Young Kyrgyz Music Star Rejects Appointment to Head Museum After Online Backlash

National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman. Photo by Dave Proffer. Wikipedia (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Twenty-six-year-old music star Samara Karimova was appointed director of a popular museum in Kyrgyzstan, but she was forced to refuse the position after receiving online backlash about her alleged lack of qualification and experience for the job.

On 28 July 2017, the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Culture appointed Ms. Karimova as director of Sulaiman Too museum which is part of the Sacred Mountain Complex listed by the UNESCO as a world heritage site. The museum is located in the southern city of Osh which witnessed a bloody ethnic violence seven years ago.

After the appointment was announced in public, many social media users quickly pointed out the singer's lack of experience and educational background. Some also raised the issue of conflict of interest since Ms. Karimova’s husband is a high-level official at the Ministry of Culture.

Below are some comments on Facebook citing the reasons why Ms. Karimova is not fit to become the director of the museum:

И как говорил великий Ленин “каждая кухарка может управлять государством”!!! Её назначение – это тоже самое, что лечить людей поставили талантливого повара, а собирать ракеты – артиста т.к он “талантлив”… Никто не спорит, что она талантливая, но ведь петь на сцене одно, а управлять музеем в одном из сакральных мест это не песенки петь!!!???

As Lenin the Great said “any kukharka (Russian: A female cook, who cooks at home) can rule the government”. Appointing her is equal to let a talented cook to {be a doctor and} treat people, and let a singer to make rockets, as she is a “talented”. No one argues that she is a talented {singer}, but singing in a stage is different from managing a museum in a sacred place.

“В музее должен работать настоящий специалист историк этнограф или научный работник нужно проводить научно исследовательские открытия”

A real expert on history and ethnography or an academician should work in a museum, as it requires doing researches.

“И всё таки министр поступил как заинтересованное лицо, мог назначить не супругу представителя министерства по Югу или в противном случае должен снять с должности мужа чтобы не было конфликт интересов”.

The Minister of Culture acted as a partisan party. He could appoint not a wife of his official responsible for the south {The museum is located in the south part of the country), or fire the husband to avoid conflict of interest.

Samara Karimova immediately reacted to the online backlash by refusing to accept the position. In a short interview with news website “Sputnik Kyrgyzstan”, she said:

“Я вчера читала, что писали об этом в соцсетях. Многие говорили, что я слишком молода для такой работы, поэтому я решила не занимать эту должность. Наше общество, видимо, не готово к молодым управленцам, хотя у меня было очень много планов развития музея”

I have read yesterday what people wrote about this on social media. Many said I am too young for this job, therefore I decided not to take it. It seems that our society is not ready for young managers, although I had a lot of plans for the museum promotion.


A post shared by ?Самара Каримова (@samarakarimova_official) on

Many Kyrgyz social media users responded that the deeper issue is about relatives of officials getting top positions in government:

“Кыргызстанское общество устало от токолок и детей чинух, которые садятся на руководящие должности”.

The Kyrgyz society is tired of officials’ tokols (wives) and kids, who get into managing positions.

It is not uncommon for young members of local elite families in Central Asian republics to get top appointments in government. Particularly in Kyrgyzstan, two presidents who were ousted from power were accused of committing nepotism.

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