If when you think of Kazakhstan, the only thing that comes to mind is this guy, you’re not alone. And Kazakhstan's president wants to change that. (Via 20th Century Fox)
You see, the country of 17 million is situated in the heart of Central Asia — surrounded by a handful of other, poorer countries also with the suffix "stan." The country's leader thinks it's Kazakhstan's association with those countries that's keeping tourists and foreign investments at bay. (Via Google)
... according to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose press office quoted him as saying: “The name of our country has the ending ‘stan,’ as do the other states of Central Asia … At the same time, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just 2 million people, and its name lacks the suffix ‘stan.’” (Via Tengrin News)
Instead, Nazarbayev has suggested renaming the country "Kazakh Eli" — meaning The Land of the Kazakhs — a name he said might stick out more on a map.
There is something to his argument that Kazakhstan is under appreciated. After all, the nation's vast oil and gas resources give it the largest economy out of all those five former Soviet countries. (Via YouTube / FlightTravels)
The Atlantic's Matt Ford writes the difference between Kazakhstan and a country like Mongolia may have something to do with the stigma surrounding the “stan” ending.
“In the U.S., people broadly uses the suffix "-stan" to give a generic Oriental vibe to fictional Middle Eastern countries.”
Ford points to 24's Islamic Republic of Kamistan and Team America: World Police's Derkaderkastan. (Via Fox / "24," Paramount Pictures / "Team America: World Police")
Now, the idea of a major name change in Kazakhstan isn't totally out of the blue. In 2008, President Nazarbayev rejected a proposal to rename the capital city of Astana after him. Though many observers noted he wasn't opposed to the idea of it being renamed in honor of him sometime after his death. (Via YouTube / asiatraveltips, YouTube / Çağdaş Ses)
As far as renaming the country goes, Nazarbayev says he would first need to discuss it with the people.