When the word “Kazakh” is generally used to refer to people of ethnic Kazakh descent, including those living in China, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other neighboring countries, within the country the term “Kazakhstani” (Kazakh: қазақстандық qazaqstandyk; Russian: казахстанец kazakhstanyets) is being used to describe all citizens of Kazakhstan, including non-Kazakhs. The ethnonym “Kazakh” is derived from an ancient Turkic word meaning “independent; a free spirit”, reflecting the Kazakhs’ nomadic horseback culture. The Persian suffix “-stan” (see Indo-Iranian languages) means “land” or “place of”, so Kazakhstan means “land of the Kazakhs”.
In February 2014, President Nursultan Nazarbayev suggested dropping “-stan” and officially renaming the country to “Kazakh Eli”, meaning “country of the Kazakhs”, in order to better reflect the diverse population of the country and also to attract greater foreign investment. However, on 13 June 2014, it was reported on the Kazakhstan website, Tengri News, that Kazakhstan would not change the name by removing the “-stan”. Moreover the Foreign Minister, Yerlan Idrissov labeled such speculations as “media tricks” in an interview with Spain’s centrist La Vanguardia newspaper.