A Nation’s Holy Land: Kazakhstan’s large-scale national project to map its sacred geography

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Abstract

The article focuses on the project “Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan”
launched in 2017 in Kazakhstan as part of the nationwide program
“Rukhani zhangyru” (“Modernization of Spirituality”). The officially stated
goal of the project is to cultivate a sense of patriotism of the country's
residents to places and geographic sites that are important for the
historical memory of independent Kazakhstan. The authors assume that
the real goal of the project may be fundamental reterritorialization, or
recoding of the semantics of space by selecting, codifying and
articulating some symbols and practices and leveling and “forgetting”
others. The analysis which is based on a few expert interviews and
official documents shows that this post-colonial process fits into the
tendency toward ethnonationalization of Kazakhstan, in which discourse
on the civil nation continues to be reproduced at the official level while
real activity is more focused on reinforcing the idea of Kazakhstan as the
state of the Kazakh nation. The institutionalization of organizing and
recoding the sacred landscape involves a wide variety of groups and
actors. These factors may explain the success of the project in
comparison to other projects being implemented under the “Rukhani
Zhangyru” program.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNationalities Papers
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Mar 22 2021

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