March 23 (UPI) -- Interim Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Saturday signed a decree renaming Kazakhstan's capital from Astana to Nur-Sultan in honor of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Nazarbayev ruled the former Soviet country for nearly three decades before resigning Wednesday.
Tokayev suggested the name change shortly after Nazarbayev's resignation. He also proposed changing the names of streets in the former president's honor.
"It is necessary to immortalize the name of our great contemporary, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev," Tokayev said. "Our capital should bear the name of our President and be called Nur-Sultan. I would like to add that this proposal was already expressed by parliamentarians in the declaration adopted Nov. 23, 2016, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan."
The Kazakh Parliament approved the decree, though some members of the public protested in opposition, calling into question Nazarbayev's human rights record. Opponents accused Nazarbayev of suppressing dissent, holding undemocratic elections and using his power to neutralize the opposition.
This isn't the first time the city has undergone a name change over the past six decades. It was called Akmolinsk until 1961 when it became Tselinograd. After Kazakhstan's independence in 1991, the city became known as Aqmola. Kazakhstan moved its capital from Almaty to Aqmola in 1997 and at that point renamed the city again to Astana.