Kazakh capital changes name to honor longtime leader

Kazakh capital changes name to honor longtime leader
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 file photo, residents walk in a street in Astana, Kazakhstan. The parliament of the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan on Wednesday March 20, 2019, voted to rename the country's capital Nursultan, after the outgoing longtime leader. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — Kazakhstan has renamed its capital to Nur-Sultan, in honor of the country’s longtime leader who resigned this week.

The order to change the city’s name from Astana was issued Saturday by interim President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who took power after Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned on Tuesday.

Nazarbayev led Kazakhstan for nearly 30 years, first as Communist boss in the last years of the Soviet Union then as president of the independent country.

In 1997, Nazarbayev moved the capital from Almaty, turning a provincial town noted for severe winters into a showcase of modernist architecture, including an observation tower where visitors are invited to touch a handprint of the leader.

Small protests took place in Almaty and other cities after the name change was proposed.