Nursultan Nazarbayev (nŏŏrsŏŏltän´ näz´ərbī´əf), 1940–, Kazakh politician, president of Kazakhstan (1991–). Trained as a metallurgical engineer, he was employed at the Karaganda (Qaraghandy) iron- and steelworks. He later became an economist and in 1969 began serving in Communist party posts at the local level, becoming first secretary of the Kazakh Communist party by 1989. Chairman of the Kazakh Supreme Soviet (1989–90), a member of the Soviet politburo (1990), and president of the Kazakh SSR (1990–91), he became independent Kazakhstan's first president in 1991. Nazarbayev, who advocated cooperation within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and favored privatization and other economic reforms, initially faced stiff parliamentary opposition. By the mid-1990s, however, his control of the nation had been solidified and his rule had become autocratic. He was returned to office in 1999 after disqualifying his main rival. The president's international reputation was further tarnished in 2002 by the imprisoning of two leading political rivals and revelations that $1 billion had been transferred to a foreign bank account in his name. He was reelected in 2005, 2011, and 2015 in elections that European observers criticized for multiple reasons. In 2010 he was proclaimed "leader of the nation" by legislation that increased his influence and protected him from prosecution after his retirement as president. He has benefited domestically from an economy that has improved significantly since the 1990s. Internationally, Nazarbayev generally has been an advocate for closer economic and political integration in the CIS.
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