In the twentieth century, the world witnessed the heyday of a series of modernization cases in various parts of the world. The first wave of “Asian tigers” in the 1970s, the successes of China, the countries of Eastern and Central Europe in the 2000s, current projects in Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and other countries are well known. These are examples in which nations have managed to overcome the challenges and imbalances of historical development and radically renew their state by occupying higher positions in the world hierarchy.
In the 1990s, Kazakhstan began its journey of modernization. The period of the rebirth of the country and the leap forward fell on the difficult historical stage of the 1990s. This was the page of a new chapter in world history, where Kazakhstan was at the epicenter of many important events in the field of international security, energy and the oil market, as well as the formation of a new regionalization in Eurasia. It was a time of uncertainty and global turbulence, when there was a sharp demolition of the global political system that existed for more than 70 years, and global players were looking for an acceptable format for dialogue and cooperation in still unknown conditions.
For the world, the 1990s were a time of bright new hopes, the appearance on the world map of a number of new states. The world community entered a new historical period: globalization opened up enormous opportunities for cooperation, while strengthening interdependence and revealing previously unknown challenges that were already global, pervasive in nature. In such a “bubbling” international context, the formation of Kazakhstan took place, the first pages of the country’s sovereign history in the twentieth century were written.
Today, one can differently imagine what the path of sovereign Kazakhstan could be, but the personality factor of its first Leader became crucial in the history of the republic. It has long been recognized that one person can turn a historical course. The ability to take responsibility, to have a clear view of the country’s development and to be able to defend it – these features of historical personalities are especially necessary for the people at critical and turning points in history.
Nursultan Nazarbayev played the same large-scale role in the history of Kazakhstan as world-famous reformers such as Ataturk in Turkey, Charles de Gaulle in France, Mahathir Mohammad in Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, Deng Xiaoping in China and others played in the history of their own countries.
Elected by the people to the highest state post on December 1, 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev became the First President of the young state, which was actually at that time, in his words, “near the edge of the abyss.” It was a time when the Kazakh leader chose a national strategy that was adequate to the realities and created an effective model of public administration – they became the decisive factor in the effectiveness of Kazakhstan.
According to the recollections of those times, the situation in which Kazakhstan was on the eve of the collapse of the USSR was unenviable. After gaining independence, Kazakhstan had to answer a whole range of challenges to its development, such as the difficult geopolitical situation and limited economic opportunities. The republic also got an extremely difficult socio-demographic situation.
At that time, due to the rapid destruction of the USSR, the volume of industrial production in Kazakhstan for 1990–1994 halved, transportation – by 2/3, agriculture – by 30 percent. Allied industrial giants in the coal, mining and other industries stopped working. Unemployment grew, mass economic migration began. Kazakhstan had to overcome the ineffective economic model prevailing in the USSR.
In a country that was striving for a market economy, archaic mechanisms of governance and organization of state institutions remained. It was important to maintain peace and harmony in a multinational society, which consists of more than 130 nationalities, professing more than 30 religious denominations. The problem arose of building external relations with neighbors and large countries; it was necessary to look for Kazakhstan’s own place in the world community.
The young Kazakhstan passed through all these thorns under the leadership of its First President. Now that complex of challenges and limitations of the first years looks different – many of them have been transformed into development opportunities. Over time, it is obvious that in the period of uncertainty, the Kazakhstan’s Leader of the nation was able not only to make bold decisions for its time, but also to unite the nation in the crisis period and bring it to a new level of development.
Nazarbayev was always interested in advanced development experience; he deeply studied the history of successful nations. At one time, the evolutionary path of development over decades led Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and China to truly revolutionary achievements. Looking to these countries, Kazakhstan, headed by its leader, also preferred the logic of thoughtful sequential transformations.
Kazakhstan has never copied foreign development models – neither Asian, nor European, nor American. Yes, this, in principle, is impossible – different states, different political and economic conditions, different historical eras. But having independently selected individual universal principles of state building from world experience, the Kazakh leader was able to skillfully apply them to the national context and form its own model of effective reforms, development and effective governance.
In the early 1990s, Nursultan Nazarbayev was able to quickly develop his own program for reforming all areas of state development and successfully implement national modernization. He presented his own development formula “first, economy, then politics”, that is, initially the country relied on economic development, and on this basis, the development of democratic institutions.
Today, this experience is known as the “Nazarbayev Model” or the Kazakhstani Way. It is based on a thoughtful and phased state building based on a rational solution of priority tasks and the pursuit of ambitious goals in the future. It is simply impossible to fit the entire vast history of three decades into the format of this publication, but in short, the efforts of the First President of Kazakhstan have focused on three key stages of reform and development.
The beginning of the 1990s is the time of the First Modernization. Then the task was to rebuild the public administration system, form the foundations of a market economy and integrate into the world community. During this period, Kazakhstan carried out “triple transit” in the economic, social and socio-political spheres. Reforms underwent in all spheres of life.
Kazakhstan deliberately chose democracy as a model for the political development of the device. On the basis of the new Constitution in 1995, a political system was created with the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, and the foundation of the rule of law was laid.
The state carried out deep economic transformations and formed the key mechanisms of a market economy. Against the backdrop of uncertainty, Kazakhstan maintained stability and preserved ethnic and religious harmony in society.
Kazakhstan declared itself to the whole world as a state oriented towards peaceful development, and itself abandoned the 4th largest nuclear arsenal inherited from the USSR. The young state has established diplomatic relations with most countries of the world, and has become a member of the world community and has achieved international recognition.
At that time, Kazakhstan made an unexpected move, developing a strategy for the long-term development of the state. In 1997, Nursultan Nazarbayev presented the Development Strategy until 2030 to the public with a detailed action plan in all spheres of life. While the post-Soviet countries were immersed in solving urgent socio-economic and domestic political issues, the First President of Kazakhstan urged his country to look further, beyond the horizon of several decades ahead.
The second modernization of Kazakhstan started in the third quarter of the 1990s and was completed in the mid-2010s. During this period, organizationally renewed Kazakhstan began to reap the good fruits of its difficult reforms and efforts, and continued to move forward as part of the national development strategy. Under the leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the economy embarked on a trajectory of sustainable growth; a modern system of state institutions and a middle class have formed in the country.
The well-being of society has increased. If in the early 1990s, per capita GDP was $ 700, then by 2013 this figure had already reached $ 12,000. The quality of life has noticeably improved. As a result, the World Bank has included Kazakhstan among the middle-income countries. Through two world economic crises of 1998 and 2008-2009, independent Kazakhstan passed without tangible losses, which confirmed the strength of the young state, proving its viability.
A major successful achievement of the republic at that time was the transfer and construction of the new capital of the state, which today bears the name of the First President – Nur-Sultan. The new capital has solved a whole range of strategic tasks of state development and has become a symbol of the new historical era of our country.
This was a time of new breakthroughs in the areas of governance, political modernization, the search for promising areas in the economy and institutional reforms aimed at improving the efficiency of economic development.
In 2012, Kazakhstan was among the 50 most competitive countries in the world. In those same years, Nursultan Nazarbayev presented a new ambitious development goal in the Kazakhstan-2050 Strategy – to take a place among 30 advanced countries of the world in a few decades. This landmark outlined the national idea of Kazakhstan, which laid the new logic of state building for years to come.
The progressive movement of Kazakhstan towards this goal is ensured by the current Third Modernization, which the First President announced in 2017. Over the years, the republic has already shown its growth potential. Thanks to Nursultan Nazarbayev’s policy, Kazakhstan’s GDP grew from $ 22 billion to $ 184 billion. Efforts to develop the business environment have led the country to rise from 86th place in the World Bank’s Doing Business rating in 2005 to 25th position in 2019.
The achievement of the new development goal will be facilitated by continued reforms to create a professional state accountable to society. Among the priorities of this modern period are the effective development of the economy, attracting investment, innovative industrialization, further social modernization and the preservation of the unity of the people.
During this period, political reforms and economic transformations continue in the country. The future development is based on human capital and spiritual modernization within the framework of the special program “Ruhani Zhangyru”. Three modernizations, not coinciding with each other in current tasks, together constitute a holistic process of updating and development with a single content and algorithm. A stable state system and strong presidential power made it possible to carry out deep reform of the country.
In general, the main result is that modern Kazakhstan has long left the acute stage of survival of the 1990s and moved to the stage of global competition for a place among the most developed countries. The leader of Kazakhstan has always sought to integrate the republic into emerging trends and use the new global wave of changes for the next growth.
Separately, it is necessary to note the position of Kazakhstan in the world arena. Over the years, many of the ideas and initiatives of the First President have been implemented and today are being consistently developed. Kazakhstan has become one of the key activists in the field of global nuclear safety, has achieved a number of results in peacekeeping policy, resolving conflicts and disagreements between other states. The Republic has launched and continues to develop a global inter-religious dialogue based on regular congresses of leaders of world and traditional religions in its capital.
The peace-loving policy of Kazakhstan contributed to the election of the country as chairman of the OSCE, SCO, OIC, non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2019 and other international organizations. The Eurasian idea of Nursultan Nazarbayev was implemented in the created Eurasian Economic Union. Kazakhstan became a member of the WTO, and thanks to the implementation of major infrastructure projects, it became the operator of growing trade flows between East and West Eurasia, which go along land corridors through the territory of our country.
The foreign policy of the country from the very beginning is constructive and based on the principle of multi-vector. Balance in relations with various geopolitical centers of the world allows Kazakhstan to maintain mutually beneficial partnerships with Russia, China, the USA, the countries of the European Union, Central Asia, and the Islamic world. Thanks to good relations with neighbors, Kazakhstan for the first time in history has found clear, unshakable, documented boundaries recognized by the international community.
Since independence, the strategic partnership of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan has been developing on the basis of mutual respect, friendship and good neighborliness. A solid basis for interstate cooperation was laid by the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev and the First President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Ataevich Niyazov (Turkmenbashi). The effective development of bilateral cooperation has continued since the election of the incumbent President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Myalikgulyevich Berdimuhamedov in February 2007. The Turkmen side at all levels notes the enormous personal contribution of the First President of Kazakhstan in building multifaceted cooperation with Turkmenistan and the development of Independent Kazakhstan.
The creation of own state is a turning point in the thousand-year history of the Kazakh people, which for centuries controlled the vast expanses of Central Eurasia. The turn of the XX-XXI centuries was marked for Kazakhstan not even by a turning point, but by a real tectonic shift. As a result of three stages of thoughtful modernization under the leadership of the leader, the country managed to make a “time jump”, i.e. very quickly, without hesitation, move from one political-historical era to a new one, from one economic system to another.
After many years, Nursultan Nazarbayev will say: “… Kazakhstan has proved to itself and its immediate neighbors that it can achieve its goals, no matter how large they are. Consistency, continuity in achieving strategic goals – this is what ensures us success, sustainability of our development … ” These short but meaningful words contain all the logic and results of the three decades of the First President at the head of Kazakhstan.
In 2019, Nursultan Nazarbayev again assumed historical responsibility. In the framework of constitutional procedures, he transferred power to the successor Kassym-Zhomart Tokaev, who a little later in the popular presidential election gained the confidence of the Kazakh people and today leads the republic. The policy of the second president in the history of Kazakhstan is based on the continuity of the policy course of the founder of sovereign Kazakhstan.
Nursultan Nazarbayev will turn 80 on 6 July 2020. And the people of Kazakhstan with special respect and gratitude will celebrate the anniversary of their successful reformer – the Leader of the nation, who during his reign confidently led Kazakhstanis through all the trials, strengthened the young state and brought it to a whole new level of development. /// nCa, 3 July 2020