Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

Christopher Herwig
(c) Christopher HerwigImpressions from Turkmenistan – reproduced with permission

Welcome to the latest roundup of the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere, brought to you bi-weekly by neweurasia. As usual, we take you through the countries alphabetically.

Onnik Krikorian has the latest from the Armenian blogosphere on Oneworld. He starts by recounting an April Fool's Day joke that spread from the blogosphere to the streets of Yerevan.

SueAndNotYou has posted some great posts over the last weeks. Sue set off to have her spring-break in Svaneti for she hoped to see the total solar eclipse from the moutains there. Svaneti, a notorious region in northern Georgia, famous for its lawlessness and the unpredictability of its inhabitants, turned out to be less dramatic than previously feared.

Xdomen in Atyrau has issued a blanket invitation to anybody who visits his hometown. He is pleased to announce the existence of a club featuring live music and promises to accompany anybody who contacts him (Link in Russian). Betsy of Stanmenistan notes that the spring is arriving in Northern Kazakhstan. While she is happy that normal temperatures return, she is also annoyed by the rain and the resulting puddles. Actually, in Kazakhstan, you call them ponds as they cover 60% of the city's surface. Ben of neweurasia says that a recent visit of Kazakh President Nazarbayev to Moscow was used to ink some new deals on oil and gas projects.

Amira over at The Golden Road to Samarqand says that infamous politician/businessman/criminal Ryspek Akmatbaev can run for parliament – after months of controversy and mutual accusations between different political camps. Nathan of The Registan also has some thoughts on the issue as has David Read. Edil Baisalov takes issue with how Ryspek Akmatbayev has been described in a Reuters article – i.e. as a controversial businessman. He argues that Akmatbayev is, in fact, much worse than just simply controversial (Link in Russian). The Kyrgyzstan Student Blog features several posts: Nurilya writes about one of her friends that got kidnapped and forcefully married to a stranger, unfortunately rather the rule than exception in Kyrgyzstan. Gulbara writes about ‘our capital Bishkek’, and gives a pretty uplifting account of what the capital means to the Kyrgyz nation (Link in Russian). More on a potential civil war in Kyrgyzstan, youth, a clean capital, and crime and rape in a multi-mini-essay post.

neweurasia recently launched its Mongolia blog thanks to Luke Distelhorst in Ulaanbaatar. While we will thoroughly cover the entire Mongolian blogosphere in these roundups from the next edition onwards, here comes a little summary of what happened in Mongolia over the past week, as reported by Luke. The United States Ambassador took a hard line on corruption with certain members of parliament and cautioned them of the consequences if they didn't comply. However this is now being overshadowed by the continuing protest and hunger strike, currently on day two, calling for the resignation of many government officials and President N. Enkhbayar. Journalists fight for a freedom of information act and a free press while another Mongolian fought (and won) a match for a World Boxing Federation title. Catch up on these articles and more on the most up to date blog on Mongolia.

Ailoyros is a Russian visiting Tajikistan. In his latest post he offers some immediate impressions and a brief idea about the cost of everything. All in all, he doesn't seem to impressed, but meanwhile he promises to provide more details on his trip. Tajik Boy of neweurasia is happy about a recent speech by US ambassador Hoagland. Tajik Boy shares the ambassador's optimism and thinks that Tajikistan's greatest resource is its people. The double blow of unexpected independence and civil war in the 1990s has, fortunately, made the Tajiks stronger as a nation. The comments to the post also contain interesting information. As usual, Dushanbe Pictures by Erik Petersson has great photos from Tajikistan on its front page, this time from the recent Navruz celebrations.

Turkmen blogger Karakum features a guest post written by Maya Ashyrova. She discusses the composition of the Turkmen population in general, and the young generations in particular. Due to the lack of reliable census data, the discussion is based upon some sophisticated guesstimates, and shows that Turkmenistan's educational policies are in dire need of a radical overhaul (Link in Russian). Another Turkmen blogger, Paikhan, posts an excerpt of a conference discussing political reform in the former Soviet Union. Are bicameral parliaments a step towards democratisation and why do regime changes in ex-Soviet republics often originate from the regions, not the centres (Link in Russian)? Peter of neweurasia reports that new speculation is abound with regards to new pipeline routes and that the fight against drug trafficking remains a dubious affair in Turkmenistan.

Vseyusnyi Blog offers some random truisms (at least according to Nigget) of Uzbekistan: Whenever a woman tries to buy a car, the salesman will ask what kind of car she wants to buy. Before she can answer, he invariably suggests a specific car. When she asks why, he says because it is a feminine car. Nigget offers the truth: feminine means a) small, b) a special model, c) from domestic producers, and d) second-hand. Weren't you just saying the other day how you could use a few more Uzbek anectdotes about animals? Well you are in luck my friend, and Vseyusnyi Blog can help. My words, not direct translation: So some visitors of a zoopark are strolling about, when they hear on the loudspeaker that a big nasty bear has escaped. The announcer recommends that if they happen upon the bear, grab some feces and rub it in his nose, and then use that opportunity to escape. “Where do we get that much shit?” shouts one of the zoo-goers. “… from the bear.” Classic. And much more where that came from. A photo-shoot at a weddings fashion show in Uzbekistan is brought to us by Alfisha. On the same blog: Believe it or not, there is a Roman Catholic (Polish) Church that holds concerts featuring musicians playing music by contemporary Uzbek composers on the organ. The author describes the experience in detail, noting that in her opinion melancholy tunes are exceptionally moving. The next performance is on the 7th of May, and she recommends the experience (Links in Russian). Uzbek opposition group Sunshine Coalition's website has been designed to look like a blog, complete with the facility to contribute one's own comments. In one of its latest posts the group has sent its jailed leader, Sanjar Umarov, birthday greetings. The post expresses regret that Umarov will not be able to spend his 50th birthday, which falls on April 7, with his friends and family (Links in Russian). Olesya of neweurasia tells us about Tamerlane's curse. Is it true that the Soviet Union got dragged into World War II because an archeologist opened the former ruler's tomb?

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