Kazakhstan: President suggests renaming the country

A view of the Kazakh capital Astana Many of the Soviet-era buildings in Kazakhstan's capital Astana have been replaced

The president of Kazakhstan has apparently suggested changing the country's name, saying the "stan" at the end puts off tourists and discourages investors.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev floated Kazak Eli - or Kazakh Nation - as a possible alternative, the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency says. "Foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just two million people, and its name lacks the suffix 'stan'," he told a gathering of intellectuals, the website Eurasianet.org reports.

The huge, resource-rich nation has been through several rounds of name-changing already. In 1993, the capital Alma Ata became Almaty. Then four years later, the capital was moved across the country to an entirely different place called Akmola. In 1998, a year later, that city's name was changed to Astana.

But don't expect Kazakhstan to rename itself any time soon. Mr Nazarbayev - who has held power since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 - says such a change would only come about after a discussion with the people.

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Astana The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Astana

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