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News in Russian: Kazakhstan President Steps Down (Sort Of) Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in News

A big story from the post-Soviet region (постсове́тское простра́нство) is that the president of Kazakhstan (Казахста́н) has resigned after nearly 30 years in power. Since Russian has official status in Kazakhstan and since this story is being widely covered in Russian-language media in several countries, I thought we should look at how it’s being reported.

mosque in Nursultan (Astana)

Hazret Sultan Mosque
Photo by Azamat Kinzhitaev on Unsplash

President Who?

While Borat is often the only reference point for Kazakhstan in the West, this country has the largest economy in Central Asia, so understandably, its neighbors are watching the situation closely. President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Russian: Нурсулта́н Назарба́ев, Kazakh: Нұрсұлтан Назарбаев) was the first president of independent Kazakhstan and had been in power since 1990—longer than Vladimir Putin (Влади́мир Пу́тин) or the president of Belarus (Белару́сь) Aleksandr Lukashenko (Russian: Алекса́ндр Лукаше́нко, Byelorussian: Алякса́ндр Лукашэ́нка).

Even though Nazarbayev has stepped down as president, he has retained his positions as head of the Security Council (сове́т безопа́сности) and leader of the ruling party. Some commentators in Russia have been carefully watching the Kazakhstani scenario as a possible model for transferring power in Russia in the future.

Here is a snippet of Nazarbayev’s resignation speech:

Coverage

Political scientist Yerbol Yedilov (Ербол Едилов) shared with the BBC his understanding on how much power Nazarbayev really gave up:

Его́ ухо́д декорати́вен, ведь всё-таки все рычаги́ вла́сти бу́дут у него́ как у ли́дера на́ции, руководи́теля сове́та безопа́сности и ли́дера па́ртии “Нур Ота́н” […]

His resignation plays a symbolic role because, in the end, he will keep the levers of power as leader of the nation, head of the Security Council, and leader of the Nur Otan party […]

Nursultan cityscape

City of Nursultan (formerly Astana)
Image by Акимхан Бозтай from Pixabay

Comparing Nazarbayev’s resignation to the “break” Putin took after his two first terms, Telegram commentator Talgat Kaliyev (Талгат Калиев) writes:

Казахста́нская реа́льность отлича́ется тем, что Назарба́ев в отли́чие от Пу́тина ушёл не вре́менно, а бесповоро́тно.

The reality in Kazakhastan is different in that, unlike Putin, Nazarbayev left not temporarily but for good.

Speculations on who may be the next president are ongoing, but in the meantime, internet users are making memes to comment on the renaming of the capital city, formerly known as Astana (Астана́), as Nursultan (Нурсулта́н). Meduza has published some of the memes. The city has also been known as Akmola (Акмола́) and Tselinograd (Целиногра́д).

How was Nazarbayev’s resignation covered where you live?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.