In Kyrgyzstan, a small country of roughly five million people, rumors play a significant role in forming opinions and forecasting the future. Although Kyrgyzstan's Russian language media is often viewed as being more objective, the editors of the Kyrgyz language press have formidable networks, giving them plenty of opportunity to spill the gossip on whichever local politicians they have it in for.
Newspapers in the country's state language teem with mudslinging interviews, contrarian opinion pieces and reports on the latest movements in Kyrgyzstan's political underbelly. This month, for instance, a former Prime Minister was reported as having a young foal slaughtered in honor of a dinner guest famous for leading political uprisings, an event that occurred less than two months after the country's Attorney General allegedly spent five hours in a beauty salon as riots over a gold mine threw the country into chaos [GV]. Thanks to Gezitter.org – a blog that has been translating over 21 different Kyrgyz language newspapers into Russian since 2010 – there is now an online archive of political scandal for non-Kyrgyz speakers to trawl.
Disclaimer: Although some of the stories ending up on Gezitter.org may be nothing more than mere speculation, the Kyrgyz have a poignant proverb of the “no smoke without fire” kind: Жел болбой, чөптүн башы кыймылдабайт, meaning “if there is no wind, the grass will not sway.”
A rather political dinner
Recently, much media attention has been focused on Kyrgyzstan's ex-Prime Minister, the founder of the Respublika party, Omurbek Babanov. Babanov has been quiet since being forced from his position as head of government following accusations that he accepted a racehorse as a bribe from a Turkish company last year. In mid-August, Kyrgyz-language newspapers such as Arena and Planeta began reporting [ru] that Babanov had treated Azimbek Beknazarov, the so-called “‘bulldozer of revolutions” in 2005 and 2010, to a friendly dinner in Kyrgyzstan's picturesque countryside.
The nomadic meal – horse meat boiled in milk – has been interpreted as a sign that Babanov may be ready to form an alliance with his rabble-rousing co-diner. Kyrgyz netizens, rarely indifferent to politics, weighed in with cynical comments:
Talas (Талас) wrote [ru] :
Два БАРАНА съели лошадку!
Two SHEEP [carrying a derogatory meaning equating to “numskulls”] ate a horse!
Ombre (Омбре) noted [ru]:
Думал, что Бабанов, хоть и грязный, но грамотный чувак. А теперь связался с Бекназаровым. Так низко опускаться не стоило…
I thought that Babanov, although dirty, was a competent man. And now he has contacted Beknazarov. He shouldn't have stooped so low.
Не тали лошадка из-за которого Бабуина выгнали из правительства?
Was it the same horse that Babanov was kicked out of government for?
While Bolot (Болот) tired of the gossip, emphasizing the human right to privacy [kyr]:
Ушакчы мушакчы болуп буттук, эмне барышты бир жерде конок болушту чайлашты экоосу тен оор салмактагы саясатчылар эмне алар олтурса же эс алса болбойбу? Баарыбыз ичебиз эт жейбиз, анын эмнеси бар мен тушунгон жокмун туалетке дагы ким ким менен барды жазайлы? болбойт адамдын жеке жашоосу сакталыш керек да […]
We are mired in gossip. So they went somewhere, had some food… they are both heavyweight politicians, don't they have a right to sit and have a rest? We all drink and eat meat, I don't understand what is special here? Let us then write about who went with whom to the toilet. The human right to privacy should be respected […]
When “Azattyk” [Kyrgyz language offshoot of RFE/RL] reporter Janar Akaev posted a photo of Attorney General Aida Salyanova‘s official car parked near a beauty salon during a political crisis in the country, the Kyrgyz language media kept the story spinning for weeks. Akaev originally wrote [kyr]:
[…] Менде эки суроо бар. 1) Өлкөдө, Жалал-Абад, Жети-Өгүздө кырдаал курчуп турган учурда өлкөнүн Башкы прокурору 5 (беш) сааттап салондо отурганы. 2) Бүгүн дүйшөмбү, кадыресе жумушчу күн. Башкы прокурор ошондо түштөн кийин жумушка 5 саат барган жок. Муну кандай түшүнсө болот?
I have two questions. 1) Why does the Attorney General spend five hours in a beauty salon while the situation in Jalal-Abad and Jeti-Oguz is heating up [GV]?
2) Today is Monday, a working day. The Attorney General is absent from work for five hours. How to understand?
Salyanova was panned by several newspapers, including the ever-sensational Maidan tabloid, who suggested [ru] the beauty salon was a metaphor for Salyanova's cushy place in a nefarious political elite, and gathered the views of outspoken MP Bodosh Mamyrova on the salon visit in an exclusive interview. Mamyrova spilled [ru]:
В принципе, раз она женщина, такая вещь тоже нужна. Но я сильно удивилась этой девушке, как ее сердце выдержало и она безмятежно сидела в салоне красоты, когда в стране, в Джалал-Абаде, Джеты-Огузе ситуация обострилась. Находиться на столь ответственной должности и в такой тяжелой ситуации… я бы не то что пойти в салон красоты, но и 5 минут дома не усидела бы.
In principle, she is a woman, and these things are necessary. But I am very surprised that this girl had the gall to visit a beauty salon while the situation in Jeti-Oguz and Jalal-Abad was boiling over. Given her high ranking position of responsibility and the gravity of the situation, I wouldn't be sitting at home for 5 minutes, let alone sitting in a beauty salon.
But reader's comments again reflected gossip-weariness. NKVD (НКВД) wrote [ru] under the Gezitter.org translation of another article on the Salyanova salon visit:
Вот если бы генпрокурора запечатлел, тогда вопросов не было, а так машину и не факт, что это ее машина. Так можно любого оклеветать… Писуны творят что хотят. Захотел тень на плетень навести .
If the Attorney General herself was seen there, then there would be no questions. But it is not a fact that the car is hers. Anyone can be slandered like this. Shadow writers do whatever they want. They wanted to muddy the waters here, and succeeded in doing it.
Two wolves went hunting
Back in 2011, Arena.kg reported that Omurbek Tekebaev, the author of Kyrgyzstan's latest constitution and the leader of the Ata Meken parliamentary faction, went on a hunting trip with one of the most vociferous opponents of that constitution, Kamchybek Tashiev. Tashiev had a bad-boy reputation long before October 2012 when he organized a riot and attempted to storm parliament, previously getting into physical fights in the legislature and accusing rivals of not being Kyrgyz enough [GV]. Supposedly, Tekebayev and Tashiyev snubbed a Day of Independence invite from Kyrgyzstan's president in order to go on the hunt. At the time, the meeting of the two politicians, then opposing ‘wolves’ in the republic's legislature, was seen as significant, although two years later they have still yet to form an alliance.
A Gezitter reader, 555 blended [ru/kyr] Kyrgyz and Russian in his analysis of the situation:
Ташиев плюс Текебаев равно Таштеке(каменный козел) или, короче таштек, что в переводе означает емкость для отходов
Tashiev plus Tekebaev is Tashteke (kyr. ibex) or shorter tashtek which means waste container
While Altynai (алтынай) attempted [ru] to dispel the rumor:
Текебаев был в это время в Оше, поэтому не был на приеме у президента, тем более не был на охоте. Журналистам надо задницы оторвать от кресел и бегать искать новости среди людей, а не высасывать из…всякую чушь.
Tekebaev was in Osh at that time, thus he neither participated at the meeting with the president, nor went hunting. Journalists need to tear their asses from the chair and run around looking for news, instead of churning out… nonsense.
Does this mean that grass sometimes sways without wind after all?