30 years since independence: milestones to remember
Tomorrow, December 16, is an important day for Kazakhstan that celebrates 30 years since it gained independence in 1991. December 16 is the date that put the country on its path towards prosperity and growth from the systemic crisis that it ended up in when the Soviet Union collapsed. Strategy2050.kz offers to go through five important milestones over this period.
Relocation of capital
The decision to move the country’s capital from Almaty to Astana, a small provincial town in the middle of the steppes, raised eyebrows among many officials, but First President Nursultan Nazarbayev was firm in his decision and despite of criticism that this decision faced, the capital was relocated on December 10, 1997. The official presentation took place six months later, in June 1998.
Twenty-four years later, a small provincial town has turned into a vibrant and rapidly growing metropolis, home to nearly one million people, according to official statistics.
In his book called “In the Heart of Eurasia,” Nursultan Nazarbayev devotes pages to explain his decision.
"I thought for a long time, thought out all the steps, consulted with historians, political scientists, and cultural experts, studied the history of the transfer of capitals in different states," he wrote.
According to him, the new capital was to become a symbol of change and he is sure that it has become one embodying the rapidly developing country.
Closure of Semipalatinsk nuclear test site
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Kazakhstan inherited the world’s fourth-largest nuclear arsenal. The decision to close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site is by far among the major achievements of Kazakhstan. The closure and the horrific human implications that nuclear tests left on people living near the test site paved the way for Kazakhstan’s active efforts in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
At Kazakhstan's initiative, the United Nations declared August 29 the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
In 2012, Kazakhstan launched the ATOM project aimed at eliminating the world’s nuclear arsenals by calling people to sign the petition. Since then, more than 313,000 people signed the petition.
ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador is artist Karipbek Kuyukov, who was born without arms due to the radiation his mother was exposed to. Karipbek was born in a small village, just miles from where the Soviet Union conducted more than 450 nuclear weapons tests. Those tests exposed his parents to radiation and resulted in Karipbek being born without arms. Karipbek has overcome many obstacles to become an anti-nuclear weapons activist and renowned artist, whose works have been shown around the world.
OSCE Summit in Kazakh capital
2010 was an important year for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. In 2010, Kazakhstan chaired the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the first Central Asian and former Soviet State to chair the Organization.
As the organization’s chair, Kazakhstan sought to "bring closer the positions of participating States both west and east of Vienna, based on the principles of impartiality and balance, and to advance the Organization's role in strengthening security and deepening co-operation in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok,” according to then Kazakhstan's Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev.
The summit held in Astana, the former name of the Kazakh capital, was the first OSCE Summit in 11 years. The summit concluded with the signing of the Astana Declaration.
"We have reconfirmed our support to the comprehensive approach to security based on trust and transparency in the politico-military field, on rational economic and environmental policy and on the full-fledged observation of human rights, basic freedoms and the rule of law. We intend to raise the level and quality of security and understanding between our states and peoples," said Nursultan Nazarbayev addressing the OSCE summit back then.
Kazakhstan’s mediation efforts
Foreign leaders and experts repeatedly commended the mediation efforts of Kazakhstan that strives to promote its multivector policy ensuring it has trust-based and friendly relations with countries.
Its efforts were best reflected when Kazakhstan offered a dialogue platform for talks on the Iran nuclear deal in 2013 and the Syrian talks in 2017.
On February 26-27, 2013, Almaty hosted the first talks on Iran's nuclear program, which were attended by the five permanent UN member states - Russia, China, the US, France, and the UK, as well as representatives of Iran, Germany, and the EU.
Kazakhstan did not participate in the talks, acting as a moderator. On April 5-6, 2013, another round of talks on the Iranian nuclear program was held in Almaty between representatives of the E3+3 (Great Britain, Germany, China, Russia, the USA, France) and Iran.
The talks on Syria, more known as the Astana Process, were brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Launched in January 2017, the talks continued through this date, with the next scheduled to take place in Nur-Sultan at the end of December.
As a result of their fourth meeting in May 2017 that gathered delegations from Russia, Iran, and Turkey as well as representatives of the Syrian government and the armed Syrian opposition, guarantor-countries signed a memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria. According to the document, the de-escalation zones were established in the provinces of Idlib, Homs, Eastern Ghouta, as well as Deraa and Quneitra with the aim to stop the violence.
Their latest meeting was in July 2021, where the guarantor countries - Russia, Turkey, and Iran - stressed the need for increased humanitarian assistance to all Syrians throughout the country without discrimination and politicization.
"In order to support the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Syria and progress in the political settlement process, we called on the international community, the UN and its humanitarian agencies to step up assistance to Syria, including through early recovery projects, including basic infrastructure - water and electricity, schools, hospitals, and humanitarian demining in accordance with international humanitarian law," the statement said.
Promoting its international image has been a priority for Kazakhstan, and the specialized exhibition EXPO-2017 held under the theme of future energy was one of the country’s major achievements.
The exhibition was held from June 10, 2017 through September 10, 2017 and gathered 115 countries and 22 international organizations.
Outlining the outcomes of the exhibition in 2017, Nazarbayev said that it gave a powerful impetus to the cultural development of the capital and Kazakhstan as a whole.
"Every day the capital of the country was witnessing the sounds and colors of cultures from all over the world. Here ancient traditions and modernity converged, creating a unique atmosphere of a genuine celebration of creativity,” he said back then.
Focusing the entire exhibition on the topic of future energy put Kazakhstan at the vanguard of this effort in the region and paved the way for its further active work in this area.
In December 2020, Kazakhstan announced its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. At the moment, coal accounts for 70 percent of Kazakhstan's electric power output.