Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev is planning to change his country’s name. A new name has not been decided upon yet but he surely plans to drop the 'stan' from it.
Here’s why he would want to make the change:
- To distinguish his booming oil-rich nation from the rest of Central Asia, where the other ‘stans’ like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan that are mostly hindered by poverty.
- He wants nothing to do with the "stan" suffix that is also attached to investor-unfriendly Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- The name Kazakhstan indicate it to be a predominantly Kazakh country, where as there’s also a large number of ethnic Russians as well as some Central Asian and European ethnic groups so a unifying national identity can be a good step.
However, President Nazarbayev feels differently with respect to the third reason. He feels a new name like Kazakh Eli, which stands for "The Land of Kazakhs", would be more eye-catching for a foreigner studying the region's map.
"In our country's name, there is this 'stan' ending which other Central Asian nations have as well. But, for instance, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just two million people, but whose name lacks the 'stan' ending," he said.
He makes sense however when he says, "Probably, we ought to consider with time the issue of adopting Kazakh Eli as the name of our country, but before that we definitely need to discuss this with the people," he said without elaborating.”
For surely; people of other than the Kazakh origin will have a lot to say in this matter.
Nazarbayev, known as the "Leader of the Nation" and widely nicknamed "Papa" has been in power for more than two decades and has never held free and fare elections.
What he lacks in democracy, he has more than made up for in terms of market reforms and foreign investment.
Kazakhstan is the world's ninth largest nation by area and the largest economy of the post-Soviet region. Foreign companies have invested billions of dollars in the nation's mineral wealth since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But Kazakh officials say the vast country of steppes and mountains is still little known in the world.
If anyone, it is Papa who can change Kazakhstan’s name. After all, almost a decade ago he did move the capital from a green and productive Almaty to the windswept steppe town of Akmola and a year later renamed the new capital Astana - which literally means "capital" in the local Turkic language.
We just hope the people of the country have more of a say in what to name their homeland.