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Nation-Building and a School Play in a Kazakh Saint’s Jubilee Open Access

This article focuses on a theatrical play performed during the Jubilee, the anniversary feast of Isabek Ishan, a local Kazakh saint. The state-supported celebration at Isabek’s restored shrine is an example of the nation-building processes of post-Soviet Kazakhstan. The Jubilee brought together pre-Soviet, Soviet, and post-Soviet themes, including narratives of sainthood and the significance of local sacred lineages. The play depicts Stalinist repression of religion, pointing to the importance of religious nationalism in contemporary state ideology. Despite occupying a relatively small space in the celebration, the play demonstrated how Stalinist trauma continues to inform local Muslim beliefs and practices, emphasizing the association of Kazakh nationalism with religious practices.

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