Article Archive for Year 2012
Editor’s note: It’s becoming a truism that mobile phone technology could reshape Central Asia for the better, but there’s also a dark side, even a ridiculous side. NewEurasia’s Marat discusses the problem of shariah-backed sms-divorcing.
Modern technology is not only improving lives in Central Asia. Lately, short message services, emails, and other technical means are being utilized by male heads of family to dissolve that very family. Husbands are divorcing their wives thousands of kilometers away with one SMS message, reading “Talaq.” The word is an Arabic term for “divorced” and is the prerogative of the husband, according to Islamic teachings. While talaq is a permissible act in Islam, it is strongly discouraged for the sake of the family and society.
Baychobar speeds across the steppe to catch up with the rest of the race in a miraculous sprint of supernatural proportions!
Supernatural stallions figure prominently in Zoroastrianism and Buddhism, two religious systems that made a deep imprint in Central Asia prior to the rise of Islam.
In Zoroastrianism, one of the three representations of Tishtrya, the hypostasis of the star Sirius, is that of a white stallion (the other two are as a young man, and as a bull). Meanwhile in Buddhism, Kanthaka was a white horse that was a royal servant and favorite ride of Siddhartha himself, the eventual Buddha. Siddhartha used Kanthaka in all major events described in Buddhist texts prior to his renunciation of the world. Following the departure of Siddhartha, it was said that Kanthaka died of a broken heart. In one story, it is said that Kanthaka jumped across a massive river in a single leap — something similar to what Baychobar shall do in this portion of the Alpamysh.
Baychobar is often referred to as being “winged”, although whether metaphorically or literally is unclear. Unsurprisingly, the ancient Turkic tradition does have an analogue to the Greek Pegasus: the Tulpar (Тұлпар). It appears in the national seals of both Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
Readers should also note the allusion made to the Russians and other elements of sedentary Modernity, an example of the flexibility and adaptability of the dastan poetic form.
Karajan awakes three days later to discover his son’s betrayal. Can he and the injured Baychobar win the race for Barchin?
The Alpamysh makes several references to the “Saints”. Sometimes these figures are identified explicitly, as in the case of al-Khidr (“Hizir”); most of the time, simply as a collective. Who could these individuals have been in reality?
Central Asia has had a long and complex religious history. Its oldest spiritual genetics reach back to shamanism and Zoroastrianism, but there is also a heavy strain of Buddhism as well. This latter strain dates back to the ancient Greek kingdoms in Oxus, Bactria, the Khyber Pass, Gandhara and the Punjab. Hence, it is probable that the “saints” are, in fact, the bodhisattvas of Buddhist lore, in particular monks who had perfected the spiritual disciplines and subsequently ascended to nirvana, from which position they could assist and guide those still on earth trapped in the cycle of birth, death and re-birth. The bodhisattva notion would take on Islamic garb in the form of the Sufi pir.
More screen captures from an anonymous citizen-journalist, aaaannnnd guess what? Yep, more Berdimuhammedov. Berdimuhammedov everywhere.
The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (Department of Anthropology and Sociology) invites paper proposals for an interdisciplinary workshop: Muslims and Sports (event date: July 2013).
Editor’s Note: NewEurasia’s Annasoltan has come into the possession of screen captures of Turkmenistani state media that reveal the omnipresence of President Berdimuhammedov’s visage, from auditoriums to kindergartens.
Imagine if every poster on the wall, every advertisement on the side of a bus, hanging in the center of every wall in an office, and even overlooking little children playing in kindergarten, was the face of one man. An intrepid citizen-journalist in Turkmenistan has sent me really disturbing screen captures of state television that demonstrate just how pervasive the cult of personality surrounding our president, Berdimuhammedov, a.k.a., “Arkadag” (the protector/guide), has become. Even foreign companies from Russia and Kazakhstan feel obliged to hang portraits of the president in their kiosks during a recent international trade fair.
To what ends will men go to satisfy lust? As Karajan drifts to sleep, his only son, Dost Mohammed, implements a terrible plan to prevent him from winning the race for the lovely Barchin.
The tired [lit. "small-minded"] batir, Karajan, tied the feet of his young mount, then placed his head on the saddle cushion, rested his head on his palm, and laid down. He immediately became motionless like a tree.
Editor’s Note: In the last few weeks, the Uzbek Facebook community has been roaring in laughter as a mysterious caricaturist unleashed his satirical vision of Uzbekistani society upon the social network. NewEurasia’s Eisenstein tells the amazing story and shares some of the hilarious art.
The Uzbek segment of Facebook is not the funniest place on earth. The state seeks to control all online social networks, so may users are afraid to use these platforms to speak their minds. But from time to time, there’s an explosion of satire.
The last two weeks, there’s been a craze among active Uzbek Facebook users about the “Uzbekistan Illustrated” page. It was launched on 17 October by an unknown artist, and in such a short time, it has gained enormous popularity. His page now has 2744 “likes”, and it seems that only the lazy aren’t participating in discussions on the page.
What is the basic idea of “Uzbekistan Illustrated”? Well, it’s actually really simple: make a new caricature everyday! Here are some of the choicest bits so far.
Editor’s Note: Turkmenistan’s strongman president has made the fight against drugs a major priority of his regime. How’s he faring? In a rare breeze of good news from the country, NewEurasia’s Annasoltan reports that his actions may actually be faring somewhat well!
Ever since Berdimuhamedov — a former health minister and dentist by training — came to power in 2007, Turkmenistan has been engaged in a very radical struggle. During the Niyazov era, wider availability of drugs combined with a grave socioeconomic situation led to a spike in addiction. It was estimated by a former foreign minister that approximately 50% of the population was involved in either the use or sale of drugs! Almost every family had a loved on doped up on narcotics.
There were even allegations that Niyazov himself had a personal stake in the drug business. These allegations arose from his very weird policies on the issue; for instance, he legalized carrying five grams of opium. It’s almost a certainty that some elements of the government, high or low, are involved in the drug business. After all, our country is located on a major transit route between Afghanistan and Europe. In fact, we lie at the intersection of several consumers, including Iran and (via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) Russia.
Taysha Khan sends a spy to report on Karajan, who reports back about the latter’s horse, who has oddly pegasus-like qualities. A conspiracy is hatched by none other than Karajan’s only son to kill the horse and tie up the heroic horseman…
A tore was sent by Taysha to observe the order of the race, and was instructed to keep an eye on the four hundred and ninety Kalmaks.
This man was At Peshin Tore, who at once reported about the horses: “We saw the four hundred and ninety horses as they filed past us. We watched all. Next to the chestnut [tree] was Karajan’s horse, [compared to which] all the others seem like oxen. Karajan’s friend’s horse is [quite a] mount.”
[The khan replied,] “Let us go see it.” He gathered nine Kalmaks to go with him.
They all went near the horse.
Ever since Karajan became friends with Alpamysh and became Muslim, he never missed a single prayer time. While he was performing his morning prayers, Baychobar was walking around behind him.
The tore inspected Baychobar’s body and flesh with his own hands. He discovered the wings on his shoulders, and the way the horse folded them, moving occasionally. Atpeshin Tore became scared of Baychobar. He fled, rejoining the crowd.
He gathered all of the four hundred and ninety Kalmaks and said: