Kazakhstan’s capital will have a name change, again. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s spokesperson says he’s agreed to restore the former name of the country’s capital to Astana.
One of Tokayev’s first moves upon taking office in 2019 was to name Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan in honor of his predecessor, President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
“It is known that a group of deputies in the parliament has proposed to return the name of the capital’s former Astana,” Presidential spokesperson, Ruslan Zheldibay wrote on Facebook. “The President is aware of this initiative of the deputies. The public interest, in turn, is based on proposals made at meetings with the population, as well as many requests from citizens during the referendum. The proposal of Majilis deputies was introduced to the Constitutional Law by the agreement of the Head of State.”
Nazarbayev As President
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country for three decades under the Soviet Union and after it gained independence in 1991, relocated the capital from Almaty to Astana in 1997. The move was widely questioned because of the city’s relative isolation in the northern steppes and notoriously frigid winters in which temperatures plunge as low as minus-60 degrees.
He made the city into a showplace of gaudy architecture, including an observation tower where visitors can place their hands in a print of Nazarbayev’s.
After he stepped down, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence as head of the country’s ruling party and security council. However, Tokayev removed him from those posts after deadly unrest in January that hinged partly on dissatisfaction with the power that Nazarbayev still wielded.
Back To The Name Of Astana
Zheldibay, says the president agreed to the name change back to Astana after an initiative by a group of parliament members.
“At the same time, the president sees Nursultan Nazarbayev’s decisive role in strengthening the modern statehood of Kazakhstan and the establishment of the capital as a historical fact,” wrote Zheldibay. “Therefore, other landmarks named after the first president will keep their names.”