The article reviews the recurrent cycles of wholesale modernization of Kazakh culture over the last century to argue the futility of policies based on the complete eradication of the previous cultural code. Putting the main focus on the sphere of education, particularly at university level, the authors compare the situation at the turn of the twentieth century, during the Early Soviet period, and after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The ruthless criticism of the traditional cleric culture by Muslim reformers (the Jadids), the subsequent assault on them as not modern and radical enough by Soviet educators, and the dismissive attitude to Soviet cultural and educational standards by government managers in modern Kazakhstan have had profound structural parallels. Their radicalism notwithstanding, these reforms were securing Kazakhstan’s role as a periphery of some external center of “true knowledge”, and thus its essentially colonial status. The logic of modernization understood as embracing some complete cultural sphere from elsewhere made any local knowledge (including national identity) synonymous to backwardness. This started a vicious circle: any successful intellectual had to refute any national cultural legacy, thus making national culture incompatible with modernity by definition. The authors discover the persistence of cultural practices behind the fiery rhetoric of all cultural revolutions in modern Kazakh history, which they call the “quiet nationalism of academic practices”.
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|Published - Dec 2016