MOSCOW (AP) — Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has agreed to restore the country’s capital to its former name just three years after renaming it in honor of his predecessor, his spokesman said Tuesday.
One of Tokayev’s first actions upon taking office in 2019 after the resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev was to request that Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, be nicknamed Nur-Sultan instead.
Nazarbayev, who ruled the country for three decades under the Soviet Union and after its independence in 1991, moved the capital from Almaty to Astana in 1997. This decision has been widely questioned due to the relative isolation of the city in the northern steppes and notoriously freezing winters. in which temperatures dip as low as 51 degrees Celsius below freezing (minus-60 F).
He has made the city a showcase of garish architecture, including an observation tower where visitors can place their hands in a print by Nazarbayev.
After his resignation, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence as head of the ruling party and county security council. But Tokayev removed him from office after deadly unrest in January that was partly based on dissatisfaction with the power Nazarbayev still held.
Tokayev’s spokesman Ruslan Zheliban said the president agreed to the name change after an initiative by a group of parliamentarians.
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