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Thoughts on the “Revolution”
Written by , Tuesday, 8 Nov, 2005 – 13:59 | 2 Comments

Editorial comment: When encouraging people to join the New Eurasia Kyrgyzstan Blog Team, I asked people to think about what made them interested in blogging – what issues matter to them, what do they want to say? Shirin’s article below was her reply to these questions and, based on the views I’ve heard from many people here over the last couple of months, echo the opinions of many people. So, read on and if you’ve got something to add, or if you agree or disagree, then post a comment – or, even better, join the blog team and share your views. Over to Shirin.

It was very difficult for me to choose the subject of my essay.But according to my future specialization I chose the relations of students to the last events in Kyrgyzstan on the 24th of March.

All reporters wrote about that events but not everyone of them knew what really was happening here. That is why I decided that it would be interesting to write about it because I also was there that night and saw everything. From 8 pm till 2 am I tried to understand what happened. I think that time a lot of people lost themselves. Some people began to run to the different sides then destroy the shops but others tried to stop them. That was during the whole night. In the morning only a few shops were OK but Bishkek was like a derelict or disrupted town.

The next day all cities of Kyrgyzstan had the same picture. Citizens lost their hope in the future. It was the shock for everyone especially for teenagers and students. Nobody cant believe that we have done the “revolution”. But we did.

The question is: “Was it revolution or just a rebellion?” Good question, but who can give the answer? Rebels? Who were that rebels? Of course, teenagers including students. That is why students are also interested in this problem. Of course it was really unexpected incident. Nobody knew that it would take such turn. From the beginning it was just peaceful demonstrations but suddenly… The next day students took part in the other demonstrations but only some of them knew why they were there. There were more than 500 students. When asked why did they stay there, what their goal was and who asked them to take part, they themselves didn’t know. They only said that they wanted to have peaceful country and good government which can help to decide their problems.

I think we must prevent a similar incident. We have to think about future of our youth. We should try to explain to them not to repeat the same mistake. We must speak out so that it does not happen again, so that young people are not exploited for others’ gain.

Appalling – but also a little funny
Written by , Monday, 7 Nov, 2005 – 18:29 | No Comment

I meant to write a post about the MTV European Music Awards yesterday, but too much work has hindered me from doing so.

However, Radio Free Europe has commented on the controversial appearance of comedian Ali G already.

It’s well worth a read. Some of the jokes were just shocking. Taken that the typical MTV audience does not know a lot about Kazakhstan, it is quite sad that what they were told by the British comedian is mostly utter bullshit.

A Farewell to Uzbekistan
Written by , Monday, 7 Nov, 2005 – 16:52 | One Comment

Monica Whitlock can be heard talking about the BBC in Uzbekistan on this week’s edition of “From Our Own Correspondent” (text / audio).

Greasy Pole
Written by , Monday, 7 Nov, 2005 – 16:21 | No Comment

As News Central Asia reports, tomorrow sees the opening of the Oil & Gas Turkmenistan conference in Ashgabat. The items on the agenda are as follow:

- Strategic development priorities for Turkmenistan’s oil & gas sector.
- Experience, potential and prospects for international cooperation in developing fields in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea.
- Experience, potential and prospects for international cooperation in developing onshore fields.
- Experience, potential and prospects for international cooperation in refining, processing and transportation.
- Technology, equipment and services for the upstream and downstream sectors.

It’s not exactly exciting stuff, though it is a shame that not more coverage is available for events of this nature, particularly in view of the recent dismissal and arrest of Oil and Gas Minister Guychnazar Tachnazarov. In fact, given that this is one of the few aspects of Ashgabat’s engagment with the outside world, it would be interesting to know what it is that is meant by the “priorities and prospects of international cooperation in the field of new technologies and investments,” which is reportedly the theme of the conference.
Indeed, the exploitation of Caspian oil resources is the one area in which Turkmenistan has found its international isolationism most sorely tested. The process of equitably carving up the Caspian space has been a recurrent bugbear for Iran and Turkmenistan, who recently consulted on the direction of future strategy in this area (here and here for more info). For more background on the history of the Caspian Sea tussle read this excellent essay (on the Armenian Diaspora web site for some very strange reason).

How to Influence People and Make Friends
Written by , Monday, 7 Nov, 2005 – 15:46 | 2 Comments

Ensuring business deals in Turkmenistan requires an undignified routine of brown-nosing, as Siemens CEO Klaus Kleinfeld showed in his sickening gratitude to Saparmurat Niyazov for sending him a signed copy of the second installment of the Ruhnama:

«Dear Mr. President!
Many thanks for your kindness in sending me a signed copy of the second part of the Ruhnama. Allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude on behalf of my company for this generous gesture and for the benevolence you have demonstrated in our regard.
I am certain that this book, thanks to our mutual understanding, will further contribute to the deepening of excellent German-Turkmen relations. … The development of Turkmenistan is ample testament to what can be achieved as a result of political stability.”

News Catch-up
Written by , Monday, 7 Nov, 2005 – 10:50 | No Comment

Well, firstly, happy Revolution Day from Bishkek – seems a little incongruous as a public holiday here, but still, an extra day off isn’t something you’ll find me complaining about. Anyhow, on to what’s been happening over the last week or so, in no particular order.

  • Daniel Kimmage writing for RFE/RL has an article entitled “Restive Days in Bishkek” taking a look back over the events of the last couple of weeks and the implications. His conclusion does not make encouraging reading:

    The political fallout from Tynychbek Akmatbaev’s death is far from over, but the fears it has awakened are already clear. One is that the state’s institutions remain as fragile today as they were when protestors overran government offices on 24 March and sent President Akaev fleeing into exile. Another is that into the resulting vacuum will rush individuals who resolve conflicts not by the force of law, but by the law of force.

  • Reuters reported on the riot at the Moldovanka prison (No. 31) as troops were sent in to try and put down the riot. AlertNet also reported on events, noting that poor conditions in prisons were a major contributing factor to both these and previous riots. However, RIA Novosti cited Deputy Justice Minister Sergei Zubov as saying that crime boss Aziz Batukayev ordered the riots (a view also reported by MosNews) at at least 7 prisons that have resulted in at least 20 deaths and a number of prisoners going on hunger strike. Regnum also has a report in a similar vein, asserting that photos of Chechen leaders Maskhadov and Basayev and a flag of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria were also found in the prison along with the more usual weapons and ammunition. Eurasianet also weighs in with an article entitled “Criminal Kingpins Thriing in Prisons”.Gazeta.kz also considers what caused the riots, considering the wider political background.
  • Looking further afield, Eurasia Daily Monitor takes a look at the state of Kyrgyz-Sino relations, concluding that the situation is at best unclear at the moment:

    … we should expect to see some interesting new turns in Chinese policies toward both Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia as a whole as the trends set in motion by the Tulip Revolution become clearer.

  • The Christian Science Monitor focuses on US efforts to win popular support for its presence in the country at the Ganci Airbase. However, relations with the Kyrgyzstani government may also be a bit of a knotty issue given that there’s a bit of a disagreement over payment for the base, as Registan reports, noting that at least on this matter the US is proving a reluctant golden goose, particularly when it looks like the problem may well be one of funds going AWOL after payment… Maybe this is the first hint that the international community will not continue to permanently fund a government that refuses to take responsibility and be accountable, rather than throwing good money after bad. Certainly, as Eurasia Daily Monitor notes, Kyrgyzstan is weighing up the pros and cons at the moment. It’s not all one way, however, as RFE/RL reports on plans by the Kyrgyzstani government to make the US military pay for dumping fuel over Kyrgyzstani territory – true, the fine, USD 190 per ton dumped, is more or less symbolic, but it’s a start.
  • AlertNet reports on progress on demining the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border in Batken region. Inspections by Kyrgyz border units have confirmed that minefields near the border settlements of Chonkara, Ak-Turpak and Otukchu have been demined, thus allowing local residents to both move about far more safely and start grazing cattle on the land.
  • “Will Akayev Return to Kyrgyzstan?” is the rhetorical question asked in an article from Gazeta.kz reporting on events and participants of the Central Asian Fund for Democracy Development-sponsored conference “Political processes in Kyrgyzstan: results and prospects”.
  • ISN takes a look at the activities of the revivalist Tabligh Jamaat movement in both Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia more widely within the context of Islamic movements in the region and the future of the movement in light of the general attitude of suspicion that the authorities in the Central Asian republics towards religious movements and the potential for radicalisation.
  • Debate surrounding the now-infamous Bakiev-Kulov tandem will no doubt be fuelled by some of Bakiev’s latest remarks. First off is a report from Day.az quoting Bakiev as saying he has stated right from the start that he will “work with Kulov for five years”. Then comes a report from RFE/RL that could, if one were feeling cynical, be seen as a evidence of tension between the President and Prime Minister, with Bakiev proposing that the post of prime minister be scrapped from 2010 in favour of a vice president. The President himself noted that some people might be inclined to see the proposal as an attempt to get rid of Kulov, hence the proposed timescale:

    “If [Kyrgyzstan's] president would chair the government himself, and he would be also responsible for economy, it would be right. However, you know that together with the current prime minister Feliks Sharshenbayevich [Kulov], we have established a union, a tandem after the 24 March [Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan]. If I would propose [uniting both positions of president and prime minister] right now, then some people might say ‘Now he is trying to get rid of Kulov.’”

  • Finally, a quick couple of shorts courtesy of Day.az: firstly, ousted ex-president Askar Akaev has apparently been given a teaching post at MGU. Secondly, and far more importantly for many citizens of Kyrgyzstan, it has been announced that it is planned to include the right to dual citizenship in the new revision of the Kyrgyz Constitution.
  • Over and out from Bishkek for the time being.

    “We wouldn’t say no”
    Written by , Friday, 4 Nov, 2005 – 15:49 | 3 Comments

    US General John Abizaid, on his working visit to Astana, is quoted saying that the US would not decline if the Kazakh government invited them to open a base:

    “We don’t envision opening bases here, unless Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstani government, would invite us to do so,” Gen John Abizaid said after meeting with Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev.

    The United States are still trying to figure out how to deal with the loss of K2 in Uzbekistan and have not yet found a substitute.

    Interfax has more, as has KazInform.

    Lakes of Life
    Written by , Thursday, 3 Nov, 2005 – 19:10 | One Comment

    Currently, the 11th World Lake Conference (31 October-4th November 2005) is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya. Obviously, due to the conference’s location, the focus appears to be on the great lakes of Africa. However, Klaus Topfer, executive director of the UN’s Environment Programme, has stated,

    “We face increasing tensions and instability as rising populations compete for life’s most precious of resources.”

    The World Lake Conference is the brainchild of the International Lake Environment Committee (ILEC), founded in 1986 and based in Japan. Discussion of the Aral Sea was the subject of a workshop (pdf) at the 9th World Lake Conference in 2001.

    The desiccation of the Aral Sea, owing in the greater part to the agricultural and industrial policies of the Soviet Union, is well known. (Likewise, Kazakhstan’s Lake Balkhash is also reportedly teetering on the abyss of calamity.) The Kazakhs have already started doing their bit to preserve the Aral Sea – by building a dam.

    The issue of the desiccation of the Aral Sea, and how to combat it, is closely related to that of water-usage, particularly the volumes of water the Central Asian nations believe they are entitled to draw from the Amu-Darya (which once upon a time flowed into the Aral Sea but, rather like the Okavango Delta in Botswana, disappears into the desert a few miles short of the sea) and the Syr-Darya (which still flows into the Aral Sea).

    The impact of the dessication of the Aral Sea has been most keenly felt in Uzbekistan’s Republic of Karakalpakstan, particularly Nukus, once a thriving local hub but now little more than a rust-belt settlement. Visitors testify to its grim nature. (Despite the presence of the unique Savitsky Art Museum – an unparallelled treasure-trove of Soviet-era art banned under the strictures of Soviet Realism. Many of the painters disappeared into the Gulag or were executed.)

    Anyway, it will be interesting to hear if the Aral Sea does come up for discussion at the current World Lake Conference.

    The Turkmen Disney
    Written by , Thursday, 3 Nov, 2005 – 2:54 | No Comment

    A new cartoon called “Tapmacha” (“The Puzzle”) produced by state film company Turkmentelekinofilm represented Turkmen cinema at the 20th International Youth Cinema Festival in Esfahan, Iran. The festival is also featuring the work of directors from Europe and Asia, whose short, full-length and animated features will be judged by a multinational panel.
    The Turkmen entry was directed by veteran filmmaker Evgeny Mikhelson.
    On his return to Ashgabat Mikhelson remarked:

    It was my first visit to Iran and I was amazed by the scale of the festival and I was impressed by their organisation. Festivals widen cultural horizons as they give the opportunity to observe the current trends of world cinema. It is wonderful that the organisers of the festival gave particular prominence to films with a spiritual foundation, respect to eternal and permanent values, constituting a moral base for all nations.
    (…)
    I was also pleasantly surprised by the interest of my fellow filmmakers in the progress of Turkmen cinema and in Turkmenistan itself. Once again, this is confirmation of the uniqueness of Turkmenistan’s path of development, and that the culture and tradition of our people truly does draw the attention of people from all over the world.
    I am profoundly convinced that Turkmen animation, which has a 35-year history behind it, will have a great future. Our first cartoons were created for television in the beginning of the 1970s. These were made using puppets and hand-drawn cartoons, but today we have the means to complement traditional films with computer graphic-generated cartoons. The new is always interesting and supersedes the old. However, in my work I endeavour to ensure that technical progress does not supplant the specific national basis of typical Turkmen cinema; an organic and profound vision of children’s psychology.
    Turkmen animation has always given particular attention to national folklore; it has told stories about friendship and goodness, industrious people, respect for parents, reverence for bread, all things that have long been embedded in the nation’s traditional culture.

    This story is particularly interesting as one of the most depressingly deleterious consequences of Niyazov’s malign influence over Turkmen national culture has been the abolition of cinema culture. Indeed, there are no cinemas in the country and none of the state channels show anything other than propaganda and political speeches, though this can be grimly amusing in their own way.
    This is a faintly heartening display that modern culture can still survive in Turkmenistan. The only caveat to this is that by the sound of things, the film is a trite example of the fashioning of an artificial new folk culture that has flourished under Niyazov’s. Still, it would be interesting to see what the film looks like.

    Strengthening Ties
    Written by , Tuesday, 1 Nov, 2005 – 12:44 | 2 Comments

    Kazakhstan is set to strengthen bileratal ties with almost everyone:

    Apparently, the best ties exist with Russia. However, there won’t be a ‘reunification’: Kazakhstan has no Russia accession plans

    The reason for the universal diplomatic love campaign is obvious: It’s diplomacy to secure the Kazakh people from external threats

    According to [FM Kassymzhomart Tokayev], the main aim of the domestic diplomacy is to provide for security of our people from the external threats. In connection with this the ministry develops “business-plans” for each country. All priorities of bilateral relations and political profits, which Kazakhstan may derive from these contacts, will be described in them.