At the beginning of the 1990’s, the new freedom of religion, combined with the end of the Soviet ideology and the difficult socio-economic times, led to a revival of religions in Kazakhstan as well. People were able to profess their faith, and numerous new churches and places of worship were built. All the information about the number of believers, regardless of their religion, are still estimates and sometimes differ considerably. Altogether more than 40 different denominations are supposed to be represented in Kazakhstan.
The Kazakhs are Muslim, just like the members of the other Central Asian nationalities living in Kazakhstan (Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Turkmens, Ujghurs, etc.). Historically, however, faith played a subordinate role for the Kazakhs and was even more lost in the Soviet era. As with the knowledge of the Kazakh language, the relationship to faith also differed from region to region: it was still present in the south and especially in the countryside, hardly visible in the north.
According to hyperrestaurant, today Kazakhstan is a secular state according to the constitution, freedom of religion and equality of religions are guaranteed. State registration is a prerequisite for any activity; political and religious associations are prohibited. But Islam is used by the leadership for state and nation building. Since independence, new mosques have been built with the blessing of the state, Islamic holidays are observed, Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and even presided over it in 2011. New confessions to Islam that develop independently of this state Islam are viewed critically. There is also a popular Islam that contains some elements from the pre-Islamic period. It is lived more culturally than strictly following religious commandments. Islam still hardly plays a role in everyday life in the cities; it is more firmly anchored in the more traditional villages of the south, whereby at the beginning of the school year there are always classic conflicts between the regulations of the secular state and the religious rules. They will presumably be tightened in the future when legal provisions against beards etc. come into force with whom one can fight Islamism.
Due to the historically and currently weak position of Islam combined with the long-term positive economic development and a relatively present state power, most observers – and obviously also the Kazakh leadership – did not see Kazakhstan as a field for Islamists for a long time. But attacks in 2011 and June 2016 showed that there are at least local extremist groups. Their importance is assessed quite differently, but increasingly more seriously, especially young people are considered to be at risk. Reports of (estimated 250-300) Kazakh fighters in the Syrian civil war and at ISIS triggered additional concern from. In comparison to its neighbors Kazakhstan applies but as little risk the return of IS-fighters and their families is praised as exemplary.
As a result of the emigration of mainly Russians and Ukrainians, the number of nominally and actually Russian Orthodox believers has fallen sharply. The same applies to Protestants and Catholics through the evacuation of Germans and Poles. The relationship between Islam and Christian churches is relaxed. There is a small but active Jewish community. So-called “non-traditional religions” – Scientology, Hare Krishna, Mormons – were and still are popular, which arouses opposition among officials of the traditional faiths and has prompted the state to act. Observers complain about the state’s attempt to control religious affairs of traditional beliefs.
May 1st – Day of the Unity of Nationalities of Kazakhstan; July 6 – Capital Day; August 30 – Constitution Day; October 25 – Republic Day; 1.12. – Presidents’ Day; 16./17. December – Independence Day are national holidays and therefore non-working.
In addition, the 1./2. January (New Year), March 8 (International Women’s Day), March 22 (Nauryz, Spring Festival), May 9 (Victory Day) and every year the Festival of Sacrifice is non-working. On major public holidays there are usually no work on two days.