“I found these paintings, rolled up under the beds of old widows, buried in family trash.
These were forbidden works by artists who stayed true to their vision, at a terrible cost.”
– “The Desert of Forbidden Art”
A piece of documentary art, about forbidden art, has come to Central Asia – again.
The 80-minute long documentary of Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev (writers, producers and directors), “The Desert of Forbidden Art”, was screened on Friday December 9th, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. at the BACTRIA Cultural Center (ak. Rajabovih 15 Street) in Tajikistan’s capital city Dusanbe.
“The Desert of Forbidden Art”, a documentary that “takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom”, narrates how Russian artist Igor Savitsky– the virtuoso man of paint, archeology and collection, particularly of avant-garde art – rescued the forbidden work of fellow artists. Savitsky founded the State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, an art museum based in Nukus, Uzbekistan (capital city of the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, in northwest Uzbekistan). The museum opened in 1966 and hosts 82,000 items – comprising the world’s second largest Russian avant-garde collection (after the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg).
Last week I gave a lecture at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven on whether or not an “Arab Spring”-style revolution could happen in Eurasia and more specifically in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. My answer was: probably not in the immediate term (say, before five to seven years from now) and not as part of a “chain reaction” from the current Arab Spring. In the long term, some of the regimes will bite the dust, however. The reason for the both likelihoods is actually the same: a combination of youth bulge, social mobility and delayed/stunted social change, modern ICT penetration, and rigidifying first-family regimes. These factors are creating the conditions that keep a revolt at bay for now but could also eventually make an explosion or a coup of some sort inevitable.
A key element of my presentation concerned comparing/contrasting the Arab and Eurasian states. Ultimately, if one lesson from the Arab Spring (and Kyrgyzstan) applies to Eurasia, then it is this: that things at some point can go unexpectedly fast, and that internal dynamics, both within the regimes and within the wider society, are much more important than whatever geopolitical designs or “Great Game powers’ desire for stability” can actually control.
Corruption in Post-Soviet Central Asia is something very familiar to people living in the region. Without bribing, one is destined to see their case be delayed for a long time, very often beyond time limits defined by laws.
Be it application for a new passport, or registration at a new place of living, or even finding a day care for your kid — bribing is the easiest way to get it all done faster and without a hassle.
Transparency International (TI) has released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 (CPI) that ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. According to TI, it is a composite index, a combination of polls, drawing on corruption-related data collected by a variety of reputable institutions. The CPI reflects the views of observers from around the world, including experts living and working in the countries/territories evaluated.
This year Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have proved that they can also have stablility in something — if not positive and progressive, then at least something not really desirable by leaders of developed countries. That something is the abuse of public power. Read the full story »
This article was originally published at NewEurasia partner, Kanal PIK
A lengthy row between Russia and Tajikistan over the imprisonment of a Russian pilot, Vladimir Sadovnichy, has finally come to an end with the pilot’s release on Nov 24. Yet, and in spite of various officials claims that there was nothing political about the whole episode, there are many reasons to believe that political considerations, or geopolitical considerations to be more precise, were behind the Russian government’s so called “asymmetric response”; that is, mass deportation of Tajik nationals on the bases of legal and public safety concerns.
Tajikistan is a small country located in “the geophysical center of the Asian landmass”. Bordered to the south by Afghanistan, to the east by China, and to the west and north by Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan, Tajikistan lies at the interstices of several cultures, languages, religions, and zones of commerce. At the first glance, it ought to be confessed, it is difficult to understand the geopolitical importance of Tajikistan to Russia since they neither share a common border nor a similar culture. In fact, Tajikistan is culturally far removed from Russia. The predominant native language there is Tajik, a variant of Farsi, and it has more cultural ties to the Middle East and West Asia than to Russia. In addition, Tajikistan is of no significant commercial value to Russia. The country has virtually no oil or gas production. It is rich in metal mineral resources and has a vast hydroelectric potential, but mineral resources are plentiful in Russia and Tajikistan’s hydroelectric energy is “too far away to transport cost-effectively”. Lastly, Tajikistan’s largest commodity export, aluminum, “competes with Russian domestic enterprises” rather than offering “complementary” commercial possibilities.
So what are the ties that actually bind Russia and Tajikistan? Read further here.
Editor’s note: Two Russian pilots have been incarcerated in Tajikistan, prompting a huge backlash from Russia’s political class, and all but drowning out Tajik views on the matter. Alpharabius gives his two somoni, including a little research about the pilots’ mysterious employers.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is demanding an “explanation” from the Tajik government over the imprisonment of two Russian pilots in Tajikistan on the charges of smuggling, illegal border crossing, and violation of international aviation regulations by the provincial court of the Khatlon region of southern Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan. In a televised meeting with Russian bloggers on November 8th, Medvedev remarked:
“The decision on this case raises many questions not only about the nature of the crime committed, but also the process that took place… Yesterday itself, I instructed all government agencies — the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, law enforcement agencies — to engage in this. They need to contact their respective counterparts in Tajikistan… We will wait for an official response from the authorities of the country, with whom we have alliances, and only then make a decision. But, these solutions, depending on the response, could be symmetrical or asymmetrical.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also called the decision “extremely severe” as well as “politically motivated”, and warned that the ruling could have a negative impact on relations between Moscow and Dushanbe.
These remarks out of the Russian executive branch echo sentiments made by Russian politicians and media after the verdict of the Tajik court. The Russian parliament’s upper house speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, remarked,
“We did not find any legal evidence of the pilots’ fault; the guilty verdict is based on speculations and ungrounded suggestions.”
She also did not discount sanctions against Tajikistan, noting,
“If our voice is not heard, Russia reserves the right to take appropriate measures.”
While speaking to journalists in St. Petersburg, Matviyenko emphasized that “everyone” in Russia was outraged over the Tajik court’s ruling. I must say, my impression is that this isn’t far from the truth: from the extreme right to the extreme left, virtually the entire political spectrum of Russia has responded passionately:
Originally published by NewEurasia.net partner, Kanal PIK
by Jim Brooke
When I was in Dushanbe, India’s defense minister just happened to be in the neighborhood, and popped in for a visit.
After the traditional bread and honey welcome ceremony at the airport, he met behind closed doors with Tajikistan’s defense minister and discussed future uses of Ayni. This former Soviet airbase was re-commissioned last month near Tajikistan’s capital. India had quietly renovated the base and its 3-kilometer landing strip to the tune of $70 million.
Two weeks later, Pakistan rose to the challenge, announcing relief for “landlocked Tajikistan.” A $25 million, 220 kilometer road would be built north from Gilgit, Pakistan. It would follow river valleys bounded by 7,000 meter high peaks, cross Afghanistan’s Wakhan corridor, and reach the soaring Pamir Mountains of eastern Tajikistan. A Pakistani press report said: “Pakistan is the only country through which this Central Asian State could do business with the outer world.”
The Chinese, who recently built roads to Tajikistan from east, told Dushanbe there is no hurry to pay off their $1 billion foreign debt to Beijing. And to clear the diplomatic decks for a solid relationship, Beijing has dropped its claim to 20 percent of Tajikistan’s territory. In a final border settlement this year, Tajikistan signed over to China about one percent of its eastern mountains.
Within months, Tajik and Chinese soldiers were participating in a joint anti-terror drill in Western China. And, as Russian language skills whither among a new generation of Tajiks, China has opened a Confucius Institute in Dushanbe to promote the study of Mandarin.
Not to be left behind, leaders of Russia, the former colonial power, visited Dushanbe (former Stalinabad). In a joint press appearance with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that the two countries had agreed to a 49-year renewal on leases for three bases that house Moscow’s 201st Motorized Division. This is the largest Russian army detachment posted outside of Russia. (The Moscow press trumpeted this victory. But Tajik reporters noted to me that Tajikistan rejected Russia’s offer to take over border policing duties and that at the base lease press conference, Tajikistan’s President stood by silently, not saying yes, not saying no.)
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Editor’s note: Hillary Clinton: rushed, unprepared, and unclear. Condoleeza Rice: careful, prepared, and very clear. But were both hypocritical and insufficient, just in different ways? Tajik civil society and journalists debate the two Secretaries of State’s visits to Tajikistan in 2005 and 2011. neweurasia’s Alpharabius reports.
Recently, a peaceful debate almost erupted into a verbal fight between several of my friends in the Tajik civil society and journalistic community. The faultline was between those who adore Hillary Clinton and those who are fond of Condoleezza Rice. During her term as Secretary of State, Rice had visited Tajikistan, and although it’s been only two weeks and several years since Clinton and Rice visited our nation, feelings are still hot among the Tajiks.
In Dushanbe, Clinton discussed bilateral and regional issues with President Rahmon and Foreign Minister Zarifi, then held a town hall meeting “with Tajiks from across the spectrum of activities; from human rights activists to religious leaders, to members of the media, women leaders, students, and educators,” as she put it herself. A friend of mine, who was invited to the town hall meeting, states that he met with some civil society representatives, but that the audience was mostly pro-government:
“Neither were there leaders or well-known activists of political parties, or any well-known independent journalists, nor the actual religious leaders, who are currently under the government pressure.”
Now compare this to Rice, who met with the leaders and activists of the opposition when she visited Tajikistan in October 2005. Of course, this interaction did not bring about any substantial changes in Tajikistan, but it nevertheless at least showed that the United States had knowledge of the political situation in Tajikistan and made an attempt to pay some attention to the opposition. Indeed, Rice warned Tajik authorities against further oppression and suffocation of political freedom in the country.
In a recent interview with the weekly Ozodagon, the leader of the Social-Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Rahmatillo Zoirov, criticized the US Embassy in Dushanbe for “dividing political parties from the civil society”. According to Zoirov, Rice brought a list of 16 issues related to the situation in Tajikistan and requested the Tajik authorities to focus on those issues, yet Clinton limited herself to a few broad declarations.
Zoirov adds that he was disappointed by the Embassy’s attitude towards democratic values in Tajikistan and added that the reason this important is because “the position of the embassy is [effectively] the position of the administration,” in terms of the impression it makes.
However, some of my friends disagree, pointing out that Clinton was sharper than Rice in pointing out the issue of religious freedom, since the government is under extreme criticism for the recent adoption of the law that prohibits citizens under the age of 18 from attending mosques. They add that Rice also donned an Islamic scarf when she visited a girls’ religious school, precisely during the peak of our nation’s heated dispute about the headgear.
However, again in defense of Rice, is the fact that her visit was much more clear than Clinton’s in terms of message. One friend put it this way:
“The picture of Condi wearing the Islamic scarf and talking to bearded Islamic teachers was a much more stronger signal to the Tajik government than Clinton’s broad-spectrum declarations, who was talking about serious issues, but smiling simultaneously.”
I, personally, am a fan of Clinton, for I have unpleasant and disappointing impressions of Rice as Bush’s warmonger. I’ll never forger her “conviction” about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, whereas Clinton is a much more soft-mannered and nuanced person. And yet, I must also agree with my friends that ultimately Clinton’s visit to our nation seemed unprepared, rushed, and unclear, with the real conversations happening behind closed doors and the town hall just a decoration.
This post, originally by Jim Brooke, is from NewEurasia.net partner Kanal PIK TV English
The Tajik Air jet was still taxiing to a stop at Dushanbe’s airport, but the men on board were already in the aisles, smiles on their faces, happy to be home.
Home alive that is.
I don’t know if below my feet on the plane was any “Cargo 200” – Soviet slang for bodies sent home in zinc lined coffins.
A few days before I arrived in Dushbanbe, Tajikistan’s Migration Service announced that during the first eight months of 2011, the bodies of 603 Tajik gastarbeiters had been repatriated from Russia. (By comparison, 1,811 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan over the last 10 years.) With about 700,000 Tajiks working in Russia, that factors to an annual mortality rate of around one to 1,000.
The high death toll, which is little changed in recent years, is largely due to lethally lax safety procedures on Russian construction sites. The Migration Service collects data on flights arriving from the 17 Russian cities that have direct service to Tajikistan’s two international airports, in Dushanbe and Khujand.
But one detail jumped out of the latest report. Of the 603 deaths, 67 were attributed to “attacks by nationalist groups.”
Russia’s media largely ignored this item. But the following week, a group of Tajik public figures sent an open letter of protest to Russian authorities, the United Nations, and the Council of Europe.
“We, representatives of the Tajik and international public, are extremely alarmed by the growing intensity of the efforts of radical neo-Nazi organizations in the Russian Federation stimulating the growth of xenophobic sentiments in society. Therefore we are calling on the Russian authorities to take more resolute measures to resist the growth of nationalist extremism in the country,” the letter read.
After a little internet research, I calculated that a Tajik working in Russia today runs the roughly same risk of lynching as an African American did in the American South in 1930.
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Esquire-Russian analyzed UN’s World Population Prospects (2010 revision) and The Economist data and came up with a map that shows a forecast of the extinction of various nations based on the so-called net replacement rate – the average number of girls, delivered by an average woman in a lifetime in a particular country and survived until the end of the reproductive period at these levels.
According to the map, countries which has less than millennium to exist are marked in brown. “Light browned” nations will live in the 3000-3299 years period. “Milky” identifies those who live from 3300 to 3999 years more. “Orange” countries will exist from 4000 to 9999, and those countries colored in “gray” will live for 10,000 or more.
All green countries on the map are the luckiest — they will never disappear, the “immortals.” Read the full story »
Editor’s note: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Uzbekistan and Tajikistan this past weekend. High on her agenda was the problematic issue of press freedom and human rights in the two countries. neweurasia’s Tomyris, however, wonders what may have been said — or not said — behind closed doors.
US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, made her way to and through Central Asia this past weekend – stopping in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – on October 22nd and 23rd.
Here’s a summary of Clinton’s agenda: In Tajikistan, she met with President Emomali Rahmon and Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi to discuss bilateral and regional issues. She also met with locals, to – quite democratically – hear the voices of the people. And in Uzbekistan, Clinton met with President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiev. Cars and technology were on her mind in Tashkent – Clinton visited the new General Motors Powertrain plant where she spoke about the Technology Entrepreneurship Program and Techno-Prize Competition.
About Tajikistan, but also alluding to similar issues in Uzbekistan, Interfax-News reported:
“The United States is concerned by the state of the freedom of the press in Tajikistan…”
And thus there was much discussion about the importance of opening up the media landscape in both former Soviet counties.
Read the full story »