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Silly Dictator Story #6: 102 Books And A University

Some of the many books "by Nursultan Nazarbaev" at the Kazakh National Library in Almaty
Some of the many books "by Nursultan Nazarbaev" at the Kazakh National Library in Almaty
There are few authors more prolific than James Patterson. A regular on the best-seller list of fiction, he has penned 76 works in total. Mr. Patterson has a ways to go, however, if he wants to catch Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

During a recent visit to the Kazakhstan National Library in Almaty, a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service was treated to the full breadth of Nazarbaev’s works -- all 102 of them.

The books span a range of topics -- from energy to nuclear disarmament to peace -- and can be found through such booksellers as and Barnes and Noble as well as in most Kazakh embassies in most languages. In 2008, Nazarbaev released “The Kazakhstan Way,” which included a foreward by none other than former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Other titles include “Radical Renewal of Global Security (2010)” and “A Strategy for the Development of Kazakhstan as a Sovereign State.”

Staff at the National Library told RFE/RL that Nazarbaev was still some distance behind Leonid Brezhnev’s total of 166 books; but in terms of dedicated works, his 172 easily eclipsed all other authors.

By sheer number, Nazarbaev is well ahead of other political figures in terms of authored works, but he is hardly unique in his desire to publish. Cuba's Fidel Castro has also authored several works, most dealing with political, religious, and social topics much like Nazarbaev. His most recent, a two-part, 1,000-page autobiography titled “Fidel Castro: Guerrilla of Time,” was released this year to great fanfare -- on Cuban national TV.

Western politicians are no strangers to the written word either.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy wrote two books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profile in Courage.” Current U.S. President Barack Obama has authored three titles, with “Of Thee I Sing” having been released in the middle of his first term in the Oval Office.

In addition, 38 U.S. senators who served in the 112th Congress (2010-12) have authored works. Some, like Senator Jim Webb (Democrat, Virginia), were fiction writers with books published well before their respective Senate bids. Most of the writings, though, are either single-issue political works -- on topics like green energy or nuclear policy -- or memoirs penned and released just ahead of elections.

None, however, comes close to Kazakh President Nazarbaev’s total of 102 published works, and few can match his timing and presentation.

In 2011, Nazarbaev released a tome on sustainable energy just ahead of the Astana Metallurgy Forum -- a gathering of mining pros -- at which he presented the book. In 2009, he chose the headquarters of RIA Novosti, one of Russia’s largest state news agencies, to present the eloquently titled “The Strategy of Building Post-Industrial Society and Partnership of Civilizations.”

One can only guess at Nazarbaev’s next work, but it may very well involve something about education. A smart-looking eight-page advertising insert in the June 15 edition of "The International Herald Tribune" touted Kazakhstan’s many achievements -- political, economic, and otherwise. It included an item on how the country is about to achieve a “milestone in higher studies.”

Nazarbaev University is set to matriculate its first class of graduates.

Opened in Astana in 2010, the state-of-the-art university boasts a modern campus and English curriculum in both the hard and soft sciences and an impressive list of international partners. According to the "IHT" insert, the school “is funded by the state, but is a completely autonomous and independent body without any government interference.” It does, however, partner with at least two government-run enterprises.

The article quotes Nazarbaev as saying the university is “well-positioned to become the national brand by harmoniously combining national identity, the best international model of education, science, and research practice.”

Kazakhstan’s only post-Soviet leader, Nazarbaev’s publishing prowess and enthusiasm for education are particularly interesting given his past. A former communist official, Nazarbaev received no formal post-secondary education and, in 1994, was openly hostile to Kazakhstan’s Academy of Sciences, which he dissolved after his pick to lead the organization was rejected. Perhaps a sign of a detente between the president and the academy, Nazarbaev was named “Sage of the Century” in 2011.

Now, Kazakhs and citizens of the world alike have the ability to study the many works of Nazarbaev and attend a university bearing his name -- and everyone can do it “The Kazakhstan Way.”

-- Zach Peterson and RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service

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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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