Kazakhstan’s long-time president Nursultan Nazarbaev suddenly announced his resignation in mid-March after nearly 30 years in power. In a televised address to the country, Mr. Nazarbaev said that the speaker of parliament’s upper chamber, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, would hold presidential authority for the time being. There had been speculation that Mr. Nazarbaev might step down as president but continue to hold power in another capacity, but no announcement was made to that effect during the address.
President Nazarbaev has been the only leader of independent Kazakhstan since the 1991 Soviet breakup. The country’s economy has done reasonably well compared to most other former Soviet republics as the nation is rich in mineral resources, but in recent years there has been decline. Mr. Nazarbaev recently sacked the government on the grounds that economic issues have not been satisfactorily addressed.
Evangelical churches enjoyed a substantial amount of freedom in the initial years after the Soviet collapse, but restrictions and oppression of the churches have increased in recent years. Kazakhstan’s population at one time had near parity of ethnic Russians and Kazakhs, but now Kazakhs hold the majority by a significant number. Islam has also seen a significant revival since independence and wields considerable influence. It is too soon to tell how this change in leadership will impact the churches, and how much freedom they will have to openly share the Gospel. Please lift our brothers and sisters in prayer in the days ahead.