Friday, February 29, 2008

#177: To Ladies...

Actually, very few people would call it election. Russians are being given a chance to "approve"Putin's choice. After all, we are all democratic.

Back in 2000, when Boris Yeltsin resigned, the western press wrote "Putin Was Put In" as a word play. During the following eight years newspaper headlines in Russia read "Doubling GPD" or "GDP Growth" where GDP in Russian is VVP (ВВП) - Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Starting from this year, the Russians will give toasts to ladies ("to ladies" in Russian is "za DAM" - Dmitriy Anatolievich Medvedev). By the way, the 8th of March Women's Day is coming up.
Photo courtesy of Gruzilki Journal.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

#176: Phone Interview

I have not written much about applications to gradschools lately. Well, in January I was turned down on a fellowship program in the U.S. I was disappointed. I did not even make through to the second stage.

I also took the official iBT TOEFL for the first time in my life (I have done a half a dozen institutional ones) for another program in Singapore. Surprisingly, I did pretty well on it. And today I received a letter that I was shortlisted for selection. Next week they want to do a phone interview, which would be followed by a test of quantitative skills. I've NEVER been interviewed on the phone, not to mentioned tested for quantitative skills. I don't know how might that go. Now, I really have to understand what I wrote in my essays for admission and memorize my CV. Any other tips?

Monday, February 25, 2008

#175: New Faces

Digging through my photo archives, I came across this picture that I took at a demonstration two years ago. The sign says "Stop Lying!"
I am getting tired of the old guard (both the government and the opposition) who are seem to be ready to do everything to stay in or come to power. Kyrgyzstan needs new faces. Fresh faces!

Friday, February 22, 2008

#174: Kyrgyz Traffic Police

It is always easier to bribe a policeman in Kyrgyzstan, than pay fine.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

#173: Democracy Devalued

Armenian elections results showed that leaders of ex-Soviet republics have complete disregard for democracy as a process. Democracy has become such a hackneyed word that it has lost meaning to most people, especially to the leaders, in Central Asia. In fact, the word democracy has come to mean instability, corruption, moral degradation, and all the negative consequences of "transition."

Look at the last elections in Central Asia. In Kazakhstan, president's Nur-Otan party won all the seats in the parliament. Nazarbaev also changed the constitution to stay as long as he wishes. In Uzbekistan, Karimov won in an election where two of his opponents actually said that Karimov should remain the president and voted for him. Of course, the fact that the Uzbek constitution had a limit of only 2 terms for one person did not matter. In Kyrgyzstan, president's Ak-Jol party won most of the seats in the parliament, but nobody, even the Central Election Commission, can explain how it happened. Two months passed since the December 16 election, but the results have still not been published. In Tajikistan, the situation is similar. Turkmenistan is a separate case. And, all the presidents claimed elections were democratic.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

#172: Neo-Nazism in Russia

Many people in Kyrgyzstan are learning more about neo-Nazism in Russian because of increasing number of cases of murder and violent attacks againsts Kyrgyz immigrant workers in Russia. Yesterday the Kyrgyz State TV had a story about a young Kyrgyz construction worker, whose brother's dead body was found just outside St. Petersburg. Last week several diaspora groups in Russia issued a statement expressing growing concerns for security of ethnic Kyrgyz working and living in Russia, who are being attacked by neo-Nazi groups. Many of Kyrgyz workers are Russian citizens by now (up to 1 million Kyrgyz citizens are in Russia right now).

Last year my cousin went to St. Petersburg looking for a job. After three months of working at a construction site, he escaped. He came back to Bishkek with strong anti-Russian sentiments because of all the hardships and humiliation he encountered there. He said he avoided walking on the street because of fear of the Russian police, who usually extort money, or the skinheads who could attack even in the metro.

The usual Kyrgyz response, which is mostly a Soviet response, is never talk about. Deny that the problem of neo-Nazism exists. Instead, explain these attacks as petty crime or hooliganism. I observed this on a popular Kyrgyz Internet forum. All of the responders outright denied that this problem existed. In less than 30 minutes, the whole topic was closed by the moderators who said that it was provoking an inter-ethnic (Kyrgyz vs. Russian) conflict by trying to discuss this issue. Then today I read an article about a Tajik worker who defended a Tuvan student (Russian citizen) from a skinheads attack in Moscow metro. There too most of the comments denied that the problem existed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

#171: Kyrgyz Hockey

A fellow blogger, morrire, took a dozen of great pictures from the hockey championship in Cholponata, Kyrgyzstan. I did not know we had hockey teams, let alone the Hockey Federation of Kyrgyzstan. Theses are morrire's pictures.
Home-made mask for the goalie...
NHL will soon recruit hockey players from Kyrgyzstan! The rest of the pictures are here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

#170: State vs Private

2008 will be the year of grand privatization projects. The president spoke several times in favor of privatizing big state-owned companies (electricity, heating, gas, power plants, telecommunications, etc.). The parliament under tight grip of his party will approve all the necessary laws.

I am for privatization. But, I have several problems with it. Its proponents are arguing that private owners will modernize these companies, make them profitable, and basically run them better than the government is now doing. However, private ownerships is not a panacea. State-owned companies can easily be ran like modern companies if you good management is recruited.

Nonetheless, I am more worried about the privatization process. Under these conditions, these companies might be sold to companies, who give the biggest kickback to government officials in charge of the privatization process.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

#169: Super Tuesday

Sitting all the way here in Kyrgyzstan, even I am sucked in US politics. I will wake up tomorrow morning and turn on CNN to see the results.

The more I follow the US presidential elections, the more convinced I am that Kyrgyzstan badly needs a person like Barack Obama.

Friday, February 01, 2008

#168: Public Toilets

Kyrgyzstan is in such a situation that we now need foreign aid to clean up our shit. We can no longer clean up after ourselves. This week, the Japanese government announced that they would put $37,000 to fixing public toilets in three southern provinces.

I mentioned the problems with dirty public toilets in Kyrgyzstan in one of my previous posts. Phenomenal. We can build huge mansions and drive SUVs, but cannot build normal outhouses.

#167: Political Idols

I am really hooked on reading newly-elected MPs' portfolios, published by most of the Kyrgyz newspapers. Because the way the last parliamentary elections went in Kyrgyzstan, I am only now learning about our new MPs. They are asked standard questions from place of birth to past experience to sport interests. And one of the questions is about their political idol. A sizable majority of them name Vladimir Putin as their idol. Of course, Kurmanbek Bakiev is also mentioned, but less frequently than Putin. Popularity of Russian TV in Kyrgyzstan and the fact the Putin is always portrayed as the savior of Russia (Tsar?) is the only explanation here.