The second aspect of Nazarbayev’s legacy revealed by the protests is that the current model of governance in place in Kazakhstan has a multitude of defects that have angered millions of people who missed out when the resources pie was shared out. Yet that model is so intrinsically woven into the structure of the country’s economy and political life that the new government (to be announced shortly) is unlikely to be able to change it, should President Tokayev wish to do so.

It’s unlikely, however, that the new Kazakh leadership has any such ambition: a strong, centralized government is seen as a pillar of the nation whose demolition would lead first to a similar situation to that in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, and in the longer term, to the country’s collapse.

In the post-Soviet space, experience has shown that protests like those currently under way in Kazakhstan lead not to reform, but to a crackdown by the regime, as they have in Russia and Belarus. Tokayev has already pledged to hold to account not only the alleged terrorists, but also those who instigated the unrest from among liberal activists and (for now) independent media.

This article was first published by the Carnegie Moscow Center.