Kazakhstan to rename capital city after former president

Kazakhstan to rename capital city after former president
Kazakhstan's parliament has voted today to change the country's capital after President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
2 min read
20 March, 2019

Kazakhstan's parliament voted on Wednesday to change the country's capital after former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who shocked the country when he resigned this week.

According to the state-owned Kazinform news agency, changing the capital from Astana to Nursultan - which means "Sultan of Light" in Kazakh - came following a parliamentary vote.

The new interim President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was sworn after Nazarbayev's sudden resignation on Tuesday, proposed the change of name.

Astana is a newly erected gleaming city that Nazarbayev erected on the Ishim river in northern Kazakhstan. It took over as the capital in 1997, replacing Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty, which means ‘capital’ in Kazakh. 

The newly-renamed city, Astana, is home to nearly one million people and it was previously known as Akmolinsk, Tselinograd and Akmola.

The city has been used as a showpiece project by Nazarbayev's government as a propaganda to trumpet the former president's achievements. This was portrayed in the state-funded film, Leader's Path Astana, which depicts Nazarbayev’s journey to build it.

In 2018, Kazakh Ambassador to to the UK Erlan Idrissov sent a letter to the Financial Times newspaper, to express his frustration at an article that had referred to Astana as a bizarre and vanity project that was hastily built.

"Kazakhs are immensely proud of this extraordinary achievement, led by President Nursultan Nazarbayev," said Erlan. "I sincerely hope that many of your readers also will come to share our wonder at the emergence of this remarkable city on the Steppe."