Nursultan Nazarbayev

Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev is the President of Kazakhstan, having served since the nation's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev (Kazakh: Нұрсұлтан Әбішұлы Назарбаев [nʊrsʊlˈtɑn æbəʃʊˈlɯ nɑzɑrˈbɑ.jɪf]; Russian: Нурсултан Абишевич Назарбаев [nur.suɫˈtan ɐˈbʲi.ʂɨ.vʲɪt͡ɕ nə.zɐrˈba.jɪf]; born 6 July 1940) is the President of Kazakhstan, having served since the nation's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In April 2011, President Nazarbayev was re-elected to another five-year term receiving 95.54 percent of the vote with 89.9 percent of registered voters participating (up from 02.8 percent in the 2005 presidential election).

Early life

Nazarbayev was born in Alma-ata, a rural town near Almaty, when Kazakhstan was one of the republics of the Soviet Union.[1] His father was a poor labourer who worked for a wealthy local family until Soviet rule confiscated the family's farmland in the 1930s during Joseph Stalin's collectivization policy.[2] Following this his father took the family to the mountains to live out a nomadic existence.[3] His father avoided compulsory military service due to a withered arm he sustained when putting out a fire.[4] At the end of World War II the family returned to the village of Chemolgan, and Nazarbayev began to pick up the Russian language.[5] He performed well at school, and was sent to a boarding school in Kaskelen.[6] After leaving school he took up a one year, government-funded scholarship at the Karaganda Steel Mill in Temirtau.[7] He also spent time training at a steel plant in Dniprodzerzhynsk, and therefore was away from Temirtau as riots over working conditions enveloped the town.[7] By aged 20, he was earning a relatively excellent wage doing "incredibly heavy and dangerous work" in the blast furnace.[8] He joined the Communist Party in 1962, and quickly became a prominent member of the Young Communist League.[8] He soon became a full-time worker for the party, and picked up a college education at the Karagandy Polytechnic Institute.[9] He was appointed secretary of the Communist Party Committee of the Karaganda Metallurgical Kombinat in 1972, and four years later became Second Secretary of the Karaganda Regional Party Committee.[9] In his role as a bureaucrat, Nazarbayev spent his days dealing with legal papers, solving logistical problems and industrial disputes, as well as meeting workers to solve individual issues.[9] He later wrote that "the central allocation of capital investment and the distribution of funds" meant that infrastructure was poor, workers were demoralized and overworked, and centrally set targets were unrealistic; he saw the steel plant's problems as a microcosm for the problems for the Soviet Union as a whole.[10]

Rise to power

In 1984, Nazarbayev became the Solute of the Council of Ministers, working under Dinmukhamed Kunayev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan.[11] He served as First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party from 1989 to 1991. Nazarbayev criticized Askar Kunayev, head of the Academy of Sciences, at the 16th session of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan in January 1986 for not reforming his department. Dinmukhamed Kunayev, Nazarbayev's boss and Askar's brother, felt deeply angered and betrayed. Kunayev went to Moscow and demanded Nazarbayev's dismissal while Nazarbayev's supporters campaigned for Kunayev's dismissal and Nazarbayev's promotion. Mikhail Gorbachev accepted the resignation of a deflated Kunayev, replacing him with Gennady Kolbin, an ethnic Russian, triggering three days of riots known as the Jeltoqsan.[citation needed]

Nazarbayev replaced Kolbin, who despite his office had little authority in Kazakhstan, on 22 June 1989.[11] He was Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (head of state) from 22 February to 24 April 1990. Nazarbayev was elected President of Kazakhstan by the Supreme Soviet on 24 April. He supported Russian President Boris Yeltsin against the attempted coup in August 1991 by Soviet hardliners.[12] The Soviet Union disintegrated following the failed coup, though Nazarbayev was highly concerned with maintaining the close economic ties between Kazakhstan and Russia.[13] He won the 1991 presidential election on 1 December, winning 91.5% of the vote in an election in which no other candidate ran against him.[14] On 21 December, he signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, thereby taking Kazakhstan into the Commonwealth of Independent States.[15]


Nazarbayev with George W. Bush at the White House in September 2006

Nazarbayev renamed the former State Defense Committees as the Ministry of Defense and appointed Sagadat Nurmagambetov as Defense Minister on 7 May 1992. The Supreme Council, under the leadership of Speaker Serikbolsyn Abdilin, began debating over a draft constitution in June 1992. The constitution created a strong executive branch with limited checks on executive power. Opposition political parties Ezat, Zheltoqsan and the Republican Party, held demonstrations in Almaty from 10–17 June calling for the formation of a coalition government and the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Sergey Tereshchenko and the Supreme Council. Kazakh security personnel forcibly put down the protest on 18 June 1992. The Parliament of Kazakhstan, composed of Communist Party legislators who had yet to stand in an election since the country gained its independence, adopted the constitution on 28 January 1993.[16]

An April 1995 referendum extended his term until 2000. He was re-elected in January 1999 and again in December 2005. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized the last presidential election as falling short of international democratic standards.[17] An election requires two or more candidates running in opposition. A single candidate is not an election but a referendum. On 18 May 2007, the Parliament of Kazakhstan approved a constitutional amendment which would allow Nazarbayev to seek re-election as many times as he wishes. This amendment applies specifically and only to Nazarbayev: the original constitution's prescribed maximum of two presidential terms will still apply to all future presidents of Kazakhstan.[18]

Nazarbayev apointed Altynbek Sarsenbayev, who at the time served as the Minister of Culture, Information and Concord, the Secretary of the Kazakh Security Council, replacing Marat Tazhin, on 4 May 2001. Tazhin became the Chairman of the National Security Council, replacing Alnur Musayev. Musayev became the head of the Guards' Service of the President.[19]

Nazarbayev with Dmitry Medvedev in Astana, 2008

Notwithstanding Kazakhstan's membership in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), under Nazarbayev the country has had good relations with Israel. Diplomatic relations were established in 1992 and President Nazarbayev paid official visits to Israel in 1995 and 2000.[20] Bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to $724 million in 2005. He initiated the move of the administration from Almaty to Astana.

Nazarbayev at the 2011 Nur Otan congress, discussing cooperation with foreign states in the "fight against terrorism and fight against epidemics and environmental disasters."[21]

On 4 December 2005 new Presidential elections were held and President Nazarbayev won by an overwhelming majority of 91.15% (from a total of 6,871,571 eligible participating voters) as reported by the Central Electoral Commission of Kazakhstan, an estimation criticized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and other election watchdog organizations. Nazarbayev was sworn in for another seven-year term on 11 January 2006.

In 2009, former UK cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken released a biography of the Kazakhstani leader entitled Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan. The book takes a generally pro-Nazarbayev stance, asserting in the introduction that he is mostly responsible for the success of modern Kazakhstan.[22]

December 2011 saw the 2011 Mangystau riots, described by the BBC as the biggest opposition movement of his time in power.[23] On 16 December 2011 demonstrations in the oil town of Zhanaozen clashed with police on the country's Independence Day. Fifteen people were shot dead by security forces and almost 100 were injured. Protests quickly spread to other cities but then died away. The subsequent trial of demonstrators uncovered mass abuse and torture of detainees.[23]

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev received the Man of the Year national award in 2012. The award in State Policy category was also given to Russia's President Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Aleksander Lukashenko. The leaders of the three countries were awarded for their contribution into creation of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and the Customs Union.[24]

Allegations of corruption

In 2004 Transparency International ranked Kazakhstan 122nd (tied with several other nations) in its listing of 146 countries by level of corruption. Kazakhstan's total score out of 10, with 10 being the best, was 2.2 (any score under 3 indicated "rampant corruption").[25] President Nazarbayev declared a holy war against corruption and ordered the adoption of "10 steps against corruption"[26] to fight corruption at all levels of state and society. A few international NGOs have accused the Nazarbayev government of merely paying lip service to anti-corruption efforts. Despite becoming the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe chair in 2010, some civil activists inside and outside the country stated little was done to address “human rights abuses” and “widespread corruption”. The Nazarbayev family itself was embroiled in a series of investigations by Western governments into money laundering, bribery, and assassinations. Among these investigations was the so-called Kazakhgate, as the result of which the US Department of Justice did not find the Nazarbayev family guilty and closed the case in August 2010.[27]

A former minister in the Nazarbayev government, Zamanbek K. Nurkadilov, said that Nazarbayev should answer allegations that Kazakh officials had accepted millions of US dollars in bribes from an intermediary for U.S. oil firms in the 1990s.[28]

Nazarbayev has been called one of the "ultimate oligarchs" of the post-Soviet central Asia states.[29] He is believed to have transferred at least $1 billion worth of oil revenues to his private bank accounts in other countries and his family controls many other key enterprises in Kazakhstan.[29]

Nazarbayev on various issues

Environmental issues

In his 1998 autobiography, Nazarbayev wrote that "The shrinking of the Aral Sea, because of its scope, is one of the most serious ecological disasters being faced by our planet today. It is not an exaggeration to put it on the same level as the destruction of the Amazon rainforest."[30] He called on Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and the wider world to do more to reverse the environmental damage done during the Soviet era.[31]

Nuclear issues

During the Soviet era, over 500 military experiments with weapons of mass destruction were conducted by scientists in the Kazakhstan region, mostly at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, causing radiation sickness and birth defects.[32] As the influence of the Soviet Union waned, Nazarbayev closed the site.[33] He later claimed that he had encouraged Olzhas Suleimenov's anti-nuclear movement in Kazakhstan, and was always fully committed to the group's goals.[34] In what was dubbed 'Project Sapphire', the Kazakhstan and United States government worked closely to dismantle former Soviet weapons stored in the country, with the Americans agreeing to fund over $800 million in transportation and 'compensation' costs.[35]

Nazarbayev encouraged the United Nations General Assembly to establish 29 August as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. In his article he has proposed a new Non-Proliferation Treaty "that would guarantee clear obligations on the part of signatory governments and define real sanctions for those who fail to observe the terms of the agreement."[36] He signed a treaty authorizing the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone on on 8 September 2006.


In a speech given on 15 December 2006 marking the 15th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence, Nazarbayev stated he wished to join with Iran in support of a single currency for all Central Asian states and intended to push the idea forward with Iran's President Ahmadinejad on an upcoming visit. The Kazakh president, however, also criticized Iran as a terrorism-supporting state. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry however, released a statement on 19 December, saying his remarks were not "what he really meant", and his comments were "mistakes".[37]

Women in politics

In 2011, Nazarbayev called on his government to provide increased opportunities for women to serve in politics and government. "I instruct the government, together with the Presidential administration and the national commission for women's affairs, the leadership of the Nur Otan Party, to form a concrete plan effective to 2016 for the promotion of women in taking decisions", he said at the first women's congress.[38]


President Nursultan Nazarbayev has put forward the initiative of holding a forum of world and traditional religions in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. Earlier the organizers of similar events were only representatives of leading religions and denominations. Among other similar events aimed at establishing interdenominational dialogue were the meetings of representatives of world religions and denominations held in Assisi, Italy in October 1986 and January 2002.[39] The first Congress of World and Traditional Religions which gathered in 2003 allowed the leaders of all major religions to develop prospects for mutual cooperation.

Nazarbayev espoused anti-religious views during the Soviet era;[40] he has now exerted effort to highlight his Muslim heritage by performing the Hajj pilgrimage,[40] and supporting mosque renovations.[41]

Under the leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev, which can be termed enlightened authoritarianism, the Republic of Kazakhstan has enacted some degrees of multiculturalism in order to retain and attract talents from diverse ethnic groups among its citizenry, and even from nations that are developing ties of cooperation with the country, in order to coordinate human resources onto the state-guided path of global market economic participation. This notable principle of the Kazakh leadership has earned it the name "Singapore of the Steppes"[1], referring to the authoritarian capitalist guiding principle initiated by Lee Kuan Yew.

Personal life

He is married to the First Lady of Kazakhstan, Sara Alpysqyzy Nazarbayeva, with whom he has three daughters: Dariga, Dinara and Aliya. Dariga was married to Rakhat Aliyev, son of a former minister of healthcare, who served as the First Deputy Foreign Minister and twice as the Kazakh Ambassador to Austria. Dinara is married to Timur Kulibayev, son of a former Minister of Construction, who serves as the First Deputy Chairman of the national holding company Samruk-Kazyna, which manages several state-owned companies and, formerly, as the first Vice President of the state-owned petroleum company KazMunaiGas. Aliya is a businesswoman, who was formerly married to Aidar Akayev, the son of former Kyrgyz President, Askar Akayev; she married, secondly, to Daniyar Khassenov, a Kazakhstani businessman.



  • Order of the Golden Eagle
  • Medal "Astana"
  • Medal "10 Years of the Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
  • Medal "10th Anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
  • Medal "10th Anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
  • Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Railway of Kazakhstan"
  • Medal "10 Years of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
  • Medal "50 Years of the Virgin Lands"
  • Jubilee Medal "60 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
  • Medal "10 Years of the City of Astana"
  • Medal "20 Years of the Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan"

Soviet Union

  • Order of the Red Banner of Labour
  • Order of the Badge of Honour
  • Medal "For the Development of Virgin Lands"
  • Jubilee Medal "70 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"

Russian Federation

  • Order of St. Andrew the Apostle the First-Called
  • Medal "In Commemoration of the 1000th Anniversary of Kazan"
  • Medal "In Commemoration of the 300th Anniversary of Saint Petersburg"
  • Medal "In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow"
  • The Order of Akhmad Kadyrov (Chechnya)

Foreign awards

  • Austria : Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
  • Belgium : Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
  • Croatia : Grand Order of King Tomislav
  • Egypt : Grand Cordon of the Order of the Nile
  • Estonia : Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
  • Finland : Commander Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose of Finland
  • Finland : Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Finland
  • France : Grand Croix of the Légion d'honneur
  • Greece : Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer
  • Hungary : Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary
  • Italy : Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
  • Japan : Order of the Chrysanthemum
  • Latvia : 1st Class with Chain of the Order of the Three Stars
  • Lithuania: Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great (5 May 2000)[42]
  • Luxembourg : Grand Cross of the Order of the Oak Crown
  • Poland : Order of the White Eagle
  • Romania : Sash of the Order of the Star of Romania
  • Russia : Order of St. Andrew
  • Slovakia : Grand Cross (or 1st Class) of the Order of the White Double Cross (2007)[43]
  • Turkey : Order of State of Republic of Turkey (2009)[44]
  • United Kingdom : Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
  • Ukraine : Order of Liberty (Ukraine)
  • Ukraine : Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, 1st Class


  1. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 11
  2. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 16
  3. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 20
  4. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 21
  5. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 22
  6. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 23
  7. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 24
  8. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 26
  9. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 27
  10. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 28
  11. Sally N. Cummings (2002). Power and change in Central Asia. Psychology Press. pp. 59–61. ISBN 978-0-415-25585-1. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  12. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 73
  13. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 81
  14. James Minahan (1998). Miniature empires: a historical dictionary of the newly independent states. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 136–. ISBN 978-0-313-30610-5. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  15. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 82
  16. Karen Dawisha; Bruce Parrott (1994). Russia and the new states of Eurasia: the politics of upheaval. Cambridge University Press. pp. 317–318. ISBN 978-0-521-45895-5. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  17. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – Elections.
  18. "Kazakhstan lifts term limits on long-ruling leader", Los Angeles Times. (19 May 2007). Retrieved on 3 February 2011.
  19. Robert D'A. Henderson (21 July 2003). Brassey's International Intelligence Yearbook: 2003 Edition. Brassey's. p. 272. ISBN 978-1-57488-550-7. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  20. Content. Retrieved on 3 February 2011.
  21. ProQuest. Retrieved on 3 February 2011.
  22. Aitken, Jonathan (2009). Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan. London: Continuum. pp. 1–4. ISBN 978-1-4411-5381-4.
  23. "Abuse claims swamp Kazakh oil riot trial". BBC. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  24. >"Nazarbayev received Man of the Year award". English. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  25. 3006681 TI Report Cover
  26. КонтиненТ: казахстан: политика, общество. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  27. New York Merchant Bank Pleads Guilty to FCPA Violation; Bank Chairman Pleads Guilty to Failing to Disclose Control of Foreign Bank Account, Department of Justice, 6 August 2010
  28. Kramer, Andrew E. (14 November 2005). "Ex-Kazakh Official Who Made a Threat Found Slain". New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  29. Guriev, Sergei; Andrei Rachinsky (October 2006). "The Evolution of Personal Wealth in the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe" (PDF). United Nations University – World Institute for Development Economics Research. Retrieved 17 February 2006.
  30. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 42
  31. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 41
  32. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 141
  33. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 143
  34. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 142
  35. Nazarbayev 1998, p. 150
  36. Right time for building global nuclear security. Chicago Tribune (11 April 2010). Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  37. Kazakhstan dismisses alleged anti-Iran comments from president. Retrieved on 2011-02-03.
  38. "Kazakh president calls for more women in politics"
  39. Congress of World Religions – About Congress of leaders of world and traditional religions. (15 October 2007). Retrieved on 3 February 2011.
  40. Ideology and National Identity in Post-Communist Foreign Policies By Rick Fawn, p. 147
  41. Moscow's Largest Mosque to Undergo Extension
  42. Lithuanian Presidency, Lithuanian Orders searching form
  43. Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class in 2007 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)
  44. Presidency of the Republic of Turkey
  • Nazarbayev, Nursultan (1998), Nursultan Nazarbayev: My Life, My Times and My Future..., Pilkington Press, ISBN 8990449