There are no openly accessible reputable researches in Kazakhstan that could help to evaluate the attitude of the Russian-speaking population to Russia and its information policy. To fill this information gap, we have conducted an independent selective sociological survey in the regional centers of three North-Kazakhstan regions with predominantly Russian-speaking population – Kostanay, Petropavlovsk, Semey as well as the former Kazakhstan capital Almaty.
The reader can find the details of the survey in the full text of our research written in Russian, here we present only its main outcome.
The vast majority of the Russian-speaking Kazakhstan citizens said that, most often, they receive different kinds of information from the radio and TV (67% of the mentions), a little less frequently – from social networks (VKontakte, OK; 50% of the mentions), and the internet (news portals and online media; 46% of the mentions). Communication with relatives/friends via messengers received the least number of the mentions (Telegram, Viber; 22% of the mentions).
Across the age groups, the respondents of the middle and old age named the TV and the radio as their main information supplier most frequently. 84% of the most frequent mentions of the television belong to the group of 55-70 year-olds. This group is also "responsible" for the most frequent mentions of newspapers and magazines as the second most important information source.
For the middle-aged respondents (30-55 years of age), the mention of the TV and the radio as their primary information source is the most frequent one (69% of the mentions) as well as of the internet media and the internet in general (51% of the mentions) compared to the respondents of 55-70 years of age.
The most important result regarding the e-mail services is that the national servers were mentioned by a relatively small number of the respondents (about 3%) while Gmail and Mail.ru were mentioned by 60% of those who answered the question.
By our estimates, the Russians-speaking Kazakhstan citizens prefer the Russian-language mail services by default because of their features and the possibilities to integrate into the international social networks. Apart from that, to work with the national services in the .kz domain, one must obtain a special digital certificate that allows the secret service to watch the users. The possibility of wiretapping and traffic control also makes the use of the national mail services unattractive for the users.
The number of mentions of the internet-messengers (Viber, Signal, Telegram) is basically equal among all the age groups. VKontaket is more appealing to the younger audience as the information channel and, therefore, gets more mentions from this group (87% of the mentions). A similar tendency can be noticed regarding Instagram/Snapchat (65%). As for Odnoklassniki and Moy Mir@Mail.ru
, they are oriented towards the older audience.
Facebook does not seem to be very popular among the Russian-speaking Kazakhstan citizens perhaps due to the necessity of having enough digital devices and technologies (e-mail, telephone number) for the registration. As for the role of Vkontakte among the Russian-speaking Kazakhstan citizens, it turns out to be significant.
69% of the respondents watch the Russian news and entertainment media. The top consists of Pervyi Kanal, Russia 1, NTV and, to a lesser extent, REN TV, STS. The older generation prefers the news channels such as Pervyi Kanal, Rossia 1, Rossia 24, NTV. For the young people, the trend, in general, coincides with the first two groups (add the significant role of the TNT TV channel and different kinds of the entertainment internet-resources (Pikabu, MTV).
The Russian-speaking Kazakhstan citizens have a greater trust in the Russian media-sources. Here are the reasons they mention for trusting the Russian media.
- A higher level of journalism. "They give a better international news coverage", "They let us know what is happening in the whole world", "They are more serious", "They give precise information".
- Greater possibilities for a better information presentation. "What they show is believable", "The Kazakhstan media are not objective", "The Kazakhstan media misrepresent", "There is Kazakhstan propaganda", "They are more truthful", "They are freer in presenting the information".
-Infrastructure advantages for broadcasting. "I watch only those", 'It is interesting and the TV quality is better".
These are the main reasons for trusting the Kazakhstan media.
- The National identity and its support. "I am a citizen of Kazakhstan", "I am a citizen of the said republic", "I am a patriot", "I live here", "I live in this country", "I do not watch the Russian news", "This is my motherland", "This is our domestic production", "These are our media".
- The national distinctness of the media. "They are better informed about the situation in our country", "They are closer to us", "We need to know the news from Kazakhstan", "I trust our own, "The information is presented in the national language".
One of the "qualitative" ways to assess the impact of the news media on the audience is to evaluate the reception of the main media personas, i.e. to assess the knowledge of the main political figures (or lack thereof) by the audience, to subjectively assess a number of the international events (from Kazakhstan's point of view), etc. Regarding the Russian-speaking population of Kazakhstan, we had come up with a number of questions to determine the degree of the Russian media's influence on their opinions and consciousness:
- the knowledge of the Russian media-personas that are editors-in-chief of the news TV-channels (Kiselev), editors-in-chief of the internet-media (Simonyan), or professionals working in the talk-show field (Solovyev, Pozner);
- whose New Year speech do the Russian-speaking Kazakhs watch more, that of the Russian President or that of the Kazakhstan President;
- respondent's attitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to a number of significant events in the Russian history (i.e. annexation of Crimea);
- respondent's assessment of the degree of Russia's influence on the Kazakhstan policy.
Answering the question "Do you know who Vladimir Solovyev, Vladimir Pozner, Dmitry Kiselev, Margarita Simonyan are", 76% of the respondents said they knew who they were or had heard of these persons (either of all of them or some of them). Only 24% of the respondents said they had never heard these names. The results look quite logical since the mentioned media-persons express a multi-faceted view regarding Russia's internal and external issues at the leading federal TV-channels and Margarita Simonyan is connected to the high-profile scandals surrounding the US registration of Russia Today as a foreign agent.
Across the age groups, the young people show the tendency of being a little less familiar with the said persons (although this does not mean they are less susceptible to different kinds of the Russian propaganda). As for the older people, they do know these media-figures well.
The Russian-speaking Kazakhs prefer watching Kazakhstan President's New Year speech to a greater extent (53%); 35% prefer watching President Putin's New Year address. Few people watch both. Across the age groups, among the young people, there is a predictable tendency to watch the Kazakhstan President's speech only while older people do not forget about the Russian President as well. Note that out of all the respondents, 63.4% trust only Putin as the Russian political figure; about 32% display a neutral attitude, and only 2.7% display a negative attitude.
Only 41% of the respondents agree that Crimea and Sevastopol returned to Russia via a democratic referendum. A little more than 50% of the respondents said that some "historical" processes in Russia are part of the political processes of Russia only and have no bearing on the political processes in Kazakhstan. Only 8% of the respondents believe that there had been violations in the process of Crimea annexation. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of the respondents (94% out of N=451) noted that Kazakhstan's sovereignty would stay intact since Russia and Kazakhstan had a sustainable friendly relationship.
The last and perhaps most important question is this. Do the Russian-speaking Kazakhs understand the fact that Russia exudes a significant pressure on the political elite of Kazakhstan? In general, a bigger part of the population believes that Russian does not exert much influence on Kazakhstan. Note that, to a large extent, this point of view is expressed by the older generation.
We had conducted an additional data analysis that showed that the most frequently mentioned reason for having this opinion lies in expressing the national identity (the most frequently mentioned phrase is "We are independent" / "We are an independent state) + believing in the friendly relationships between Russia and Kazakhstan ("We are friends", "We are friendly", "We are on equal terms") + presenting President Nazarbayev as a powerful and free leader of the republic ("I think Nazarbayev does everything himself", "Nazarbayev can know it all like Putin", "Our President is an independent man", "He is the only leader").
To prove Russia's possible influence, the respondents used the following arguments:
- the geopolitical factors ("Geography matters", "Friendship has borders, too", "Geopolitics plays its part");
- the historical factors ("It is a historical fact", "The Kazakhs will fail without Russia, there is the Chinese influence", "I think the Russian authorities try to collaborate with Kazakhstan not to lose a neighboring state", "There is a cooperation between our countries, we depend on each other");
- the path-dependence model: "They are copying", "Kazakhstan does not have beneficial deals with Russia", "The resource base", "We are copying them").
As a result, the three groups had been formed among the respondents.
The first group consists of the young Russian-speaking Kazakhs who actively use the social networks and the main telecommunication technologies (messengers, etc.). These people have a high level of trust to the national media and they are more likely to watch, let us say, New Year speeches of Nazarbayev's only. They are neutral in their attitude to Putin and are not interested in the political processes in Russia in relation to Kazakhstan relying upon the idea of the tight friendship between the countries.
The second group consists of 30-55 year-olds who use the internet-media and the social networks as the primary information source and employ Moy Mir / Odnoklassniki and VKontakte as the main communication channel. These people are more likely to watch the Russian media and to trust them. They know the Russian media-personas (Solovyev, Pozner, Kiselev, and Simonyan) and display a positive attitude to Putin's figure. Finally, these people consider Crimea annexation as a natural and "right" historical fact and believe that the countries are connected by their friendship even though these people are likely to think that Russia exudes influence on the Kazakhstan political elite.
The third group consists of the representatives of the older generation of the "pro-Soviet" type. They prefer television, the radio and the direct communication with their relatives and friends.
Here are the main conclusions we had made based on the survey of the Russian-speaking Kazakhs in the regional centers of the three North Kazakhstan regions with primarily Russian-speaking population – Kostanay, Semey, and the former Kazakhstan capital Almaty.
The younger generation of the Russian-speaking Kazakhs turns out to be more "patriotic" and "supporting" of the Kazakhstan identity than the older one.
Having said that, the young people as well as the older generation do not lose the connection with Russia via watching the Russian news and entertainment channels. Pervyi Kanal and Rossia (VGTRK) are regarded as the priority suppliers of the news information by the Russian-speaking Kazakhs. The younger generation is interested in the entertainment channels and resources more than the older one.
The development of the information and telecommunication technologies in Kazakhstan has led to the two results. The positive result lies in the fact that the Russian-speaking Kazakhs have different "basic" sources of getting and exchanging information across different age groups. The young Kazakhs are more involved in communicating via the social networks; the middle generation prefers the news resources and the internet in general; the older generation remains faithful to the Soviet communication technologies – the radio and the television. The negative trend lies in the fact that the specifics of the national control over the internet activities leads to the Russian-speaking Kazakhs preferring to use the Russian or the international mail services for work or communication.
In regard to the trust, the Russian media are being supported by those Russian-speaking Kazakhs who are either not satisfied with the quality of the Kazakhstan media or believe the latter are largely focused on the political control over the information distribution and events presentation.
Nonetheless, the younger generation may be gradually "forgetting" the connection with the main Russian media personified by the most notable journalist figures such as Pozner, Solovyev, or Kiselev. In part, it may mean that, with time, the younger generation will be less susceptible to the Russian point of view in the media.
This can also be observed in the answers concerning the main political figures and events in Russia. The older generation, for instance, prefers watching Putin's New Year address separately or after Nazarbayev's speech. As for Crimea annexation, information on this event is considered important across all the age groups.
In conclusion, we must underscore that, in the course of the survey, the interviewers had encountered problems on a regular basis, for instance, there was a case when a part of the already completed surveys had been destroyed by the representatives of the local administration. We will give some quotes from those who was involved in conducting the surveys.
"The people of 55-70 years of age answered calmly. The people of 30-55 years of age often asked why we needed their phone number and gave it with caution. Several times, the respondents took away their questionnaires and destroyed them. Many were knocked off-balance by the questions about the Presidents".
"Quite a large part of the respondents answered in the same manner as if they were zombies. Answering certain questions, about the Presidents or Crimea, for instance, they said they did not care".
"Some people, having agreed to participate in the survey and making it to the questions about their attitude to Putin, refused to go on. The respondents were afraid it would compromise their safety".
"Three times I heard the questions – "Are you from the NSC?", Why are you questioning us, we are not spies".