Residents of Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana will soon find themselves with a different address. On Wednesday, the country made a surprise announcement that Astana’s name would be changed to Nursultan, to honor its former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
78-year-old Nazarbayev, who had been ruling the country since 1989, first as a Communist Party leader then as a president, resigned unexpectedly this week. In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, Nazarbayev announced his resignation and appointed Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as the new acting president until 2020.
To honor his predecessor, Tokayev proposed changing the name of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997, to Nursultan, as his first act as president. The Kazakh government attempted to change to capital city’s name to Nursultan in 2016, but the project never came to fruition, until now.
This isn’t the first time Astana’s name has changed over the years; when the city was founded in 1830, it was called Akmoly. Two years later, it became Akmolinsk, then changed to Tselinograd in 1961, and Akmola in 1991. In 1997, the Kazakh government moved the capital city from Almaty, a city on the border with Kyrgyzstan and close to China, to its current location and renamed the city Astana, i.e. “capital.” In Kazakh, “Nursultan” signifies “sultan of light.”