5 Jul 2018 19:20

Putin likens Astana's rise under Nazarbayev with development of Petersburg under Peter the Great

ASTANA. July 5 (Interfax) - The decision made by the president of Kazakhstan two decades ago to move the country's capital from Almaty to Astana proved absolutely justified and was realized magnificently, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

"I think (...) the decision was justified. I know it was not easily conceived. I know that at the time - and back then life was the same for all of us - there was no money in Kazakhstan, there was no money in Russia. There were many domestic problems, economic and social. And probably at that moment the decision appeared hardly justified. Too costly," Putin said in an interview with Yerlan Bekkhozhin, head of the Kazakhstan presidential television and radio complex.

The interview is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Astana.

"Subsequent history proved the decision was absolutely balanced, correct and, most importantly, very competent and effectively implemented," Putin said.

When told that on this issue [creating a new capital] Nursultan Nazarbayev had no backing even among many of his acolytes, Putin said: "Well, that's why he is president and they are not - yet," Putin said.

He recalled his first visit to the future capital of Kazakhstan "around the early-2000s." "Initially it was a small, very modest - to put mildly, no offense to anyone - Soviet townlet," Putin recalled.

"What has happened to it in the past 20 years, [could be called] if not a miracle, then a bright event in the life of the whole region as well as Kazakhstan, I think," Putin said.

He likened Astana's fate to that of St. Petersburg, noting that "St. Petersburg once rose under Peter the Great in Russia in about the same way."

Putin emphasized Nazarbayev's personal contribution to the development of Astana. "Everything that's there is largely to his credit, because I know - he told me himself - he did not even think about what to put where and how," Putin said.