04/04/2019, 15.46
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Moscow and Nur-Sultan, the dream of Great Eurasia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

On his first trip abroad, the new Kazakh president, Kassym-JomartTokayev, met with Putin. The fifth Eurasian Economic Union summit will be held on 29 May. The new group is open to former Soviet republics as well as China and Mongolia. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is moving from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russia and Kazakhstan, Moscow and Nursultan – as the Kazakh capital of Astana is now called in honour of Nazarbayev – have decided to boost their strategic partnership in view of the upcoming fifth summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (UEE), following a visit to Moscow of the new Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who arrived yesterday.

For Nazarbayev’s heir, who took office on 20 March, this is the first trip abroad as president. According to the Kremlin press office, talks with Putin and the Russian leaders have addressed bilateral relations and "the prospects for the development of integration processes in the Eurasian area".

The next UEE meeting is scheduled for 29 May 2 in Nur-Sultan, the "crossroad of Asia", the fifth since the organisation was founded on 29 May 2014. Then Kazakh President Nazarbayev launched the idea of ​​the UEE in 1994 as an "Asian response" to the European Union, a year after the Maastricht Treaty came into force.

The group includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan is a prospective member but plans exist to extend it to the east and west, to former Soviet republics as well as Mongolia and China, to create the “Great Eurasia, cornerstone of the multipolar world ", according to Nazarbayev.

As Tokayev told reporters, his visit to Moscow was decided on the day he took office in a three-way telephone conversation with Putin and Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev "blessed" his heir’s visit during a meeting with residents in his home town of Shamalgan, near Almaty, on Tuesday. "I am convinced the new president, Tokayev, a distinguished citizen of Kazakhstan, will fulfill all my expectations."

Tokayev for his part gave an interview to local newspapers, Eremen Kazakhstan and Aikyn, stating that the priority of his foreign policy will be "a strategy with many options, in cooperation with Russia, China, Europe, United States, Central Asia and the Islamic world".

The new leader is trying to ensure broad continuity with his mentor. Only Africa and South America are left out. As Kazakhstan's foreign minister, he is certainly no stranger to the Kremlin.

For Putin, Nazarbayev was a peer, if not an older brother, given his age and the role he played as a Soviet leader. Tokayev appears more like a junior partner. It will be important to see if insider games will continue to go as a new generation takes over. The relationship between Putin and Tokayev will be one of the most important indicators as the post post-Soviet era comes to an end.

Putting aside economic and military negotiations and talks about major transport infrastructural projects (the so-called Via Luminosa), Tokayev announced a symbolic shift during his visit, namely the switch for the Kazakh language from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet as a step "on the path of spiritual modernisation".

According to the president, "the choice of the alphabet is not only a technical and linguistic one; neighbours have chosen Latin, and 90 per cent of the information in the world uses the Latin alphabet".

The issue had been discussed for some time in Kazakhstan, but it still appears to be a break with the "Russian world".

Last year, former President Nazarbayev, who writes only in Russian, approved the Latinised alphabet for Kazakh, a Turkic language now spoken by most of the population. The introduction of the new alphabet should be completed by 2025.

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