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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakhs Warn Revanchists

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's leader Monday chided people for experiencing "phantom pains" of nostalgia for the now-collapsed Soviet Union and ruled out a return to the old order.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose vast country became independent when the Soviet Union collapsed in December, 1991, said in a key speech that there would be no return to the Soviet Union and independence had to be built on the basis of democracy.

"In medicine there exists the concept of 'phantom pains.' An arm or leg was amputated long ago, but it hurts," Nazarbayev told the hand-picked Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan.

"Thus, the Soviet Union has not existed for five years, but some people still consider themselves citizens of that state."

But, he added: "Only a democratic Kazakhstan can be independent. In turn, without political independence there will be no real democracy in Kazakhstan."

Nazarbayev heads an ethnically mixed state of 17 million where Turkic-speaking Kazakhs form half of the population, while Russians make up a third.

Political commentators have expressed fears that tension linked to Russia's presidential race, where communist Gennady Zyuganov is campaigning for a voluntary restoration of the Soviet Union, could spill over into Kazakhstan.