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Article Archive for Year 2008

TOL and neweurasia seeking Russian Editor
Written by , Sunday, 28 Dec, 2008 – 16:53 | 4 Comments

TOL and neweurasia are seeking to hire a Editor for its “Building Blogging in Central Asia” project.  This is an exciting opportunity for someone with journalism skills and experience in the post-Soviet space.

neweurasia is a citizen journalism portal for Central Asia with more than 100,000 visitors every month.  Now setting off into the third year, we are looking to strengthen our editorial position with an Internet-savvy and professional individual with solid journalism experience.

The Editor will be part of neweurasia’s international team scattered across Central Asia, Europe and the United States and will play a pivotal part in developing the project in its third year.  We prefer the successful applicant to be based in either Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan. Read the full story »

That’s the spirit
Written by , Sunday, 28 Dec, 2008 – 16:39 | No Comment

[inspic=150,left,,200]In times like these, it’s appreciated when some banks do not only try to act as everything’s just fine, but also revive some of that pre-crisis extravaganza.  A diamond-encrusted credit card, targeting those earning above $300k per year, has been launched by Eurasian Bank.  To all those preaching modesty and anonymous luxury shopping, this is in your face!

Kazakhstan: National Search Engine Debated by the Bloggers
Written by , Thursday, 18 Dec, 2008 – 13:17 | One Comment

On December 11, 2008, Kazakhstani blogger Nurlan wrote in his blog, dedicated to IT development issues, about a possibility that so-called KazNet (a Kazakhstani segment of the world wide web) soon may have its own search engine and quotes an advertisement placed on the official website of the Governmental Agency on Informatization and Communications (AIC) [ru]:

Dear users,
The department of information technologies at the Governmental Agency on Informatization and Communications is pleased to inform you that we plan to create a National Search System within the framework of KazNet development. The search system will be society-oriented. In this regard, we ask the Internet community to help us in choosing a name for the search engine.

In the below-the-post discussion threads bloggers have been debating not only possible names for the search engine, but rather the overall necessity of the whole innovation.

Thus, Zhomart thinks [ru], that this is “just another way of money laundering”. Valentin doubts the AIC’s technical ability to make it good [ru]:

“It’s fishy. The best they can do is to create a websites catalog. Actually, what is the reason of making something that already exists? They will not have enough capacity to create something better than the existing search engines. It’s going to be some fake at the expense of taxpayers’ money”.

Assasin believes that the agency should solve internal problems first [ru]:

“What are you talking about, a search engine? They cannot even do a dns server properly. Look – aic.gov.kz doesn’t return the page, only http://www.aic.gov.kz works. There was an online conference with Kuanyshbek Esekeev, the AIC chairman on “e-government”. He was not able to respond to concrete questions! A search engine… It would probably take 50 years for them to make one”.

There is a lot of skepticism, and that’s quite understandable. What is the need to invent a bicycle? What is the need to create a new search engine (irrespectively of who is helping to do it – Yandex, Google or Microsoft), if the already existing search engines provide correct indexing and perfectly find all Kazakhstani websites. They do not require any additional time or financial investments, especially in harsh times of economic crisis.

Besides, the new resource is being publicly positioned in a quite strange way. In particular, it remains unclear what stands behind the “society-oriented” nature of a search engine. Besides, if the Internet is meant to unite countries and to remove borders, why Kazakhstan needs a localized search engine, however functional it may be? What is it: a self-affirmation complex, a reason to spend the agency’s budget or a real technical necessity?

While bloggers are passionately discussing the issue, organizer of the Annual Kazakhstani Internet Award and one of the first and most respected bloggers in KazNet, Alexandr Lyakhov a href=”http://lyakhov.kz/editorial/08/e0802.shtml#080217″>quotes some figures [ru]:

According to the paragraph 8.1.1 of “the Program of fighting Internet inequality in Kazakhstan for 2007-09″ (it is being implemented by AIC), KZT 28,8 million (nearly $242,000) was to be spent in 2007 and 2008 from the budget for the development of an “intellectual search system”.

Blogger Valentin bitterly jokes that it could be cheaper to hire people that would receive requests, google for them and send back results to the users.

But the matter has already gone beyond jokes: several days ago blogger Zhomart published in his blog a draft open letter to Mr. Esekeev, the AIC chairman, describing the problem and demanding to stop the project. He also asks bloggers to sign it and send the letter to Astana.

This post was also published on Global Voices Online.

Agenda for the remainder of 2008
Written by , Saturday, 13 Dec, 2008 – 20:33 | No Comment

Well, it’s that time of year again — the end!  Although most cultures celebrate the turnover in the Spring and Fall, the evening of December 31st on the Western calendar has now become nigh universally celebrated.  There are, of course, many controversial reasons why this is so, including imperialism, globalization, and those creepy meanies, the Illuminati (that’s a joke, by the way!)

What’s the plan for CyberChaikhana as the year draws to a close? Well, it’s been a long year foreverybody. Speaking for myself, I’m in some serious need for rest and recuperation, so off to South Africa I go!  It’s costing me a pretty penny to do it, but by God, sometimes a person’s got to burn some money for recklessness’ sake, even if times are tough and financial Doomsday (or zombie apocalypse, as the case may be) is upon us.

My travels means I’ll be incommunicado for the remainder of December and a portion of January, but don’t worry, there will still be activity in this space.  Primarily, expect in the next two weeks excerpts of more rough draft material. (UPDATE 20/12/2008: Well, it looks like I won’t be able to keep this promise.  There were a lot of last minute details that needed taken care of in the lead-up to my trip to South Africa, and I leave this Monday.  That means the CyberChaikhana blog won’t be back in action until the second week of January.  But don’t worry.  Expect a big comeback, replete with blaring theremins and exploding pigs.  Cheers!)

When I return I will also release the results of our informal blogging-and-pluralism survey which I initiated two months ago.  If you’ve already added your input to the survey, do so now!!!  And while I’m away, check out Harvard University’s new Project on Islam in Eurasia, the focus of which will be upon the everyday lived aspects of the religion in post-Soviet life (click on the image above to learn more).

As many of you know, it’s a Western tradition that upon the coming of the New Year every person makes a resolution for themselves.  What’s mine?  Simply, to complete the rough draft of the entire manuscript by Springtime. I’ll be kicking into editorial high-gear when I return from Capetown, so stay tuned!

Have a happy and relaxing New Year everyone!

2009 – Year of development and improvement of villages in Uzbekistan
Written by , Tuesday, 9 Dec, 2008 – 15:21 | One Comment

President Islam Karimov made an official statement that announces an upcoming 2009 year as “The Year of Rural Development and Well-being”. In his speech in the meeting dedicated to the 16th anniversary of adoption of Constitution of Uzbekistan, President Karimov gave reasons to this choice.

Indeed, all people residing on this land feed themselves and live at the expense of produce grown on this land, sufficiency and prosperity of our nation are created above all by hands of our hard-working dekhkans. In a word, every human being, wherever he lives or wherever he works, I believe, permanently feels and realizes that his life and the life of his family are inseparably linked with a countryside.

Along with it we must not forget that the majority of population of our country – around 50% – lives in the rural area. And therefore, we well understand that further flourishing of the country, growth of people’s prosperity and successful resolution of high objectives standing before us, certainly, depend on the future of our countryside.

In other words, improving the state of affairs in the countryside, further increasing of efficiency of the agricultural sector, at all times, and particularly, taking into account the increased demand at the modern stage, certainly, obtain a particular significance and actuality.

Therefore, in order to give a new strong impetus, a new acceleration to the work accomplished in this direction I suggest to declare the forthcoming year 2009 in our country as the “Year of Rural Development and Well-being”.

It is a wise decision, especially in the light of todays severe realities in agricultural sector of Uzbekistan. Lets hope that it will bring its positive results. A year 2008 was a “The Year of Youth”.

Bulgarian president hunts for protected animal in Uzbekistan
Written by , Friday, 5 Dec, 2008 – 20:14 | 9 Comments

Recently, there have been severe debates in the internet forums and blogs of Uzbekistan and Bulgaria on the role of ethics in todays politics. The reason is an article published in the Information Agency Ferghana.Ru about Bulgarian president Georgi Purvanov’s hunt for protected animal during his official visit to Uzbekistan.

According to different sources, including Ferghana.Ru, during his official visit to Uzbekistan, President Gerogi Purvanov, a great hunt-lover, participated in a safari for argali, the mountain sheep whose Latin name is Ovis ammon, a rare animal that is included to the international red book of protected species. Sergei Naumov, author of the article at Ferghana.Ru, believes that the safari was held in a special reservation, where hunting is prohibited. According to article 204 of the penal code of Uzbekistan, Mr. Purvanov or those Uzbek officials who let this safari happen must be persecuted, as the article says that “a breach of the protected natural areas that cause big damage, between 100 and 300 minimum salaries, or other serious damages, is punished by a fine equivalent to 50 minimum salaries or a ban [from exercising the right to hunt] for five years or two years of community service.”

Bulgarian internet forums and blogs, especially opposition ones, have been discussing the topic very actively. Stefan Avramov, a Bulgarian internet user, created an open group in Facebook named “Срам ме е, че имаме Президент – бракониер!” (Shame on me, my president is a poacher) to discuss the topic. The open group already has 521 members (info as of 05/12/08 5:21 GMT).

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President of Bulgaria Georgi Purvanov loves hunting very much, says Bulgarian internet user in one of internet forums. (click picture to enlarge)

Uzbek internet is also active, but not in Uzbekistan, as most of internet sources that discuss this topic are banned by all internet providers in Uzbekistan. A reader concerned about environment protection left a comment [ru] on Ferghana.Ru article. He says,

Due to such politics of “Uzbek hospitality”, all species of Central Asian tigers were wiped off (the last Central Asian tiger was seen in 1943). It seems that argali has the same fate. What a pity!

Todays Central Asian politics is very severe. Countries try to use every available resources to gain new achievements in their foreign policies, which, in its turn, is reflected in their regional political roles. However, unlike the new-born states of Central Asia that had been under an authoritarian Soviet rule for about seven decades, the European countries, where the idea of democracy was first nurtured, must not go against universal ethical values. Vice versa, they must be an example to emerging Central Asian democracies, if they can be called so, of just and fair governing.

Press Service of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan states that during the official visit of Bulgarian delegation to Uzbekistan in 2003, President Purvanov said that “his country was a small door to the large European market for Uzbekistan.” Who knows, maybe Mr. Purvanov was talking about inviting rich European people like himself to safari business in Uzbekistan…

Update:  Bulgarian organization “Save Bulgarian Nature” is collecting signatures for a petition that asks the Bulgarian president to return the corps of dead animal back to Uzbekistan. The petition already collected 5500 signatures.

Aging Cars Resurrected In Tajikistan
Written by , Friday, 5 Dec, 2008 – 15:29 | 2 Comments

By: Daniel McIntosh [dk.mcintosh@gmail.com]

It’s just after sunrise in Khujand’s cargo train station: a black hole for retired vehicles of the developed world. Car salesmen start the day with a prayer in the backseat of cars and nervously inhale the cold morning air through their cigarettes. Khujand, Tajikistan’s northern city nestled between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan is the country’s rail gateway from the North.

From Eastern Europe to South Korea worn and rusty vehicles converge to this isolated and often forgotten part of the world, vehicles pour in at a shocking rate, hundreds a day, feeding the country’s vehicle ownership boom. Here vehicles are given a second life, painted to cover old rust spots, and hammered to remove dents, where they go on to become a family’s pride. Despite the nations low average monthly income there are a growing number of people that can afford to experience the luxury of a private vehicle in one of Central Asia’s poorest countries.

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Just past seven in the morning, the train wagons are literally crawling with prospective automobile buyers, prying locked doors and peaking through small holes. Car buyers eager to obtain the best deal, even before the train wagons are opened and vehicles are inspected, make sales and exchange crisp one hundred dollar bills. Train containers are unlocked and a train rolls to the platform where vehicles will be unloaded. In the meantime the train yard becomes a rolling marketplace, dead batteries are replaced, and engines are revved. Men whistle, make phone calls and argue.

Judging by the aggression of prospective buyers, it is clear that Tajikistan has a hunger for the independence of private transportation and that the country’s rapid consumption rate suggests that hundreds of people a day reach the economic security required to purchase a family vehicle, perhaps an encouraging sign for this impoverished nation, the poorest nation of the former Soviet Union.

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Despite a growing number of automobile owners, the country is not yet prepared for mass transportation. Treacherous holes dot the roads, causing drivers to crawl at painfully slow speeds. The highway connection between large cities, until recently, has only been seasonal due to Tajikistan’s mountainous terrain and unforgiving winters. But as the face of Tajikistan is changing with time, so are the roads and foreign investment. A recent Chinese funded road construction aims to connect this resource-full nation with its giant neighbor and may be the nation’s first steps in reliable road building.
Yet only few Western style gas stations, equipped with pumps, exist in Tajikistan. Gas is commonly sold on roadside stands by the liter, in plastic bottles or large glass jars and at a steep price when considering the nation’s average monthly income of USD $ 63.  A recent university graduate, who purchased a vehicle for his commute to work, earns approximately USD $ 200 dollars a month and spends over USD $ 75 monthly on gasoline, paying approximately USD $1 per liter. It is not uncommon for automobile owners to only fill their tank with the required amount of fuel needed for the day, an understandable measure when considering large fraction of ones income.

In one particular train, a local family’s single son, Abdurahim, took his first trip to Europe to make profit on the car boom. After one month of collecting vehicles from Germany and Eastern Europe, attaining the best deals and leading them one by one to Lithuania for shipment, the young salesman collected five Opels, a European brand that sells well in Tajikistan. Upon unloading them from the train and into the bustling train yard, he awaits customers hunting for deals.

Two teenagers, approximately 16 years old, wearing sweatpants up to their belly buttons and jackets marked with paint stains on the cuffs, nervously approach one of Abdurahim’s cars with interest. Overlooking serious rust spots and a whining engine, the two teenagers surprisingly produce USD $4,100 from their pockets to purchase the vehicle. The youth plan to paint over rust spots, perform engine maintenance and sell the vehicle at the bustling Yakshambe or local Sunday open-air market for a profit. These youth only represent a piece of the trickle-down network of Tajiks that are employed by this boom. Others simply move the cars to the capitol, where they sell for slightly higher prices. Based on the amount of people at the market, it is clear that there is money to be made. Today Abdurahim will earn USD $ 250 profit from his car sale. Making his first sale ever, he is happy to see the business system work and generate a profit.

Abdurahim and the trickle down network of renovators and salesmen are not the only ones benefiting from this boom. It is those too that purchase the liberation of four wheels that benefit by increasing the efficiency of their households, and most importantly linking disconnected corners of the country to families, employment and business opportunities.

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On the side streets of Khujand’s lively food market, vehicles are loaded with large quantities of merchandise. An Opel station wagon, most likely once used in Germany to shuttle children to soccer games and school is now stuffed with cheese, canned foods, coal and large rolls of salami being shuttled to neighboring villages for resale. It is such movement of goods and mobility of citizens that may open employment and business opportunities and consequently aid in the nations development.

At the train station the day is ending, the setting sun signals the evening prayer, and the owners of newly arrived cars complete minor engine tuning, replace flat tires, wipe the thick layer of dust off their vehicles accumulated from the train journey and throw out the trash left in their cars from the previous owners. Emptying glove compartments and trunks they dump CDs, electric bills from Sweden, water bottles and clothing. Trash surrounds the tracks.

A young man carries a McDonald’s French fry box. The man, not giving a second thought to the irony of the unintentional imported garbage and the fact that the nearest McDonald’s is not in this nation or anywhere near here, tosses it into the flames of a fire billowing black smoke and devouring trash.

In Tajikistan, what was once another nation’s trash is repainted and overhauled brought to a second life in this remote region of the world.  As hundreds of vehicles infiltrate this nation daily, among the unintentionally imported trash, in the glove compartment, under the seats and inside the fast food bags hide independence, mobility and freedom, or significant change that, along with vehicles, will also be resurrected in this developing nation.

CPJ warns: Blogging may harm your health
Written by , Friday, 5 Dec, 2008 – 14:34 | One Comment

In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, the Committee to Protect Jouralists (CPJ), one of the biggest media watch groups, found that today online journalism results in more imprisonments of journalists than print or broadcast media. According to their census, 45% of 125 imprisoned journalists in 2008 (data as of Dec. 5, 2008) were jailed due to their work online. They are mainly journalists and editors for online news agencies, and bloggers. The imprisonments of journalists due to their profession happened in 29 countries in 2008, according to the CPJ’s census. Uzbekistan is the only Central Asian country in the list and rounds out the top five “the world’s worst journalist jailer” countries along with China, Cuba, Burma and Eritrea.

CPJ’s survey found 125 journalists in all behind bars on December 1… China continued to be world’s worst jailer of journalists, a dishonor it has held for 10 consecutive years. Cuba, Burma, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan round out the top five jailers from among the 29 nations that imprison journalists. Each of the top five nations has persistently placed among the world’s worst in detaining journalists.

According to CPJ, there were 6 journalists in jail in Uzbekistan in 2008. They are:

-Muhammad Bekjanov, editor of banned opposition newspaper Erk, imprisoned in March 1999 and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Charged and convicted of publishing and distributing the banned Erk, which criticized President Islam Karimov; participating in a banned political protest; and attempting to overthrow the constitutional regime of Uzbekistan;

-Yusuf Ruzimuradov editor of banned opposition newspaper Erk, imprisoned in March 1999 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Charged and convicted of publishing and distributing the banned Erk, which criticized President Islam Karimov; participating in a banned political protest; and attempting to overthrow the constitutional regime of Uzbekistan;

-Gayrat Mehliboyev, freelance, imprisoned in July 2002 and sentences to 6.5 years in prison. Convicted of anti-constitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred, according to local and international news reports;

-Ortikali Namazov, editor of the state newspaper Pop Tongi and correspondent for the state newspaper Kishlok Khayoti, imprisoned in August 2004 and sentences to 5.5 years in prison. Charged with embezzlement of funds;

-Dzhamshid Karimov, freelance, President Islam Karimov’s nephew (!), being forcibly held in psychiatric hospital since September 2006. According to CPJ, “Government officials refused to release any information on the court proceedings that led to his involuntary confinement, and independent experts were not allowed to examine Karimov”;

-Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, correspondent of internet based News Agency Uznews, imprisoned in October 2008 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. According to CPJ, Abrurakhmanov was arrested “after traffic police claimed they found 4 ounces (114 grams) of marijuana and less than a quarter-ounce (about 5 grams) of opium in his trunk. Authorities charged the journalist with drug possession intended for personal use.”

Out of these six imprisoned journalists two were involved in online journalism. However, if those Uzbek journalists, human rights activists, and opposition members, who have found asylums abroad, who are now mainly involved in online activism — online journalism and blogging (citizen journalism) — if they were in Uzbekistan, the number of jailed journalists would be way more than 6.[inspic=138,left,fullscreen,250] The reason for online journalism being more risky is due to its advantages over print and broadcast media. It is mainly due to the accessibility and flexibility of online journalism. Due to these features, recently, online/citizen journalism has been spreading very widely throughout the world that resulted in its increasing popularity. In its turn, this made online journalists and bloggers number-one-targets to repressive governments and regimes, as unlike print and broadcast media that are mostly bound to certain regional and time limitations, internet can be accessible almost everywhere. Moreover, online/citizen journalism does not require much assets. All you need is an electronic device, internet, material you want to publish, and a great courage and will to make good changes in the world. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon aslo believes that advantages of online journalism has attracted attention of enemies of press freedom. He says,

Online journalism has changed the media landscape and the way we communicate with each other. But the power and influence of this new generation of online journalists has captured the attention of repressive governments around the world, and they have accelerated their counterattack. The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse.

So far, no one was arrested in Uzbekistan for blogging. However, there had been rumors that a blogger was expelled from university for unknown reasons, most like for being a blogger. The Uzbek government’s efforts to ban almost all URLs containing “unfriendly information”, including blogs, significantly slow down the process of blogs becoming an alternative source of information. Nevertheless, there are courageous bloggers, who blog from Uzbekistan. They do not fear of persecution and cover the aspects of life in Uzbekistan that are neglected by mainstream media of Uzbekistan.

A crater on Mercury named after Uzbek poet Alisher Navoi
Written by , Thursday, 4 Dec, 2008 – 14:23 | 4 Comments

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has recently announced names for 15 craters, the second group craters found on the surface Mercury by NASA’s project “MESSENGER”. According to a list of names, one of the Mercury craters will be named after famous Uzbek linguist, poet and philosopher Alisher Navoi.

MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington says:

“We’re pleased that the IAU has again acted promptly to approve this new set of names for prominent craters on Mercury. These latest names honor a diverse suite of some of the most accomplished contributors to mankind’s higher aspirations. They also make it much easier for planetary scientists to refer to major features on Mercury in talks and publications.�

Alisher Navoi had surely contributed a lot to higher aspirations of all Turkic nations, especially Uzbeks. In Uzbekistan, Alisher Navoi’s memory is well kept, as he is considered to be a founding-father of modern Uzbek language. In 2006, Uzbekistan marked Alisher Navoi’s 565th anniversary that was celebrated throughout the country with great festivities. One of 12 administrative regions (oblast/viloyat) of Uzbekistan is named after Alisher Navoi.

Locations of newly named craters on Mercury are shown in the following picture. The Navoi crater is on the top of the left picture.

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Click picture to enlarge

Kazakhstan: History, Culture and Internet
Written by , Monday, 1 Dec, 2008 – 14:04 | 4 Comments

While Ukraine is taking a principle stand towards its history and calling Holodomor (famine of the 1930s) genocide of the nation, undertaken by the communist regime, Kazakhstani authorities are very quiet on the comparable disaster of the Stalin era, when more than 30 percent of the Kazakhs died. Schriftsteller says [ru]:

Famine in Kazakhstan was not simply genocide, but also ethnocide, because it left significant changes in the Kazakh culture: the type of economy, settling , habitation and clothing changed dramatically. The previous complex of Kazakh nomadic culture, which was present in 1920s was eliminated during the years of famine.

Alim-atenbek looks at the development of Kazakhstani cinematography. One of the recent Kazakh film, “The Gift to Stalin” opened the South Korean film festival, while another movie, “The Tulip”, has taken the CNN APSA Viewers Choice Award [ru]:

3 movies that I saw recently in the cinema were Kazakh ones… Next year, KazakhFilm studio plans to make 15 movies, and if half of them would be of comparable quality, it would be possible to speak about resurrection of the domestic cinematograph.

While Russian blogosphere discusses theft of money at creation of secondary schools’ websites, Megakhuimyak suggests taking a glance at how state funds are spent in the sphere of e-government [ru]:

51 billion tenge, which makes up 425 million dollars were spent for this e-government portal (http://www.e.gov.kz/wps/portal)

Cheerful-husky continues the Internet-related debate and finds out that most of the Kazakhstn-related Google ads lead to the religious websites [ru]:

Link “I hate my life” always grabs your attention. Apparently, it brings you to some Studentstan website, which appears to be a Christian organization. Love.kz has nothing to do with dating – it’s also a mission and love they speak about is the God’s one.

Also posted on GVO