Museum of 1st President of Kazakhstan
Take Abai Avenue westwards from the north end of Central Square. On your left is the entrance to the Museum of the First President of Kazakhstan. This is housed in President Nazarbaev's former residence in Astana, a blue-domed building with cream-coloured tiled walls, vacated by the president with the construction of the new Ak Orda building on the left bank. Although described as a 'residence', this is a building in which the president worked, and held official meetings and functions, rather than lived. The building was completed in 1997, serving as the presidential residence until 2004.
The building can only be visited with a guided tour, held every 90 minutes throughout the day. If you are bringing a large group, or are keen to get a guided tour in English, it's best to ring in advance, otherwise just turn up before the set time. The tour may start out either on the third or fourth floor. The fourth is centred on a domed hall, the top of the dome decorated like a slianyrak in homage to a Kazakh yurt. This was used for meetings with senior foreign delegations, and regional fora such as the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. The president's chair, slightly taller than the others round the table, is protected by a red ribbon barrier. This floor also includes displays of gifts presented to President Nazarbaev by foreign leaders, including a leather-bound copy of the epic Manas from Kyrgyz interim president Otunbayeva, a wood and gold chess set from the President of Armenia, and a gold and silver horse statue from the President of Tajikistan. There is a range of sporting gifts, too, including a 2006 World Cup match football, a tennis ball autographed by Boris Becker, and the gold-coloured bicycle on which Alexander Vinokourov won the Vuelta a Espana in 2006.
One floor down are displays about Nazarbaev's life, starting with the Atameken Hall', which covers the president's roots and early life. His family tree is displayed, as well as a picture of the warrior Karasai Batyr, a member of his Shaprashty tribe. There are photographs of his childhood in Shamalgan, examination cards showing his high marks, and a diorama depicting the young future president and his father on the pastures of Ush Konyr, looking towards a herd of horses. A video of the boy band MuzArt singing the song 'Ush Konyr', lyrics by Nursultan Nazarbaev, plays continuously. In the next room, which held government meetings, there are displays about Nazarbaev's time as a metalworker, covering his training in Dneprodzerzhinsk in Ukraine, and his work in the blast furnaces at Temirtau. There are also photographs taken during his career in the Communist Party.
The tour then takes you through the outer office and into the office in which President Nazarbaev worked for seven years. A wall map of Kazakhstan lights up to show the oil, gas and mineral resources. Also on the wall is a white felt mat, used during the president's re-inauguration ceremony in 2006. This aimed to replicate the tradition in which Kazakh khans were confirmed in office by being raised aloft on white felt. In President Nazarbaev's case, he simply stood on the mat. The Golden Hall beyond has a large oval table around which meetings between the president and foreign delegations were held. Display cases cover such actions as the drafting of the Constitution and the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site. Next comes the ornate ceremonial hall, at which, inter alia, official awards were given out. Here are displayed the numerous awards Nazarbaev has received from foreign states, as well as the Golden Order of Merit of the International Amateur Boxing Association.
In the next room are documents conferring on the president the Honorary Citizenships of Dneprodzerzhinsk and Seoul, as well as the cloaks of the universities to have awarded him honorary degrees. Beyond is a room containing books both given to and written by President Nazarbaev, the latter including foreign translations of works such as Neither Rightists Nor Leftists. There is also a collection of Korans, including one taken into space by cosmonaut Talgat Musabaev.
In the next room, centred on another oval table, Kazakhstan's Security Council used to sit. Since the responsibilities of this body are matters of defence and security it is perhaps appropriate that the gifts presented to President Nazarbaev on show in this room are items of weaponry.