The Rise of Nazarbayev
In June 1989, Kolbin was replaced by Nazarbayev, a politician
trained as a metallurgist and engineer. Nazarbayev had become
involved in party work in 1979, when he became a protégé of reform
members of the CPSU. Having taken a major role in the attacks
on Kunayev, Nazarbayev may have expected to replace him in 1986.
When he was passed over, Nazarbayev submitted to Kolbin's authority
and used his party position to support Gorbachev's new line, attributing
economic stagnation in the Soviet republics to past subordination
of local interests to the mandates of Moscow.
Soon proving himself a skilled negotiator, Nazarbayev bridged
the gap between the republic's Kazaks and Russians at a time of
increasing nationalism while also managing to remain personally
loyal to the Gorbachev reform program. Nazarbayev's firm support
of the major Gorbachev positions in turn helped him gain national
and, after 1990, even international visibility. Many reports indicate
that Gorbachev was planning to name Nazarbayev as his deputy in
the new union planned to succeed the Soviet Union.
Even as he supported Gorbachev during the last two years of
the Soviet Union, Nazarbayev fought Moscow to increase his republic's
income from the resources it had long been supplying to the center.
Although his appointment as party first secretary had originated
in Moscow, Nazarbayev realized that for his administration to
succeed under the new conditions of that time, he had to cultivate
a popular mandate within the republic. This difficult task meant
finding a way to make Kazakstan more Kazak without alienating
the republic's large and economically significant Russian and
European populations. Following the example of other Soviet republics,
Nazarbayev sponsored legislation that made Kazak the official
language and permitted examination of the negative role of collectivization
and other Soviet policies on the republic's history. Nazarbayev
also permitted a widened role for religion, which encouraged a
resurgence of Islam. In late 1989, although he did not have the
legal power to do so, Nazarbayev created an independent religious
administration for Kazakstan, severing relations with the Muslim
Board of Central Asia, the Soviet-approved oversight body in Tashkent.
In March 1990, elections were held for a new legislature in
the republic's first multiple-candidate contests since 1925. The
winners represented overwhelmingly the republic's existing elite,
who were loyal to Nazarbayev and to the Communist Party apparatus.
The legislature also was disproportionately ethnic Kazak: 54.2
percent to the Russians' 28.8 percent.
Data as of March 1996