Kazakhstan renames capital Nursultan after ex-president

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(Almaty) – Kazakhstan´s parliament voted to rename the country´s capital in honour of longtime ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev, a day after he resigned as president, state media reported.

“Astana is now officially renamed Nursultan,” the state-owned Kazinform news agency said after a parliamentary vote.

Kazakhstan´s new interim president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed renaming the capital after he was sworn in following Nazarbayev´s shock resignation on Tuesday.

In his first official act, Tokayev proposed that Astana — the gleaming new capital Nazarbayev erected in the country´s vast steppes — be renamed “Nursultan”, or “Sultan of Light”.

Astana replaced Kazakhstan´s largest city Almaty as the capital in 1997 and was transformed from a minor provincial town into a futuristic city.

Its name meant “capital” in Kazakh and there had long been speculation it could at some point be renamed after the leader who shaped it.

It was not the first name change for the city, now home to more than 800,000 people.

Astana was previously known as Akmola, Tselinograd and Akmolinsk.