Nursultan Nazarbayev

President of Kazakhstan

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  • In-Country Power
  • International Power
  • Respect
  • Military Strength
  • Intelligence
  • Special Skill: Birthing Borat

Official Stats

  • Official Title: President
  • Government: One-Party State
  • Years Left in Office: Life
  • Political Classification: Right
  • Education: PhD in Economics
  • Age: 77 (born July 6, 1940)

Nursultan Nazarbayev Facts and Information

Important Points

  • Nazarbayev is a strong central figure and popular president who leads Central Asia's biggest economy
  • Nazarbayev's Kazakhstan has huge reserves of oil and natural gas, that everyone wants
  • Nazarbayev maintains strong ties with Russia, which is a continuation from Soviet times
  • Nazarbayev has increasingly been developing Western, Chinese, and even Iranian relations as well to counter-balance reliance on the Russians
  • Nazarbayev very much has an iron grip on the country, but wants 'the West' to recognize him as an enlightened pro-democratic leader.

The Rundown

‘Stan back suckas! This is the strong man of the Central ‘stans! The Kazakh country that birthed Borat also has a much more powerful, and much more non-fictional, figure that you should know about: Nursultan.  Nursultan Nazarbayev is the Central Asian playa’ of all playa’s, and I’m not talking about the board game RISK here either…although that is an appropriate analogy of what our main man from Astana has been up to for the last couple of decades: playing competing foreign powers off of each other to strengthen the Kazak hand! And he is winning this game my friends! Dig this:

Kazakhstan has the highest proven oil reserves in the Caspian region and is seen as one of the most important potential sources of new crude oil for both Asian and Western markets—meaning the US and Europe as well as China and Japan are all vying for influence here….and mother Russia has vested historic interest here as well.  Kazakhstan’s economy is larger than those of all the other Central Asian states combined, largely due to the country’s vast natural resources and a recent history of political stability. How did they get that political stability? And who is dealing with all these competing foreign influences? Enter: Nursultan.

Nursultan Nazarbayev is the 21st century kick-ass Kazakh that has overseen the successful climb of his country’s economy and influence since the Soviet Union crashed and burned in 1991. He was working his way up the Soviet political chain for years as Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, eventually becoming First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party in 1989, and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet in 1990 (head of the Kazakh SSR). Thus, he was particularly pleasantly placed to assume presidential power when the USSR dissolved in 1991, thus paving the way for Kazakh independence. And that he did.  To solidify his claim to power, he won the first Kazakh democratic election in 1991 in which he received 92% of the vote. Damn! They love him! Well, that, and no one ran against him.

Nursultan has held power as the president ever since! Winning two more elections by margins greater than 90%, he has been in power almost two decades strong! And he is a strong central leader too…perhaps a little too strong for the tastes of many Westerners. There have been widespread reports of corruption, political cronyism, restrictions on the media, clamping down on the internet, poor human rights record, and vote-rigging. It should be noted that international institutions have never deemed any of the Kazakh elections as completely free and fair.

But no worries! Even if their elections were completely free and fair, Nursultan would have handily won them anyway. He is an exceptionally popular dude! With clarity of vision that is overwhelmingly focused on economic expansion and success of his state…perhaps even at the expense of true democracy and civil liberties.  In fact, he is to Kazakhstan what Vladimir Putin is to Russia: a strong, successful leader who stirs nationalistic pride and confidence in the country! And like Putin, he has restored his country’s economy to a success story following the soviet implosion in the 1990’s….mostly off of oil and gas sales.

So what if he and his family and friends have made billions in business deals from government contracts? So what if the state ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International (TI)? So what if the elections aren’t exactly fair and there is no real political opposition party? So what if he changed the constitution to allow himself to be President forever? As long as the state is growing and getting richer, everybody loves him! As does the outside world!

And that’s why he is important to know: the world now has a very real interest in Kazakhstan, and therefore in the man who runs the show there, our good friend Nursultan Nazarbayev. Like who?

Russia of course! They have a historical strategic relationship with Kazakhstan and wants desperately to keep it in their sphere of influence. Current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s very first foreign diplomatic visit was to meet with Nazarbayev. Sez Medvedev: “This visit is not just a coincidence but a demonstration of cooperation and particularly brotherly relations between Russia and Kazakhstan.” Oh how true Dmitry! The Russians want all that Kazakh oil flowing thru their territory so as to maintain their strategic edge as the premier energy supplier to Europe and the world. Most of the Russians space program is run through the renowned Baikonur space complex, located in Nursaltan’s territory. On top of that, Russia has military and economic ties with Kazakhstan which are becoming ever-more strengthened through the SCO (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), in which Russia and China are the primary players, with Kazakhstan high in the ranks too.

Speaking of China, our main men President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao from China have visited Nursultan many times to secure energy to fuel their economic machine. They also have strengthening military and economic ties to the Kazaks via the SCO, and most importantly, the Chinese see the strong-armed Nursultan as a staunch ally in helping combat Islamic extremism in Central Asia…a role that Russia and others seriously support. What others?

Bring it home to Uncle Sam, baby! Even the US has been courting Nazarbayev because even though he may not be the most democratically-inspired leader, his strong-arm tactics and popularity in his country make him a a champ at crushing Islamic extremism and terrorism of any stripe…a much needed zone of political stability in an otherwise turbulent sea of -stan countries. But make no bones about it: the US has also been cutting deals with Nazarbayev to get US oil companies into Kazakhstan to get at that sweet, sweet petroleum payload! Suck it up Sammy!

In return, Nursultan wants to be considered a respected, enlightened, democratic leader that can hang with the West. And he has secured that street cred! The US and ‘the West’ as a whole can’t kiss this guy’s ass enough! They just made Kazakhstan the chair of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), a 56-member democracy, rights and security body in 2010…despite Nursultan’s poor record on democracy.

One last interesting foreign policy ploy: Nazarbayev is also playing up the Iranians too!  In a recent announcement of a railway link, Nazarbayev expressed religious solidarity with Iran, as he was quoted as saying, “Today I will pay a visit to Turkmenistan where we will agree on the construction of a railway through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Iran with access to the Persian Gulf. This will bring us closer to our Muslim brothers.” Muslim brothers? Hilarious! This ‘muslim-ness’ embrace may just be a crafty business ploy….but as a ‘true defender of the faith’ Nursultan has also completely and totally and fully embraced the west’s War on Terrorism, which means in his country that any hint of Islamic extremism is hunted down and whammied long before it can rear its jihad head.

Put together this focus on international business and expanding economic ties, huge energy resources, and a pledge to fight Islamic terrorism, and you now know why ‘the West’ and Russia and China love this dude so much….even if corription and democracy and civil liberties are not exactly at western standards. But then again, neither is Russia’s!

Which makes Nursultan Nazarbayev an interesting cat and powerful world figure…certainly the most powerful one in Central Asia.  Cutting oil deals with all neighbors and the US and Europe….promising the pipe to everyone! Nursultan, you are a playa’!  Look for him to grow in international importance in a variety of organizations, and he will be around a while longer too since he can pretty much secure the presidency as long as he wants. No end in sight for Nursultan! Long live the double N!

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