“One Fatherland, one Fate, one Leader of the Nation” – so says the slogan beside the smiling face of President Nursultan Nazarbayev on giant billboards looming over the streets in Kazakhstan. They are promoting a new holiday on December 1: First President’s Day, when Kazakhstan will fete its longtime leader.
Astana – the glitzy capital, and Nazarbayev’s brainchild – will be the focal point of celebrations. There, Nazarbayev University will host Nazarbayev readings that will ponder the president’s “strategic vision and outstanding leadership.” Hearts and minds will be won with $830,000-worth of largesse distributed in cash to socially-vulnerable groups in Astana. Babies born there on the auspicious day will be awarded romper suits emblazoned with a holiday logo.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.