Friday, May 30, 2008

#214: Short Memory

The Kyrgyz people have very short memory. We tend to forget and forgive people, including notorious criminal leaders or corrupt officials, very easily. This short memory is sustained by the system based on lack of reliable information and where any political/economic/social debate is based on rumors. Kulov, for example, was several times pronounced "politically dead," but every time he came back as if nothing had happened. Madumarov is now pronounced "almost dead," but he will come back. The worst thing, however, that can happen to us is that if Askar Akaev comes back... as if nothing has happened.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

#213: Posner

Vladimir Posner was in Bishkek and I was able to attend two of his events using my alumni network at AUCA. He was invited by the president of AUCA (to the left of VP in the picture. Photo courtesy of murzakimov) as a guest lecturer.

I was interested in listening to a person who was born in France, grew up in the U.S., worked for the propaganda machine of the Soviet Union, and had lost faith in the Communist Part. He admires the U.S., loves Europe, and, it seems, still has hopes for Russia. This is a synopsis of what he said (not verbatim):

  • The Soviet Union was an artificial formation and was doomed for failure.
  • Yeltsin is a more pleasant person than Putin, although the latter has his own merits.
  • Yeltsin did not appoint Putin in 1999. He was removed by the oligarchs, who then thought that Putin would a weak politician and could be manipulated. They were a bit wrong.
  • Putin did tighten the screws in Russia. All the major media is controlled by the government, directly or indirectly.
  • Putin did a major thing: he resigned although he had the tools (Duma, referendum, public approval) to stay for the third term.
  • There will be some liberalization in Russia under Medvedev, who will stay for 2 full terms.
  • Medvedev is different from Putin, not completely, but in some ways.
  • When launching his program Vremena (Times) seven years ago he was politely asked not let 3 people on air for political reasons.
  • There was big disagreement with Dariga Nazarbaeva over one issue and told her that he will never come to Kazakhstan.
  • China is dangerous

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

#212: Kamchy Kolbaev

More often then never I want to believe that the Kyrgyz police is at least trying to fight crime. However, after I reading this article, my respect for the Kyrgyz police (not for ordinary Joebek the police officer, but for higher-ranking officials, like the minister and his deputies) has plummeted way below the imaginable level.

The article is based on the police report about an "operation to expel" a notorious criminal leader Kamchy Kolbaev, who apparently replaced the late Ryspek.

I have several problems with this report. Firstly, according to the report, the police in Naryn stopped several SUVs, check identities of people, including Kamchy Kolbaev, and let them go. Remember, he is #1 person on the wanted list. (Putting a gun in my mouth). The report also says that two of these SUVs had government license plates, although one of them was on the stolen list. The police did not see a problem with it... and they let criminals go. (I am pulling the trigger.)

However, the dumbest think that the Kyrgyz police can do is to announce that they carried out an operation to expel criminal #1 from Naryn province. Expel where? Naryn borders 4 other Kyrgyz provinces and China in the south. Of course, Kamchy Kolbaev would not be expelled to China. He is expelled to another province, probably to Issykkul, where he is originally from. Why in the hell didn't they arrest the guy? (Blood and brain all over the keyboard.)

So much for fighting crime. Remember the finger and ear case?

Plus, small complaint for AKIpress. It has become very lazy. They stopped asking questions, asking for comments from different sources, basically doing what journalists are be expected to do, but decided to publish press releases/statements as they are. Mostly verbatim.

#211: Missionaries

I don't mind missionaries, Muslim of Christian, - they tend to be very nice people - except when they tell me I am on the path to hell and the only salvation is their way. Unlike some of my friends, I don't like to pester them with endless questions trying to find a flaw in their reasoning. However, I am dumb struck when I see an American football team called Evangel Crusaders (OMG!).

"They [Kyrgyzstani] were totally lost in the darkness. They had no clue about Christianity."
Darkness? They probably had no clue about the half a million of Orthodox Christians. In fact, these guys probably think that Orthodox Christians are not even Christian enough.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

#210: Russian Singapore

Thanks to friends of friends of friends I found a forum of Russian-speakers in Singapore. To my amusement, I found that there are three things that Russians miss while living in Singapore: buckwheat, Russian crackers, and marshmallows, while some also try to make condensed milk and kefir in their kitchens. The rest of the Russian diet or their substitutes seem to be available in stores. I am not fanatical about any of these products and can do without them, but I am thinking of taking some of the famous dried fruits (apricots, prunes, etc.) and mountain honey from Central Asia.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

#209: Talas

Last week I was in Talas (east of Kyrgyzstan) for couple of days and I took a few pictures. I am posting some of the interesting ones here. This is the mausoleum of Manas, the epic hero. Karool Choku (Peak of Guards) is in the background.
Herders moving to the Suusamyr summer pasture on this old Moskvich with the self-made trailer from another Moskvich with yurt parts on it.
It seems that the Kyrgyz traffic police (GAI) found a way to address the problem of deadly traffic accidents on Kyrgyz roads. GAI decided to place crashed car carcasses along this major artery.

#208: Pioneers...

I would not have written about this if I had not seen the firework near a cafe in Bishkek and later, as I was driving by, a group of people in their 30s wearing red berets, red ties, and white shirts, and the Pioneer pins (below). It was apparently the 86th anniversary of the creation of the Pioneers, which represented the one of the stages (Oktyabrenok in 1-4th grades, Pioneer in 5-10th grades, and Komsomol in university) in becoming a member of the Communist Party in the USSR.
I remember myself when in 3rd grade the whole system disappeared along with the Soviet Union. That year I was really excited that I was moving up from Oktyabrenok to Pioneer. I was really sad that I did not get to become a Pioneer and never wore the red tie. Not that I regret it now, but a lot of people feel pride in those "good ole times" when everything was (seemed) good.

Monday, May 12, 2008

#206: Re-writing History

There are individual attempts to rewrite history of Kyrgyzstan, but these attempts are mostly unsuccessful mainly because of Russia's growing influence and revival of its might (both Tsarist and Soviet), while the Kyrgyz government is afraid to contradict the Big Brother (also in Orwellian meaning). The recent debate on marking of the 1916 revolt was muted, largely because of Russia's opposition to it.

Now, how do you rewrite the Basmachi revolts of early 20th century? Russian (Soviet) history clearly depicts them bandits (terrorists, kidnappers, killers) and opponents of the Communist dream. Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz are re-questioning this and re-thinking the history again as the grandsons of Janybek Kazy (Jani Begh in Pakistan) are returning to Kyrgyzstan with investment.

Janybek Kazy (circa. 1861-1933), originally from Özgön (Uzgen), was a nobleman who revolted against the Soviet collectivization and raskulachivanie policies in 1928. Under Russian punishment he fled first to China, then settled in Gilgit, Pakistan after the Soviet sent an army to arrest him. Some of his children in 1950's then migrated to Turkey. Currently, he as grandchildren living in Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, and Japan.

He and his followers were called basmachi for 70 years and the Soviet government told us they wanted to create an Islamic caliphate or a Pan-Turkist state (the current Russian government has pretty much follows the Soviet interpretation of history). With so little information from the archives of NKVD and KGB, the Kyrgyz are trying to re-write their own history. And once again, these attempts might fail due to the fear that Russian government might decide to deport all the Kyrgyz migrant workers (some 300,000 - 500,000people), most of them are illegally working there.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

#205: Which Constitution?

Monday, May 5, was a holiday in Kyrgyzstan. It was the Constitution Day! Like many people in Kyrgyzstan, I tried to celebrate it, but did not know how. How do you celebrate a constitution that has been re-written 8 times during the 17 years of independence of Kyrgyzstan?
1. May 5, 1993
2. October, 1994
3. February 10, 1996
4. October 17, 1998
5. February 2, 2003
6. November 9, 2006
7. December 30, 2006
8. October 21, 2007

And every new constitution was worse than the previous. For many, it has become just a piece of paper that is used for specific purposes and then thrown into a bin. Politicians are already predicting that Kyrgyzstan will have a new constitution within several years.

Monday, May 05, 2008

#204: Media in Kyrgyzstan

Three weeks ago I went to a kurultay (convention), organized by the opposition to listen to what they have to say. I was not much impressed by the speeches, which were dull, and the uncharismatic opposition leaders, who seem to be still divided and lacking a common strategy against the government.

I found a seat in a corner far away from the stage, where there were a few empty seats. I have to admit there were a lot of people, although a few unoccupied seats remained. As I was listening to the speeches, a cameraman, whom I recognized as a cameraman from State TV, came to the corner and started filming the 10 or so empty seats. The next day I watched the State TV's weekend edition of Alatoo News, which they claim to be analytical and professional. I was not surprised when the State TV aired the footage from the kurultay, which showed empty seats and people who had dozed off, some of them with their tongues out. Then it showed me, walking with a friend out of the hall, while the commentator said that people were leaving because the kurultay was boring. I thought to myself that the State TV is going back to the Akaev-era one-sided coverage of the opposition.

The Freedom House released a report on Freedom of Press in 2008, which says:

Central and Eastern Europe/ Former Soviet Union: This region showed the largest region-wide setback, with Russia, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, and several Central European countries, among others, showing declines.
The country report for Kyrgyzstan says:
Kyrgyzstan’s media environment continued to deteriorate in 2007 in the wake of a failure in 2006 to cement the brief gains seen after the fall of long-ruling President Askar Akayev the previous year. Attacks on journalists and crude government attempts to impose censorship were increasingly evident. Legal protections remained uneven, and with the country’s political elite polarized in an ongoing standoff between President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and the opposition, reforms stalled. Parliament debated legislation to decriminalize libel but failed to pass it into law. And while the long-awaited transformation of state television into public television took place, its supervisory board was plagued by conflicts amid signs that the president retained control over the state broadcaster.
IWPR published an article about the law, passed by the Parliament, but waiting for President's signature. The law basically reverts all the attempt to transform the notorious State TV into a public broadcaster, which would now be under complete control of the President alone.
Media-watchers see the latest legislation as part of the downward trend, and note with concern that it was rushed through with minimum publicity.
On the May 3 World Press Freedom Day, Azattyk Radio (Kyrgyz Service of RFE/RL) also seemed to be worried about the state of free media in Kyrgyzstan. The radio station organized an interview with an editor of a state-run newspaper and a journalists of a private newspaper.

Friday, May 02, 2008

#203: Tien Shan Gold Belt

This is written on the website of a mining company that operates in Central Asia:

"The Tien Shan Gold Belt is one of the most prolific gold belts in the World extending from Uzbekistan in the west into China and Mongolia to the east. The Tien Shan Gold belt is host to one of the world's largest concentrations of multi million ounce gold and silver deposits in the world."
A lot of companies looking for possibilities to dig gold in Kyrgyzstan.