Kazakhstan Gets Nazarbayev’s Official Life Story
Star of stage and screen, fairy-tale hero – Kazakhstan’s Leader of the Nation is now getting his place cemented in the history books with the publication of his first official biography.The tome offers a “historical retrospective” of the life and times of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first (and so far only) president of independent Kazakhstan, under whose astute tutelage the country’s “dramatic” march forward will be viewed.Being billed by state media as the first attempt at “a historical biographical study of the life and activity” of Nazarbayev, the book, overseen by the president’s office, follows “his path from simple rural guy to national leader.”If the territory sounds familiar, it is: The early stages of this rise to power and glory were charted in last year’s movie Sky of My Childhood, and Nazarbayev’s life has also featured in a hagiography written by disgraced former British MP Jonathan Aitken (after Aitken served time in a British jail for perjury). That was followed by the stage play Deep Roots, an allegorical take on Nazarbayev’s rule. The president has also starred as a children’s fairy-tale hero. All this hype has sparked criticism that myth-builders surrounding Nazarbayev are fostering a cult of personality. That view was bolstered last year by the appearance of a giant statue of Nazarbayev in Almaty’s Park of the First President. That’s another of his official titles, along with Leader of the Nation.Nazarbayev also has a university named after him in his glitzy capital, Astana (which celebrates its City Day on Nazarbayev’s birthday, July 6, a national holiday), and a network of Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools across Kazakhstan. The president is quite an intellectual himself, judging by his prolific literary output. RFE/RL reported last month that, as well as managing to run the country, the president has penned an astonishing 102 books (and he also reportedly helped out with the words to the national anthem).After over two decades in power, 72-year-old Nazarbayev doesn’t look ready to step down from the helm any time soon. But when he does leave office, his hard-to-follow legacy is certainly going to be stamped on the nation’s psyche.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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