FILE PHOTO: Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev waves to supporters after his victory in the presidential election was officially announced in Astana, Kazakhstan December 5, 2005. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
For 30 years Nursultan Nazarbayev has presided over what is in effect a one-party state. But he is credited with bringing prosperity and stability to his central-Asian country © Reuters

Nursultan Nazarbayev, a Communist party boss turned economic reformer, has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, first as party secretary when it was still a Soviet republic, and as president since the break-up of the USSR in 1991.

For 30 years he has presided over what is in effect a one-party state. But he is credited with bringing prosperity and stability to the central-Asian country, launching a grand modernisation project designed to maximise its vast oil and gas riches and attract foreign investors.

The 78-year-old “Leader of the Nation” announced his resignation as president on Tuesday, saying he wanted to make way for a new generation, although he will retain key government posts.

Kazakhstan’s founding father

Chairman of the supreme soviet of the russian federation, boris yeltsin and president of kazakhstan, nursultan nazarbayev during the ceremony of signing the treaty between the russian federation and kazakhstan, december 1990. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
Nursultan Nazarbayev and Boris Yeltsin sign Kazakhstan's treaty of independence © Getty
December 1991

As the Soviet Union implodes, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the then head of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, navigates the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, signing its independence treaty in 1991.

April 1995

A referendum to extend Mr Nazarbayev’s presidency by five years is passed.

Bloomberg Best of the Year 2018: A man with luggage stands in front of the Khan Shatyr entertainment center in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Friday, April 13, 2018. Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg
Extravagant buildings spring up in Kazakhstan's new capital, Astana © Bloomberg

Astana, a city created by Mr Nazarbayev, becomes the capital of Kazakhstan - a monument to his rule and to his grand vision for the nation - as well as a tactic to fend off Russian claims on the country’s north. Extravagant buildings and towering apartment blocks spring from the empty steppe. The new buildings, commissioned from international architects but conceived by the president, are plastered with his portrait.

January 2005

Mr Nazarbayev, signs an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to clarify the 4,700 mile border between the two countries. In 2009 Kazakhstan agrees to join the Moscow-led Customs Union — helping allay Russian concerns about China’s growing influence in the country.

Nazarbayev tightens his grip

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 04, 2011 Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev greets his supporters during a celebration rally at a sports center in Astana. - Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his shock resignation on March 19, 2019, 29 years after taking office. (Photo by VIKTOR DRACHEV / AFP)VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images
Party mergers helped cement Nazarbayev's grip on power © AFP

Two of Kazakhstan’s main pro-Nazarbayev political parties, one of which is led by his daughter, merge, further tightening the president’s control over government.


Kazakhstan’s parliament votes to end limits on the number of five-year terms a president can serve, allowing Mr Nazarbayev to rule for life.

May 2007

In a family power struggle, Mr Nazarbayev’s son-in-law is sacked from his official posts. He is later found guilty in absentia of plotting to overthrow the state.


Lawmakers pass a bill giving Mr Nazarbayev immunity from prosecution for actions taken while in office.

April 2011

Mr Nazarbayev wins the presidential election with 95.6 per cent of the vote. He tells supporters he will “continue the course of economic, political and social reforms”.

A new strategy

An oil worker adjusts the wheel of a flow valve on a modern oil pumping unit at an oilfield operated by Embamunaigas, a unit of KazMunaiGas Exploration Production, in Akkystau village, near Atyrau, Kazakhstan, on Saturday, July 4, 2015. The majority Muslim country is central Asia's biggest oil producer. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
Kazakhstan's economic miracle has been based on oil but efforts to mitigate country's dependence on energy have hit problems © Bloomberg
December 2012

The Kazakhstan 2050 strategy, an ambitious plan to modernise the economy and diversify the country’s diplomatic and trade ties, is announced by Mr Nazarbayev in his national address.

September 2013

China’s President Xi Jinping announces his sweeping Belt and Road Initiative to bolster trade ties between China and Eurasia at Nazarbayev university. The following year, Mr Nazarbayev aligns his national development strategy with that of Beijing.

April 2015

Mr Nazarbayev wins 97.7 per cent of the vote in elections.


Protests erupt over legislation to offer foreign investors longer leases on agricultural land. The plan aimed to develop the agriculture sector to reduce Kazakhstan’s dependence on oil. The changes infuriate ordinary people who struggled to repay dollar-denominated mortgages after the steep devaluation of the local currency.

A picture taken on June 10, 2017 shows dancers as they perform at the EXPO-2017 International exhibition in Astana. / AFP PHOTO / Aleksey FILIPPOV (Photo credit should read ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Expo17 in Astana. A grand PR exercise Mr Nazarbayev hopes will lure investors. © AFP
June 2017

Delegates from almost 120 countries descend on Astana for the 2017 Expo, a three-month forum and PR exercise Mr Nazarbayev hopes will convince investors that his reform programme is genuine.

February 2019

Mr Nazarbayev dismisses the government, saying ministers and the central bank have failed to improve living standards.

March 2019

Mr Nazarbayev announces he is stepping down.

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