Soon after becoming President of the newly independent Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev made an announcement that shocked the nation. The fledgling nation's capital would no longer be Almaty, the country’s oldest and largest city but Akmola, a town almost 1,000 kms further north across the vast, semi-arid steppe. Nothing could have prepared the residents of the new capital for the dizzying developments that lay ahead.

When Kazakhstan declared independence from the Soviet...
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