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Map Kazakhstan

Yes, Kazakhstan should change its name. This map shows why.

Life-long Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has suggested changing his country's name to to "Kazak Yeli" to make it friendlier to investors and tourists.

“The name of our country has the ending ‘stan, ’ as do the other states of Central Asia, ” he said Thursday. “At the same time, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just 2 million people, and its name lacks the suffix ‘stan.’ Perhaps with time the question of changing the name of our country to Kazak Yeli should be examined, but first this should definitely be discussed with the people.”

This is going to sound like an absurdly contrarian position, partly because it is, but president-for-life Nazarbayev is on to something here. Not so much in terms of the short-term financial value in rebranding his country with a new name – if he wants to better compete with Mongolia for resource development contracts, he needs to go discover some vast and untapped Kazakh coal resource, or else find a way to move his country closer to China's eastern coast. But there are compelling cases for changing the country's name.

I might suggest going even further, though. Kazakhstan means "land of the Kazakhs, " which is the country's largest ethnic group. Nazarbayev's suggestion, "Kazak Yeli, " means "country of the Kazakhs, " and would be designed to drop the "stan" suffix that is also attached to investor-unfriendly Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's obviously a little silly to change your country's name for marketing purposes. But there may be more meaningful reasons for the country to change its name, and this map of Central Asia's ethnographic breakdown helps to show why:

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