|“||When we were engaged in the problems of survival we had no time to have anything to do with culture.||„|
|~ Nursultan Nazarbayev|
Nursultan Äbishuly Nazarbayev (born 6 July 1940) is a Kazakh politician and statesman who currently serves as the Chairman of the Security Council of Kazakhstan after serving as the first President of Kazakhstan. He was in office as president from 24 April 1990 until his resignation on 19 March 2019. He was named First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR in 1989 and was elected as the nation's first president following its independence from the Soviet Union. He holds the title "Leader of the Nation". In April 2015, Nazarbayev was re-elected with almost 98% of the vote, as he ran "virtually unopposed".
Nazarbayev was born in Chemolgan, a rural town near Almaty, when Kazakhstan was one of the republics of the Soviet Union, to parents Ábish Nazarbayev (1903–1971) and Aljan Nazarbayeva (1910–1977). His father Ábish was a poor labourer who worked for a wealthy local family until Soviet rule confiscated the family's farmland in the 1930s during Joseph Stalin's collectivization policy. Following this, his father took the family to the mountains to live out a nomadic existence. His family's religious tradition was Sunni Islam.
Äbish avoided compulsory military service due to a withered arm he had sustained when putting out a fire. At the end of World War II, the family returned to the village of Chemolgan, and Nazarbayev began to learn the Russian language. He performed well at school and was sent to a boarding school in Kaskelen.
After leaving school, Nazarbayev took up a one-year, government-funded scholarship at the Karaganda Steel Mill in Temirtau. He also spent time training at a steel plant in Dniprodzerzhynsk, and therefore was away from Temirtau when riots broke out there over working conditions. By the age of 20, he was earning a relatively good wage doing "incredibly heavy and dangerous work" in the blast furnace.
Nazarbayev joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1962, becoming a prominent member of the Young Communist League (Komsomol) and full-time worker for the party, and attended the Karagandy Polytechnic Institute. He was appointed secretary of the Communist Party Committee of the Karaganda Metallurgical Kombinat in 1972, and four years later became Second Secretary of the Karaganda Regional Party Committee.
In his role as a bureaucrat, Nazarbayev dealt with legal papers, logistical problems, and industrial disputes, as well as meeting workers to solve individual issues. He later wrote that "the central allocation of capital investment and the distribution of funds" meant that infrastructure was poor, workers were demoralised and overworked, and centrally set targets were unrealistic; he saw the steel plant's problems as a microcosm for the problems for the Soviet Union as a whole.
In 1984, Nazarbayev became the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan (Chairman of the Council of Ministers), under Dinmukhamed Kunayev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. At the sixteenth session of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan in January 1986, Nazarbayev criticized Askar Kunayev, head of the Academy of Sciences, for not reforming his department. Dinmukhamed Kunayev, Nazarbayev's boss and Askar's brother, felt deeply angered and betrayed. Kunayev went to Moscow and demanded Nazarbayev's dismissal while Nazarbayev's supporters campaigned for Kunayev's dismissal and Nazarbayev's promotion.
Kunayev was ousted in 1986 and replaced by a Russian, Gennady Kolbin, who despite his office had little authority in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev was named party leader on 22 June 1989, only the second Kazakh (after Kunayev) to hold the post. He was Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (head of state) from 22 February to 24 April 1990.
On 24 April 1990, Nazarbayev was elected as the first President of Kazakhstan by the Supreme Soviet. He supported Russian President Boris Yeltsin against the attempted coup in August 1991 by Soviet hardliners.
Nazarbayev was close enough to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for Gorbachev to consider him for the post of Vice President of the Soviet Union; however, Nazarbayev turned the offer down. However, on 29 July, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Nazarbayev discussed and decided that once the New Union Treaty was signed, Nazarbayev would replace Valentin Pavlov as Premier of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union disintegrated following the failed coup, though Nazarbayev was highly concerned with maintaining the close economic ties between Kazakhstan and Russia. In the country's first presidential election, held on 1 December, he appeared alone on the ballot and won 95% of the vote. On 21 December, he signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, taking Kazakhstan into the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Nazarbayev has been accused of human rights abuses by several human rights organisations and suppressed dissent and presided over an authoritarian regime. No election held in Kazakhstan since independence has been judged to be free or fair by the West. In 2010, he announced reforms to encourage a multi-party system. In January 2017, Nazarbayev proposed constitutional reforms that would delegate powers to the Parliament of Kazakhstan.
Despite his resignation, he is still behind the leadership of the country, like a head of state. His resignation is often considered to be an attempt to turn him into a Lee Kuan Yew type of public figure. In the month since his resignation, he had met with South Korean President Moon Jae In and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during their visit to Kazakhstan. Notably, their meetings with Nazarbayev took place separately from their meetings with President Tokayev, who is the de jure head of state. Two days after leaving office, he attended the Nauryz celebrations where he was greeted by the civilian population. In regard to accommodations as the first president, it is known that his personal office (now known as Kokorda) has been moved to a different location in the capital from the presidential palace. It was also reported in late-April 2019 that Nazarbayev also maintains a private jet for official and private visits.
He has embarked on two foreign visits since leaving office, to Beijing and Moscow. The former visit took place during the 8th Belt and Road Forum while the latter taking place during the 2019 Moscow Victory Day Parade. In late-May, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced the naming of Nazarbayev as the honorary President of the Turkic Council. On 7 September, he visited Moscow once again to attend the Moscow City Day celebrations on the VDNKh and to open his pavilion at the trade show.
Nazarbayev is married to Sara Alpysqyzy Nazarbayeva. They have three daughters: Dariga, Dinara and Aliya. Aliya's first marriage was notably to Aidar Akayev, the eldest son of former President of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev, which for a short period in time, made the two Central Asian leaders related. Having grown up in the USSR, Nazarbayev is fluent in Russian as well as Kazakh. He has two brothers, Satybaldy (1947–1980) and Bulat (born 1953), as well as one sister named Anip.