ASTANA – The Kazakh Parliament approved on Wednesday a constitutional amendment to change the name of the country’s capital Astana to Nursultan, in honor of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned the previous day after almost 30 years in power.
“A historic decision was made,” said the speaker of the lower chamber, Nurlan Nigmatulin, during a plenary session of Parliament.
The decision was made a few hours after the swearing in of the new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who proposed the name change during his inaugural speech to Parliament.
Parliament unanimously approved the measure, and now only the signature of the new president is required for the name change to be official.
The proposal was pushed through with a fast track amendment to the Constitution, which calls for the holding of a referendum, but Tokayev decided, with the support of the Constitutional Commission, to skip that step.
The first capital of independent Kazakhstan was Almaty, the country’s most populous city.
Astana, which in the Kazakh language means Capital City, has changed names several times throughout history: initially it was called Tselinograd, then it was renamed Akmola (White Grave) in 1997 when it replaced Almaty as the capital. On May 6, 1998, Akmola was renamed Astana.