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Immortalized At Home, Kazakh President's Cult Of Personality Spreads Abroad


Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, hot on the trail of immorality.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, hot on the trail of immorality.

Nursultan Nazarbaev is no stranger to adulation. Kazakhstan’s first and only post-Soviet president, Nazarbaev has authored more than 100 books, opened a state-of-the-art university bearing his name, and may even be directly responsible for Barack Obama’s reelection as president of the United States.

Nazarbaev is immortalized across Kazakhstan with a corner in nearly every museum reserved for some sort of tribute to him (see the map below). The most popular exhibits are suits he has worn or documents he has signed combined with pictures of a youthful Nazarbaev on the way to -- or returning from -- his internship at a steel mill in Dniprodzerzhynsk, Ukraine (also the site of a Nazarbaev bust).

The president has also lent his name or likeness to countless statues, parks, museums, secondary schools, and institutes across the country.

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Nazarbaev's cult of personality is beginning to spread beyond Kazakhstan's borders.

Although it's a difficult task to rank them, the large Nazarbaev statue in the Turkish capital Ankara is probably the most visible of all the monuments to the Kazakh president. The bust is not the only Nazarbaev memorial in Turkey. In both Nevshehir and Kirshehir, towns in central Turkey, there are streets bearing Nazarbaev's name.

Drivers in Chechnya and Jordan can also take an evening cruise down Nazarbaev Street in their respective capitals. Students and parents in Grozny, Chechnya, can pursue an education at the Nursultan Nazarbaev lyceum school.

A bit closer to home, visitors to Kyrgyzstan's Cholpon Ata on the visually stunning Lake Issyk-Kul will have a hard time missing the large bronze statue of Nazarbaev standing between a prancing horse and a large cat. There are reports that a school and park bearing Nazarbaev's name will be built near Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan as well.

Already immortalized in bronze and other metals, Nazarbaev may be inching closer to eternal life -- researchers at the university bearing his name say they have (potentially) discovered the "elixir of life."

Naturally, the directive to work on the serum had come straight from the president himself.

-- Zach Peterson and Makpal Mukankyzy

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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