While increasing resilience to earthquakes in the global South has become a major research and policy goal, the focus has largely been on rapidly expanding urban areas. Rural areas are often neglected despite the fact that rural residents make up a significant proportion of the population exposed to earthquakes in many low and middle-income countries. Central Asia is a case in point. Drawing on empirical research undertaken in the Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan, this paper explores local perceptions of and responses to earthquake hazard and risk among rural householders. The primary data are derived from a survey of 302 households conducted across six rural communities in South Kazakhstan oblast (now Turkistan oblast), supplemented by 10 focus group discussions with rural residents. The findings show little awareness of earthquakes or concern about the potential occurrence of a high magnitude earthquake in the future. This reflects, at least in part, a lack of direct experience of all but minor earthquakes. As a result, we see little evidence of the presence of a seismic culture. Only a small number of respondents had received guidance on how to prepare for, or respond to, earthquakes, and few householders had taken any action to reduce the risk faced. We reflect on the findings in the context of Kazakhstan's Soviet past and its transition to a post-Soviet future. We argue that acknowledging this past is essential to understanding local level decision-making and to informing future disaster risk reduction interventions in rural areas.