“A day of unity and harmony”: Kazakhstan Celebrates Day of the First President

English translation from Astana Calling Issue #332

Kazakhstan is in celebratory mood this week, as the country geared up for the national holiday; the Day of the First President.  It is the second time that the holiday is being marked and commemorates the date, December 1st 1991, when Nursultan Nazarbayev was elected as Kazakhstan’s first President by the population.  A little over two weeks later, Kazakhstan declared its independence.

The holiday was established after a bill was passed by the Senate (the upper house of parliament) in December 2011 to acknowledge the achievements of President Nazarbayev since Kazakhstan became independent.  Since that time, President Nazarbayev has helped to transform Kazakhstan from a Soviet republic into a modern, democratic state.

This sentiment was summed up by the Chairman of the Majilis (the lower house of parliament), Nurlan Nigmatulin, at an international conference on November 26 to mark the start of the national celebration.  At the conference, entitled “The Role of the First President of Kazakhstan, the Leader of the Nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in the Development of Parliamentarianism in Kazakhstan”, Mr Nigmatulin praised the President for his role in carrying out reforms in all areas economically, socially, and politically.

The actual holiday falls on a Sunday this year, so Monday December 2 was a day off work for most citizens.  But following the parliamentary conference, preparations for the holiday have been gathering pace all over the country.  The Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan has been particularly active and imaginative in preparing for the day’s celebrations.

On November 27 in Astana, the Assembly hosted a lecture, “Kazakhstan as a model of ethnic tolerance and social agreement”, and also a fashion show of national costumes titled “Ethno-FASHION”. Followed by a concert of ethnic music given by musicians from the Zhambyl and Kyzylorda Regions.  The following day the Assembly held a conference on “Peace and Agreement”.  In all, the various local branches of the Assembly have arranged more than 40 different events throughout the country including conferences, round tables, celebratory events, exhibitions, competitions, and festivals of art and crafts.

But this holiday is not simply about celebrating.  Representatives of the Nazarbayev University have marked the Day of the First President by spending a few days visiting schools and colleges in Ust-Kamenogorsk and in the Eastern Kazakhstan Region at the invitation of the Akim (Governor) of the Region.  They were there to tell local students what they have to do to enroll at Nazarbayev University.  Indeed, schools in the area show particularly high standards in mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology; as well as English language.  One of the presentations was even made in English to test the students and they passed with flying colors as they understood it very well.

In Ekibastuz, in the Pavlodar Region, the holiday was being marked by the opening of a new children’s technical school: a kindergarten for 320 children and the presentation of the keys to new flats to 45 families.  A charity concert was held in the town under the banner, “A Present for the President” where the money raised will go to the families of disabled children.  The town’s music school, which was built thanks to the support of the President, is holding a concert of “The Three Tenors” in honor of the holiday.  Also there were sporting events such as people from Ekibastuz  taking part in a 2,400m (1.5 miles) fun run, “the President’s Mile”, and there were volleyball and ice hockey tournaments.

“The results of two decades of development for independent Kazakhstan – the massive reforms in all areas of life, the sustainable growth of the economy, a just social policy, the steady democratization of society – all of this is a direct result of the fulfilment of the strategic course set by the Head of State.” – Nurlan Nigmatulin, Chairman of the Majilis