03/22/2019, 12.16
KAZAKHSTAN
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Astana, protests against the name change of the capital: 20 people arrested

The decision to rename Astana was made by the interim president Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev. An online petition has exceeded 42 thousand signatures. The city has changed its name three times in less than 60 years.

Astana (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In a rare public display of dissent, about 20 people demonstrated yesterday in front of the mayor's office in Astana against the decision to rename the capital in honor of Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan for almost 30 years who resigned on March 19th. The police arrested everyone.

Nazarbayev has ruled the Central Asian republic since 1989, when it was still part of the territory of the Soviet Union. His resignation took everyone by surprise. However, the experts believe that he will continue to maneuver politics from behind the scenes, thanks to administrators loyal to him and to the figure of his daughter Dariga, who has been appointed Speaker of Parliament.

The decision to change the name of the capital Astana is the first official motion of the interim president Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, former Senate Speaker. According to activists, the decision should have gone through parliamentary voting instead. Meanwhile, an online petition launched on the GoPetition platform against the city's fourth name change in less than 60 years has exceeded 42 thousand signatures.

Known as Akmolinsk, in 1961 Astana was renamed Tselinograd ("city of virgin lands" in Russian); in 1991, when the country gained its independence, it assumed that of Aqmola ("White sepulcher" in Kazakh). Finally in 1997, when the capital was moved from Almaty to Aqmola, the city took the name of Astana ("capital" in Kazakh).

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