Meet Central Asia’s Newest Capital City – Nur Sultan

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Nur-Sultan Financial District

Kazakhstan on Saturday took the unusual step of renaming its capital city Astana to Nur-Sultan, in honour of the country’s long standing President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned last Tuesday. The name change became immediately effective from the publishing of the Presidential decree, which was issued on Saturday, and was signed off by the interim president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Nazarbayev, who is 78, announced his resignation in a surprise public address on national television on Tuesday evening. “I have taken a decision, which was not easy for me, to resign as president,” Nazarbayev said, noting he was the “first president of independent Kazakhstan”. He said he would continue as chair of the country’s powerful security council, and the leader of the Nur Otan party, which dominates parliament. The name change has not come without controversy – given the fact it only occurred 72 hours ago, it is likely to increase, and a small number of protesters have been arrested.

The move to rename Astana comes twelve years after the capital shifted to what was then a small trading town, from Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan,  further east and closer to the border with China. Today, the capital has a population of just over a million.

Nur-Sultan Fast Facts 

  • Capital since 1997
  • Population: 1.030,000 (equivilent to Dallas, Birmngham, Brussels, Rostov, Jining)
  • GDP per capita (nominal): US$10,000
  • Major industries: Trade, Communications, Transport, Energy, Manufacturing, and Agriculture. Kazakhstan’s largest companies are headquartered in Nur-Sultan.
  • To watch:  The Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) opened in July 2018 aims to become a hub for financial services in Central Asia.
  • Member: Eurasian Economic Union
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