Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

by \'Dushanbe Pictures\' - Erik Petersson
Buzkashi in Tajikistan – by Dushanbe Pictures, Erik Petersson, 2006.

Welcome to the latest scan of the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere, brought to you bi-weekly by neweurasia. While many parts of the region still suffer from severe winter conditions (as mentioned in the last roundup), the first signs of spring appear as well (see e.g. the Uzbekistan section).

As usual, we'll take you through the countries alphabetically.

The Armenia section of our travels through the regional blogosphere is essentially a roundup of three great roundups: Onnik Krikorian continues to post weekly summaries from the Armenian blogosphere on his Oneworld blog. This week has been heavily dominated by failed peace talks between arch-rivals Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Another roundup is brought to us by Myrthe, a Dutch national with a passion for everything Armenian. She has put up her favourite stories of the week. Who Knew Armenians Could Rap has a, yes, roundup of the Armenian rap scene.

Can the large Azeri minority in Iran persuade the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions? Nathan over at The Registan is skeptical and suggests that Azerbaijan's safest bet is to keep out of a potential future conflict. In what will probably one of his last posts on/from Azerbaijan, Carpetblogger (now relocated to the Ukraine) provides an excellent summary of a Fashion Show that was staged in the Azeri capital last year. Speaking of beauty and fashion, you can find a picture of Miss Azerbaijan 2006 on the same blog.

Fancy a sightseeing tour of Tbilisi? Ben and Alice have put up a nice commented photo set. Kaukasus has an interesting post about Georgian artist Andro Wekua, whose work can be seen in an exhibition in New York. The post also contains links to showcase blogs of Georgian artists David Arobelidze and Otar Arisheli.

Do you think Almaty has not a single chance to host the 2014 Winter Olympics? Well, you better look at these photos on Pestaola.gr and change your mind. For background information on the candidates’ race check The Registan and neweurasia. Susan in Kazakhstan has an interesting post about Kazakh gestures – she explains it all: handshakes, expressing gratitude, physical contact or staring – this is essential reading for cultural understanding.

Betsy writes about everyday deceptions in Kyrgyz life on her blog A Moveable Feast. Whether it's a headmaster arguing about the colour of a pen or a full restaurant without gas to cook, many things in Jalalabad are just not what they seem if you dare to dig a little deeper. Betsy wonders whether she'll take her doublecheck-attitude back home to America. Larry Tweed aka The Kyrgyzstan Kid has a lyrical mouth-watering post on shashlik (the Central Asian kebab). After last year's turmoil in Kyrgyzstan, the country is still struggling to return to normality. The soap opera that has dominated political life ever since the toppling of the former government is beginning to unease observers. What is the outlook for the future? James of neweurasia and Gene of The Registan hold different opinions. Vyacheslav in Bishkek has set himself the objective of earning $1,400 before April 5th. He is working on commission in a local business and promises to update the readers about his progress on his blog, moneysuck.com.

Again, check out Dushanbe Pictures for some breathtaking shots from Tajikistan. Recently, Erik witnessed one of the most excititing sports games – Buzkashi. In Buzkashi, a goat carcass is put in the center of a circle and surrounded by the players of two teams. The object of the game is to get the carcass to the scoring area. A similar game, ulak, is played in Kyrgyzstan, and Buzkashi is one of Afghanistan's national sports. James of neweurasia has some details on micro-finance as a powerful tool to alleviate poverty in Central Asia's poorest country.

Peter of neweurasia reports that the Institute for War and Peace Reporting will launch a Turkmen radio broadcasting service. Will it have an impact on the country's media situation? Also, thanks to Turkmen blogger Karakum, the post carries information on media penetration in the most isolated Central Asian country. Vperyod (Forward), a left-wing youth Russian party, announced on its blog that it planned to picket the Turkmen embassy in Moscow in protest against drastic pension cuts in the country. Paikhas, an opposition Turkmen blog, offers its views on a new Turkmen web magazine Turkmanskaya Iskra..

Bсеузный блог has an “exclusive” on the first flowers of the year in Uzbekistan (complete with photos). Also of interest, the blog has a post about Uzbekistan's contestants in the winter Olympics, and wishes the athletes luck. Новое Узбекское Слово has an interesting post on why a radio station was shut down in Uzbekistan. The station, which played music and various other programs, reported on the resignation of the minister of internal affairs without going by the given official word. The ‘Bazaar News Network’ in Uzbekistan spread rumours about an earthquake that never came. The Registan, Seidenstraße and T-Moor have the details. Bozor has an interesting photo shoot of young peoples’ footwear in Samarkand. The author walked around one day snapping photos of peoples’ feet. Afisha has a good post on an upcoming intellectual olympiad in Tashkent (Feb. 20-27) in which students of a variety of ages and backgrounds compete. It is sponsored by the Forum of Culture and Art of Uzbekistan. It will include festivals of fencing, chess, and computer games, as well as competitions such as, “Do you know the law?”, or, “do you know the history”?

The wider region:
This week, neweurasia's country blogs will each feature blog posts about HIV/Aids in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The Azeri and Armenian blogs have already done so and portray the two countries’ difficult situation with regards to one of the most imminent regional health threats. Also, press freedom in Central Asia is discussed by Neil on our homebase, as is the eternal question: ‘Where do Central Asians come from?’. Hulegu reports on a Central Asian music event in London, where Azeri, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Uyghur and Turkish artists performed live. Uzgen laments the shortage of Central Asia talent taking part at the Turin Winter Olympics. While Kazakhstan is reasonably well represented, with 57 sportsmen taking part, Uzbekistan trails far behind with four. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have only one apiece, while Turkmenistan has sent nobody.

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