Society

Kazakhs look to new year after historic 2019

By Aydar Ashimov

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The construction of a clock tower at the excavation site of the ancient city of Taraz, which is more than 2,000 years old, is expected to be complete by the New Year's holidays. December 19, Taraz. [Aydar Ashimov]

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Youth are photographed against a New Year's tree in a supermarket. December 19, Shymkent. [Aydar Ashimov]

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Shops and government buildings are festively decorated as the new year nears. December 18, Shymkent. [Aydar Ashimov]

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Kazakhs buy New Year's gifts in advance. December 18, Shymkent. [Aydar Ashimov]

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Kazakhstan's capital prepares for the holiday. This December, weather in Nur-Sultan has been mild by local standards: no colder than -10 to 15° Celsius. December 19, Nur-Sultan. [Aydar Ashimov]

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New Year's displays depict Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter the Snow Maiden. December 22, Taraz. [Aydar Ashimov]

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Residents of Taraz are photographed with a display of fairy-tale Christmas reindeer and Santa Claus's sleigh. December 22, Taraz. [Aydar Ashimov]

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A New Year's tree is shown in the capital. December 19, Nur-Sultan. [Aydar Ashimov]

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Kazakh cities are decorated with festive lights. December 22, Taraz. [Aydar Ashimov]

NUR-SULTAN -- In the history of independent Kazakhstan, the year 2019 will be remembered for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's retirement in March from his position, which he had held since 1990.

He retained several positions for himself, including Leader of the Nation and lifelong chairman of the country's Security Council.

Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was appointed acting president. One of Tokayev's first steps was to sign on March 23 a decree renaming the country's capital, Astana, to Nur-Sultan in Nazarbayev's honour.

On June 9, Kazakhstan held presidential elections that Tokayev won with 71% of the vote. Tokayev continued Nazarbayev's political course but forbade the use of his own photographs on billboards and in civil servants' offices.

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On December 16, Kazakhstan celebrated Independence Day. Shown is a monument to the late Qairat Rysqulbekov, who is considered a symbol of the struggle against Soviet rule. Rysqulbekov was arrested several weeks after a December 1986 protest in Almaty and died under mysterious circumstances in prison in May 1988. December 16, Taraz. [Aydar Ashimov]

In the international arena, Kazakhstan's most significant campaign of the past year was Operation Jusan (Bitter Wormwood), during which more than 600 Kazakhs -- those who had joined the "Islamic State" (IS) and their dependents -- were repatriated from Syria.

Kazakhstan also brought home children whose mothers are serving life sentences in Iraqi prisons for terrorist activities.

The fight against terrorism was a priority for law enforcement. In 2019, Kazakh authorities prevented three terrorist attacks and eliminated seven extremist groups.

The population of Kazakhstan was about 18,396,000 at the start of 2019, according to the government. A census is planned for 2020. The last census took place in 2009.

On New Year's Eve, festivities for children organised by local authorities take place in every city. During the New Year's holidays, Kazakhs will have January 1-4 off from work.

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