Editor’s Note: С Новым Годом и Рождеством Христовым (немного раньше, я знаю)! It’s that time again, when we present our seasonal classic post about a certain cultural icon… Originally published in 2010, our post on Ded Moroz is one of NewEurasia’s most read posts. So, why break with tradition? ;-)
Even though it’s still two weeks before the Orthodox Christmas; even though our readership is overwhelmingly Islamic; and even though I’m a Baha’i, nevertheless, I wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, there’s a very serious issue I would like to address today, and that is why the Slavic world’s Ded Moroz is more badass than the Western world’s Santa Claus. I mean, besides the fact that his name sounds like “Dead Morose” to my American ears, bringing to mind 80s Hair Metal and all the infinite, eternal glory that comes with it. But really, this is a very scientific argument I’m going to make. Let’s begin.
In the Republic of Karakalpakstan, which is part of the Republic of Uzbekistan since the collapse of the USSR, authorities are once again forcing child labor on the cotton fields. In this region of one of the worst ecological disaster in the world and bad economical crisis, child labor aggravates the state of the Karakalpaks.
Headed by Elena Urlaeva, the activists of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan reported that from September to December in the areas of Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan there is continued use of child labor on the cotton fields. For example, in late October, activists saw elementary school students working on the fields of villages in Kashkadarya, and underage students working on the fields of many regions of Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan. Many children are severely ill and exhausted by the long hours of hard labor; they are not provided with health care, adequate food, and accommodation. Children work in conditions of fear and oppression, which is reflected in their psyche. This Fall, fortunately, the use of children to gather the harvest cotton has lessened from previous years.
Recently I have visited the Obbo Winter Collection Fashion Show in Bishkek. Here’re the pictures from the Tengri-Style Event:
More screen captures from an anonymous citizen-journalist, aaaannnnd guess what? Yep, more Berdimuhammedov. Berdimuhammedov everywhere.
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.
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.
My solo exhibit, “Abstract Thinking”, appeared in the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan during UZ Art Week.
This collection of 17 abstract paintings was inspired by a story of events or images that have influenced my view and perception of life. I hope that my abstract way of expressing my inspirations will allow you to relate to my art and enhance your own ideas and experiences in life.
The style of the paintings is evocative of the Impressionists of the 19th century. The Senior Curator of the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan, Gayane Umerova, curated the collection. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Mr George Edgar, the Chairwoman of the Fund Forum and the President of Uzbekistan’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova, were among the distinguished visitors to the exhibition.
I was born in Kazakhstan, but I’m pleased to be making a regional impact. I was recently selected by the Minister of Culture of the Kyrgyz Republic to exhibit my paintings at the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts and the National Museum of Kazakhstan in the Kasteev State Museum of Arts.
Normally, I’m based in London. I love travelling the world, but London inspires me like no other city. Still, I love my home country, too. These are two very different cultures, Europe and Central Asia, and they contribute so much to my development as an artist and as a person.
Turkmenistan has celebrated its 21st Independence Day XXI in full martial pomp. Preparations had been underway for several months; I’ve managed to glean some screen captures from official state television for NewEurasia’s readers to see.
Editor’s note: To mark world food day, Emil Baghirov, a blogger from Azerbaijan, travelled to the Tartar region in the center of the country to find out how Oxfam-supported strawberry farming is changing rural women’s lives. Here are his impressions.
This post has been provided courtesy of Oxfam.
Editor’s note: Earlier this week, Uzbekistan’s notorious First Daughter, Gulnara “Googoosha” Karimova, released the music video of her newest single, “Round Run”. NewEurasia’s newest blogger, Khayyam, shows us YouTube audience reactions, and asks a professional music video producer about the production quality, right down to the ominous Soviet-era ZIL. Get ready for some stinging criticism.
Gulnara Karimova is notorious for her desire to get “big” in show business as “Googoosha”. She released her eponymous album earlier this year over the Internet. The songs were written by one of the best Russian producers, Max Fadeev. And now, we have the “world premiere” of the album’s lead single, “Round Run”.
The video is set in ancient Bukhara. According to witnesses and news agency Uznews.net, the entire historical city center was closed during the shooting process. Avi Cohen, a music video director from USA who has worked with Godsmack, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and other bands, directed the video. It also starred the world-renowned parkour runner Daniel Ilabaca. So, in a sense, this is a pretty big deal for Uzbekistan. But what was the actual end result?
YouTube viewers are split between their adoration for Ilabaca and their loathing for Googoosha. Hmmm interesting. For posterity’s sake, I’ve screen-captured the YouTube page for the video before the negative comments gets censored.
So, for example, one viewer writes,
клип не рыба не мясо у нее нету дара .. наверное в узбекистане слушают из за того что это песня везде играет и включают по телеэфирам
[Literal translation:] clip is not fish meat in her no gift .. probably listen in Uzbekistan due to the fact that this song is everywhere on television time and include
Another waxes sarcastic:
прекрасный клип и энергичная музыка, не зря наша леди вошла в пятерку на Hot Dance Hits в Америке … Ну что же, так или иначе, она знаменита!
[Literal translation:] excellent video and energetic music, no wonder our lady entered the top five on the Hot Dance Hits in America … Well, anyway, she is famous!
Googoosha definitely has her defenders, particularly one Islom Yusupov, who sees this as a public relations coup for Bukhara and Uzbekistan. Others praise her physical beauty, or just the fact that Uzbekistan has the resources (i.e., money) to produce something of “Western” quality.
Meanwhile, on the Uzbek analog of Youtube, Mover.uz, negative opinions on the video were surpassing positive ones — until comments were abruptly disabled (along with the Like/Dislike function). Surprise, surprise.
NewEurasia asked one well-known European video producer about his/her impressions of the video from a professional point of view (unfortunately, he/she has asked not to be named, lest he/she have problems on future visits to Uzbekistan). Here are his/her remarks:
I don’t know how much this probably expensive director costs, but he’s not worth his money, that much is for sure. The best example is the beginning: the director fails at setting up the story. From the editing in this first part, you get a feeling that the guy is running away from the car, not that the two people actually want to meet. See the scenes and their symbolism:
- He looks over the city;
- A black car drives through;
- He slides down a wall;
- He jumps off some building;
- Frontal view of the black car;
- He runs.
The symbolics are clear: He’s fleeing from the car. The edit as well as the way places/items are shown, including the car, make that quite clear. Now, sure, you could say that it’s a game, haha, you know, they want you to believe this [running away] in the beginning, and then surprise you with a twist to the story when it turns out that they actually want to meet. But that’s rubbish. Firstly, this is a music video, not a 45 minute TV serial. Secondly, this revealing of the real story comes only at the very end, and if that is intentional, then sorry, it’s also badly done. It comes out of nowhere. All of a sudden. That’s just badly built: If you want such a surprise effect, you’d have to go through with it and implement hints during the story, too. That’s not happening.
There are plenty of small details, like toward the end when you see the guy climbing up the Arc (clearly diagonal walls), and somehow he ends up on the roof of a completely different building (with vertical walls). I mean, come on. They’re not even trying to hide the bad jump from one place to another. Likewise, around 0:28, where we play the bad old game of ‘quick cuts’, almost stop motion: Okay, the stylistics are already old-fashioned since years, but if you decide to use them, then… eh… why does for example the running guy (frontal view) make a step back all of a sudden? Now that can’t be on purpose, can it. Because it does nothing to help the story, or the aesthetics. It’s just a dumb cut.
I think it’s sad for an amazingly beautiful city like Bukhara if it looks so crap in a video. It’s not because of the camera, that was certainly expensive enough. The post-production however introduces sometimes these fast-moving clouds (okay, nothing fundamentally wrong with them); it somehow manipulates the colors but not to their advantage, i.e. the picture seems quite flat and at times even sterile. Toward the end (evening mood), it becomes entirely artificial. Additional details like these permanent lens flares don’t make it look better, too. I really feel sorry for Bukhara. It has all the visual magic, and then these folks have nothing better to do than turn it into some sort of plastic-fantastic landscape?
The camera is somewhat too hectic, even for a video of such speed. Speed is fine, but it needs to find a balance that allows to find into the rhythm, that carries us through. Here, my impression is that some of the moves are really just random. They create imbalances by e.g. not connecting to previous shots, abruptly changing directions, and the like.
Okay, matter of taste to some extent, I admit I’m not into disco-clubby-popsy stuff that all sounds almost exactly the same. But matters of taste aside: The singer clearly can’t sing. This is kind of the Scooter (or how this band was called) of cheesy clubby-popsy music. Hardly any voice, that lady. Besides that, the song is predictable; bases on elements we’ve heard a million times before; it’s cheap and shallow. The content motif (lyrics) is also cheap and silly — I mean, a 13 year old who’s in love writes better poetry than this.
Then, by my best knowledge, you shouldn’t climb around historic monuments. It’s either forbidden anyway, or it’s simply a bad idea because you damage ancient building substance. Isn’t this an UNESCO world heritage site or something? Is the Arc really in a condition that we should encourage people to run all over it? Hmm.
As for me, I also can’t figure out the symbolism of this black car. It’s a Soviet “ZIL” (Завод имени Лихачёва — ЗиЛ) that was created only for Communist Party top-level bosses. It’s a very rare car. Perhaps this is an allusion to the song of Boris Grebenshikov “Blue Light”, in which he sings, “My death driving black car with a blue flame”? Unfortunately, it brings to mind corrupt aristocracy, just as it used to in Soviet days…