The Devil is in the Details: Drug-Trafficking and Corruption in Kazakhstan

Z.T. Turlubekova

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


The central aim of this thesis was to study drug trafficking, drug related corruption
and reactions to it in Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, where billions of foreign
investment are at stake, active state measures have produced significant changes in
the drug markets. Geographic proximity to Russia, as well as the strategic interests
of foreign actors in the region, are shown to have affected the way Central Asian
governments respond to drug trafficking. Kazakhstan’s key geographic position
rendered it a bridge that connected regional drug capitals with Russian markets,
and some drugs remained in Kazakhstan too. Drugs were mostly trafficked across
legitimate trade routes connecting Central Asia and Russia. The structure of drug
enterprises is placed under close examination. The empirical evidence is presented
that drug trafficking enterprises in Kazakhstan can accurately be described as
disorganised structures. Competitive advantage belonged to entrepreneurs who
could link themselves with informal networks capable of exploiting the connection
between production, transit and consuming countries. Such connections, or
relational capital, seemed to be embedded into existing social relationships of
actors. The measures taken against corrupt state officials resulted in thousands
of criminal trials and imprisonments, and a recalculation by police officials
nationwide about the costs and benefits of engaging in corrupt activities. The
results were achieved mainly due to intensive enforcement of new legislation
against corruption. However, this updated legislation still had a flavour of Soviet-style
attitude towards drugs and could still be considered very strict in terms of
international standards.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Siegel, Dina, Primary supervisor
  • Levay, M.L., Supervisor, External person
  • Zaitch, Damian, Co-supervisor
  • Felvinczi, K., Co-supervisor, External person
Award date28 Aug 2020
Print ISBNs978-94-93184-55-8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2020


  • drug trafficking
  • corruption
  • organized crime
  • Former Soviet Union


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