Magazine | Politics

Kazakhstan at 25

The last Soviet republic to declare independence has come a long way since 1991, but challenges remain.

By Aigerim Toleukhanova, Nygmet Ibadildin for
Kazakhstan at 25
Credit: Shamil Zhumatov, Reuters

In 2016, Kazakhstan and most of the states of the former Soviet Union celebrated their 25th independence anniversaries. This year marked not only a quarter-century of Kazakhstan’s independence but also the 23rd anniversary of the national currency, the tenge, and the fifth anniversary of the deadly clashes between police and oil workers in the western city of Zhanaozen, which shocked the international community and scared both people and authorities in Kazakhstan.

On December 16, 1991 Kazakhstan declared its independence and left the Soviet Union. It was the last Soviet republic to do so. On December 1, prior to the declaration of independence, there were national presidential elections with only one candidate: Nursultan Nazarbayev. He won 98.78 percent of the votes and continues to rule the country to this day, making him the longest-ruling president in the former Soviet Union.

The path to Kazakhstan’s independence did not begin in 1991; it started 30 years ago, in 1986.