12/03/2021, 09.58
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Nur-Sultan, the 'party' of Nazarbaev and his relatives

by Vladimir Rozanskij

30 years after his rise to power, the former president continues to control national politics from the top of the State Council. A model of transformism and stability for all other former Soviet leaders, including Putin. The role in the Kazakh economy of his powerful brother Bolat.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Kazakhstan celebrated a special holiday on December 1: the "day of the first president" Nursultan Nazarbayev, who came to power 30 years ago after the end of the Soviet yoke, an event remembered this year by all the countries born from the ashes of the former USSR. The 81-year-old Kazakh "father of the nation" gave way only three years ago to his designated dauphin, Kasym-Žomart Tokaev, and recently also retired from the leadership of the ruling party, although he continues to control national politics from the presidency of the State Council.

Much has been said and written about Nazarbaev; the capital city of Nur-Sultan was even named after him. He is a model of transformism and stability for all other former Soviet leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition to political sagacity and attunement to the people, his story is also distinguished by the enormous wealth accumulated and shared with the inner circle of family and friends, a trait also shared by leaders and presidents of nations that emerged from the long Soviet stagnation.

A Radio Azattyk report describes, among others, the parable of Bolat Nazarbaev, younger brother of the president, now 68 years old, one of the most controversial characters of the presidential caste. At the time of the fall of the USSR, when his distinguished brother was secretary of the Communist Party in Kazakhstan, Bolat was a simple plumber in a "sovkhoz" (collective farm): today he is one of the richest and most influential men in the country.

Like all relatives of the president, Bolat owns stocks and dividends of all kinds, as well as luxurious real estate in different parts of the world. "The last name is enough," they say in Kazakhstan. In 2019 he held a "steppe party" for his youngest son, with horse races, choir and singer festivals, wrestling contests, and tables set in luxurious yurts, the royally furnished nomadic tents. Guests were handed handfuls of good-natured dollars. The family reached the steppe by helicopter, with a huge escort of soldiers and policemen.

The Nazarbaevs' fortunes began even before the end of the USSR: Nursultan became president of the Council of Ministers of the Kazakh republic as early as 1984, at only 44 years of age, the youngest in all of history. From being an obscure official in Karaganda province, he rose to prominence thanks to the protection of Dinmukhamed Kunaev, an influential leader of Soviet Kazakhstan, with whom he soon came into conflict. In retaliation, Kunaev marginalized Bolat himself, who had all his privileges suspended, accusing him of taking advantage of his brother's position.

As a reward for his sacrifices, Nursultan then wanted to reward Bolat in a special way, ever since he became absolute master of the country in 1989. Appointed a factory manager in the early years of independence, the younger brother eclipsed himself from the public scene, only to re-emerge a decade later as the owner of various companies and wholesale trading firms.

To the name of Bolat Nazarbaev are now linked all the large bazaars of Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, and in general the business of markets throughout the nation: one of the least controllable sectors from a financial and legal point of view. Since 2000 he has sat on the board of Kazakmys, the Kazakh metallurgical giant estimated by Forbes to have .6 billion in capital. Since 2014, all of the Nazarbaevs appear as shareholders in the commercial bank Rbk, with Bolat leading the pack. The favorite brother is also credited with controlling trade on the borders with China.

Many other relatives of the president have made careers, occupying important positions in national politics, starting from the first daughter Dariga, deputy and former deputy premier, in fact the "reserve" of President Tokaev, and so have all the children and grandchildren. Bolat is in some way the "family wallet", and has never wanted to hold public office: it is better to run the country from behind the scenes.

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