Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

Astana (Kazakhstan) – Waiting for a bus – photograph taken by Richard Messenger (Many more bus stops here)

While we're waiting for the bus, why not check out some of this week's highlights from the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere, brought to you bi-weekly by neweurasia?

Web 2.0 in Central Asia
Nathan of Registan.net links to a new Youtube video posted by the Kazakhstani US embassy's spokesman Roman Vassilenko. Taking into account that Mr Vassilenko has commented on blogs before, he might be duly called Kazakhstan's Cyber Ambassador. In contrast to Kazakhstan's increasing media savviness, Uzbekistan's ads on Youtube don't fare that well. Presenting one of the first-ever podcasts on the region, Bicyclemark interviewed Amanda of ChristianAid about her work in Tajikistan.

Image is everything
Kamron describes (RUS) his discovery of a social advertisement campaign which recently appeared on Uzbek TV. While similar campaigns before were supposed to arouse patriotic feelings in the Uzbek people and to convince everyone that everything is perfect, the latest one was designed to raise the level of cultural education of people. Both Registan and News from the Caravan reported about the launch of a Central Asia glossy magazine. Steppe features high-quality photographs and articles ranging from recipes (how to cook plov) to historical accounts (an interview with a daughter of the last Emir of Bukhara).

Emerging and phantom middle classes
Theory holds that with economic growth and development usually comes the emergence of an initially small, but affluent middle class. Now, it is undisputed that Kazakhstan has seen some spectacular growth over the past five to six years, and anyone walking the streets of Almaty can tell that the fruits of the oil boom are trickling down to at least some people. Sean Roberts, on his fantastic blog The Roberts Report discusses the political implications resulting from the existence of a new middle class:

[T]his middle-class can be expected to put more and more pressure on the government to perform and to be effective. For years now, people in Kazakhstan have been satisfied with the low expectations of stability, and the general mantra has been “at least there is no war.” Now they want circuses…

There are separate signs for this being the case. Leila of neweurasia reports on the ‘right to have a right-hand-drive car’ and the protests following a recent decision by the administration to ban the import of second-hand Japanese cars. Finally, KZBlog, a blog maintained by an American expat living in the capital Astana, reports of recent fashion trends in Kazakhstan and in how far an indigenous scene is evolving.

In Uzbekistan, however, this is slightly different, reports Sean Roberts. The daughter of the president recently attended a fashion show in Tashkent, which represented a snapshot of the illusion of a middle class in Uzbekistan. While most of the population lives hand to mouth, only a very small minority can afford to live luxurious lifestyle:

The whole scenario is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s supposed comment about the starving French peasantry – “let them eat cake.” In this case, is the princess trying to say “let them wear mink” right before the winter cold sets in?

Kyrgyz economy in crisis?
The state of the Kyrgyz economy is worrying bloggers from the small mountainous Central Asian republic. Kyrgyz Report reports that the economy is growing much slower than anticipated and believes that the coming winter could become very rough. In the light of the recent parliamentary crisis, it is also interesting to read about the results of a recent public opinion poll on the same blog. It turns out that the perception of the state of affairs varies greatly in the regions and that most people are most concerned about their economic standing.

Read on!
Vadim of neweurasia rounds up the Tajikistani blogosphere, Onnik on his Oneworld Blog has the latest from Armenian blogs, Leila writes her bi-weekly Kazakhstani roundups on Global Voices, and Yulia has the voices from Kyrgyzstani blogs on neweurasia.

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