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Kazakhstan: President Stamps Personality on the Nation

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev attends a ceremony recognizing his country's nuclear past at a memorial to the victims of nuclear testing in the town of Semey, formerly Semipalatinsk. (Photo: David Trilling)

Visitors to Astana, Kazakhstan's glittery capital, love to zoom up to the top of the Bayterek Tower in an elevator for a panoramic view over the new city that has sprung up on the steppe over the last decade or so.

On July 6, Astana is celebrating its 11th birthday, and -- with a national holiday declared for the occasion -- many of its inhabitants will join visitors to mark the event at the slender white tower crowned by a golden egg that lies at the heart of the new city.

At the top, as well as enjoying the view over the futuristic skyline, visitors will be lining up to place their hands in a handprint made by the president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and make a wish.

They may get more than they bargained for. As they place their hands in the outline, music rings out through the top of the tower -- and not just any music, either, but a song penned personally by the president called "My Country."

This is not to be confused with "My Kazakhstan," a popular folk song whose words Nazarbayev altered before it was adopted as Kazakhstan's national anthem.

To read the full story

Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan: President Stamps Personality on the Nation

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