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Airport In Kazakh Capital Renamed After President Nazarbaev

A worker removes snow in front of a statue of President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Almaty.
A worker removes snow in front of a statue of President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Almaty.

The airport in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, has been renamed after long-ruling President Nursultan Nazarbaev, state media have reported, citing a government resolution.

According to the directive published in the state-owned Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper on June 21, the resolution to change the name of Astana International Airport is effective immediately.

As Kazakhstan looks to project itself as a regional economic success story, the apparent personality cult surrounding Nazarbayev has reached new heights during the second half of his near 30 years in power.

Nazarbaev already has a national university and a series of schools for high-achieving Kazakh youth named after him.

He is also celebrated by several statues.

Proposals to name the capital's airport in his honor date back to at least 2009.

Earlier this year, another Central Asian country, Uzbekistan, named its own airport after late President Islam Karimov, who largely eschewed a personality cult during his rule of more than a quarter of a century.

Karimov died of a reported stroke last year, leaving Nazarbaev, who has been running the republic since 1989, as the only leader of an ex-Soviet country to have been in charge both before and after independence from Moscow in 1991.

In 2010, the country's bicameral parliament granted Nazarbaev the status of Leader of the Nation, which guarantees him immunity from prosecution and a role in policymaking if he decides to retire.

Although oil-rich Kazakhstan enjoyed substantial growth in the first years after the millennium, it was hit hard by the collapse of oil prices in 2014 as well as Western sanctions against key trade partner Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

Rights groups regularly accuse Nazarbaev of cracking down on political opposition, independent journalists, nongovernmental organizations, and labor unions.

With reporting by AFP
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