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Drop the 'stan': Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev mulls renaming the country to Kazak Yeli

Nazarbayev says new name will make it stand out from poorer countries in the region

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has suggested changing the name of Kazakhstan to Kazak Yeli in a bid to differentiate the oil rich nation from its 'poorer' neighbours in central Asia.

Nazarbayev said dropping the 'stan' and renaming the country Kazakh Eli, which stands for 'The Land of Kazakhs', will make it stand out and encourage investment in the mineral-rich nation.

Nazarbayev's press service quoted him as saying: "In our country's name, there is this 'stan' ending which other Central Asian nations have as well.

"But, for instance, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just two million people, but whose name lacks the 'stan' ending."

He added: "Probably, we ought to consider with time the issue of adopting Kazakh Eli as the name of our country, but before that, we definitely need to discuss this with the people."

This is not the first time Nazarbayev proposes a radical name change.

In 1998, he moved the capital from Almaty in southeastern Kazakhstan to Akmola in the north. A year later, he decided the new capital should be named 'Astana' in a bid to end a dispute over the meaning of Akmola, which stands for both 'white tomb' and 'white plenty' in Kazakh.

Nickname 'Papa' and 'Leader of the Nation', the 73-year old former steelworker has been in office since 1989 and enjoys vast powers in the country.

Kazakhstan has a population of 17 million people and boasts the largest economy among the region's post-Soviet block, which also includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.