Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

Alpine Pastures – Jailoo (c) Christopher Herwig, www.herwigphotos.com

It's time to strike our tents (or Kyrgyz yurts in the Jailoo in this case), the summer is over (although in Kazakhstan's capital Astana there's snow even in August…). Which also means more time for Central Asia buffs to spend in front of their computers. Let's see what they had to say over the last two weeks.

The EU and Uzbekistan
Over at The Registan, Nathan reported two weeks ago that the EU considered rolling back Uzbekistan sanctions that were imposed shortly after the incidents in Andjan in May 2005. Now, Uzbek state officials and the EU's special representative have met behind closed doors. Over at neweurasia, Kamron says that the visit was preceded by obvious signs from the Uzbek side that they're ready to talk business (RUS). Meanwhile, on the English version of the same blog, Shohruh gives an interesting insight into the psyche of President Islam Karimov. Is much of what he does attributable to his fear?

Health Issues
Besides Turkmen President Niyazov's heart problems, discussed by Peter at neweurasia, the medical system in Armenia is making a buzz over at Life in Armenia and Onnik's Oneworld blog. Arsineh flew back to the United States to have her illness treated by competent doctors, because as Onnik notes,

Without a doubt, seeking medical attention here is pretty much akin to playing Russian Roulette and might even be more dangerous. Inefficiency, incompetence and downright corruption define almost the entire system, and it’s no wonder that only 1 in 3 Armenians seek medical treatment when they need it.

All eyes on Kyrgyzstan
Sean Roberts, Central Asia analyst-turned-blogger wonders where Kyrgyzstan will stand in one week's time. The opposition to President Bakiyev has announced protests for 2 November 2006, and should their demands not be met, they want to see the him quit office. A lot depends on Prime Minister Kulov now, Roberts notes:

Kulov has retained significant popularity while Bakiyev continues to lose public confidence, and Kulov’s support of the opposition could tip the balance.

Yulia at neweurasia provides some detail of the Civil Society's petition. She thinks that many of the points brought forward make a lot of sense and this is some kind of novelty vis-à-vis the notoriously chaotic opposition meetings before. Reader Matt comments on the demands:

The simple fact is, that if Bakiyev had actually done some bl**dy work since he came to office, these demands wouldnt have to be made. I don’t know what he does all day, but the Kyrgyz President is making Yushchenko look like a capable and decisive leader. Nothing to be proud of.

The Borat Hype takes off
On the eve of his film release, the blogosphere is awash with news about Borat. There is some understanding for the outrage caused in Kazakhstan on Living with Style, movie trailers in Spanish, German and French (which sounds ridiculous) and Leila's post on neweurasia saying that Borat is helping the Kazakh government (RUS). Nathan over a The Registan wonders if all publicity is good publicity in this case, and Sean Roberts offers one of the best reasons so far for the hostile attitude towards the comedian by the Kazakh authorities:

Borat’s unsophisticated character, however, still shares something with the segment of Kazakhstan’s elite that emerged from the Soviet Union. This “old guard” in Kazakhstan’s elite still does not really understand or believe in the principles of a “rule of law,” “human rights,” and “representative government.” While Borat’s follies are more about “political incorrectness” with regards to women and ethnic minorities, his sometimes violent and always uncouth behavior as well as his blatant dismissal of a “rule of law” are also a satire of the character of Soviet (and post-Soviet) authoritarian rule.

Be sure to read the entire discussion on Roberts’ blog. Finally, KZBlog, a great blog written by an American expat in Astana, has some tidbits on Borat as well. The same blog also features an interesting article about Kazakhstan's capital Astana and its newest landmark sight, the Palace of World Peace and Unity, which in the shape of a pyramid designed by Sir Norman Foster hosts the triannual World Congress for Religious Tolerance.

Blogosphere roundups:
Read on and get yourselves up-to-date with several of the region's blogospheres, courtesy of Onnik for Armenia, Vadim for Tajikistan and Yulia for Kyrgyzstan. On Global Voices, Leila of neweurasia writes a biweekly roundup of the Kazakh blogosphere, whose next edition will be available here next Thursday.

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