How the Kremlin Zombifies the Russian-Speaking Population of Kazakhstan
The issue of Russia's interference in the affairs of other countries with the aid of the modern information technologies (among other methods) is one of the most discussed topics in the international media space. Russia has started this practice not in 2014, after the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis and Maidan, but much earlier. However, for a long time, the West had been paying little attention to it since it was barely noticeable and ineffective.

Only after the Ukrainian events and the annexation of Crimea, they started talking about the Kremlin's use of the "soft power", the active propaganda, and the informational suppression of the adversary. Today, in our opinion, the informational and the propaganda resources that the Russian authorities have at their disposal are seriously exaggerated. However, there are the states that have been, are, and going to be exceptionally susceptible for the Kremlin propaganda.

One of such states is the Republic of Kazakhstan that appeared on the political map of the world after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This state, with its area of 2.725 mln square kilometers (9th place in the world in term of the territory), and the population of only 18.1 mln people, shares its borders with Russia and participates with Russia in several interstate unions including the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Kazakhstan is Russia's key military and political ally on the Eurasian continent and has the same space-air defense system.

From 1989, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been the leader of Kazakhstan, originally, as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party, then as President of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, and then as President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He has the title of "Leader of the Nation", his rights and authorities as the first head of the sovereign and independent state are expressly stipulated in the Constitution and the Special Constitutional Law on the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Leader of the Nation.

Kazakhstan is closely associated with Russia not only in terms of their common history, the world-longest interstate border (7548 kilometers), the similar political system and practices, the tight economic connections, the regular human contacts on all levels but also in terms of the language factor. At the time of gaining the independence, the Kazakhs were a minority in the country. Later, thanks to the emigration of about 4 mln people of the German, Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, Polish, and other ethnicities and to the immigration of one million Kazakhs (first, from Uzbekistan, Mongolia, and China) as well as the natural population increase, the Kazakhs became the dominant ethnic group.

Out of the 17.918 Kazakhstan citizens, as of the beginning of 2017, 12 mln considered themselves Kazakhs, 3.619 mln regarded themselves as Russians. In total, according to different estimates, people of over 100 ethnicities are living in Kazakhstan today. As a result, inter-ethnic marriages are frequent. With that, based on the data of the latest population census (2009), 84.8% of the Kazakhstan citizens could freely read Russian and write in Russian, 94.4% could understand spoken Russian. According to the country's legislature, the Kazakh language is the state language of Kazakhstan, and Russian is the language of the interethnic communication.

Thus, from the 19th century, when the process of the three Kazakh tribes' (zhus') entering the Russian Empire was finished, Kazakhstan has been a part of the Russian informational space.
The purpose of this research conducted by a team of the KazakhSTAN 2.0 expert portal (, was to determine the exact mechanisms of Russia's influence on the Russian-speaking population of Kazakhstan as well as to elicit the most susceptible groups of the population. Note that, talking about the Russian-speaking population of Kazakhstan, we mean all those who understand the Russian language regardless of their ethnicity.

Many years of experience in the Kazakhstan political journalism allow us to speak about the influence of the Russian media on the republic's citizens' system of axes. First of all, because, in spite of the impressively long list of the Kazakhstan TV-channels, printed media, and the internet resources, the Kazakhstan media-market is inferior to the Russian one in terms of its scale, possibilities, and the quality of the content. The level of freedom in the Russian media, in comparison to the censored Kazakhstan media, is important too. These are the resources Moscow uses to promote its information campaigns that posses a much more serious manipulation "hardware" than the local media.

Based on the information we have, no large-scale sociological research has been done on this subject in Kazakhstan. At least, there are none openly accessible ones. Potentially, one can allow for the existence of closed surveys conducted on the orders of the secret service but the expert community knows nothing about such works. Political sociology is practically non-existent in the country which constitutes an enormous difficulty in conducting a research of this kind.

Having encountered significant challenges while conducting our field work, we, nonetheless, have been able to complete the following research program.

1. A sample interview of respondents in the traditionally Russian-speaking regions – Kostanay, Petropavlovsk, Semey, and the former Kazakhstan's capital Almaty.

The survey was conducted among the Russian-speaking citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan living in the country at the time of the survey. The volume of the sampled population constituted 489 people. It was a quota sample, the quotas were controlled in terms of gander and age. The survey allowed us to elicit the important clusters of the respondents susceptible to the Russian information influence to different extents.

2. An interview with experts – specialists in political science, economists, and sociologists.

3. An interview with famous public figures – politicians, civic leaders, human rights activists, journalists with a vast media-work experience.

These two groups allowed us to conduct an in-depth analysis of the main ideological messages of the Russian media that cover the Russian-speaking audience in Kazakhstan. This is particularly important in view of the fact that the biggest part of the said audience represents the intermediate link in the information chain that passes it on to a wider audience via face-to-face interactions.

4. An interview with former and active government officials as well as state agencies' employees and secret service agencies' employees (insiders).

These interviews allowed us to elicit the "decision-making network" built into the general structure of the ideological apparatus of the Kazakhstan authorities. Despite the frequent changes and reshuffles in the state agencies, this system always regenerates because it rests upon the resource and organizational support from Russia. In total, 35 people have been surveyed. Some interviews were conducted under strict conditions of confidentiality and therefore are cited as anonymous.

The first question we asked was this. Does Akorda realize that the situation in Kazakhstan's information space presents a challenge? A quick internet search showed that they do.

Already in 2009, Karim Masimov, the Prime Minister of the time who is now in charge of the National Security Committee (NSC), speaking at the Digital Government Initiatives-2009 international conference, noted: "If we look at the sociological surveys, we will find that 5% of the Kazakhstan population lives in the Russian information space and not in Kazakhstan's".

The situation has not change much during last years. Regard this statement of Dauren Abayev (Minister of Information and Communications of the Republic of Kazakhstan) made at the beginning of November 2017 at the Mazhilis (Lower House) plenary meeting. Presenting the new information and communication law, he said: "About 1.5 mln people live outside the scope of the Kazakhstan information field or, more precisely, they cannot watch the Kazakhstan TV-channels and, in general, do not know what is happening in Kazakhstan". According to the Minister, the situation raises concerns about the country's informational safety.

The representatives of the Kazakhstan expert community we had interviewed were practically unanimous in their opinion that the Russian authorities do influence (directly and indirectly) the consciousness of many Kazakhstan citizens via the information resources. Here are some key quotes.

"We are watching how the world's development through the Russian-made lenses", says lawyer and human rights advocate Evgeniy Zhovtis.

"The effectiveness of the Russian propaganda is very high and the social consciousness of the Kazakhstan citizens, regarding the international political events, to a large extent, is being formed by the Russian media", says Kazakhstan publicist Sergey Duvanov.

"Russia understands very well that Kazakhstan is one of the key states where Russia must have the loyalty of the major part of the population. And it actively tries to obtain this loyalty via its media", says specialist in political science Dosym Satpayev.

"Kazakhstan has always been under Russia's influence. Under the pretext of friendship and cooperation, Russia gains the upper hand in every sphere. Russian historians, political science professionals, strategists regard Kazakhstan as a part of their country (China does too, for that matter) and insert this idea into their citizens' consciousness everywhere using the entire arsenal of the information resources", says Editor-In-Chief of the Zhas Alash newspaper Rysbek Sarsenbay.

"In general, Russia as a state is trying to influence the population of the neighboring countries especially the CSTO, Eurasian Economic Community (EEC), and EEU members. However, for Russia, this task is not the major one and occupies the third place after influencing the political management, state agencies, and ruling elites. Mainly, these tasks are implemented via the official, business, and private channels", believes former Vice-Minister of the Kazakhstan Government, civic leader Muratbek Ketebayev.

Nonetheless, he regards Russia's influence on the Kazakhstan citizens via the information space as a "very strong" one. He attributes it to the fact that "the republic, due to the linguistic, geopolitical, economic, and historical factors is a part of sphere of Russia's information influence".

Note that the survey participants were also unanimous in their assessment of the Russian authorities' goals regarding Kazakhstan.

"To make Kazakhstan a part of the so called Russian world" (political science specialist Aydos Sarym).

"To show Russia's upper hand is all spheres; Russian historians, political science specialists, strategists regard Kazakhstan as a part of their country" (journalist and editor Rysbek Sarsenbay).

"After the Ukrainian events, Russia has fully realized that having a channel for forming a positive social opinion is a very important element of the hybrid war" (Dosym Satpayev).

"Undoubtedly, the Russian authorities are trying to influence the Kazakhstan population. We have a long-length common border. The unfriendly relationship between our nations would seriously aggravate the situation along it. Apart from that, Russia is Kazakhstan's biggest trade partner. It would not be good for Russia to lose the Kazakhstan market because of the social resentment or phobia. And, finally, there is the political aspect. Russia is now in the world's bad graces. It is surrounded by the sanctions. It would be unwise to lose one of the few remaining partners", says former Vice-Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, entrepreneur and popular blogger Marat Tolibayev.

In his opinion, to influence the Kazakhstan population, the Russian authorities are using the proved instrument, the media, in particular, the television, radio and the internet. "Luckily, there is a good foundation for it. It is the knowledge of the Russian language by the biggest part of the Kazakhstan population. Also, the presence of the large Russian diaspora in Kazakhstan is playing the role of the bridge that brings Russia's interests into Kazakhstan".

"The more citizens whose consciousness has been formatted by the Russian propaganda Kazakhstan has, the more successful Russia will be in solving its geopolitical tasks and taking advantages out of this relationship", says famous Kazakhstan politician Vladimir Kozlov. "The story of the "peaceful" annexation of Crimea demonstrates Russia's goals whose realization requires a large concentration of the people with the Russian passports and the pro-Russian way of thinking at a certain select territory of a neighboring state", adds he.

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 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 [email protected], 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".

Since the topic of this research is the influence of the Russian information policy on the Russian-speaking population (regardless of the ethnicity), our colleagues in Kazakhstan (whose names we will not reveal for safety reasons) conducted an analysis of the situation in the two primarily Russian-speaking regions – the North-Kazakhstan region and the Pavlodar region with Petropavlovsk and Pavlodar being their regional capitals.

Originally, we planned to conduct the same analysis in the three other regions – Karaganda, West-Kazakhstan, and Kostanay, but the topic had turned out to be so sensitive that our local partners refused to cooperate. Nonetheless, even the two regional statistics give a sense of the real situation in the field of the information policy.

Here are some conclusions from the North Kazakhstan region survey.

"In the North Kazakhstan region that shares a border with Russia, the influence of the Russian information is rather significant. There is a number of reasons, the most important one being that Russia is close which ensures the tight connections with the region, the economic and the social ones. There is also the accessibility of the Russian media content whose quality is much higher than the quality of the regional media, as the respondents noted. The predominance of the Russian-speaking population in the region is a very important factor as well.

Among the Russian media popular in the North Kazakhstan region, TV-channels of all kinds predominate. It is via this "zombie box", as some activists call the television, that the Russian Federation can, if necessary, control the people's consciousness in the North Kazakhstan region making them perceive the situation according to the Russian presentation.

For instance, it happened during the height of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The people of the North Kazakhstan region followed the events closely watching the news on the Russian channels. Therefore, they were subject to the propaganda aimed not at them but at the Russian citizens. And this is not really Russia's doing, it has more to do with the people themselves who, living in the North border region, are more interested in what is going on at the neighbor's than in their own country. Or perhaps they chose not to follow politics at all consuming the entertainment and education content that the Russians produce with a much higher quality than the Kazakhstan media do. Only the people with the proactive approach to life tried to consider different points of view when studying the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

The issue of the presence of the Russian media in the North Kazakhstan region has to do with the accessibility of the content as well. For example, in Petropavlovsk and in the towns of the North Kazakhstan region, most people are connected to satellite dishes and the digital television. The people living in rural areas (and the rural areas constitute about 70% of the North Kazakhstan region) also receive the information via the television, primarily of the Russian-made variety.

They usually watch entertainment, education programs, films including those of the Soviet times. The news on the Russian channels are usually watched by men. The Russian analytical programs about politics are popular in the North Kazakhstan region, too. They attract the Kazakh with their passionate presentation and the presence of different opinions that ignite discussion, something that cannot be found on the Kazakhstan pro-government channels.

The Kazakhstan media executing the government contract are unofficially prohibited from raising urgent questions and uneasy subjects, otherwise, they may lose their financing. Ironically, as a result, they lose their target audience (the citizens of the country) instead. And this absurd system of the media financing has remained unchanged in Kazakhstan for years.

Among the Russian TV-channels, these are the most popular ones in the North Kazakhstan region – Rossia 24, Rossia 1, NTV, STS, TNT, ORT, Ren TV. These channels have quite a serious influence on the consciousness of the North Kazakhstan population. According to Marina Nistoliy, the Head of the North Kazakhstan Region Rehabilitation Civic Center, the rural population watches the Russian channels only (Russia 1, NTV, REN TV, ORT and many others) because the "price of the satellite dishes with the Russian channels is much more affordable".

Sergey Izmaylov, the Head of the Human Rights Civic Committee of the North Kazakhstan Region, agrees with this assessment. He says that, in the region, "practically every house, every window has the Russian satellite dishes that are much cheaper than the domestic ones". "For example, the price of the Russian Trikolor is lower than the that of the Kazakhstan OtauTV, and the Russian satellite dishes contain the Russian channels broadcasting in favor of Russia".

But not everyone is content with this state of affairs. "I do not watch the Russian channels at all, they are "zombifying" the population. I am Russian, but I think they should be blocked in Kazakhstan to free the information field for our own media", says First Secretary of the Communist Party Regional Committee Sergey Martemyanov. "Even the Russian-Ukrainian conflict was presented in the words of the Russian media, there was no analysis of the content".

Sergey Izmaylov believes that, since most Kazakhs speak Russian, watch the Russian channels, and have relatives living in Russia, the Kremlin has little difficulty to preserve its dominant position in the region, among other things, in the information field.

Indirectly, the fact that the North of Kazakhstan (along with the other post-Soviet countries) watches the KVN gameshow (a famous Russian comic show) including the one where they play for the regional governor's award testifies to the love of the Russian television. The local Chto? Gde? Kogda? gameshow (a famous Russian intellectual TV-show) has recently started in Petropavlovsk. They also ran the Tantsy show-project, analogous to the Russian one, in the city. Russian premiers are watched in cinemas and received with cheer. For example, the scandalous Matilda and children's animation film Fiksiki have recently sold out theaters.

On the New Year's Eve, many Northern Kazakhs, first, watch Nursultan Nazarbayev's address and, in three hours, that of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has to do with the fact that Russia is close and most Northern Kazakhs have relatives and friends living in the neighboring country.

The North Kazakhstan population watches the Kazakhstan channels, too, but does not consider them trustworthy. As a rule, we are talking about the regional channels' news – MTRK, Pervyi Severnyi, Kyzylzhar (OTRK), and the Khabar federal channel. They broadcast on how the people's welfare is increasing in Kazakhstan while the prices are dropping. The problem is that the reality the people encounter in the streets is quite different from that they see on TV, therefore, they do not have much trust in the local media. The federal channels - KTK, Eurasia, 7 Channel – are considered a little more trustworthy.

In the rural areas, the people still prefer local, regional, and federal newspapers. But, on this market, too, the Kazakhstan media must compete with the Russian one that have the popular AiF, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moya Semya. In Almaty and Astana, these newspapers are sold on franchise with the Kazakhstan content, however, Petropavlovsk is closer to Russia than the north and the south capitals of Kazakhstan, so it is much cheaper to bring the Russian press to the region. As a result, there is more Russian press on the newsstands and it is sold out faster than the Kazakhstan one.

Local newspapers are printed in the towns of the North Kazakhstan region, but they exist thanks to the government contract. The subscription is mandatory for state employees and receivers of different social benefits. Therefore, people trust them as much as they trust the local channels, the federal Khabar, and the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper.

As Marina Nistopiy points out, "the local population calls the local media "the local lie-tellers" because all of them are dependent on the government contract and must be subscribed to the state employees".

The people with the proactive civic position prefer searching for the information on the internet and not on the pro-government TV channels and newspapers. As for the internet, the Petropavlovsk population choses the more-or-less objective resources among the regional and federal news and analytical sites including the social networks. The government contract does not yet affect the regional and the federal internet-media, so it is still possible to find critical materials that present an objective outlook of the urban and rural life.

It is on the internet that the people learn the news, see the urgent social issues being raised and even participate in the materials' creations. They write to the editors or send photographs and videos on the topical events to the internet communities that, by the way, accumulate the most interesting internet content and the regional sites' news.

The people in Petropavlovsk also like such internet communities as Tipichnyi Petropavlovsk, skopetro, Druzhnyi Petropavlovsk – they are present in the Russian-speaking Facebook, the Russian social networks Odnoklassniki, Vkontakte as well as Instagram and the Russian Telegram. If a problem raised on the internet receives a negative reaction and a few angry comments, the authorities always join the discussion. As a result, oftentimes, after the materials have been published on the internet, the problems start getting solves, therefore, the level of the trust to such regional internet news channels is increasing.

However, there are few such venues in the region and they do not have much impact on the entire population. Usually, these projects exist thanks to the enthusiasm of a small number of people. Obviously, they cannot compete with the budgets of the major internet-portals whose news are broadcasted at different venues including the Yandex, Google, news aggregators.

Among the federal internet-portals, the North Kazakhs prefer,, Sputnik-Kazakhstan, Informburo, Tengrinews. Out of the Russian internet-resources,, TASS, MIR,, RIA-Novosti are popular as well as the websites of Moskovskiy Komsomolets, AiA, Russia Today, and Regnum.

The internet audience is younger and more active than those who read newspapers or watch TV. People before 40 watch the youtube channels more often than the regular TV and prefer, for instance, such video-content as 60 Minutes on Most Important (60 Minut o Samom Glavnom), Weekly News with Kuznetsov (Vesti Nedeli s Kuznetsovym), and others.

"Basically, I do not need our Kazakhstan news because they do not offer interesting content or presentation. I watch the local city news on the internet (VKontakte). I watch a lot of the Russian programs on youtube (Goblin News, Bad Comedian, This Is Khorosho and other programs)", says Bitaliy Lukashov, the Head of the Legion Historical Reconstruction Club. "The Kazakhstan news (on the subject of archeology, for example) I learn from Facebook and real-life communication with the people specializing in this field".

By the way, the Petropavlovsk citizens have long been observing yet another phenomenon – as soon as some changes in the pension or legal spheres, economy, education or healthcare systems happen in Russia, they are to be expected in Kazakhstan as well. Therefore, the Kazakhs are directly interested in following the news from Russia, they are a prediction of what to expect in the future.

Why does this phenomenon exist? As activist of the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan Oleg Andryuschenko says, the reason lies in the fact that "we have the same mentality".

One way or the other, the Russian media are actively present in the information field of the Northern Kazakhs. One has to say though that this does not concern the people with the proactive approach to life.

"It is a little over the top to call it "zombification", says Marina Nistoliy since today everyone can look up any kind of information on the internet and discuss an event on the social media. At the same time, there is no denying that the social opinion, with the help of the Russian media, is being formed in the direction that is advantageous to Russia. As an example, Nistoliy cites the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in which Russia, via the media, is presented as the savior of the Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

Oleg Andryuschenko notes that no one forces the Kazakhs to watch the Russian channels. "We watch the Russian television voluntarily. In itself, it is not an alarming fact. But the fact that the North of Kazakhstan is, in my opinion, more pro-Russian while the South is more pro-Ukrainian should raise concerns", says he.

At the same time, our respondents do not deny the fact that the constant presence in the Russian information field makes many Petropavlovsk citizens support the Russian position regarding Crimea. Although the perception of the conflict is not one-sided there.

For example, the Northern Kazakhs with the proactive approach to life who receive the information not just from the Russian media know that not everything in Crimea is as bright and shiny as the media would have you believe. But those Northern Kazakhs who support Putin are happy for the Crimean citizens since they are absolutely certain their lives have become much better in the Russian Federation. And those who believe the Crimean citizens are the lucky ones are the majority.

With that, few people in Petropavlovsk believe that Russia was saving the Russians in Crimea. Many Northern Kazakhs think it was a cover for solving a different task.

And, by the way, the Northern Kazakhs respect Russian President Vladimir Putin for the way he executes his political will. He is quite popular in the region, people even send videos about Putin to each other on WhatsApp. Although, in some respects, they do not approve of Putin's aggressiveness since the population of the North Kazakhstan is used to living in peace with the former USSR republics. We are talking, of course, about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Not only the Russians, the Kazakhs, the Tatars, but the people of many other ethnicities live in Petropavlovsk peacefully. The relationships between them are quite warm, there is no ethnic segregation, therefore, mixed marriages are frequent in the region. Many may have a Russian first name, but a Kazakh last name and the Kazakh appearance (and the other way around). Everything is so intertwined in the region that the people of different ethnicities have long been celebrating the Orthodox Christian and the Muslim holidays at one dinner table.

The acting Russian President is considered better than the former head of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev and former presidents of Russia Boris Eltsin and Dmitry Medvedev. With Putin in power, the position of Russia and its role in the international sphere have changed, the domestic horrors of the 1990s are gone. Many Russians sincerely respect Vladimir Putin, and the North Kazakhs have learned this not from the Russian media but from Russians themselves (their friends and relatives), therefore, they believe it.

Vladimir Putin, however, as the North Kazakhstan citizens believe, has not solved two major problems – the corruption and the "Russian question", i.e. the citizenship for Russians. In Petropavlovsk, those who desire to emigrate to Russia feel it clearly and believe that the Russian President is doing it on purpose – it is advantageous to him that many Russians live in Kazakhstan since it allows him to influence the Kazakhstan authorities.

Note that the people with the proactive approach to life do not even consider a possibility of Russia's meddling in the Kazakhstan affairs. The simple folks in the North Kazakhstan region do not see any threat from Russia, too, since today the countries have friendly relationships based on the economic partnership. Few people in the region take time to think that the relationships between Russia and Ukraine, up until recently, had been even friendlier than Russia's relationships with Kazakhstan today.

In general, the people in the North Kazakhstan region rather like Russia and are not afraid or it since their children go to the Russian universities and their friends and relatives live there. Russian-made goods are sold in the regional stores and are in demand.

Apart from that, a part of the Petropavlovsk railroad is Russian. A railway station clock shows the Moscow time, it is also indicated on the tickets. No one finds it surprising. Working at the Petropavlovsk railroad is considered a privilege, it is one of the local economic mainstays where the employees receive decent salaries tied to the ruble exchange rate and are given solid employment benefits. Earlier, the Russian railroad owned many Petropavlovsk social sphere objects – hospitals, stadiums, preventive clinic, kindergartens. All of them were considered the best until they became a part of the local budget.

Thus, if the occasion arises, Russia will not have to make some special efforts to influence the people of the North Kazakhstan region since most of them already love the country and President Putin.

Here are some quotes from the Pavlodar region survey.

"In the winter and spring of 2014, when the tragic events connected to the power change in Kiev, the military conflict in Donbass, and the annexation of Crimea took place in Ukraine, the people in Kazakhstan noticed how quickly the Russian media rhetoric had changed. The press and the television of the neighboring state that had not been meticulously correct and objective even before abandoned all scruples".

In the Pavlodar region, as well as perhaps in many Russia-bordering Kazakhstan regions, the influence of the Northern neighbor is traditionally high. After the fall of the USSR, when the economic and political ties were destroyed, when the internal administrative borders suddenly became the state ones, when the customs, the countries' own currencies, and other things were established, the information space continued to remain united by inertia. In the first half of the 1990s, the familiar Russian channels were still broadcasting in Kazakhstan, the Russian newspapers were still printed and sold there. And the situation had remained unchanged for quite some time.

At the end of the 1990s – the beginning of the 2000s, a certain division of the influence spheres was formed – the Russian TV-channels and newspapers reported on the domestic Russian and the international events while the Kazakhstan issues were left to their affiliated structures. And since both regimes, Nazarbayev's and Putin's, were trying to solve similar problems (Putin was building his vertical and fought the opposition while Nazarbayev, too, was monopolizing the power by destroying the opposition and dissenting views), the rather strong presence of the Russian media in the country was even helping the Kazakhstan President to a certain extent.

The steam gaining Russian propaganda, to some extent, distracted the Kazakhs from their internal problems. A used to the Russian media North Kazakhstan citizen, receiving information on the orange revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine and some horrors in the Baltics, understood that, while these countries had their problems, everything was fine in Kazakhstan. Simply because the Russian news programs said nothing about the Kazakhstan problems. And prior to the "Russian spring" of 2014, no one thought that the Kazakhstan authorities can have any problems with the Russian media.

Speaking of the current influence of the Russian media on the Kazakhs consciousness, we must admit that they have gained their popularity thanks to their competitive advantages. The Russian media had not always been propagandistic. In the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, they were much more professional, free, and diverse.

The Kazakhstan administration is also partially responsible for the fact that the Kazakh consumer chooses the Russian information and entertainment content because the Khabar and Kazakhstanskaya Pravda have always been forced fed to the Kazakhs while the Russian media have not. So, they became an alternative to the official media. And the citizens of Pavlodar, Ekibastuz, and Aksu all started to subscribe for cable television (at the beginning of the 2000s, there already were no freely accessible Russian channels). The citizens of the rural areas installed satellite dishes. Therefore, this was the consumer's free choice.

In the years 2000 – 2009, even considering the movement of Putin's political course in the direction of authoritarianism and the freedom of speech restriction, the Russian media still kept an appearance of the discussion (Nemtsov, Gozman, Yavlinsky, Novodvorskaya were invited to participate in the TV-programs) which would never happen in the Kazakhstan media. Unfortunately, during the Medvedev time, even this appearance of democracy and the freedom of speech started to disappear from the Russian media. And, during Putin's second term as the President, the Russian media had become a part of the propaganda machine and started acting aggressively towards any kind of dissidence.

The Ukrainian events, the extreme aggressiveness and the one-sidedness of the information coverage of the international policy by the Russian media have put many Kazakhs on alert. The people started to see the abnormality of what was going on, and many people began to realize the dangers of the "zombie box". Nonetheless, many people continue, one way or the other, to support the horrors and the images force fed by the Kremlin. We are not only talking about the Russian-speaking consumers of the Russian media content, Putin has many admirers among the Kazakhs as well.

"There are two worlds in Kazakhstan today. One is the Russian-speaking world that watches and reads the Russian media. The other is the Kazakh-speaking world that reads the local newspapers. It jeopardizes out unity", believes Arman Kani. "We are not united in our assessment of the Ukrainian events, either. The Kremlin propaganda has bad influence on our domestic life".

Representative of the government mass-media Talgat Karimov (first and last names changed on his request) believes that the Russian information influence on the consciousness of the Kazakh citizens may threaten the Kazakhstan interests.

"The list of the Kazakhstan organizations that have received financing from Russkiy Mir consists of 50 titles. From time to time, the Russian government media broadcast the speeches of the politicians who put in question Kazakhstan's sovereignty. To exert influence, they use all the available communication channels – the Russian diaspora, the social networks, the Russian Orthodox Church, etc.", says Talgat Karimov. "To achieve their goals, the Russian media have no scruples in choosing their methods. They have the entire propaganda package at their disposal – appealing to patriotism, religious feelings, historical past, threats, etc.".

In Karimov's opinion, Kazakhstan has already got serious problems in the form of the so called "zombification" of the population. The people in general share the anti-American and anti-Western views propagated by the Russian media. Many Kazakhstan regional media, for instance, the Gorodskaya Nedelya Pavlodar newspaper, in all its issues, publishes the anti-Ukrainian, anti-Western materials from the Russian newspapers. At the same time, the Kazakhstan media employ many journalists who support the actions of the Russian government even if they go against the national interests.

Talgat Karimov knows about the instances of the direct influence of the Russian citizens on the Kazakhstan media content. Case in point – a Russian Alexander Zamyslov "who exerted control over the editorial and personnel policies of the Pervyi Kanal Eurasia TV-channel".

Having completed the analysis of the expert opinions and the surveys, we determined the three directions of the Russian information influence on Kazakhstan, its population, the government employees, the media, the society, and individual citizens.

The first direction operates with the Russian information resources – TV-channels, radio stations, printed media, and the internet portals broadcasting not only for Kazakhstan but for the entire post-Soviet space and beyond. It also employs the so called "troll factories" that perform auxiliary functions and are used in cases of emergency as an operative support. Apart from that, the messages broadcasted on television are supported and explained in the films and the books aimed at the mass-reader and published under the control of the agencies affiliated with the President Apparatus and acting on the Russian government orders.

The second direction employs the partner resources – the de jure Russian media that have the local branches (the editorial offices are located in Kazakhstan, but de-facto controlled by Moscow) or the Kazakhstan media-resources that employ Russian consultants.

The third direction employs the "agents of influence", i.e. the Kazakhstan officials of different levels, civic activists, proactive citizens who share the Kremlin views on the trajectory of the neighboring countries' development but work outside of the framework of the official channels and on their own initiative.

As a result, we have reached the conclusion that, despite the development of the social networks and the internet mass-media, the television continues to be the leader in terms of its influence on the Kazakhstan society. "The sociological surveys regularly show that the Kazakhstan citizens prefer the Russian TV-channels", - says Russian expert Andrey Medvedev. "Thanks to the satellite dishes and the cable TV-systems, more than 250 foreign TV-channels are popular in Kazakhstan today and, among them, the Russian ones are the first on the list in terms of their popularity".

Unfortunately, it does not seem feasible to quantitatively estimate the audience of the Russian. According to the specialists of one of Kazakhstan's research companies, they have never been a part of the official broadcasting, they are a part of the cable networks. Up to 2013, advertisement had been sold to them, so the estimates of the size of their audience had regularly been calculated. After 2013, when it became prohibited to place the Kazakhstan ads on the Russian TV-channels, the calculations stopped. As for the cable networks and satellites whose packages include the Russian TV-channels, according to the experts, their media outreach constitutes more than 40% of the country's population, the satellite dish media outreach constituted from 5% to 8%.

The TNS Central Asia (Gallop Media Asia) data for the year 2013 when the cable television was not yet a part of audience preferences research show that most regions of the North Kazakhstan, already at that time, had access to the cable TV. After four years, we can safely speak about an even greater outreach. As for the satellite systems, according to the estimates of the Kazakhstan authorities, about 1.5 mln of the Kazakhstan citizens are living in the "information offshore" today using satellite dishes that do not broadcast the Kazakh channels.

Based on the interviews conducted in Kazakhstan with the advertising market experts, we can say that the audience of the Russian TV-channels present in Kazakhstan is more sophisticated than the audience of the Kazakh TV-channels since the former offer higher quality programs. From the information war standpoint, it means that each viewer of a Russian TV-channel can become a re-translator of the Russian information messages in their environment, in other words, an agent of influence.

The fact that the quality of the remaining channels does not satisfy the viewer can be seen from the statistics presented in the TNS Central Asia (Gallop Media Asia) 2017 research. The shrinking of the audience had affected all the major channels with the exception of the MIR TV-channel created to promote the ideas of the union state based on the 1992 CIS intergovernmental agreement. This is an indirect but very alarming sign for the Kazakhstan authorities. According to the 2017 data, 61% of the respondents can watch and understand the Kazakh-language TV-programs but only 41% of them use this language at home for communication purposes. This means that, at any given moment, these people may switch to a Russian-language information channel if the quality of the broadcasting seizes to satisfy them.

The thesis that the Kazakhstan television is subpar to the Russian one is also indirectly confirmed by the decreasing number of the local television advertisers amid the general growth of the domestic advertising market. For instance, the total volume of advertising on TV, radio, press, and outdoors, for the first half of 2017, grew by 11.6% compared to the same period of 2016.

Undoubtedly, Moscow is cleverly using the habit of the post-Soviet citizens (especially those of an older age) to watch "the Moscow news" that, even in the Soviet times, were considered more trustworthy than the local ones.

"The Russian-speaking audience has a very high level of trust to the Russian TV-channels" (publicist Sergey Duvanov).

"The Russian-speaking population trusts the Russian media 99% more" (civic activist Dos Kushim).

"Since the Soviet times, the Russian media have been the main source of information for the people of the middle and the older generation" (human rights activist Evgeniy Zhovtis).

Evgeniy Zhovtis also believes that the Russian television "clearly possesses a higher quality than the Kazakhstan television in terms of the visuals and a number of other features". Not surprisingly, the majority of the Russian-speaking audience prefers the Russian channels. Practically all the respondents agree on this fact.

"The Kazakhstan internet-content can not compete in principle" (journalist and editor Rysbek Sarsenbay).

"Regarding the TV-channels, I can say with certainty that the Russian ones are much more popular than the Kazakh ones. The problem is that the local TV-channels are not competitive compared to the Russian ones. If the happy life shown on the local channels has clearly nothing to do with the real state of events, then to check whether the Russian channels are telling the truth, is much harder" (journalist Natalia Sadykova).

"Kazakhstan television has nothing to offer, therefore, the Kazakhstan citizens satisfy their "information hunger" by cabling up or hooking into a satellite antenna. With the cable and satellite television, most Kazakhs, eventually, stop watching the national TV-broadcasting. The older generation that is used to receiving the daily news watch the Russian news and, de-facto, live in the realm of the neighboring country. The middle-age viewer prefers the Russian entertainment programs and TV-series while remaining either a passive or an active viewer of the news, analytical programs, and shows. As a result, the Kazakh viewer knows the Russian television better than he does his own and, therefore, considers the former more trustworthy" (a journalist with 20 years of the Kazakh media experience).

"It is the Russian television and the internet resources that are still more popular in Kazakhstan. First of all, it has to do with the quality of the product. Unfortunately, the Kazakh television is still unable to offer a product capable of competing with the Russian one. The Kazakh television is the Russian television's stern wake, and notably so. The news segment of the Kazakh media cannot compete with the Russian news in term of its speed and outreach if we are talking about the international news; the local Kazakh news are the bowdlerized product of self-censorship. The obvious political problems and protestation acts are being hushed up. If, before, their mentions had been eliminated by the editors, then, now, the journalists no longer present such materials not wishing to see their work killed. The political analysis of the Kazakh media is a wrapper without a candy inside since it is limited by the strict framework of the propaganda guidelines that have little to do with the actual situation in the country. The Russian media look preferable even under the same conditions of serving the propaganda purposes because, being more professional, the Russian propaganda aims not to hush anything up but to discredit the opposition figures and events. This creates a much more preferable, "watchable", "whirlwind information field" (oppositional politician Vladimir Kozlov).

Here are the responses to the question which TV-channels in particular are acting as the Kremlin's "agents of influence".

"There is RT, there is Sputnik that are not simply broadcasting in Kazakhstan but working inside the country offering the content, among other things, in the Kazakh language. Therefore, they understand that, to effectively influence our society, the use of the Russian language alone is no longer enough, they must offer content in the Kazakh language. There is the state Kazakh Pervyi Kanal Eurasia that often takes the Russian content and broadcasts it in Kazakhstan" (political science specialist Aydos Sarym).

"Among the Kazakh surrogate media products, Pervyi Kanal Eurasia is the one to promote the Russian ideas. This is a classical version of the hybrid channel that officially works as a Kazakh media, but the content it offers is Russian. Talking about the purely Russian channels, there is Rossia 24, ORT, NTV, and REN TV" (political science specialist Dosym Satpayev).

"Once they asked the Kazakhs what channel they watched on the New Year's Eve and 80-90% said it was Pervyi. It testifies to the fact that the Russian channels are the one dominating the Kazakhstan information field" (publicist Sergey Duvanov).

"The Kazakhstan population watches the Russian central television, the Russian programs are broadcasted from everywhere if not the press irons. I travel a lot around the country and see that the hotels broadcast either Rossia 24 or Pervyi Kanal in their lobbies or restaurants" (human rights activist Evgeniy Zhovtis).

The representatives of the media community agree with the experts. In terms of the quantity of the mentions, Pervyi Kanal Eurasia is the winner. All the respondents have mentioned it.

Ranging the tools employed by Russia to exert influence on Kazakhstan, the experts place the television first, the digital media (newspapers, information agencies, analytical centers' websites) second, and the social networks are given the third place.

"During these years, Russia has perfected very effective methods of the hybrid war where all the media and the social networks are used as tools", says political science specialist Dosym Satpayev.

In his turn, politician Amirzhan Kosanov believes that "the pro-Russian trend exists in almost all the Kazakhstan media".

The social networks (including VKontakte, Odnoklassniki) also exert a serious influence, our experts believe. Political science specialist Dosym Satpayev cites the scandalous address of blogger Akexey Bessonov calling for Russia to invade Kazakhstan that received a stormy reaction. "The social networks can distort any information and repeat it in a desired direction", says Satpayev.

Finally, there is the social network trolling. The fact that the Russian "troll factories" work with the US and European audiences has already been proven. And, if necessary, these "factories" can join in the work with the population of the post-Soviet space as well. It is particularly noticeable in the Russian-speaking segment of Facebook, for instance, in the commentaries to publicist Sergey Duvanov's entries. Here, by the way, one can observe an unusual trend noted by Aydos Sarym. "If, up until recently, the Russians stayed away from commenting and discussing the matters in the Kazakh language, then today, I can tell you, it is already happening. In Europe, they say it is pretty clear that Russia is meddling in the internal affairs via these kinds of tools and we must take this into consideration", says he.

"The Ukrainian and the Western experts had on several occasions exposed the shameless "fakes" shown on the Russian TV-channels whose purpose was to create the short and middle-term shock effects supporting the statements of the Russian officials", says Vladimir Kozlov. "But the audience of the Russian channels and the newspapers in Kazakhstan is huge. The "fakes", once presented in these media, are never retracted. The retraction happens on the social networks where, due to the people's traditional inertia and informational infantility, only a miniscule part of the TV and newspapers consumers can be found. Therefore, in the consciousness of the vast majority of those who "consumes" the fake, it remains "the undisputed truth". With all the consequences in terms of forming the mass social consciousness", says he.

The experts believe that the topics for whose discussion the fake information is used most frequently include the annexation of Crimea, the military actions in Donetsk and Lugansk, the sanctions against Russia, the war in Syria.

In terms of the tools that are being used, the experts name creating an image of the enemy personified by the West and the bashing of the democratic values.

"The most effective method includes creating an image of the enemy personified by the USA and the entire Western world. The substitution of the free democratic order with the non-significant manifestations of freedom such as homosexuality, etc." (Marat Tolibayev).

"The methods of the Russian propaganda work since the times of Cold War. It relies on anti-Americanism and searching for the enemy, a traditional method to unite people by making them believe they are surrounded by enemies. The media have planted it into the people's heads that the US and Europe pursue the expansionist goals. And most Russians believe it. And the Kazakhs are subject to this informational mayhem to the same extent as the Russians" (Sergey Duvanov).

"Zombification through imposing the false agenda, for instance, that the West is the enemy" is one of the propaganda methods, says Aydos Sarym.

"Creating an image of the enemies and the heroes, employing conspiracy theories to justify their actions, painting the correct and just "our world" and horrifying, aggressive, and unjust "alien world", lists the propaganda methods political science specialist Tolganay Umbetaliyeva.

The experts also mention appealing to the base instincts as the propaganda tool, for instance, the myth about the crucified boy in Ukraine. "According to my calculations, every second Kazakh who saw the materials about the crucified boy on the ad poster, believes it really happened. They do not even know it is a lie and are certain that the current Ukrainian authorities are fascists and the Banderites" (Sergey Duvanov).

The Russian media are not above exploiting the base feelings – envy, hatred, chauvinism. Evgeniy Zhovtis calls the Russian TV-channels the tools of "the mass psyche destruction". "The talk-shows play on the lowest common denominators: a person sees on television that all the horrors are happening somewhere else and starts to think that his own life is not all bad. Everyone is on this drug; the people get used to it through the relatively simplistic worldview presented in the media based on the Soviet ideological leaven and conspiracy theories. This is the zombification and the brainwashing of the masses".

Dosym Satpayev agrees. "The Kazakhs, under the influence of the Russian talk-shows that preach anti-Americanism and the anti-Western ideology, are gradually turning into the informational zombies and practically lose the ability to perceive the world in more flexible ways", says he.

Here are some examples cited by the experts that show the direct influence of the Russian media on the mass consciousness of many Kazakhs.

"The influence can clearly be seen from how the Kazakhs' opinions are divided in regard to the Ukrainian events", says Vladimir Kozlov. "Not having and not wanting to have the alternative information sources, a great many Kazakhstan citizens retranslate the Russian point of view. It is clear from the stereotypes used in the Russian media, such as "fascists", "Ukes", etc. Transforming the information product into a propagandistic one, the Russian media are forming the desired point of view among a vast majority of the Kazakhstan citizens. Note that, given all that, the Kazakhstan authorities show no resistance to this process".

Sergey Duvanov gives two examples.

"During the 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict, Kazakhstan found itself exclusively in the Russian information field. As a result, they conducted a seminar right after the conflict and had a discussion on the South Ossetia war. The participants included 40 human rights activists, NGO representatives, the people working on the Western grants. But, of all of them, only two supported Georgia, the rest supported Russia".

"An example more relevant for today is how the Russian TV-channels present the Crimean events that are shown as the just return of the peninsula to Russia. And, therefore, those who watch them, perceive it in exactly this way. Based on the survey, more than 80% of the Kazakhstan citizens supported the annexation of Crimea".

Political science specialist Dos Kushim said that, when the Russian-Ukrainian conflict began, they launched many websites such as Nash Chelovek ("Our Own"), Ya – Rossia ("I Am Russia") in the Northern regions of Kazakhstan – Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, Kostanay. "Officially, they were launched to support and develop the Russian language in Kazakhstan. But the materials published on them supported the Russian policy in Ukraine. And this could be seen with the naked eye".

As an example of the "zombification", the experts cited the programs of the popular REN-TV channel that many called "the purposeful stultification of the nation". They believe the programs of this channel impose anti-scientific hypotheses and form the disrespectful attitude to science. In particular, they talked about the news story on collecting the bio-materials by Americans. One elderly woman from Almaty commented the news in this way, "The are collecting the material to create the weapon that destroys only the Russians. The Americans have a laboratory here in Almaty. Now it is clear why. They conduct experiments on us and disperse the viruses. That is why so many people are sick now".

"REN TV actively uses documentary films, however, there is always one general direction based on which everything that is not Russian is shown in a negative light. The broadcasters even manage to praise the Stalin times playing with individual facts", says our colleague from Kazakhstan.

As for the Kazakhstan agenda, the experts give a fresh example – the negative reaction of the Russian media and the social network users to the introduction of the Latin alphabet. Tolganay Umbetaliyeva also cited the organization of the Bessmertnyi Polk ("Immortal Regiment") movement; Aydos Sarym cites the popularization of the St. George ribbons. There is also the campaign against exposing the 28 Geroi-Panfilovtsy when, in response to the publication of the proofs of the event falsification, they shot a movie seen by Presidents Putin and Nazarbayev together at the October 2016 Astana meeting (prior showing the movie in theaters).

By the way, the project creating a "positive image" of the Russian President in Kazakhstan is being implemented with an effective speed.

"If we are to believe the media, Vladimir Putin makes no wrong moves, no wrong decisions. His every step is presented in an exclusively positive light. Any person capable of critical thinking should question this but the propaganda is working to the full extent to destroy the very ability to think critically", believes one Kazakhstan journalist.

"Creating a positive image of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kazakhstan is a clear example of the Russian media influence", says Marat Tolibayev. "Based on my observations, Putin's standing is very high among most Russian Kazakhs, even higher than the standing of our own President. Moreover, a large part of the Russian-speaking Kazakhs displays the pro-Russian sentiment".

"Even among the human rights activists, there are whose who believe that Kazakhstan cannot survive without Russia and that Putin is "our President", says a Kazakhstan human rights activist.

"We have to understand that the Moscow information policy is not limited by the framework of the information-analytical programs but is actively present in the entertainment, education, and even sport programs", says Russian political science specialist Andrey Medvedev. "On the same day, a channel may broadcast a neutral or may be even positive news story about one country or another but then, that same country may be verbally bashed on a talk-show or a comic show. Such programs as KVN and Vecherniy Urgant, for instance, are frequently used for this purpose".

As an example, Andrey Medvedev cites the stories about "the Belarusian galoshes" and "the potato economy" noting that, in the period of the aggravation of the Belarus-Russian relationships, the number of such stories on TV and the internet is growing. "As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, I have not noticed it so far", says he, "although, lately, there have been the TV stories, including the comic ones, that aroused indignation among the Kazakhstan citizens. However, we can predict that, the more the tensions between Russia and Kazakhstan grow, the greater the quantity of the "jokes" will be".

Judging from the responses, the Kazakhstan expert community understands the risks of the uncontrolled Russian propaganda. Political science specialist Aydos Sarym expresses it in the best possible way. "The influence of the Russian media on the Kazakh consciousness exists. But it is not an omnipotent one. The events in Ukraine, for example, practically split the Russian-speaking population of Kazakhstan. Therefore, we must understand that any propaganda has its limits. However, the situation is like this. If any serious conflict of the Kazakh and Russian interests is to take place, Kazakhstan will have nothing to counterbalance the Russian propaganda. We are far behind in this area; our propaganda is incapable of consolidating the society".

The Moscow influence, as noted before, comes not only through the media. There are also the so called "agents of influence" – invited consultants, journalists, civic organizations, individual persons supporting the pro-Russian views. And even more so. Here are some quotes from our experts.

"Yes, they have their people at the very top. It is obvious from the fact that sometimes some issues can be raised but then they are hushed up for Russia's benefit" (Dos Kushim).

"I personally do not know of the purposefully recruited Kremlin's agents of influence in the Kazakhstan political management and the media. We must understand, however, that many political activists unconsciously promote the Kremlin policy. Simply due to their ethnic background or personal convictions largely formed by the Russian media (Marat Tolibayev).

"The lobby exists and has always existed. The officials from the corrupt Presidential Administration and the government are prepared to work for any foreign state even for a small bribe. For example, Deputy Chief of Nazarbayev Administration B. Maylybayev was convicted for divulgence of state secrets. The Russian consultants, political science specialists, and showmen, even of second rate, perceive Kazakhstan as the endless source of their immense fees and their presence is always noticeable. The political engineers always have a field day at the times of our elections" (Rysbek Sarsenbay).

Political science specialist Dosym Satpayev also acknowledges the existence of the Russian lobby in the Kazakhstan government and the state agencies. Moreover, he names top public official President Nursultan Nazarbayev as "one of the most active lobbyist for cooperating with Russia".

In his view, Kazakhstan's joining the economic and political union with Russia "has created additional possibilities for Moscow to constantly pressurize the country in the information sphere. We are already perceived as Russia's satellite since we are a EEU member and as Russia's junior partner since we are a CSTO member. Therefore, any our actions and moves that are somewhat at odds with the Russian foreign policy are immediately perceived as treason. Why? Because we have become a part of the organizations that Russia perceives as its own lobbyist structures".

"There is not just some pro-Russian lobby in Kazakhstan. There are many pro-Russian comrades in the law-enforcement agencies of our country. There was a time when the Russian consultants were present in all the government media at the level of the CEO consultants or deputies that formed the very policy of these media", says Aydos Sarym.

As an example of the Russian influence in the media field, he names Russian producer Alexander Zamyslov invited to join Pervyi Kanal Eurasia as CEO consultant. As Bakhyt Syzdykova, ex-deputy of the Kazakhstan Parliament and ex-host of a Pervyi Kanal Eurasia show, acknowledges, "he is de-facto in charge of the news service and all the content produced by the channel". "Although Zamyslov is a Russian citizen and lives in Moscow, he controls the work of the entire channel. Even the staff meetings were conducted via Skype when he was in Moscow and not in Astana", says she. The name of this journalist is connected to one of the biggest media scandals of late when the employees of this channels announced nationwide that the land protests activists were paid by the enemy forces.

Marat Tolibayev recalls the same incident. "As far as I know, the ORT Eurasia television company is under Russia's control. The products of this channel clearly show that their "zombifying" technologies have also been imported from Russia. The scandal with the unconfirmed "facts" that the land protests participants were paid is a vivid example of that", says he.

As another example of the Russian lobby existence (and at the highest level, at that), the experts cite yet another big scandal with Deputy Chief of Presidential Administration Balgan Maylybayev. For many years, he had been regarded as one of the key people in Nazarbayev Administration which was actually true since he was directly in charge of the domestic policy of the country, had direct access to the Head of the State, and had the support of the Kremlin.

"The lobby, undoubtedly, exists at different levels – in Akorda, in the government, in the state agencies, but it is formed off the books and promotes and supports the Russian state interests only so far", says Kazakhstan ex-official Muratbek Ketebayev. "The existence of such lobby is no secret. In general, however, apart from the Baglan Maylybayev incident, it is received in a positive light by the government as well as by the ruling elite since it enables them to speed up and simplify the making of the decisions that need to incorporate the interests of both countries, groups of influence, and large business-structures".

From this point of view, the incident with the exclusion of the Russian TV-channels (NTV-Mir, RTR-Planeta, Rossia 24, and Rossia-Kultura) from the cable broadcasting networks is quite indicative. The broadcasting was stopped on December 11, 2017 and renewed on the next day even though the operators were talking about increasing the price and promising to resolve the issue only by the summer 2018.

Is it possible to free the Kazakhs from the Russian information influence?

"If there was no connection between Nazarbayev and Putin, we could have attempted to try the most important thing – to free ourselves from the existing monopoly of one point of view, one propaganda", says Sergey Duvanov. However, immediately, he adds, "I am categorically against the idea to close all the information inflows from Russia for the purpose of changing the social consciousness of the Kazakhs. I think it is a working option. But my democratic nature does not let me take this path. Therefore, I suggest another way. To create alternative information sources to offer the Kazakhs an alternative point of view. If the country will have two-three channels that present an opposite point of view, the people can draw their own conclusions. And since these channels will be speaking the truth in response to all the lies that are being told about the West's expansion and Putin's policies, the situation will change in a couple of years and there will be no reason to close anything. If we will supply the truthful, not the propagandistic, information, the victory will not be far behind".

Muratbek Kerebayev does not agree. "The problem is", says he, "that even the Kazakhs who do not love Russia for one reason or another are still oriented towards the Russian media when it concerns the non-Kazakh affairs due to the language factor. Thus, the latter set the agenda, determine the directions of the discussion, and predict their result. Therefore, the "zombification" of the Kazakhstan citizens is the on-going matter".

Note that the effectiveness of such "zombification", in the expert's opinion, is "significantly strengthened by the likeness of the mentalities, the values, and the practices of the two neighboring countries as well as by the absence of any real alternative – the English-language media and the internet resources as well as the Western propaganda resources such as Svoboda (Svobodnaya Evropa) are popular among a limited audience".

The Kazakhstan information field, as our research shows, looks rather unusual for an independent country. The Russian media unquestionably dominate it. The reasons cited by the experts are numerous – the common historical past, the common economic space, the majority's knowledge of the Russian language, the accessibility of the Russian content (all the Russian channels are present in the cable and satellite television packages, some federal Russian newspapers are published in Kazakhstan); and all that is happening against the backdrop of the weakness of the Kazakhstan media and the little demand for their products from the Kazakhstan population.

As a result, as our survey shows, the majority of our respondents (69%) watch the news and the entertainment Russian channels. Pervyi Kanal, Rossia 1, NTB, are the ones mentioned most frequently; ORT, RTR, Ren TV, STS, TNT are mentioned to a lesser extent. Of those who prefer receiving the information from the social networks, 59% prefer Russian network VKontakte.

Here is a fact that demonstrates the significant influence of the Russian media on the Kazakh view of the world. 41% of the respondents believe that Crimea returned to Russia as a result of the referendum and only 8% of the respondents say the annexation happened with the violations of the international law (the rest of the respondents express neutrality). With that, 63.4% of the respondents said they trusted Putin as a political figure and only 2.7% displayed a negative attitude.

Of course, we cannot say that the Russian media are deliberately trying to influence the Kazakhs' consciousness. However, our research shows that Russia is keen on keeping the existing unique state of affairs in Kazakhstan when a part of its population has literally fallen out of the framework of its information field. And not only the final results of the survey testify to that. The concern about that was raised by the Kazakhstan officials, the experts, and our insiders.

The citizens of the Northern Kazakhstan regions where the percentage of the ethnic Russians is rather high in comparison with the rest of the country are particularly prone to this. In Petropavlovsk, not only can you connect to the Russian satellite dishes but you can also buy the Russian newspapers – the border is close. Therefore, many Petropavlovsk citizens believe that the Crimea citizens are lucky to find themselves under the Russian protection. And, in general, those who support the Russian propaganda presentation of the events in Crimea and Ukraine constitute the majority in Kazakhstan.

We also cannot say that the Russian media are inventing some special tools and methods for promoting the Russian influence in Kazakhstan. They are the same ones used for working on the Russians' consciousness. The main tool is the television, then follow different internet-resources – the websites of the newspapers, information agencies, and the social networks. As many other countries, Kazakhstan now has RT and Sputnik broadcasting in Kazakh (among other languages), the internet trolls who are actively learning the state language of the republic.

The traditional propaganda instruments are supplemented with the Russian consultants in the Kazakhstan media management, in particular, on the government channels. They have a direct influence on the channels' information policy and content. There is also the informal lobbying of the Russian information interests at the state agencies' level.

Therefore, Russia's informational penetration into Kazakhstan is very deep. It has been going on under the "hothouse conditions" when the comfort environment would only rarely by slightly disturbed by the attempts of the Kazakhstan authorities to fight for some parts of their own information field. These attempts, for example, included advertising (in Kazakhstan, advertising is prohibited on foreign channels and the ads oriented to the Kazakhstan consumer can be shown on the Kazakhstan channels only), and broadcasting (only the Kazakh channels can be terrestrial). Obviously, these attempts could not seriously limit the Russian media's abilities to win over the minds of the Kazakhs. This is why the experts say that, in the case of a serious conflict between the two countries, Kazakhstan will have nothing to offer to counterbalance the aggressiveness of the Russian propaganda.

Here are the conclusions we have reached based on the results of our research.

The influence of the Russian propaganda and the Russian media on the Kazakhstan population (and not only on the Russian-speaking part) is more than significant. Neither the civic society and the Kazakhstan media nor the state itself due to the weakness of Nursultan Nazarbayev's authoritarian political system in comparison to Vladimir Putin's authoritarian political system can counterbalance it.

Kazakhstan attorney and human rights activist Evgeniy Zhovris sums it up perfectly in one phrase. "Kazakhstan is looking at the world through the Russian-made lenses". And his opinion is confirmed by practically all the interviewed experts and by the results of our sociological research.

The effect of the "Russian-made lenses" on the people of Kazakhstan is achieved through the large-scale supply of the information and entertainment products whose quality is higher in comparison to the product quality of the Kazakh media. This product is consumed by the Russian-speaking audience that includes a part of the Kazakh population.

Since the overwhelming majority of the Kazakhstan citizens knows the Russian language to one degree or another (based on the 2009 census data, 84.4% of the citizens could read and write in Russian; 94.4% could understand spoken Russian), practically the entire population of the republic serves as the audience for the Russian media.

At the same time, the influence of the Russian propaganda is less significant in the South and the West of the country; and the quantitative growth of the Kazakh ethnos that is more inclined to use the Kazakh language not only in everyday life but in the cultural sphere as well theoretically means that this problem is of a temporary nature. De-facto, however, the Russian-speaking minority constitutes the sustainable civilization cluster in the Northern and the North-Eastern areas of the country that also incorporates the Kazakh population. Therefore, the ethnic factor is being transformed into the civilizational one which only increases the risks of the growth of the separatist sentiment.

Currently, there is no anticipation of any kind of threat from Russia in Kazakhstan which significantly increases the effectiveness of the influence of the Russian media and propaganda on the Kazakhstan audience.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign policy enjoy significant support among the Kazakhstan citizens and the degree of this support directly depends on how close the region is to Russia and how big the Russian-speaking part of its population is.

Since the share of those who constantly reads and watches the Russian media is lower among the Kazakhs of the younger generations than among the Kazakhs of the middle and the older groups, one should focus on the former to effectively fight the Russian propaganda while realizing that achieving a significant result will be possible only in decades.

The translation of the Kazakh alphabet from the Cyrillic into Latin may decrease the share of the Kazakhstan citizens who read and watch the Russian media and, therefore, increase the audience of the English-language media, however, this too should not be expected to happen in the coming decade.

Increasing the counter-propaganda to balance out the influence of the Russian media would not be non-effective now since the audience that is capable and ready to receive alternative information and arguments constitutes about 10-15% of the entire population (same as in Russia) and is unlikely to grow in the coming year.

Speaking of the information influence on the Kazakhstan audience and the ways to fight the Russian propaganda, we must take into consideration (apart from the language factor and the similarity of the mentalities of most Russians and Kazakhs) yet another important fact – the nation-wide understanding that the Russians are "our own" while the citizens of Europe, US, China, etc. are "aliens".

The Russian information strategy is being implemented amid the global conflict and, therefore, has acquired a military statue. Therefore, it is being transformed into a psychological war and is using the standard tools for these kinds of operations. The social network platform is used. The main task of these kinds of operations is not only to create positive examples and images but also to form negative stereotypes and to accentuate conflicts.

The "negative" military strategy, to a large extent, allows to solve the Russian political tasks the most important of which includes the consolidation of the Russian public opinion via creating a negative image of the neighboring state. However, we cannot say that the traditional methods of the "soft power" oriented towards creating positive images are no longer relevant.

Unfortunately, we do not know how serious the Kazakhstan official authorities are in their estimations of the "destructive propaganda" risks. There are no openly accessible sociological surveys or scientific research on the subject. And there is no reason to assume they exist somewhere in the bowels of the secret service. This is clear from our interviews with the political insiders as well as from history itself that teaches us - it is non-feasible to create a "secret social science".