In a long-awaited move, authorities in Kazakhstan have announced they will rename one of the main streets in the business capital after President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The decision to rename Almaty’s Furmanov Street, which has a special status as the thoroughfare typically associated with official corteges, will come as a surprise to almost nobody, however. It has for years been assumed that the relentless personality cult exercise around Nazarbayev would bring about this move — the only doubt lingered over whether it would happen before or after the president died.
Deputies with the Almaty city council voted to rename the street on November 30, on the eve of First President’s Day — a holiday created in honor of Nazarbayev. Mayor Baurzhan Baybek said his office had been swamped by petitions urging the move from representatives of the intelligentsia, nongovernmental groups and regular members of the public.
Baybek stressed that it was the president’s efforts that had allowed his city’s economy to grown 100-fold and the amount of small and medium business-owners to balloon. If the economy of Almaty accounted for one-ninth of the national economy in the early 1990s, that has now increased to one-fifth, Baybek noted approvingly.
Another 42 streets in Almaty are set for imminent renaming in tribute to famous figures in Kazakhstan’s history or celebrated geographical sites.
The Nazarbayev monicker has already been bestowed on multiple buildings and institutions. There are Nazarbayev Airport and Nazarbayev University in the capital, Astana, which is also home to First President Museum and First President Library. Almaty has a Nursultan Park and a mountain named after the president, who is known in state media by the official, Sultan-like honorific Yelbasy, or “leader of the nation.” The city of Temirtau, where Nazarbayev is from, has a First President Historical-Culture Center. And there is a string of elite state schools for talented children named after Nazarbayev dotted across the country.
State media is utterly slavish in its coverage of anything to do with the president and pretty much all independent media has been crushed or cowed into submission, so it fell to social media to have fun with this development.
Caricaturist Murat Dilmanov drew a cartoon of Almaty resident proceeding along the future Nazarbayev Street on their knees, lest they stamp all over it with their dirty feet.
And the reaction on Twitter appears to be almost universally exasperated. One user, @aksofya, captures the general mood with the comment: “why, why, whyyyyyyyyy? Have these people really got nothing better to do? Leave Furmanov the way it was.”