Why was Astana renamed Nur-Sultan

Published on in category History
Why was Astana renamed Nur-Sultan

On March 23, 2019, an official decree, signed at the time by the interim President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Tokaev, was issued to rename the capital Astana to Nur-Sultan.[1] The Kazakh capital was renamed again after more than 20 years. Nur-Sultan has been renamed a total of five times during its 190-year history. What is the history of the names of this capital and what led to the current renaming?

Russia's expansion into the heart of Central Asia and the confrontation with the British Empire in the early 19th century forced Russia to strengthen its defensive line around the Irtysh River in present-day Kazakhstan. The defensive line was created here since the 18th century in response to the influence of China from the east. As part of this defensive line, a fortress called Akmola was built in 1830, which in Kazakh means "white tomb".[2]

As early as 1832, the fortress was granted city status and it was renamed Akmolinsk. The original fortress was burned down in 1838 but was subsequently rebuilt. The city kept the name Akmolinsk for 129 years. In 1954, Soviets began to grow grain on large-scale grasslands of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan was to become the so-called granary of the world, and in this honor the city was renamed Celinograd in 1961.[3]

In 1991, Kazakhstan, as the first Soviet republic, declared independence from the Soviet Union. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who remained in power for almost 28 years, took the lead. In 1993, Celinograd was renamed back to the original name Akmola. Discussions and preparations for the transfer of the capital from Almaty to Akmola began at that time, which took place at the end of 1997. In 1998, Akmola was renamed Astana, which means "capital" in Kazakh.[4]

The resolution to rename the capital to Nur-Sultan was officially passed in 2016.[5] President Nazarbayev resigned suddenly on March 19, 2019, and on the very next day, parliament decided to rename the city in his honor.[6][7][8] The cult of personality of Nursultan Nazarbayev is very strong in Kazakhstan. Since 2016, his portrait has appeared on 10,000 banknotes. [9] Other examples include Nazarbayev University, Nazarbayev Center or, among many others, Nursultan Nazarbayev Airport.[10]

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