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Nursultan Nazarbaev's Obsession With Immortality

A young-looking 70
The search for immortality has been a human quest for centuries. It was first chronicled in "The Epic of Gilgamesh," a 7th-century B.C. tale about a mythical king. Later, the ancient Greek gods supposedly consumed ambrosia to maintain immortality.

Now, 70-year-old Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev appears to have taken up the challenge of finding an ambrosia for the 21st century. Nazarbaev has repeatedly used his post as president to call for renewed research into medical immortality, most recently in a speech to students marking the opening of Nazarbaev University in Astana.

Nazarbaev spoke of the need for research on a number of topics: "rejuvenation of the organism…the human genome...production of human tissue...the creation of gene-based medicines."

“As for the medicine of the future, people of my age are really hoping all of this will happen as soon as possible," Nazarbaev quipped.

It was his fourth public comment on the subject of immortality in the last two years.

Earlier this year, Nazarbaev was granted powers that will, in effect, allow him to serve as Kazakhstan’s president for life, whether formally in office or not. Two months ago, Roman Kim, a Kazakhstani of Korean descent and a delegate to Kazakhstan's People's Assembly, proposed that Nazarbaev should stay in power until at least 2020.

"Maybe then you'll offer me an elixir of youth and energy," Nazarbaev responded. "Maybe you have such potions in Korea. ...I'm willing to go on until 2020. Just find me an elixir.”

-- Joseph Hammond

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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

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