The last ex-Soviet satrap of Central Asia, he leaves power after almost 30 years of uncontested domination. Khasim Zhokayev, the current Speaker of Senate, takes his place. The map of religions and tolerance.
Astana (AsiaNews) - Yesterday 19 March, the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, resigned with a televised address to the nation. At almost 79 years old, after 29 years of almost absolute power as president, his departure from the scene is decidedly unexpected and sensational, as he apparently enjoys good health and is without any political opposition in the country. In 2015 he was elected to his fifth presidential term, with 98% of the votes.
Nazarbayev is the last ex-Soviet satrap of Central Asia, where between 1989 and 1991 the secretaries of the local Communist Party became heads of state, without any particular social upheaval. Russian communism naturally gave way to the nationalist dictatorship of the various leaders, as if modern centuries had never passed, with life-time positions and personalized constitutions.
In Azerbaijan, current president Ilham Aliyev has been in office since 2003, is in his fourth term, and is the son of Heydar Aliyev, president from 1993 to 2003.
In Uzbekistan, President Islom Karimov remained in office from 1991 until his death in 2016, when he was replaced by his dauphin Shavkat Mirziyoyev, whom he himself appointed.
Same story in Turkmenistan, where Saparmirat Nyyazov remained in power from 1990 to 2006, then replaced by the faithful Malikgulyyewich Berdimuhammedow after his sudden death.
In Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon has been in office since 1993.
The political scene in Kirghizstan is just a bit more lively.
The only ex-Soviet European country to resemble the Central Asian sultanates is Belarus, where the "godfather of the homeland" Aleksandr Lukashenko has been reigning since 1994, and resists Moscow's attempts to "incorporate" the most western of the countries of the "Russian world ".
However, Nazarbayev retains for life the post of president of the Security Council of the country of nomads and steppes, the ancient homeland of the knights then called "Cossacks" (kozaki / kazaki) in Russia, and also remains secretary of the ruling Nur Otan party. Senate Speaker Khasim Zhokayev has been appointed to lead the country.
In his television announcement, the old president declared his sense of powerlessness in the face of current changes: "I and my generation have done everything we could for this country, the results are right before your eyes. The world is changing , and new generations arrive: it's up to them to try to do even better ".
Kazakhstan has thrived in these 30 years thanks to natural and oil resources, the advantages of which have become quite uncertain over time, and the pangs of the economic crisis are beginning to be felt.
As and more than other presidents of the former Soviet Union, to justify his power, Nazarbayev exploited religious sentiment. In his case, the overwhelmingly Muslim country, has been exalted as a model of tolerance and friendship among all religions. Continuing the syncretistic line of the last Soviet secretary Mikhail Gorbacev, who recently turned 88, Kazakhstan has hosted ecumenical and inter-religious meetings worldwide, serving as a mediator between the religions of the West and the East. There is a strong Russian Orthodox minority in the country, but also significant Catholic communities (organized in the dioceses of Astana, Karaganda and Almaty) formed largely by citizens of Polish and German origin, deported to Asia during Stalin's time.