Kazakhstan is tired of geography-impaired Westerners confusing it with those other inferior -stan countries. And President Nursultan Nazarbayev is ready to do something about that problem.
Nazarbayev floated the idea of dropping the "stan" from the Kazakhstan's name, Reuters reports, in order to help the massive country stand out from its neighboring former Soviet republics in Central Asia. He suggested a name like "Kazakh Eli" — which translates to The Land of the Kazakhs or Kazakh Nation — because that "would be more eye-catching for a foreigner studying the region's map." Specifically, Nazarbayev cited the foreign interest in Mongolia, "whose population is just two million people, but whose name lacks the 'stan' ending." In his mind, that -stan (and bad Borat jokes) is the big thing holding the Kazakh people back from make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan.
He does have a point, notwithstanding. Though Kazakhstan is often confused with the poorer neighbors of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, the country's oil boom and resource-rich exports have launched its economy to the top of those five states. And now, it wants to stand out from that crowd.
A name change wouldn't be too rare for the country, either: its capital city Astana used to be known as Akmola. But Nazarbayev cautioned that he still has to "discuss this with the people," Reuters reports, so don't go scratching off your globe's country labels just yet.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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