Kazakhstan Capital Renamed in Honor of Resigned Long-Term Leader

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Kazakhstan has renamed its capital Astana as Nur-Sultan in honour of the country’s long-time president who resigned in a surprise move earlier this week.

The order to change the capital city’s name was issued on Saturday by Kazakhstan’s newly sworn-in interim President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. 

Tokayev initially proposed the new name on Wednesday as a tribute to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country for decades until his resignation on Tuesday.

Small protests took place in Almaty and other cities after the name change was proposed. 

Astana replaced Almaty as the capital in 1997 and boomed from a minor provincial steppe town into a futuristic city.

The name Astana literally means “capital” in Kazakh and there has long been speculation it could, at some point, be renamed after the leader who shaped it.

Nazarbayev was at the helm of the country for nearly 30 years, first when it was still part of the Soviet Union and then as the first president of an independent Kazakhstan. 

His announcement on Tuesday surprised many, including analysts who had expected Nazarbayev to be a president for life, as has been the case with leaders in other Central Asian countries. 

Nazarbayev’s decades-long rule transformed Kazakhstan into an energy powerhouse but he governed with little tolerance for opposition.

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