In this edition of Wilson Center NOW we are joined by Maria Blackwood, Title VIII Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute.  She explains the motivations behind the relocation of Soviet Kazakhstan’s capital three times in that nation’s first decade of existence. Blackwood also discusses the abrupt resignation of President Nazarbayev after almost thirty years in power and the subsequent decision to rename the capital of Astana in his honor.



Maria Blackwood is a Title VIII Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute, focusing on Soviet Central Asia. She was previously based in Moscow as an Alfa Fellow with the NGO International Memorial. Her scholarly work examines the process of elite formation in Soviet Kazakhstan in order to explore political power dynamics within the Soviet Union and its successor states. Her research has been supported by grants from the American Councils for International Education, the Fulbright Program, the Social Science Research Council, and Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, among others. She completed a PhD in History at Harvard University in 2018, prior to which she earned a joint BA/MA in History from Yale University (2010) and worked on international arbitration cases involving the Russian Federation for an American law firm in Paris.



John Milewski is the executive producer and managing editor of Wilson Center NOW and also serves as director of Wilson Center ON DEMAND digital programming.