A Nation's Holy Land: Kazakhstan's Large-Scale National Project to Map Its Sacred Geography

Nikolay Tsyrempilov, Ulan Bigozhin, Batyrkhan Zhumabayev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on the project Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan, launched in 2017 in Kazakhstan as part of the nationwide program Ruqani Zhangyru (Modernization of Spirituality). The officially stated goal of the project is to cultivate a sense of patriotism in the country's residents related 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 is national territorialization, or recoding of the semantics of space, by selecting, codifying, and articulating some symbols and practices, while leveling and forgetting others. The analysis, which is based on expert interviews and official documents, shows that this postcolonial 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 Ruqani Zhangyru program.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-721
Number of pages18
JournalNationalities Papers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Kazakhstan
  • national territorialization
  • nationalism
  • sacred geography
  • territory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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