"Where are you, Nursultan Abishevich? You can’t seriously believe that you can reconstruct former Tselinograd into the Republic’s new capital in such a short space of time?" Such was the conversation between Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev on December 11, as reported by Vladimir Ni, Head of Kazakhstani Presidential Affairs. (Panorama, December 12) To the continuing disbelief of many, the first working day of Kazakhstan’s new capital took place on December 10. A joint session of both chambers of parliament and the government of Kazakhstan took place at the new presidential residence, where President Nazarbaev read out an "Address to the People of Kazakhstan" signed by himself, Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev, Senate Chairman Omirbek Baigeldi, and Mazhilis Chairman Marat Ospanov. (US-Kazakhstan Council Newswire, December 10)
The president stated that, as of December 10, "decisions determining the fate of our nation will be made here in the center" and that generations to come would be grateful for the capital’s relocation to "one of the geographic centers of the Eurasian landmass." (Panorama, December 12) During the joint session, officials approved a decision to establish an International Disadvantaged Citizens Support Fund, and an awards ceremony bestowed medals on those individuals who had made the move possible, including: Vladimir Ni; head of Akmola region , Zhanibek Karibzhanov; former Akmola mayor Amanzhol Bulekpaev; and Akmola’s chief architect, Kaldybay Montakhaev.
Despite Ni’s assurances that the administration and government are already working in the reconverted seven-story building of the former regional administration, and that parliament’s building will be completed by the end of the year, the months ahead promise further construction, confusion, and expenditure. The new Presidential residence is not ready. The five-star hotel, whose foundation was rumored to have been built at an angle, is fast coming to rival the tower of Pisa. State officials, between offices, are frantically establishing their new responsibilities as parliamentarians labor to re-organize the library and papers from which they were separated almost two months ago. Ospanov stated that parliament would effectively begin work on January 16. (Panorama, December 12)
The $100 million spent to house government and parliament will soon be outspent by the brand new administration building on the banks of the river Ishim. (Karavan, December 12) But, despite the confusion, the Republic’s leaders remain undaunted. On December 12, they hosted a meeting in Akmola with Kyrgyzstan’s president, Askar Akaev, and Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, at which they signed a protocol of intent to set up a number of joint regional enterprises. (Reuter, December 12) Speaking from Akmola’s derelict runway, President Karimov stated that he admired Nazarbaev for having made a difficult decision which required "courage, vision and resolution." The international opening ceremony for the new capital is scheduled for June 10 of next year.
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