Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Tuesday announced his resignation.
"I have decided to step down from the office of president," said the septuagenarian leader, who has ruled Kazakhstan since its independence in 1991.
He thanked the Kazakh people for giving him the opportunity to become the first president of the independent Kazakhstan. He recalled the difficulty, the country suffered after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"It was a test. We passed it, and actively started construction of the Kazakhstan way of development,” Nazarbayev added.
Nazarbayev said he was sure that young people would “defend the country and strengthen it, and they would put all their knowledge and efforts for the prosperity of the country”.
His address was broadcast by all Kazakh national TV channels.
Until elections for his replacement next year, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, the head of the Kazakh Senate, will carry out the presidential duties.
"The continuity of power in Kazakhstan is constitutionally regulated. In case of early termination of the presidential term, his powers are transferred to the chairman of the Senate. Then there will be the election of a new president," Nazarbayev said.
He recalled that Tokayev, who graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, has a doctorate degree and is fluent in English and Chinese.
Tokayev has previously served as the foreign minister, deputy prime minister and prime minister, and UN deputy secretary-general.
"He has been working with me since the first days of Kazakhstan's independence. I know him well. He is fully aware of the domestic and foreign policy of the country. He participated in the development and adoption of all programs," Nazarbayev said.
Tokayev will take office after taking the oath at the parliament on Wednesday.
Nazarbayev, 78, is the first Central Asian leader of the post-Soviet era to willingly leave office.
In late February, Nazarbayev dismissed the country's government, citing a lack of economic growth, and pledging new reforms to improve people's quality of life.
*Sena Guler contributed to this report from Ankara
By Elena Teslova in Moscow