Nazarbayev, Nursultan Abishevich

views updated


(b. 1940), Communist Party, Soviet, and Kazakh government official.

Born into a rural family of the Kazakh Large Horde in the Alma-Ata region, Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbaev finished technical school in 1960, attended a higher technical school from 1964 to 1967, and married Sara Alpysovna, an agronomist-economist. He joined the Communist Party (CPSU) in 1962, began working in both the Temirtau City Soviet and Party Committee in 1969, and advanced rapidly thereafter. In 1976 he graduated from the external program of the CPSU Central Committee's Higher Party School, and from 1977 to 1979 he led the Party's Karaganda Committee. Nazabayev's abilities as a "pragmatic technocrat," and the support of such patrons as the Kazakh Party's powerful first secretary Dinmukhammed Kunayev and Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov and Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov in Moscow ensured his election as a secretary of the Kazakh Central Committee in 1979,

to the Soviet Party's Central Auditing Commission from 1981 to 1986, to chairmanship of the Kazakh SSR's Council of Ministers in 1984, and to the CPSU Central Committee in March 1986.

In the riots following Kunaev's ouster in December 1986, Nazarbayev sought to control student demonstrators. Rather than harming his career, his stance won him considerable support among Kazakh nationalists, and loyalty to Mikhail Gorbachev ensured his place on the Soviet Central Committee. Elected to the new Congress of People's Deputies, he quickly became the Kazakh Party's first secretary when ethnic riots again broke out in June 1989. From February 1990 he also was chairman of the Kazakh Supreme Soviet, which elected him the Kazakh SSR's president in April. He joined the Soviet Politburo in that July but, after briefly temporizing during the August 1991 putsch, left the Soviet Party the following September. He presided over the Kazakh Party's dissolution in October, and then won a massive electoral victory on December 1, 1991. As president, Nazarbaev over-saw formation of an independent Republic of Kazakhstan and its entry into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Despite deep ethnic, religious, and linguistic divisions; continuing economic crisis; Russian neglect; and bitter political disputes within the elite, he maintained Kazakhstan's unity and position within the CIS. To this end he replaced the parliament with a People's Assembly in 1995, and a referendum extended his term until 2000. Surprising the opposition by calling new elections, Nazarbaev became virtual president-for-life in January 1999 and, with his family dynasty, dominates a powerful cabinet regime that often constrains, but has not abolished, Kazakh civil liberties.

See also: communist party of the soviet union; kazakhstan and kazakhs; nationalities policies, soviet


Bremmer, Ian, and Taras, Ray. (1997). New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Olcott, Martha Brill. (1995). The Kazakhs, 2nd ed. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution.

Olcott, Martha Brill. (2000). Kazakhstan: Unfilled Promise. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Morozov, Vladimir, ed. (1995). Who's Who in Russia and the CIS Republics. New York: Henry Holt.

David R. Jones

About this article

Nazarbayev, Nursultan Abishevich

Updated About content Print Article