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Overview of Kazakh Blogosphere
Written by , Monday, 3 Jul, 2006 – 17:06 | No Comment

Almaty

We’ve prepared a fresh roundup of blog posts and online discussions that took place on Russian-language Neweurasia and in a wider Kazakh blogosphere in the last few days.

On a World Refugee Day, 20 June, I overviewed the situation with the refugees in Kazakhstan. Using the data of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kazakhstan and media reports, I state that there is no good example of handling the refugees in the region, and the countries tend to cooperate when they see the refugees as a threat to their security. This is the case with Uighurs from China and Uzbeks who fled their country after Andijan.

Our blogger Adam Kesher was critical about draft media law, which, since then, has been adopted by the Kazakh senate and is currently awaiting the President’ approval. Adam says there is a conflict between Dariga Nazarbayeva, the President’s daughter and the initiator of the draft law Ertysbaev, which is also a conflict within the Family. Even the broadcasting of the World Cup was an issue in the conflict, according to Adam. He offers a hypothesis that the law was rushed through in order to manage before autumn, when the President visits the US, or the start of trial of Giffen, former adviser of Nazarbayev, accused for bribing the Kazakhstan officials.

In what seems to be an answer to Adam’s criticism, Dmitry points out the advantage of media law - making media outlets provide the true information about their curculation. Statistics, in Dmitry’s opinion, is important for investors and advertisers. He concludes saying that freedom of speech is sometimes abused by journalists in Kazakhstan, and this law would be a necessary limit on it. English translation of the article – here.

Another post related to media in Kazakhstan is featured by ab77 , who writes for Dumaem.ru, analytical online project. In his “Information Desert – Are We Interesting to our Neighbors?” post in KZ_Politica Livejournal community, the author says that since Kazakhstan has so many Russian TV channels, people tend to know a lot about Russia. 75% of Kazakhstanis use the sites in .ru domain, and only 25% regularly visit local sites in .kz zone. The situation is not proportionate though – many people in Russia know about Kazakhstan as much as they know about any provincial city behind Ural. Kazakhstan, according to him, does not have positive image in the eyes of Russian businessmen. 10 most popular words Russians associate with Kazakhstan: Baikonur, Nazarbayev, oil, steppe, drugs, Alma-Ata, Astana, Caspian sea, virgin lands, Semipalatinsk. Neweurasia now features full article here (RUS). Read the full story »

Tajikistan travel blogs (review)
Written by , Monday, 3 Jul, 2006 – 10:26 | 10 Comments

It’s not surprising that when you search for any blog about Tajikistan you just find the travel blogs, which are mainly posted by foreigners who travel around the country and tell about their experiences in this exotic country. So, I have decided to tell you about some of the most interesting ones.

One of them is the live-journal of a young lady, whose name is Karin. Currently she lives in Dushanbe with her host family. She calls her blog “I have no idea what to call this blog”. The family that she lives with, is a typical Tajik family, which consists of 5 children and two parents. In her blogs she tells about her everyday life and shows the life of Tajikistan from inside. There are also some very good pictures. This blog is updated almost everyday.

In Tajikistan during the summer you can see a lot of foreign people traveling by bicycles, which seems really weird to local people. When people see them, you can always hear something like “Oh my God, these foreigners have nothing else to do”. Tim and Rowen are also one of those “strange” bicycle riders. On June 28, 2006 they’ve posted a small article about their experience in Tajikistan. They tell us about how hard it was to struggle those tough and rough roads of Tajikistan, especially the roads in Pamir. There are no pictures of the roads but you can find them on the other blog, which is called “The Big Trip”. There are some very good pictures. I’ve traveled many times on this road (Osh-Khorog). It is a real torture (I’m not exaggerating). There is a very high altitude, especially when you go through the high passes. Lack of oxygen makes you sick, and you shouldn’t make quick moves, otherwise you can just fall fainted. These passes look more like a surface of the Mars. It is very difficult to travel by car and I still don’t understand how those bicycle and motorcycle riders can travel on this road, one should erect a monument for them on the highest pass.

Dushanbe pleasantly surprised Matt
. First, in his blog he says: “I was ready for hell in Tajikistan. The poorest Soviet republic, one that descended into bloody civil war almost the day after secession from Moscow, and one so hard to reach that globalization doesn’t bother (take that, Friedman), I had mentally written this travelogue before I arrived.” Then he goes, “pleasantly, Dushanbe surprised me. Not that I would recommend it for a holiday — indeed, there is next to nothing to do downtown, each day is about 99 degrees with no breeze, and there is virtually no infrastructure to cater to tourists. But therein lies the charm.” Here it is good to mention a Russian proverb, “It is better to see once than to hear hundred times”. He tells his readers some interesting things about Dushanbe and Tajikistan, which can be seen only by foreigners, and also goes back to the history of Tajikistan. There are no pictures unfortunately.

“Elizabeth” tells us about her/his observations in Tajikistan. Her posts are written in a style of “what is wrong with these Tajiks?”. There are some good observations, especially about the Tajik solidarity groups. The post is called “The Pod’yezd and the Mosque”. The cis tells its readers about how the Tajiks live in a multistoried buildings.

There are not too many pictures in all these blogs but you can go to the blog of Bahtiyor and can see a lot of pictures of Tajikistan. This blog is in Russian, but it mostly consists of pictures, so you don’t necessarily need to know Russian, just enjoy the pictures.

Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus
Written by , Friday, 30 Jun, 2006 – 9:26 | No Comment

Originally posted on Global Voices

Standing at the edge of the abyss close to Kyrgyzstan’s Pik Lenin, let’s not waste any time to present you the highlights from two weeks of online conversation from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Armenia:
Onnik Krikorian posts another one of his indispensable roundups from the Armenian blogosphere on his Oneworld Blog. Among this edition’s highlights are the continuous land-grab by corrupt state officials and dual citizenship for Armenians. Ani of neweurasia writes about the stigmatisation of veneral diseases. With no sex education, it should come as no surprise that a 11-year-old girl has contracted syphilis.
Read the full story »

Overview of Kazakh Blogosphere
Written by , Wednesday, 21 Jun, 2006 – 23:29 | 2 Comments

What follows is a roundup of blog posts and online discussions that took place in Kazakh blogosphere in the last few days.

Almaty Almaty, 24 June, burning of “censorship” at the journalists’ meeting

Proposed amendments to Mass Media law, which would prohibit editors of periodicals who have been closed by a court order to work in the same capacity for any other publication and oblige each media outlet to have a deposit of tens of thousands of dollars prior to beginning operations, is in the center of attention in Kazakh blogosphere. KUB, daily updated blog with the possibility of anonymous posting, announces that journalists are organizing a demonstration to protest against the new bill on June 24. It also informs that Dariga Nazarbayeva, the President’s eldest daughter and MP, opposes the amendments, calling them censorship. It is also known that Nazarbayeva called for the pro-presidential forces to unite, which, along with the opposition to the new law, is thought to be her attempt to state her strentgh in politics of Kazakhstan. It is not surprising to see John Ordway, US Ambassador, saying the bill, if accepted, would not bring Kazakhstan closer to OSCE chairmanship.

Livejournal’s Kazakhstan community discusses the launching of the first “Kazsat” satellite from Baikonur. Along with minor criticism of this expensive enterprise, people cheer and admit that it was an image-boosting event that will allow Kazakhstan to enter the club of space countries. Some, like Serik Burkitbaev, director of Kazakh Institute of Oil and Gas, are very sceptical about the benefits of the satelite, apart from political. The first part of the court indictment of the accused in Sarsenbayev’s case is posted at KUB.

“Shame on Kazakhstan” is the title of the post that says that the British comedian Sasha Baron Kohen playing Borat, Kazakh journalist, who outraged the Kazakh Government after he hosted MTV Europe Awards in 2005 , is going to lead to a Government crisis in Kazakhstan. “Centr Tyazhesti” forum raises Borat topic too. Apparently, the new film will be out in November, and there is already a commercial to it. It is noticeable that people started to take it easier, and I suspect that the Ministry’s harsh answer to Borat played its role here. Some people on the forum offer inviting the comedian to Kazakhstan and showing him the country so that likes it so much that he drops his Borat character.

Interesting and somewhat repeating topic is how to make life in Astana , a new Kazakh capital, more comfortable for people who had to move there from Almaty. It is expensive, cold and not fun, according to Al”lka. Other users are more satisfied with the conditions, they say that because so many people are from other cities in Kazakhstan, in some years the “Astana mentality” will be formed.

Only 5.2% of readers of Kazakh.ru blog that allows people to start their own voting on any topic, assessed the level of education in Kazakhstan as very good, and 54% are positive about international marriages.

This week on Russian-language Kazakhstan blog
Written by , Saturday, 17 Jun, 2006 – 18:55 | No Comment

This week our new Russian-language Neweurasia Kazakhstan blog covered various topics pertinent to life in Kazakhstan, from space ships and OSCE chairmanship to Kazakh art, which made its way to British audience. Read the full story »

Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus
Written by , Wednesday, 14 Jun, 2006 – 10:44 | No Comment

Originally posted on Global Voices


The Pamirs in sight, Kyrgyzstan

Welcome to the latest roundup of the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere, brought to you bi-weekly by neweurasia. This edition reaches you from sunny Berlin, where the World Cup is in full swing (making this roundup inevitably brief).

Unfortunately, the Azeri blogosphere is still underrepresented – so if you’re a blogger writing on/from Azerbaijan, be sure to drop us a line with your link. Read the full story »

Announcement
Written by , Friday, 9 Jun, 2006 – 16:49 | Comments Off

Like our new design? It signals a new era for neweurasia as we have entered into a partnership with Transitions Online to promote blogging and free speech in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Simply put, this means that we have launched Russian language blogs for Kazkahstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as an Uzbek language blog for (naturally) Uzbekistan. We have also hired bridge-bloggers from the region to promote interaction across cultures, develop our Russian and Uzbek blogs, and help expand the Eurasian blogosphere more generally.

We are still looking for talent for all of our blogs of all languages, so if you are knowledgeable and interested in the region and looking to swap ideas and engage with other interested people, please send an email to info[at]neweurasia[dot]net and we will have you blogging in no time.

More information on our partnership with TOL will be available on this site in the near future.

- The management

Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus
Written by , Wednesday, 31 May, 2006 – 12:59 | No Comment

Originally posted on Global Voices.


Vakhs valley, March 2006, Erik Petersson, Dushanbe Pictures.

Welcome to the latest roundup from the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere, brought to you by neweurasia. First off, apologies for the long delay in presenting you this edition. Now that final year exams are over, our postings should appear bi-weekly again.

As usual we take you through the countries alphabetically.

Armenia:
Onnik Krikorian writes that one of the most independent and popular TV stations has been denied a broadcasting frequency. The same blog also reports on a possible new momentum towards a peace deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Nessuna is shocked to hear that another Armenian fell victim to a racist murder in Moscow. Christian Garbis over at Notes from Hairenik writes on the strange obssesion of each and every vendor in Yerevan about the correct change. Read the full story »

Blog from Osh
Written by , Wednesday, 31 May, 2006 – 11:53 | No Comment

Happily, I’ve just found out that an acquaintence of mine here in Osh, Tolkun Umaraliev, has started up his own blog, mostly in English. So far he has a great introductory post on Osh and his home village, Aravan, as well as a range of photos. Looking forward to reading more in the future.

Politicizing Islam in Kyrgyzstan
Written by , Monday, 22 May, 2006 – 9:21 | No Comment

What follows is one part of a cross-blog initiative, which takes the role of Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus as its central theme:

Last week was marked in Kyrgyzstan by a new invasion of a group of people characterized by officials as guerillas . These six were allegedly representatives of the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan (with the one detainee being a Kyrgyz national) and this incident (leaving dead 6 citizens of Kyrgyzstan) again sparked speculations about the growing danger of Islamic fundamentalism in Kyrgyzstan.

The question of radical Islam is nowadays is a burning issue for political discussions. Everyone in the country remembers the first massive invasion of the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan near the city of Batken in the south of the country. With those memories still being fresh words “Islamic movement of Uzbekistan” with its ambitions of creating the kingdom of Islam (khalifat) in Fergana valley sounds like a curse in the public discourse with radical Islam in this case being perceived as a threat to the well being of the states comprising Central Asia and firmly proclaiming their orientation towards secularism on the level of official practices. Lately politicians in Central Asia have been expressing their concerns about the potential of a fundamentalist Islamic revolution emphasizing that every possible step should be made to prevent this danger.

As political scientists keep emphasizing, this situation is natural for the statehood in Kyrgyzstan since the attitude towards religion among the population here is less rigid. In the case of Kyrhyzstan Islam as a prevailing religious practice came late and fairly superficially. In the discourse of nomadic history of Kyrgyzstan pure Islam was more of an imposition from Jungars and Quqon Khanate.
Nowadays Kyrgyz population in general is neither strong believers nor zealots when it comes to religious practices. The situation in this case differs fundamentally from the stable Islamic states where religion influences political practices and lies in the core of the national idea. Kyrgyz discourse in itself is rather unique considering nomadic history of the people and the cult of the prehistoric legend about the national hero Manas fighting for independence of Kyrgyz tribes and hardly leaning towards practicing any religion.

Thus considering the possibility of an elevation of Islam as a national symbol and a driving political force in Kyrgyzstan (the fear once expressed by SHAHRAM AKBARZADEH in the article “Political Islam in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan”, (Central Asian Survey (2001), 20(4), 451–465)) it would probably be safe to state that keeping in mind current situation in the domestic politics as well as geopolitical issues, the political and public discourse in Kyrgyzstan will for a while stay immune from infiltrations of the radical practices and ideas of Islamic fundamentalism. At least until political leaders in the country will be competing for the attention of such super powers as America, China and Russia (none of these are Islamic states) and until the impoverished population of the country chooses Russian job markets as the most desired destination for making fortunes there.

At the same time it’s worth mentioning that official power in Kyrgyzstan doesn’t rush to get dissociated with Islam. In the year 1993 more traditional elements of society urged that the Muslim heritage of the country be acknowledged in the preamble to the 1993 constitution. The annual Hadge to Mecca for Muslim believers in sponsored by the state. Religious education is allowed in the country as well. In this light it’s interesting to note that those non-Kyrgyz citizens of the country trying to escape Kyrgyzstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union mentioned about the “threat of Islam” among the major driving forces making them leave the country. The situation can be characterized as somewhat ambiguous here: so far Kyrgyzstan remains a secular country where religion and politics are presumably divorced, at the same time on the level of daily practices religion becomes more influential especially in the south of the country. Thus the local community in Jalal Abad has been stirred recently by the official ban for schoolgirls to wear traditional Muslim scarves and head covers at school, according to Fergana.Ru. As this source states, the tensions between believers and officials in Jalal Abad are growing.
This facts can also make us think that the religion while not being officially welcomed in the political life of Kyrgyzstan, will be, in a while, potentially capable of making its way into political practices of Kyrgyzstan through the back entrance.