For three decades - Nursultan Nazarbayev was seemingly everywhere in Kazakhstan, the country he ruled with an autocrat's clenched fist. But a broad inequality persists and fragile independence from Russia is in jeopardy.

The capital's airport was named after him, as were his city's best university, a group of elite high schools throughout the country, well-endowed foundations and wide boulevards.

Mr. Nazarbayev designed a futuristic white steel tower in the center of the city with a gold orb on top. Inside, visitors can place their hands in a giant gold relief of Mr. Mazarbayev's own hand, his finger pointing out the plate-glass windows to his presidential palace in the distance.

He stepped down as president in 2019 after 28 years, but he retained power and influence as the official ''Leader of the Nation.'' His rubber-stamp Parliament renamed the capital city in his honor.

It was an open secret that he was calling the shots.

Now, the man who was everywhere and who controlled everything has all but vanished, after the violent protests last month that spread like wildfire in the country's greatest political upheaval since it became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Political power now rests with Mr. Nazarbayev's handpicked successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who stripped his longtime boss and mentor of his title and his last remaining footholds of power.

Except For making a brief video statement, the former leader has receded the speed of his fall from power almost as stunning as the length of his reign.

In the days after the protests, Kazakhstan was closed to many outsiders. A visit to Nur-Sultan soon after it reopened revealed that life in the bureaucratic city, populated by many civil servants, had mostly returned to normal.

On a recent weekend, shoppers braving the risks of the coronavirus searched for post holiday sales at the Khan Shatyr mall, designed by the British architect Norman Foster in the shape of a large tent.

The calm stood in contrast with the situation in the nation's largest city, Almaty, where violence and looting and brutal police crackdowns have traumatized residents, some of whom are still searching for relatives who disappeared. Almaty's monumental City Hall was vandalized during the unrest and burned for three days, leaving a gutted, blackened shelf.

But over 28 years, Mr. Nazarbayev's reign came to look like kleptocracy. His family enjoyed vast riches, with influence in banking and extraction industries and real estate in Switzerland, London and New York.

A recent report by the think tank Chatham House listed 34 properties bought by members of the country's ruling elite from 1998 to 2020 at a total cost of about $773 million.

Most of the purchases were made by members of Nazarbayev family or people close to them, according to John Heathershaw, one of the report's authors.

Their properties are said to include the house at 221B Baker Street that is the address of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

Mr. Tokayev acknowledged the wealth accumulated by his predecessor's family for the first time in a speech to Parliament on Jan.11.

The Publishing continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks author Valerie Hopkins.


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