Photo: Kazakh-whaaat? / Kazakhstan

Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 7

By Elena Kosolapova - Trend: First it was Kazakhstan then it became the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, as part of the USSR. After the demise of communism it reverted back to Kazakhstan. But now its president wants to change the name once more to Kazakh eli. Would that make a citizen of the country a Kazakhelitist or a Kazakhelite?

This idea came to the country's president Nursultan Nazarbayev who proposed to change the official name of the republic.

"There is 'stan' in the end of the name of our country as in other Central Asian countries," the president said. "Meanwhile the foreigners are showing interest in Mongolia... which has no 'stan' in the end of is name. We must consider such a name as "Kazakh eli". But we must discuss this with Kazakh people."

Since the majority of the initiatives suggested by the Kazakh president are supported by the Kazakh government and people as a rule, the new idea is likely to be supported too.

However it will take a lot time to get rid of old name. In fact a lot of toponyms have been changed in former Soviet countries, including Kazakhstan since the early 1990s. But very often people do not know new names or just ignore them and still use the names which existed in Soviet times. For example old name of other Central Asian country Kyrgyzstan is much more common in the world than its official name Kyrgyz Republic.

The other problem of such rename is financial. Rename of the country will entail the change of documents, maps, nameboards and etc. which will result in huge costs.

Earlier analytics and economists of Kazakh "Vlast" (power) journal counted that rename of Kazakh city of Almaty back to Alma- Ata will cost at least $115 million. It is obvious that rename of the country will cost much more.

Moreover some experts think that "Kazakh eli" name will infringe upon the rights of non- Kazakh citizens of the country which counts on about 40 percent of country's population. Besides Kazakhs over 120 nationalities live in the country including Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Poles, Uzbeks, Chechens, Koreans, Uyghurs and other.

In fact, the initiative to change the name of Kazakhstan is not new. For example famous Kazakh blogger, actor and television presenter Diaz Azimzhanov published a petition urging to rename the country to Kazakh eli on OnlinePetition.kz portal in March 2013.

"From my own experience I know that we are often confused with the countries of Southern Asia, that is Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many foreigners see no difference in the political climate between our and the above mentioned countries. And in spite of the number of our victories on the world stage and number of image advertisement, the similarity in the names of our country and above mentioned countries (namely with "stan" ending) spoils the overall picture of our country," he wrote.

Over 340 people have signed the petition by today.

Earlier some Kazakh politicians and public figures proposed to rename Kazakhstan to Kazakh Republic, Kazakh Orda, Kazakh Khaganate and so on.

Thousands of toponyms were changed in Kazakhstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among the renamed cities are Satpayev (Nikolskiy before 1990), Aktau (Shevchenko before 1991), Astana (Tselinograd before 1992 and Akmola in 1992- 1998), Almaty (Alma-Ata before 1992), Aksu (Ermak before 1993), Zhanaozen (Novy Uzen before 1993), Taraz (Zhambyl before 1997), Aktobe (Aktyubinsk before 1999), Ridder (Leninogorsk before 2002), Semei (Semipalatinsk before 2007) and so on.

The statistics concerning the number of renamed settlements, villages and streets do not exist.

The majority of the cancelled names was changed due to their Slavic origin and was replaced by Kazakh words.

However not all Kazakh people are satisfied with new names. For example there are proposals to rename Zhanaozen to Beket-Ata, Ridder to Kunayev and Almaty back to Alma-Ata.

The president's proposal on the country rename became the most discussing topic of the day on Kazakh forums and media. However realization of such kinds of initiatives requires quite a long time. So Kazakhstan still has time to weight all the pros and cons of such measure.

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