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Starbucks is ‘really’ coming. So is KFC!?
Written by , Monday, 14 Nov, 2011 – 16:05 | 2 Comments

Since the day we have covered the “Starbucks-coming-soon-to-Uzbekistan?” issue, there has been a great interest by my friends wondering if that’s for real and when it would be opened. There was some coverage by other media outlet that covers Centarl Asia.

In order to find out if the picture by an Uzbek user on Facebook was not photoshopped, I decided to visit the place located at Shevchenko street, downtown Tashkent.

I was not surprised to see that coming-soon coffee shop nearby Perfectum mobile cellular company and Nobel Pharmsanoat pharmacy factory — well-known Starbucks logo made me feel like I will get a chance to try some Caramel Frappuccino soon! Read the full story »

Üzbegisztán Magyarországon: “Köszönöm” for invitation?
Written by , Tuesday, 8 Nov, 2011 – 9:07 | One Comment

Hungarian President Pal Schmitt is in Uzbekistan on a three-day visit: he arrived in Tashkent on November 6 with an official visit, accepting the invitation of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

According to official information, the Hungarian leader is expected to hold bilateral talks on the highest level during the visit, and sign a joint declaration outlining the prospects of Uzbek-Hungarian cooperation.

A range of intergovernmental and interagency documents are anticipated to be inked to cover political, trade-economic, investment, scientific and technical aspects of bilateral interaction, Uzbek President’s press-service reports.

As Uzbek MFA’s Jahon information agency reports, Hungary, during it’s Presidency in the Council of Eurporean Union initiated Karimov’s visit to Brussels where he met with President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and EU Commissioner for Energy Gunther Ettinger. Read the full story »

Starbucks in Uzbekistan: Expectations drawning in a lie?
Written by , Monday, 7 Nov, 2011 – 15:57 | 6 Comments

I visited the Facebook page of Starbucks to satisfy my interest in how many people around the world follow the company. How surprised would you be to see a photo posted by an Uzbek user, who was wondering if Starbucks is really coming to Uzbekistan? Yeah, so would I.

The ad on the building promises Starbucks coming soon. But how real is that?

To be honest, if that’s true then this could be a significant event to mark the American businesses’ raising interest in investing in Uzbekistan’s economy.

If not, then fans would just have a Déjà vu: couple years ago people of Tashkent already witnessed a presence of a fake Starbucks — coffee mugs, t-shirts, coffee with a label of a popular coffee company were on sale. But there was a problem — it was all fake! Guess who was in charge of that? Your guess is right — Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who accomodated the coffee shop at her compound nearby Premier hall and former Basha night club, with an undercover title: “La Shakar.” Read the full story »

Making some cash on pilgrims? Why not?!
Written by , Thursday, 27 Oct, 2011 – 16:59 | 3 Comments

Due to the current departure of pilgrims from around the world, Uzbek “businessmen” (as well as “businesswomen”) of local “black” markets decided to increase their income by simply raising the USD per Uzbek soum (UZS) exchange rate while Uzbek Hajjis to-be do their last preparations, including the financial side of it.

To get to know how “black” exchange market actors do their cynic — but business-and-no-sincerity-proven — operations one could just go to any bazaar where the above mentioned businessmen present. For future Hajjis (Hajji — a status given to those who travelled to holy places of Mekka and Medina in Saudi Arabia during certain time during a year) it’s convenient to have U.S. dollars rather than Uzbek soums simply because of the possibility to exchange the first would be much easier abroad.

Theoretically, to get the American money in their pockets they could just go to any local bank and exchange their valuable soums in to U.S. dollars. But, wait a second! We are in Uzbekistan which is a country where logically approved events have a practically proven controversies. And money exchange is one of the most significant ones in the field of economics. Read the full story »

Central Asian republics as exporters of labor, brain drain
Written by , Thursday, 29 Sep, 2011 – 3:27 | 2 Comments

According to Russia’s Interfax Financial Market edition, among ten million foreigners, who migrate to Russia since January, 2011, citizens of Central Asian republics make up to 35 % of them.

Out of ten million migrants, there are 14 % Uzbeks, 10 % Kazakhs, 6,75 % Tajiks, 3,5 % Kyrgyz citizens, reported head of the Immigration control department of the FMS (Federal Migration Service) of Russia Alexander Zemskov.

Ukranians lead the list of migrants with 21,1 % shares.

Now in real numbers:

Uzbeks — 1,4 mln;
Kazakhs — 1 mln;
Tajiks — 675 thousands;
Kyrgyz — 350 thousands.

It should be emphasized that these are the numbers for this year’s newcommers only, exluding large Central Asian diaspora representatives already residing in Russia.

These numbers differ a lot from what official statistics lie when ideologically brainwashing people about sustainabile development.

Of course, this represents the situation of how the people of Central Asia see their future in more successfull colors in Russia than in their own countries. In fact, this also applies to not only a physical labor migration subjects.

Bishkek, the Berlin of Central Asia? Part 2 – The Loft
Written by , Monday, 26 Sep, 2011 – 16:17 | One Comment

Following on my theme from earlier last week, while in Bishkek this past summer, I was really interested in the signs of global youth corporate culture spreading into Kyrgyzstan. Probably the clearest example is the artist and start-up collective called The Loft (loft.kg), which serves simultaneously as business cluster, exhibit space and art studio.

Some of these photos were taken at different times of day. And again, apologies for the terrible quality.

Read the full story »

High-speed rail or high speed lie? The debate over the new Afrosiyob train
Written by , Monday, 26 Sep, 2011 – 16:06 | One Comment

Photographs from Facebook.

Translator’s note: This post is based upon Mashrab’s original from Russian. It is not a literal translation.

Only a few weeks ago, the National information Agency (UzA) — the country’s main propaganda engine — declared the implementation of a new high-speed train:

“The chair of the national railway stock company ‘Uzbekiston Temir Yullari’ Achilbai Ramatov and others have recently stated that the large-scale reforms led by President Islam Karimov were bringing fruitful results. The national leader pays great attention to the development of transport and communications infrastructure. A high-speed train system ‘Afrosiyob’ was built within tight deadlines to connect Tashkent and Samarkand. This is the result of all-time care and attention by the state leadership and of our country’s economic advancement.

“The communication and alarm systems of the high-speed electric train were modernized, safety zones were established with concrete barriers and metal bars, and pedestrian crossings were constructed to ensure traffic safety. Additionally, Tashkent and Samarkand railway stations were renovated to improve safety and comfort of the passengers. Prior to the organization of the Afrosiyob train, a large-scale work was held to modernize the rail infrastructure along the Tashkent-Samarkand route. Rail the length of 600 km was rehabilitated, and 68 km of new railways were laid. A new double-track section with a length of over 35.3 km was built between Yangiyer and Dashtobod, as well as a 142-meter-long tunnel and four bridges with a total length of 400 meters.”

And then along came author Inomjon Sarymsakov, who recently took a ride on the train from Tashkent to Samarkand and has written an article in the Uzbekistan-based newspaper “News of Uzbekistan” that quite boldly contradicts the sunny proclamation from UzA:

Read the full story »

Holiday mood and expenses on obligatory congratulations
Written by , Monday, 26 Sep, 2011 – 9:25 | 4 Comments

Uzbekistan is still in the mood of the 20th anniversary of the “most sacred and greatest” holiday of all times — Independence Day celebrated on September 1, 2011.

In return to official propaganda videos on the happiest people on Earth — Uzbekistanis, Uzbek dissidents protest, organize new civic platforms, call the Canadian government to re-evaluate relations with Uzbekistan. These facts do not threaten the ideological situation in the country, at all.

Below is the set of pictures taken in Tashkent and some other parts of Uzbekistan: Only in authoritarian countries such as Uzbekistan one can see shops selling sports stuff and tickets and fabulous restaurants being enermously happy with the fact that there’s no Center/Moscow anymore dictating, against Uzbek businessmen’s will.

In fact, these organizations had been forced by local authorities — expenditures on any propaganda banners/ads/flyers are covered by businessmen themselves, not from the local budget.

This is how it works: Businessmen do not seem 100% happy with that, but happy to realize that a few times a year expenditures of a couple hundred U.S. dollars can keep corupted officials away for some time from their business. Read the full story »

Uzbek activists detained for photographing child labor
Written by , Tuesday, 20 Sep, 2011 – 14:54 | 6 Comments

In Uzbekistan, photography – and other forms of media relations and human rights activities – are carefully watched and monitored by the state.

On September 15th, Gulshan Karayeva and Nodir Ahatov – members of an unregistered Uzbekistan’s Human Rights society – were held by authorities for 10 hours for their act of photographing injustice, for “… taking pictures of schoolchildren picking cotton in the southern Kashkadarya region.”

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Uzbek Service quotes activist Karayeva saying:

We saw the fourth-graders picking the cotton as we were monitoring allegations of child labor in our region.”

[The students] pick cotton from the early morning till the afternoon and then they are supposed to go to school afterward.”

Read the full story »

Bishkek, the Berlin of Central Asia? Part 1 — Namba.kg
Written by , Monday, 19 Sep, 2011 – 12:04 | 3 Comments

A lot of my acquaintances in Kyrgyzstan are under the assumption that their country is totally obscure in the West. To the contrary, they are fairly well-known — for political upheaval and intense poverty. Images of mobs surging against the White House as Svoboda looked on and rotting, almost post-apocalyptic infrastructure are typically the first things that come to a Westerner’s mind, well, usually with a culpak or two thrown in.

Of course, like any country, Kyrgyzstan has several realities, often overlapping, sometimes contradictory, sometimes merging. A lot of Western specialists, and for that matter, a lot of Kyrgyzstan’s own intelligentsia, tend to identify the most unstable, tragic and savage realities of the country with its totality, often at the expense of some really cool or interesting other aspects.

One of these aspects has been the gradual entrance of what can be described as global youth corporate culture — informal office environments, where graffiti art adorns the walls, there’s a mixture of business savvy and punkish DIY ethics in the air, and co-workers often go out clubbing together after work. Business start-ups and artist collectives in this mold are starting to sprout across Bishkek, and it’s all got a very incipient Berlin vibe in my opinion.

Read the full story »