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From Astana to Nur-Sultan: Kazakhstan renames its capital after outgoing leader of 30 years

From Astana to Nur-Sultan: Kazakhstan renames its capital after outgoing leader of 30 years
The people of Astana woke up in another city after it was renamed in honor of its leader Nursultan Nazarbayev – despite having already had its name changed three times during his lifetime.

The nations in Central Asia are known for making extra efforts in honoring their leaders. The current president of Turkmenistan has a giant golden statue of himself on horseback, while the leader of Tajikistan recently asked TV stations to stop airing too much ‘congratulatory’ music videos featuring his image.

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Kazakhstan is now adhering to this spirit as the residents of its capital, Astana, found themselves in a new city on Wednesday. The lawmakers voted unanimously to rename it Nur-Sultan, after former president Nursultan Nazarbayev who resigned just the day before.

The idea to “immortalize” the leader’s legacy came from Senate Speaker Kassym-Jormat Tokayev who has taken over as president. And it is just the beginning – the central streets in other cities should be renamed in connection with the former head of state as well, he said. A monument in his honor will also be erected.

The move to change the capital’s name has already spurred jokes on social media. Some residents now wonder how to call themselves – Nursultans or Nursultanians?

People couldn't help but wonder what will become of the so-called ‘Astana talks’ format in the Syrian peace process? Its name, at least, will stay the same, a foreign ministry official reassured.

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As for the capital, during the previous century it was renamed a staggering three times! Known as Akmolinsk in imperial Russia, it became Tselinograd in the Soviet era, when Nazarbayev was 21. The city got a new name – Akmola – shortly after Kazakhstan got its independence in the 1990s but that didn’t stick as well, so it was named Astana in 1997.

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