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Kazakh leader may drop the 'stan' in Kazakhstan - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev speaks during his yearly state of the nation address in Astana on December 14, 2012. (REUTERS/MUKHTAR KHOLDORBEKOV)

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev speaks during his yearly state of the nation address in Astana on December 14, 2012. (REUTERS/MUKHTAR KHOLDORBEKOV)

Almaty, Reuters—President Nursultan Nazarbayev may drop the ‘stan’ from Kazakhstan to distinguish his booming oil-rich nation from the rest of Central Asia, where the other so-called stans are mostly mired in poverty.

The world’s ninth-largest nation by area with a population of just 17 million, Kazakhstan is the largest economy of the post-Soviet region, which also includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Foreign companies have invested billions of dollars in the nation’s mineral wealth since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But Kazakh officials say the vast country of steppes and mountains is still little known in the world.

Nazarbayev, who visited the nation’s oil capital, Atyrau, in western Kazakhstan on Thursday afternoon, said a new name like Kazakh Eli, which means “The Land of Kazakhs,” would be more eye-catching for a foreigner studying the region’s map.

“In our country’s name, there is this ‘stan’ ending which other Central Asian nations have as well. But, for instance, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just two million people, but whose name lacks the ‘stan’ ending,” Nazarbayev’s press service quoted him as saying.

“Probably, we ought to consider with time the issue of adopting Kazakh Eli as the name of our country, but before that we definitely need to discuss this with the people,” he said without elaborating.

Nazarbayev, a 73-year-old former steelworker, has been in power for more than two decades and enjoys sweeping powers.

Titled “Leader of the Nation” and widely nicknamed “Papa”, he has overseen market reforms and attracted foreign investors, but has kept a tight lid on dissent in his nation which has never held an election recognized as free and fair by the West.

Still vastly popular, he has said he will rule as long as his health allows him to stay in power and promised to groom a successor before stepping down.

Few doubt that Kazakhstan will receive a new name, should the veteran leader decide so.
In 1997, he moved the capital from the leafy city of Almaty in southeastern Kazakhstan to the windswept steppe town of Akmola in the north.

A year later, he said the new capital should be called Astana—which literally means “capital” in the local Turkic language—to end speculation about Akmola’s name which stood for both “white shrine” and “white plenty” in Kazakh.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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