. They are not guilty, they will be released tomorrow,” Ruzakhunov said.
Earlier, Kazakh media spread a video in which a man says he arrived from Kyrgyzstan to participate in protests. He said he was allegedly promised 90,000 tenge ($200) for that. The detained man was recognized as famous pianist and jazz musician Vikram Ruzakhunov.
A Kirghiz jazz pianist arrested (with brutal force) for being a foreigner at the wrong place at the wrong time (you couldn’t buy food because ATMs were down so he had to leave his hotel and try to get out of the country) figured out he could get on TV if he gave a ridiculous confession. So he did.
The Kazakh regime, which was looking for just that sort of story, enthusiastically played it across TV waves alerting the Kirghiz government to his situation.
Clever guy. The Kazakh side — not so much.
They were so joyous to have evidence for their narrative that protest was orchestrated from abroad that they rushed off to air the pianist’s “confession” the moment he made it. They didn’t double-check his tale. They didn’t reserve judgment. And as a result, they were left to look stupid and worse.
Of course, the blunder with the jazz musician would not have mattered much if his was one of hundreds of such confessions. The Kazakh president claimed there were numerous foreign terrorists intermixed with the protesters. Since the Kazakh police was arresting foreigners with extreme prejudice, just for being outside their hotels, you might think they would have succeeded in nabbing hundreds, even thousands of these dangerous mercenaries. Apparently not so.
Were the protests, or at least their more violent second wave a foreign-organized, phenomenon? CSTO says yes. Of course, CSTO’s charter also says it can only intervene against foreign threats, so if it wasn’t a foreign-organized phenomenon then CSTO’s intervention was illegal.
Putin himself explained that the protest at least initially was very much a grassroots and domestic affair:
We know that the current threat to Kazakhstan’s statehood is not rooted in the spontaneous protests over fuel prices but in the fact that destructive internal and external forces made use of this situation. The people who protested over the situation on the fuel market and their goals are different from the people who took up arms to attack the state and their goals.
But of course, the CSTO-backed “shoot without warning” Kazakh crackdown that followed was directed against the “spontaneous” protesters, and the alleged terrorists alike. Now that normalcy has been restored is Putin going to call on the legitimate, spontaneous protesters to feel themselves safe to restore their legal and Constitutionally-guaranteed protest activities? To the contrary:
Everybody knows that by means of the internet and social media, attempts are still being made to involve our citizens in protests that will then be followed by terrorist attacks, as was clearly and precisely described by the President of Kazakhstan when he recalled the timeline of the events. This timeline is clear; we have all witnessed these developments.
Ah that darn social media, and those darn citizen protests. It appears that for Putin internet-organized citizen protest is just a giant attraction for “terrorists” to flock to and hide behind. One wonders in such conditions is there any mass demonstration at all that would meet with Putin’s approval? (It’s a rhetorical question. Mass assembly has been banned in Russia for two years on “pandemic” grounds. It has also been done through regional decrees so Putin’s hands stay clean.)
However, why was it really that protest in Kazakhstan acquired a violent dimension? Because some unspecified foreign entity had somehow fostered 20,000 sleeper terrorist bandits? Because ISIS terrorists trekked from the Af-Pak border or were taxied in by super-invisible CIA flights?
Is that really the extent of the possibilities?
We are now learning that the January 2021 breach of Congress was quite likely spearheaded by protected FBI informants. We know that similar manipulation of protests to make them more violent is far from unheard of in the post-Soviet space. For example, it was used by Yeltsin in 1993 against the parliament:
According to the plan, on the day of an immense demonstration in support of the White House’s occupiers, the police permitted one of its communication posts to be overrun by the protestors.
At the same time, the military authorities broadcast deceptive messages over an inactive frequency, while making it appear that the messages were actually a conversation between two high ranking Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) officers, who were discussing the imminent storming of the White House. The two officers discussed details of the “operation,” which they implied was an attack designed to clear the occupants out of the building. One of the officers said repeatedly, “No matter what, get the Chechen. Kill him if you have to.” The reference was to Ruslan Khasbulatov, the speaker of the Parliament, who was a Chechen and one of two key figures in the occupation (the other being former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi).
Within a few minutes of receiving this information, both Khasbulatov and Rutskoi emerged on the White House’s balcony and asked the crowd to go instead to the Ostankino TV station and capture it. The reflexive control operation had indeed worked.
As a result, Yeltsin now had a raison d’être to act against both Khasbulatov and Rutskoi based on the latter’s call for civil disobedience.
In fact, the Soviet Union (and later Russia) spent decades thinking about “reflexive control”, or the science of getting into the mind of your enemy and getting it to shoot itself in the foot. It was something the military did the most work on, but that trickled down to its various police services. Do we think that Kazakhstan has forgotten decades worth of Soviet manipulation theory and practice? Do we think the Kazakh FSB equivalent is above the tactics of the American FBI?
Actually, we have good reason to believe that Kazakh security forces are in fact not above such tactics. The Kazakh president Tokayed himself has accused the Chairman of the National Security Committee Karim Masimov of “treason,” while simultaneously there are allegations that the police was pulled back police at key times (eg from the airport 40 minutes before it would be overrun) and of protestors being supplied with firearms and encouragement by provocateurs.
Tokayev claims Masimov was fanning insurgency flames in an attempted coup, but for all we know Masimov was acting on Tokayev’s orders, or perhaps it was all Tokayev, and Masimov had nothing to do with it.
Whatever the details, there is some backing for the protest as having been purposefully radicalized by the (elements of the) government itself even in the official narrative. Except that in 99 cases out of 100 when that is done, it isn’t in the service of some elaborate 5D coup plot, but to secure a pretext for a violent crackdown against the protest movement.
Infiltrating protests and provocations by plain-clothed police to secure a pretext for a violent crackdown against demonstrators is policing 101 across the world. It shouldn’t be. It’s scandalous. But it is. It’s done every Tuesday in France against the yellow vests. Maybe Soros flew in ISIS from Pakistan, or maybe it was Tuesday in Kazakhstan.
Both of these are conjectures but that is exactly what I am saying. Reserving judgment is the first step to wisdom. Too many people have it all figured out the moment something happens. But that just means they’re going on hunch or wishful thinking, rather than sitting down and looking at the evidence from all angles. If the subject matter is something that you’re expert in and truly immersed in then maybe your hunch can even be valuable, but let’s be real here — who is really an expert on Kazakhstan? In the English language there probably are a few, but I don’t know any.
Lastly, the proposition that since protests were over the fuel price, they should have ended the moment the price was pushed back is preposterous. Of course, the protests weren’t over the price of LP gas. Most of the country doesn’t even drive on LPG. That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Once the people were out the protest became about everything. And it is only up to protestors to determine how long they want to stay at it. Except that it wasn’t only up to them, was it? Fortuitously for the government mysterious “terrorists” sent by an unspecified “foreign” entity floated in and started ruining the protests that the government was absolutely in-love with otherwise. Such a bummer. Of course, this “forced” the government to get out and indiscriminately bash the head of everyone, “spontaneous” protester and social-media terrorist alike. This being the government that is so liberal and progressive that it cut the internet the moment the protest went national (while it was still entirely peaceful), which also crashed card-payment systems and ATMs so that nobody in the country could access money or pay for groceries. But hey, as long as VKontakte was down! Price worth it!
And you’re telling me it’s somehow unreasonable and extremist to shoot at a government like that? You wouldn’t? Is CSTO a strictly no-refreshing-of-The-Tree-of-Liberty zone? Can’t be risking that Grand Chessboard.
Here’s another proposition: What if the provocateurs handing out firearms to protesters were Russian FSB/SVR? I am not remotely suggesting that they were. But I am asking you to imagine this scenario nonetheless. If they were Russians working to heat up the crisis for the Kazakh government until it had to ask for Russian help, then many of the same people who justified the CSTO crushing of the protest with a reference to its violent aspect would hail the revelation with “Bravo Putin! Masterful 5D chess!” In fact, too many people who claim to be working from moral considerations are really guided by perceived teams. Peaceful/violent protest, oppressive/liberal government. That stuff doesn’t matter. What team each of these is supposedly on is what determines sympathies.