The festivities on July 5-6 in Astana were designed to reflect Nazarbayev's desire that the national capital both help assert the culture and language of Kazakhs while being respectful of the traditions of the country's myriad other national groups. "Every state has its symbols, at the mention of which the hearts of citizens begin to beat more strongly, and their souls are filled with dignity and pride," Nazarbayev told dignitaries assembled in the presidential palace on July 5, the day before the anniversary. "For us Astana is such a symbol."
To underscore the Astana's importance in the efforts to recalibrate Kazakhstan's national identity, July 6 was declared a national holiday. "Today the name of the capital of our motherland, Astana, has become kindred and close for all the country's citizens," Nazarbayev said. "Each Kazakhstani, from the moment of the transfer of the capital, began to live with the feeling that a great and necessary deed was being carried out in the country."
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.