Three Takes on Nazarbayev’s “Contagion”

On June 18, 2020, the website of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan released an information that caused an outburst of all kinds of emotions in the press and on social media. We are talking about Nursultan Nazarbayev getting infected with coronavirus. A number of hypotheses and rumours on who could have communicated the disease to the Elbasy and to what extent the information could be trusted appeared on the same day.  

Let us quote this uber-short document (text in bold by

«The First President of Kazakhstan is currently self-isolated. Unfortunately, Elbasy’s latest coronavirus testing showed a positive result. There is no cause for concern.

Nursultan Nazarbayev continues to work in the remote mode».  

The information on Nursultan Nazarbayev talking on the phone with Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Zheenbekov on that same day served as a confirmation that the former head of the Kazakh state was feeling OK and continued keeping his finger on the pulse of the country.

We will allow ourselves not to believe the Library’s statement quoted above. In our opinion, the likelihood of a coronavirus transmitter being allowed to approach Nazarbayev and infecting the Elbasy with the disease is close to a zero. If only because the Elbasy has always been taking good care of his health and, following his leave of the post of the country’s President, the number of his external contacts has been reduced to a minimum.

And we are certain that, with the start of the pandemics, his personal quarantine regime has likely been tightened up to an unimaginable level. We have no doubt that those few people that meet with him personally have taken, are taking and will be taking the coronavirus test at least a couple of time a day. Or perhaps they have even been isolated together with their «responsibility» in one of the numerous residences of the «Leader of the Nation».

Therefore, the matter most likely lies in a political necessity. The question is what is the reason behind it. 

Let us offer you three takes on the matter: a pessimistic one, an optimistic one and a somewhat neutral one. 

According to the first take, following his meetings with First Deputy Head of the Nur Otan Party Bauyrzhan Baybek and Secretary of Kazakhstan’s Security Council Aset Isekeshev as well as the June 3 session of the Management Council of NWF Samruk-Kazyna and the reception of Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of the UAE to Kazakhstan Mohammad Al Jaber that took place on the same day, the state of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s health (that is poor enough as it is) has worsened drastically. And since the day (June 6, 2020) when Nursultan Nazarbayev is obligated to appear before the people but can’t (without risking his life and the internal political stability in the country) is coming, the Library has chosen to employ the coronavirus scenario.

Here is an optimistic take. On June 24, 2020, the Victory Day Parade in honour of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) is to take place in Moscow. This parade serves as one of the significant elements of Vladimir Putin’s two important political projects — that on the consolidation of the country and the Russian people and that on the prolongation of his authorities as the head of the state via introducing changes into the Russian Constitution. Therefore, Nursultan Nazarbayev as an old (albeit not always loyal) ally of Mr. Putin simply must be present at the celebration. However, it looks like, after his March 2020 visit to Moscow, the Elbasy has no desire to communicate with his Russian colleague personally; therefore, he has quite reasonably decided to use coronavirus as his cover.

The somewhat neutral take lies in a possibility that Nursultan Nazarbayev and the people from his immediate circle have chosen to have a lighter version of the Elbasy’s anniversary celebration. Due to many reasons including the desire to shield the birthday boy from external contacts with the people that may be candescent transmitters of the coronavirus infection. In other words, even though the Elbasy is still capable of appearing before the people, he has chosen not to do so. 

By the way the phone conversation between the Elbasy and Vladimir Putin that took place on June 19, 2020, may serve as a confirmation of this idea. Judging by the brevity of the communication, it was not a very long talk.

Since July 6, 2020, is just half a month away, it means that the Day of the Capital and, simultaneously, the anniversary of the First President of Kazakhstan will be celebrated without his personal participation. The most that his fellow citizens can hope for is the Elbasy’s video address.


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