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Nazarbaev Calls Kazakhstan 'The Country Of The Great Steppe'

  • RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has offered "the Land of the Great Steppe" as his country's official nickname.

Speaking at a special gathering devoted to the 550th anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate in Astana, Nazarbaev said that "this informal name for Kazakhstan symbolizes our multiethnic nation's character."

The events marking the anniversary got under way in Astana on September 11 while the fifth summit of the Turkic Council -- an organization that unites Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan -- is being held in the Kazakh capital.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev are attending anniversary events, including concerts, conferences, and exhibitions.

Nazarbaev announced his idea to mark the 550th anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate last year after Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly in August 2014 that "Kazakhs had never had any statehood."

Putin's words were received with caution by Kazakh society then as Russia had recently annexed Ukraine's Crimea and pro-Russian separatists had seized control over some districts in Ukraine's east.