Andy Kershaw in Turkmenistan

If anyone missed Andy Kershaw’s BBC Radio three Christmas day programme the link can be found to play on the BBC radio player here. Andy Kershaw is a world-renowned specialist on world music. His Christmas day programme featured an on location documentary from Turkmenistan. The programme features an extra large seasonal helping of traditional folk music from Turkmenistan. Music, I should imagine, that is unheard by many Western ears. Kershaw’s radio documentary offers a realistic example of the difficulties facing a westerner travelling in Turkmenistan, let alone a BBC documentary maker, as his programme was organised by the government, he…

Reviewing 2005 in Central Asia: China wins on all scores

by Zamir Chargynov Introduction: Central Asia has witnessed two extremely important events in 2005, namely ‘Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan’ and ‘Andijan Upheaval in Uzbekistan’, the consequences of which decisively strengthened the Sino-Russian vector in foreign policies of Central Asian Republics.i On 4th of December 2005 there took place a 3rd major event, the Presidential Elections in Kazakhstan, which will end the year with many implications for the interests of the players of the Great Game over this strategic and oil-rich region of Inner Asia. However, it has a particular significance for China, since the ‘peaceful re-election of Nazarbaev to the…

Universal Tajikistan Atlas

The World Bank just put out a very interesting and detailed atlas containing all sorts of demographic, health, education, economic information about Tajikistan by geographic region, in the form of a rather large PDF file. This report will answer, in detail, questions like: What are the poorest areas in Tajikistan? Where would be the best place to build a farm? Where are the most female-headed households? What areas in Tajikistan are the most educated? And much, much more.

Interior Minister Resigns, Andijan Trials Continue

Curiouser and curiouser. Zokir Almatov has reportedly resigned as interior minister. Fergana.ru hails the departed minister thus: “He was a soldier and retired as one – a soldier who carried out orders of the first president. Even when Almatov privately disagreed with some orders, he was soldier enough to carry them out first and discuss them later. And that is how things are supposed be done. Attempts are made nowadays to pin the blame for what happened in Andizhan on Almatov. That’s a wrong approach because a soldier ordered to open up is first and foremost compelled to do so…

Germany’s Uzbekistan policy

Germany’s contingent of troops will stay in Uzbekistan, as Nathan reported some while ago. I held this post back as the German media tends either to overlook Central Asia and the German involvement in the region or comes up with valuable stories rather late. Marcus Bensmann called the permission to stay an early Christmas present Tashkent gave to Berlin. Friedbert Pflüger, CDU politician in the Foreign Committee, in return promised the Uzbek government to carefully consider Karimov’s stance on events in Andijon earlier this year. What looks like a shady deal at first sight demands some more elaboration. Luckily, Pflüger…

20 Years ago today…

Yesterday saw the 20th anniversary of Saparmurat Niyazov coming to power in Turkmenistan. On the 21st of December 1985 Saparmurat Niyazov was appointed First Secretary of the Turkmenistan Republican Communist Party. Mikhail Gorbachev, who was in the process of turning over the elites and leaders of Central Asia who had been in power for decades during the Brezhnev era, appointed him. Gorbachev wanted fresh blood and new faces in the Central Asian Republics to push through his reforms of perestroika. In 1985 Niyazov represented a generational change from his predecessor Mukhamednazar Gapurov who had served as Turkmen Fist Secretary since…

Crime Wave or No Crime Wave?

A crime wave has reportedly hit Turkmenistan. According to IWPR, there has been a significant rise in muggings and burglaries over the last 35 days. Some are arguing that this is due to the thousands of prisoners amnestied by the president which was timed to coincide with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan earlier this year. An IWPR source in Ashgabat has claimed from those arrested in recent weeks 80% come from the 8000 prisoners who were released in October. Here is the full IWPR report: Crime is on the rise in Turkmenistan, with some blaming the…

How Free are NewEurasia Countries?

Freedom House just released their Freedom in the World 2006 report, along with an article summarizing and evaluating the results for the entire world. While the picture is optimistic for the world as a whole, NewEurasia’s countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) fared rather poorly. In Uzbekistan, state violence against demonstrators, the repression of civil society, and an overall decline in human rights conditions during the past year was sufficiently pronounced to warrant a decline in the country’s Freedom in the World score to the lowest possible rating. Only eight countries worldwide earned a similar status as…

Tajik Economy Grows

The Tajikistan government reports a 6% increase in GDP between January and November 2005. This is a decrease from growth rates hovering around 10% in the last couple years (World Bank data), but still stronger than 4.4% in 2004 for Uzbekistan (CIA World Factbook), and about equal with Krgyzstan.

Shifting Alliances?

Is Tajikistan strengthening its ties with the West? Recent developments would seem to suggest so. Tajikistan has discussed the maintaining a French military presence, as well as expanding cooperation in the areas of agriculture and tourism. Tajikistan is also strengthening its ties with NATO. Combine that with Tajikistan’s National Development Strategy, and it would appear that the country is leaning more west than before. However, geopolitical influence in Tajikistan is much more of a positive sum game than elsewhere in the region. Unlike countries like Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan, Tajikistan has few natural resources for outsiders to compete for. Therefore, it…

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