The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Revolt in Kazakhstan: Why the country’s former leader is no longer untouchable.

For years, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been used to performative adoration from the citizens of Kazakhstan. The country’s leader for nearly three decades, he was showered with praise and adulation at showpiece events, and his image smiled down from billboards across the country.

When he stepped down in 2019, he was able to choose his successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and kept significant power as head of the security council and general behind-the-scenes powerbroker. He retained his official title of Elbasy, or leader of the nation.

Astana, the capital city he ordered built in the heart of the Kazakh steppe, was even renamed in his honour.

To Nazarbayev, it must have seemed like he had found an answer to the problem vexing ageing autocrats across the region: how to step aside in old age without risking retribution. Vladimir Putin and others were doubtless watching with interest.

The events of the past few days might suggest that different lessons should be drawn. Statues of Nazarbayev, meant to be monuments to his legacy, have been torn down by protesters. Instead of chanting “Elbasy”, many angry Kazakh protesters are now chanting “Shal ket” – or “Old man, out!”

Protesters in Almaty on Wednesday. Photograph: Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP via Getty Images

Protesters in Almaty on Wednesday. Photograph: Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP via Getty Images

Discontent at poverty, inequality and corruption led to increasing unrest in the country in recent years, and much of the anger is directed at Nazarbayev himself, who for so long appeared untouchable.

Nimble

Among Central Asia’s vicious and repressive autocrats, Nazarbayev always seemed the most nimble. Born in 1940, he rose through the ranks of the Communist party and became Kazakhstan’s first leader on independence.

He managed to hold the country together during the 1990s, and later to avoid the extreme repressive violence of his peers in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, while also avoiding the revolutionary sentiment of Kyrgyzstan. When 16 people were killed in 2011 protests, he solicited advice from Tony Blair about how best to spin the violence.

He charted a delicate geopolitical course in the years after Kazakh independence, remaining friendly towards Russia, while also courting western leaders and energy companies, who turned a blind eye to the lack of democracy and instead focused on securing lucrative contracts in the country.

Former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev and his successor President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Photograph: Stanislav Filippov/AFP via Getty Images

Former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev and his successor President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Photograph: Stanislav Filippov/AFP via Getty Images

Western lawyers, accountants and advisers helped the new Kazakh elite invest their fortunes in London mansions and Swiss villas. His daughter and grandson are believed to own £80 million (€97 million) of London property. Nazarbayev also engaged a steady stream of western architects and urban planners to build his new capital city.

In 2010, Nazarbayev, perhaps with one eye on the clock, ordered scientists to investigate the creation of an “elixir” that could prolong human life. Eventually, it seems, he accepted the inevitability of the human ageing process and announced in 2019 he was stepping aside.

Stone film

Last year, the director Oliver Stone made a hagiographic film portrait about Nazarbayev’s time in office, named Qazaq: History of the Golden Man, and numerous statues to the retired leader were erected across the country.

Now, his image has become a lightning rod for discontent. On Wednesday, Tokayev announced he was replacing Nazarbayev as chair of the security council, and there were rumours that Nazarbayev might leave the country for “medical treatment”.

It is not clear yet how the unrest in Kazakhstan will evolve, and what role Nazarbayev will play in them, but it seems certain that the events of the past few days will alter the historical legacy he had imagined he would leave. – Guardian

Despite Omicron, Asian Americans Get Ready for Lunar New Year.

Despite Omicron, Asian Americans Get Ready for Lunar New Year.

Some events canceled, others move ahead with precautions Originally published at -

1

What makes West Africa fertile ground for military coups - DW News.

What makes West Africa fertile ground for military coups - DW News.

Not long after the New Year began, another West African country announced yet a new attempted coup. The government of Burkina Faso said last week that it had averted a plot by armed forces to take over the country. Last year there were military ta...

1 14

UK accuses Russia of plotting to install pro-Kremlin leader to head Ukraine's government.

UK accuses Russia of plotting to install pro-Kremlin leader to head Ukraine's government.

Britain has accused Russia of a shadowy plot to install a pro-Kremlin government in Kyiv as Moscow weighs up a further invasion of Ukraine. In a highly unusual move that appeared to be based on specially declassified intelligence, the Foreign Offi...

Churches everywhere on the South Side yet so much violence - Rooftop Revelations.

Churches everywhere on the South Side yet so much violence - Rooftop Revelations.

On the 63rd day of his 100-day rooftop vigil to raise funds for a transformative community center on the South Side of Chicago, Pastor Corey Brooks raised this issue with his assistant pastor at New Beginnings Church, TJ Grooms. #FoxNews #DigitalO...

UK will stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with Kyiv but 'extremely unlikely' to send troops.

UK will stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with Kyiv but 'extremely unlikely' to send troops.

The UK will stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Ukraine but it is "extremely unlikely" British troops will be sent to the Russian border, Dominic Raab has said. The Deputy Prime Minister said the UK and other nations will enforce economic and financ...

British man Marcus Evans ‘beheaded’ with a SICKLE in Thailand as man is arrested.

British man Marcus Evans ‘beheaded’ with a SICKLE in Thailand as man is arrested.

A BRITISH man who was “beheaded” with a sickle in Thailand has been named dad-of-two Marcus Evans. His devastated partner and mother of his kids, Melanie Derrick shared a heartbreaking post on social media after his death. Read on: The Sun newspap...

6 8