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Nazarbaev Floats Renaming Kazakhstan

Grand plans: Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev (center) at a meeting in Almaty in early January
ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has aired the possibility of changing the name of the country.

Talking to residents in the western province of Atyrau on February 6, Nazarbaev said "quite possibly we should consider a changeover of this country to the name Qazaq (Kazak) Eli -- The State of Kazakhs."

He said the issue should first be publicy debated.

Nazarbaev also spoke of the "important advantage of the diversity of this multiethnic country."

Kazakhstan's current name also means the state, or land, of Kazakhs, but in the Persian language.

Some 63 percent of the country's population are Turkic-speaking ethnic Kazakhs, while the rest is represented by dozens of ethnicities, among which the majority are ethnic Russians -- some 24 percent of the general population of 15.5 million.
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