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Eid-ul-Adha (aka Bayram Kurban, Kurman Ayit)
Written by , Thursday, 12 Jan, 2006 – 15:10 | One Comment

For those interested, here is some background info on the on-going festival from various sources. IslamOnline says:

The word `Eid comes from the word `awd meaning “return.” `Eid means a specific kind of return: days in which the previous state of prosperity of a community returns after the miseries it was facing, which are known as the days of `Eid.

Eid ul-Adha is second in the series of Eid festivals that Muslims celebrate. It is also referred to as the “Big Bayram” (from Turkish) or “Big Feast”. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated by Muslims all over the world as a tribute to those who are completing their pilgrimage in Mecca on that day.

On this day Muslims sacrifice animals which have been deemed Halaal, or fit for sacrifice. They not only eat the meat themselves but distribute it amongst their neighbours, relatives and the poor and hungry.

It is celebrated on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja of the lunar Islamic calendar, after Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This happens to be 70 days after the end of the month of Ramadan.

While Eid ul-Fitr is considered to be one day, Eid ul-Adha is supposed to be four days, with the prayer being on the first day. Likewise, Eid ul-Fitr has the prayer on the first and only day.

During this day, men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing. The charitable instincts of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid ul-Adha by the concerted effort to see that no impoverished Muslim is left without sacrificial food during this day. Coming immediately after the Day of Arafat (when Prophet Muhammad pronounced the final seal on the religion of Islam), Eid ul-Adha gives concrete realisation to what the Muslim community ethic means in practice.

Eid ul-Adha is known as Hari Raya Haji in Singapore and Malaysia, and Tabaski in West Africa.

Source: Free Dictionary

Read the full story »

I was right!
Written by , Thursday, 12 Jan, 2006 – 0:54 | No Comment

What sounded like wild speculation yesterday turns out to be true: His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Oman’s minister of heritage and culture, did talk to the Kazakh government about oil, at least that’s what I suspect:

Well, the report on Times of Oman yesterday did omit the fact that accompanying the minister of heritage and culture was the Sultanate’s minister of oil and gas, Dr Mohammed bin Hamad Al Romhi.

Wouldn’t it have been a little bit suspicious only to send a minister of culture to the inauguration of oil-dorado’s President?

Also, on a more serious note, watch a short video on Nazarbayev’s inauguration here. As usual, the problem with Euronews is that the commentary on the English version of the video is entirely different from the German one.

Oiled Inauguration
Written by , Wednesday, 11 Jan, 2006 – 2:58 | 4 Comments

As reported widely on this blog, incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev won Kazakhstan’s presidential elections in a landslide last December. Now it is time for a proper ceremony to mark the start of another seven-year term in office. And many illustrous figures will follow Astana’s invitation and attend tomorrow’s celebrations.

And mind you, but Nazarbayev will probably be fed up to the back teeth about oil by the end of them.

Russian President Putin arrived today and will talk to Nazarbayev about energy mainly. Putin will also take some time to have a tête-à-tête with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, the first time both meet after their countries’ gas conflict.

Meanwhile, China sends along Vice-President Zeng Qinghong, whose delegation might as well sign a deal on a new pipeline if they’re already around.

Afghan President Karzai will also discuss petroleum-related projects with the Kazakh government, as will Georgian President Saakashvili. Poland also wants to talk about oil and gas, and Latvia as well.

It is in this light that my assumption might not be far-fetched that His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, minister of heritage and culture from the Sultanate of Oman will mainly talk about oil when he’ll meet his Kazakh counterpart.

neweurasia recommends to shorten the presidential term to, say, 3 years so that fruitful events like tomorrow’s inauguration can take place more frequently. The hydrocarbon sector will be delighted, and 3.6 million barrels a day is also quite an ambitious target.

Meanwhile, government megaphone kazinform has more details on tomorrow, highlights President Nazarbayev’s achievements, and ends on a heart-warming note.

The high-ranking guests arriving to participate in the solemn ceremony note warmth and hospitality of the host country. People of Kazakhstan are known for their hospitableness and peaceableness (…)

The procedure of honoring of the re-elected leader is not divulged. The numerous delegations are accommodated at the exclusive hotels of the capital in expectation of the significant event. The guests do not doubt the ceremony will be conducted on a noble scale.

Let the following years of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s administration be the period of prosperity!

Finally, prosperity!

The Gucci Revolution Revisited
Written by , Tuesday, 10 Jan, 2006 – 15:01 | 4 Comments

In response to this IHT editorial mentioned on this blog before, here some of my thoughts:

There some kind of feeling of grandeur in the city of Almaty.

Yes. A sense of grandeur or… a complex?

“Almaty” badly digested the impoverishment right after the Soviet crash and now that things take off again it tries to compensates that with a fixation on having the biggest, the flashiest, the most expensive etc. etc. I just spent 1.5 months in Kazakhstan and it really stroke me: “see we have this just like in Europe and that just like in the US…” It’s a bit like the attitude of a provincial who became rich but is frustrated because he is not taken seriously by the urban high society.

Life in this part of Kazakhstan provides the illusion of prosperity.”

Actually, you don’t have to go walk that far from the Gucci and Lancôme boutiques in Almaty to find that “other Almaty” – one that few expats and correspondents know. One that technically starts south of Gogol köshesi and the Zeliyonii Bazar and then spreads to the southern suburbs.

It is there that you’ll find the masses of impoverished rural migrants who try to eke out a living a petty traders, day labourers etc. A group whose life changed little compared to 1997 when I first came to Kazkahstan.

The real faultline in this country is no longer between Kazakhs and Russians but between those who benefited form the Nazarbayev reign (that group include a number of ethnic Russians) and those who have not (or did but see further amibitions blocked).

Crude Dreams
Written by , Tuesday, 10 Jan, 2006 – 1:04 | No Comment

Although a topic tremendously prone to speculation, I thought the following piece of news is interesting nevertheless. Kazakhstan’s oil and gas reserves are again the subject of glorious news.

According to deputy director of the Department for the Petroleum Industry of Kazakhstan’s Power and Mineral Resources Ministry Amantay Suyesinov, proven reserves are now estimated at 30 billion barrels.

The US government energy watchdog, the EIA (usually not a very pessimistic organisation), stated in 2005 that proven and probable oil reserves combined would account for a maximum of only 29 billion barrels.

So, what happened here? The good mood because of recent oil findings may have spilt over to oil estimates: Now, the Kazakh authorities believe that there could be as much as a whopping 124.3 billion barrels of oil onshore and offshore the Caspian Sea. That would put Kazakhstan among the five oil-richest countries in the world.

Despite all this speculation, another point mentioned by Mr Suyesinov is a little more tangible, and no less spectacular: According to the official, the envisaged daily output in 2015 is set to the target of 3.6 million barrels a day.

How much is a barrel of oil worth at current prices? $63.33 on US markets as of now. The Kazakh government, under very favourable terms for the oil extractor, gets little more than 60% of each barrel sold. According to my calculator, that would add up to 140 million dollars a day (using current prices), or around 51 billion dollars a year.

Comparing this amount of money to news like this (bottom of the post), it makes one wonder about the fairness of natural resource endowment.

My Kazakhstan
Written by , Friday, 6 Jan, 2006 – 18:47 | 10 Comments

Kazakhstan is welcoming the New Year with some new music. The old Soviet-era national anthem is being scrapped for “My Kazakhstan,” a classic from 1956 updated by Nazarbayev himself with new lyrics.

There was some controversy over the nature of the previous versions of “My Kazakhstan” posted here. This one is the actual new version.
Apparently the song I linked to earlier was a “My Kazakhstan” but not the “My Kazakhstan.” Click here to listen to the old version of “My Kazakhstan,” which is the correct melody, but does not contain the new lyrics.

Apologies, and thanks to Disha and Dr. Linden for pointing me to the correct version of “My Kazakhstan.”

Soviet Muslims’ shape
Written by , Tuesday, 20 Dec, 2005 – 17:27 | 9 Comments

Quickly after the Central Asian States gained independence in the beginning of the 1990s, they started to shape their identities as nation states.

Kazakhstan was not an exception to this and the desire to revive the religious traditions of the past appeared to be obvious.

According to the estimates of Nationmaster stats, 47 percent of all Kazakhstanis are Muslims, while Russian Orthodox count for 44 percent, and 2 percent are protestants and 7 percent are believers of other faiths or non-believers. It is clear that Muslims over here in Kazakhstan don’t outnumber Christians too substantially.

The coutry itself claims to be a secular one and does not like theidea of Islamic revival due to the fear of religious extremism.

What in reality the country was left with after the fall of Soviet Union is the overwhelming and largely atheist working class layer, which can be found in any former country of the Soviet Union.

As a result, since independence Central Asians associate Islamic religion with traditional ties and statehood.

Even the idea of a stronghold of Islam in Usbekistan, Tadjikistan and Turkmenistan is more or less an illusion, except for some hotbeds of religious renaissance, e.g. in the Ferghana Valley.

It seems like Central Asian Soviet Muslims have been shaped as a second layer between two worlds that is East and West. These Muslims interestingly comprise the characteristics of shamanism that forms part of the Mongolian historical experience.

It is known that the country leaders of Central Asia tend to refer their ties to Ganghis Khan claiming that the nomads once upon a time served the great Mongol emperor, who was not a follower of Islam.

As for being Muslims, Kazakhstani and other Central Asians are predominantly Sunnis, but I’m sure the majority of population doesn’t have an idea about what the difference between Sunnis an Shi’is actually is.

One more significant issue is that Central Asian people recognize their Turkic origin (also in a religious sense) but exhibit little knowledge on ancient Turks.

So, it seems that the revival of Islam in Kazakhstan and in Central Asia is limited to cultural development. However, as seen in Uzbekistan, religion can be a very important valve through which discontent can be voiced. If repression continues, Islam will surely gain weight and significance.

The Gucci revolution
Written by , Saturday, 10 Dec, 2005 – 16:28 | 4 Comments

You’ve got to hand it to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the “democratically” elected president of Kazakhstan. The revolution he feared would come to his country, as in so many other former Soviet republics recently, has come and gone. Nazarbayev didn’t need guns for the battle. He won it by letting a Gucci clothing store open in what was once the land of Genghis Khan.

Read the rest of this very good IHT editorial here.

How much confined we are
Written by , Friday, 9 Dec, 2005 – 18:56 | No Comment

Continuing to think about the real situation on what are the chances for better development in Kyrgyzstan one wants t bring about the numbers proving on where we are. Kyrgyzstan is known as agricultural economy where the mountains occupy 95 percent and only 7 has arable land and 44 percent of land is estimated as permanent to use for pastures. So, as one can imagine the huge amount of agricultural product for export is not managable to implement.


According to the sources, more than 90 percent of crops are yield from the irrigated land and the shortage of water at the time of irrigation together with the ineffectiveness of water distribution are the main problem faced by the croppers. The records say that 75 pecent of water flow goes outside of the country andonly 25 percent of water flow is used by the country.

As for the natural resources CIA World Factbook reminds abundance of gold and rare earth metals, which together with hydropower, gas and oil do not indicate big amount of production. While it is worth to mention that production of natural gas by the country is estimated with 16 million cubic feet whereas the consumtion of it by country’s population goes to 2 billion cubic feet.

Oil production, according to CIA Worldfactbook, makes up to 2 thousand barrels a day, while the consumption of it is 20 thousand barrels a day.

Then think about the demographics, where 40 percent of 5 million is inder poverty line, which is uncapable to move anyware.
The kyrgyz ethnicity is recognized by it’s ancesters to be nomads that migrated the huge territory of Central Asia up to late 19th century. Then what modern Kyrgyz people have to get migrated to look for job.

Having 33 urban population, where best Kyryz people can go to find a job. For sure in former soviet republics, where they can easily communicate in Russian. But look at the Russia’s migration policy that restricts the migrants with severe registration policy. And most of the Central Asin job seekers are illigal workers.I is estimated about 4 million illigal migrants in Russia.

So, that means if you don’t whan to behave illigally than you have an opportunity to stay in one place and decay.

New Election Op-Eds
Written by , Friday, 9 Dec, 2005 – 8:57 | 3 Comments

The Christian Science Monitor published an editorial today, and based on its content, was almost certainly written by the same Francine Kiefer who asked about a new cold war brewing in the region at yesterday’s Heritage seminar.

Kiefer addresses the leniency with which the United States has met Kazakhstan’s flawed election, and essentially applauds that approach.

US diplomats acknowledge the vote’s shortcomings, but point to this multiethnic giant bordering Russia and China as a democratic work in progress. That long-view emphasis is a wise one. Sixteen years ago, when Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev inherited a dirt-poor dumping ground for Soviet populations, gulag camps, and harmful nuclear tests. Now, it’s producing 1.3 million barrels of oil a day (the Kashagan field is bigger than Alaska’s North Slope), and is expected to become a top-10 oil exporter within a decade. It’s reduced its poverty rate to 12 percent (the regional rate is 44 percent). By sending young people to study in the West, Russia, and China, it’s cultivated a talented civil service. And it’s one of the best performers in nuclear nonproliferation.

The BBC also has an editorial more generally on Kazakhstan, and notes that the local media entirely failed to note the OSCE’s findings.

The OSCE monitors judged the election a failure by democratic standards. Kazakh television did not report that fact. Instead Kazakh viewers were told the election had been praised as an unprecedented success. Kazakh television even replayed one of my own reports aired by the BBC. Their commentary said the BBC had marvelled at the pace at which Kazakhstan is developing. It did not include the bit where I had pointed to the parliament building and said there was not a single opposition MP there.

At yesterday’s Heritage lecture, a Kazakh diplomat addressed this issue, saying that while the Kazakh press is biased heavily in favor of the president, most of the press is free, so this bias reflects the opinions of the populace at large. Then he proceeded to note shortcomings and biases of the press in the United States.

The editorial also draws attention to the fact that Nazarbayev does have a mild cult of personality being build around him, albeit not to the extent of certain other whack-jobs in the region.

President Nazarbayev’s new palace is like a giant version of the White House with the dome of St Peter’s painted blue and stuck on top. From his palace window he can survey the progress of his most audacious commission, a giant pyramid, like those of ancient Egypt. In a few months it will soar higher than London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. Designed by British architect Lord Foster, it will contain an opera theatre, museum, library, university, and be topped with hanging gardens like ancient Babylon.