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Government, Activists Mark Different Anniversaries In Kazakhstan

Flowers placed at the monument to Kazakh independence in Almaty on December 16.
Flowers placed at the monument to Kazakh independence in Almaty on December 16.

As Kazakhstan celebrates the 25th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union, some citizens are marking different anniversaries that are getting no attention from the government.

Dozens of activists in cities including the capital, Astana and the largest city, Almaty, gathered at central squares and memorial sites to commemorate victims of a crackdown on protests in Almaty against the Soviet government on December 16-19, 1986.

The activists also commemorated victims of a crackdown on protesting oil workers in the southwestern town of Zhanaozen in 2011, when at least 16 people were killed by police.

Some of the Kazakhs who gathered on December 16 held signs or wore shirts with slogans demanding the release of two activists jailed in November for protesting against the government's land reform plans.

The three-day demonstrations by Kazakh youth in 1986, an early sign of unrest ahead of the breakup of the Soviet Union five years later, were violently dispersed by Soviet authorities.

Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has been president since 1991, was Soviet Kazakhstan's prime minister at the time.

In Astana on December 16, Nazarbaev unveiled a monument celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Central Asian nation's independence.

Several students at universities in Almaty have told RFE/RL that shortly before Independence Day, they were abruptly told to go on vacation and head home or, if they remained in Almaty, to stay away from its central square from December 9 to December 19.

Many believe the government's aim was to prevent possible protests.

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