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Kazakhstan's Singing President

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev playing the dombra, a national instrument of Kazakhstan.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev playing the dombra, a national instrument of Kazakhstan.

Central Asian presidents have already carved out a reputation for longevity.

With a combined 90 years in power among the five of them, they have proven amazingly adept at clinging to office in their post-Soviet republics. (Kyrgyzstan's head of state is a notable exception, at just five years and the only reasonably competitive election victory in the bunch.)

But that has not discouraged some of the region's more autocratic leaders from creatively padding their resumes.

Take the latest effort by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, in office since 1989.

The veteran president's official website recently posted four songs that it claims were "authored" by Nazarbaev.

It is unclear whether, between gigs dissolving a rubberstamp legislature, ducking selfies, or bracing for economic crisis, Nazarbaev wrote the lyrics, composed the music, or both.

The playlist includes two cloyingly patriotic songs, My Land (Zherim Menin) and My Nation (Elim Menin). Two others, Spotted Horse (Shubar At) and Ushqonur, the latter named after a place in Kazakhstan, are nostalgic songs that describe the author's longings for his or her childhood, parents, and native village.

The website has also uploaded a separate playlist of Nazarbaev's "Favorite Songs" comprising popular Kazakh patriotic and folk tunes.

The Kazakh presidency's website,, and its Facebook account claim that Nararbaev also co-authored Kazakhstan's national anthem.

The 75-year-old head of state has previously been seen singing and playing the national musical instrument, the lute-like dombra (here and here).

Nazarbaev isn't Central Asia's only singing president.

In energy-rich neighbor Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov debuted as a singer-songwriter in Ashgabat back in 2011.

In Tajikistan, President Emomali Rahmon has been known to grab the microphone and sing along with performers during concerts.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov hasn't been seen singing in public, but he often bursts into dance at public events.

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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