Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

Vakhs valley, March 2006, Erik Petersson, Dushanbe Pictures.

Welcome to the latest roundup from the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere, brought to you by neweurasia. First off, apologies for the long delay in presenting you this edition. Now that final year exams are over, our postings should appear bi-weekly again.

As usual we take you through the countries alphabetically.

Onnik Krikorian writes that one of the most independent and popular TV stations has been denied a broadcasting frequency. The same blog also reports on a possible new momentum towards a peace deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Nessuna is shocked to hear that another Armenian fell victim to a racist murder in Moscow. Christian Garbis over at Notes from Hairenik writes on the strange obssesion of each and every vendor in Yerevan about the correct change.

Marianna of neweurasia writes about the extent religion influences Azeri politics. She says that Turkey's secular state-building continues to serve as a model for independent Azerbaijan, and the example of its southern, theocratic, neighbour Iran further bolsters the separation of religion and politics.

Sue finds out herself why “Hospitality in Georgia sometimes resembles a mild form of hostage-taking”. During a visit to a remote village in the Caucasus, she and two of her American friends experienced themselves that the Georgians are a “people so welcoming that a stranger can wander into a remote mountain village and find herself instantly fed and warmed and welcomed”.

LJ user Adam Kesher thinks that it is very likely Kazakhstan will become the chairman of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE's decision will have to be considered against the backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions in Central Asia, particularly between Russia and the United States (RUS). Ben of neweurasia reports on the militarisation of the Kazakh part of Caspian Sea and Laurence writes, on The Registan, that the northern Aral Sea's water levels are rising.

Again, the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek was the arena of opposition demonstrations last weekend. Amira over at The Golden Road to Samarqand says that despite an earlier announcement, the military wasn't holding a parade on the same day and thus everything remained fairly calm. Yulia of neweurasia has a full account of the event, stating that the rally was much smaller than anticipated. In an op-ed blog piece, Claire critically reflects on her time in the country and on why continuing protests might not only be a sign for a healthy democracy. The Kyrgyzstan Student Blog, written by students from the Kyrgyz National University and International University of Kyrgyzstan, features some excellent posts on a variety of topics, including stressful cell phones (Helen), bride kidnapping (Zarina) and smoking (Aigul and Zarina).

Luke Distelhorst reports that the windfall profit tax became a law when the Mongolian President failed to veto and the mining community is already feeling negative effects. Tom Terry writes an editorial on nationalism and Mongolia's newest political party, worrying that Mongolia is looking in the wrong directions for political advancement. Mongolia Web reports on the lifting of textile quotas which have resulted in a US$100 million loss for Mongolia; as well as reports of a $1 billion dollar tourist center. Lastly, neweurasia reports on the Democratic Party boycotting Parliamentary proceedings on the selection date for a by-election. However, the Speaker of Parliament ruled against the constitution and forced the election date back two months, thus violating Mongolian election law.

Dushanbe Pictures, a photo blog maintained by Erik Petersson, has some new spring photos that are definitely worth checking out. James of neweurasia reports that Tajikistan has taken the chairmanship of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Contrary to Georgia and the Ukraine, Tajikistan is not expected to take issue with Russia's dominant role within the organisation.

Nathan of The Registan sparked off an interesting discussion by disagreeing with a story that was published in Harper's Magazine. The article accuses Frederick Starr, professor of Central Asian studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C., of being Uzbekistan's president Islam Karimov's most reliable ally in US academia. Alfiya features a theatre review of ‘The Flights of Mashrab” and recommends its readers to go see it, as it depicts the life of famous Uzbek poet Babarahim Mashrab very well (RUS).

Regional news:
neweurasia featured several posts on the role of religion in politics in Central Asia and Azerbaijan. James wrote the regional overview here, also linking all individual country studies, and Christopher DeVito provided some background to the discussion in the context of Political Islam in the Middle East. Also, Neil rounded up freedom of speech issues from across the region.

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