(b. Chemolgan, Kazakh SSR, 1940)
Kazakh; President 1990– Born of Kazakh peasants he studied at technical college in Ukraine and worked in the steel industry. He joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1962, becoming First Secretary of the party in Kazakhstan in 1989. In 1990 he was elected President by the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan. He resigned from the Communist Party in protest against the attempted coup to depose Gorbachev and then led Kazakhstan to independence in December 1991. He has remained in power since then. He is an authoritarian ruler who has suppressed opposition to his rule and he has used the power available to him to help him win presidential elections in 1999 and in 2005. In 2007 he persuaded Parliament to allow him to stand for re-election for as long as he wished. When Kazakhstan became independent, he was active in the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States. He closed the Russian nuclear weapons testing station at Semipalatinsk but came to arrangements with Russia for the lease of the Baikonur rocket launching site and called upon Russian assistance to help with the exploitation of oil resources near the Caspian Sea. An oil pipeline to Russia was opened in 2001 and one to China in 2005. Nazarbayev has been able to use oil revenues to develop the country, including the construction of a new capital, Astana, which includes buildings designed by the British architect Norman Foster. The period of privatization in the 1990s brought wealth to his family and associates and their hold on the economy of the country will remain secure while Nazarbayev continues to clamp down on opposition to his rule. In the 2007 parliamentary elections his party, Nur-Otan, won all the seats, in an election considered fairer than previous elections.