Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

Zhenkov Cathedral, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Welcome to the latest roundup from the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere, brought to you (almost) bi-weekly by neweurasia's Ben, James, Peter and Luke.

As usual, we take you through the countries alphabetically. Unfortunately, the Azeri blogosphere is still underrepresented in our roundup – so if you're a blogger writing on/from Azerbaijan, be sure to drop us a line with your link.

The tragic death of an Indian student in Yerevan and the subsequent protests by the Indian student community has only been covered in great detail by some Armenian blogs. Onnik Krikorian, author of Oneworld, has so far provided the most comprehensive coverage of the incident. The Armenian authorities are believed to have reacted too slowly (the emergency service took 45 to arrive at the scene) and the rector of Yerevan’s Medical University is blamed of racism. There are many photos, an account of a demonstration written by Nessuna and the latest update on this Sunday's events. Nanyaar?, an Indian blogger based in Yerevan, has also covered the story. On her blog, there are photos from a cortège and an open letter to anyone concerned.

Sue of SueAndNotYou has a heart-warming account of what it means to have friends in Georgia. The story is about Felix, an “orphan kid who’s had just one lucky thing in his whole rotten lot in life and that’s his friends”.

Adam Kesher comments on his blog about a border incident in which Uzbek borders reportedly opened fire on three Kazakh nationals as they were attempting to steal barbed wire from a temporary fence (link in Russian). Instead of carrying out a joint investigation with Uzbekistan, he says, Kazakhstan should issue a protest note as the actions of the borer guards are unacceptable. However, as Nathan at Registan notes, diplomatic relations between the countries have recently been on the mend. Ben of neweurasia argues that Kazakhstan's Iran policy is genuinely invidual. Maybe, as KZBlog mentions in the comments, this is because Kazakhstan has its own nuclear aspirations. Nathan of The Registan notes that English comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, aka Borat, found an unexpected defender in the daughter of President Nazarbayev.

Civil society activist Edil Baisalov was the victim of a murder attempt last week. On his blog, he thanks all those who have wished him a speedy recovery. Known for his outspoken criticism of notorious gangster Ryspek Akmatbayev, Baisalov is sure that the attack is a sign of the mafia becoming ever more powerful in the country. Nathan of The Registan has also covered the event, as has Amira of The Golden Road to Samarqand. The latter post also features interesting insights into what Kyrgyz students feel about the current situation in their country. Also on the Golden Road to Samarqand is an interesting post about corruption in Kyrgyz higher education. An anonymous contributor to the Kyrgyzstan Student Blog has also posted on this topic.

A hunger strike that started after a fire in a trade center has finally been resolved. Businesswoman G. Altan signed a contract with the victims to resolve the four month ordeal, reports Luke on neweurasia. He also reports on the ongoing protests in Ulaanbaatar where a protester has resorted to immolation – and lit himself on fire. Guido of Mongolian Matters reports on a bizarre online dispute: The Wikipedia profiles of several Mongolian politicians are severely contested. Is the son of prime minister Enkhbold also involved in the row?

Russian blogger Ailoyros has featured some photos of northern Tajikistan in a recent post (link in Russian). One of the pictures is of the Varzob River, which flows from the mountains to the capital, Dushanbe. On neweurasia, James reports that a USAID-funded project sponsors computer equipment for local mosques and Tajik Boy says that Tajiks are often victims of race-related crimes in Russia.

Turkmen blogger Karakum has translated a discussion that first appeared on neweurasia into Russian. He is of the opinion that increased EU trade with Turkmenistan could reap some benefits for the populations welfare, contrary to what is commonly claimed by human rights organisations. However, Dennis de Tray, former World Bank country director for Central Asia disagrees on the Center for Global Development's blog. In the latest post on opposition Turkmen blog Paikhas, readers are promised the full imminent publication of an account of the Ashgabat earthquake of 1948 (link in Russian). This was the earthquake that claimed the life of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's mother and many other members of his family. The book, originally written by Shokhrat Kadyrov, who runs the blog, makes the bold claim that only 50,000 people died in the earthquake, a much lower estimate than that offered by the Soviet and, latterly Turkmen authorities. The post also features historic photos of scenes of devastation in Ashgabat
at the time.

The Fast and the Furious 4: Every Sunday in Tashkent there is an unofficial car race. This last time it was stopped short during a crash. Follow this link for pics of the fender-bender on Vseyusnyi Blog. The United Nations hosted a Millenium Development Goals event for young people in Tashkent on April 22 entitled: “7th Annual Global Youth Service Day.” The event was designed to allow young people to socialize and discuss development in the coming years both in Uzbekistan and the rest of the world and Alfisha has the rundown. The nature of Uzbekistan: Vseyusnyi Blog has another great set of nature pictures; mostly of flowers, but with a bird as well. The wife of imprisoned opposition politician Sanjar Umarov, Indira Umarova, has written an open letter to Uzbek authorities asking for the release of her husband. The letter got published on the Sunshine Uzbekistan Coalition's blog, in Russian and in English. Olesya of neweurasia reports that yet another international organisation, this time the American Bar Association, is accused of engaging in activities not foreseen under its charter and will most likely have to leave Uzbekistan soon. An interesting and lively discussion about Islam in Uzbekistan took place on neweurasia after Ataman Rakim posted about the arrest of seven alleged Islamic extremists.

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