Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Казахстан: О необходимости различать между умеренными и радикальными группами

By Kseniya Chechulina






A recent discussion event held in Kostanai in the north of Kazakstan focused on religious groups that are viewed as a danger to society or harmful to their members.

Islamic extremist groups and others in Kazakstan are often lumped together as “destructive totalitarian sects”, a term which some speakers at the event felt was unhelpful even if certain religious communities do recruit new members in predatory ways.

Yulia Denisenko heads a help centre for “victims of destructive sects” in Kostanai, providing support for people who want to leave a religious group. The centre works closely with government, and has been replicated in 16 other locations across Kazakstan since it was set up several years ago.

Yerkin Abil, professor of history at Kostanai’s teacher training institute, agreed with others that it is misleading for faith groups to conduct charitable activities and fail to disclose their identity to beneficiaries.

But he warned against stigmatising faith groups that had no record of exerting a harmful influence. Government persecution of members of such groups was liable to radicalise them rather than curb extremism, he said.

Another participant in the meeting, psychologist Yulia Kalyuzhnaya, noted how the term “Wahhabi” was used indiscriminately as a derogatory term for anyone viewed as an Islamic fundamentalist, as a security threat, or just as a Muslim who chooses not to practice the faith within state-sanctioned Islamic institutions.

This audio programme, in Russian, went out on Radio KN, a station in the Kostanai region of northern Kazakstan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If you would like to comment or ask a question about this story, please contact our Central Asia editorial team at