Kazakhstan Renames Capital Astana to ‘Nursultan’, after Ex-President Nazyrbayev Who Keeps Power

Kazakhstan Renames Capital Astana to ‘Nursultan’, after Ex-President Nazyrbayev Who Keeps Power

Astana, now Nursultan, has been the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997, succeeding Almaty.

Kazakhstan has renamed its capital Astana to “Nursultan”, after Nursultan Nazyrbayev, its President for 30 years, who has resigned the presidential post but retains several other positions keeping him the most powerful person in the Central Asian country.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former senior communist apparatchik, has ruled Kazakhstan, a country of 18 million people rich in oil and natural gas and the second largest successor state of the former Soviet Union by territory after Russia, since before the breakup of the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Even though he announced his resignation on Tuesday, Nazarbayer remains “Leader of the Nation”, Chairman of the National Security Council – a job holding even more powers than the Presidency, and Chairman of the ruling political party, Nur Otan Democratic People’s Party.

Under Kazakhstan’s Constitution, the Presidency was assumed by Senate Speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 65.

Tokayev’s first moves after getting sworn in were to grant 78-year-old Nazyrbaev a state medal, and to propose that the capital Astana be renamed to “Nursultan” to honor the “National Leader”.

His motion was quickly approved unanimously by Kazakhstan’s Parliament at a joint session of its two chambers.

Astana, now renamed to Nursultan, is a city in Northern Kazakhstan of about 1 million. The capital was moved there from Almaty in the southeast of the country, a city of 2 million people which remains the most populous city and most important economic center of the Central Asian former Soviet Republic.

“I believe it is necessary to immortalize the name of our great contemporary, the first president of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev so: our capital should be named after our president – Nursultan,” Tokayev said, as cited by Russian news agency Tass.

Meanwhile, Tokayev’s job as Senate Speaker went to Dariga Nazyrbayeva, National Leader Nursultan Nazyrbayev’s elder daughter.

Ruissian media have cited experts on the former Soviet space as saying that the scenario for Nursultan Nazarbayev’s resignation as President had been set last year when the powers of the Security Council Chairman were enhanced beyond those of the presidential post.

“There is no need to speculate about whether Nazarbayev’s actions will trigger changes in Kazakhstan’s policy course or a domestic upheaval,” expert Arkady Dubnov told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, as cited by Tass.

“Nothing will change, including relations with Russia and other actors. Kazakhstan’s state architecture won’t change. There are no reasons for that. There is no opposition and any sort of conflict between cliques is insignificant,” Dubnov said.

“The law on the Security Council adopted last year makes it a constitutional body that actually has the right to control the activities of all branches of government,” said Alexander Knyazev, another expert on Central Asia.

In his words, Tokayev is an appropriate figure to succeed Nazyrbayev as President of Kazakhstan not only from a legal standpoint but also in political terms since “Moscow, Beijing, Washington and Brussels know him well, while his vast diplomatic experience will allow him to maintain a balance in the country’s relations with the global centers of power and with all partners.”

(Banner image: Nursultan Nazyrbayev on Twitter)

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