neweurasia’s Schwartz releases the final rough draft chapter of the CyberChaikhana project — the gender chapter. “We were faced with a new problem: what could we say that hadn’t been said before?” he writes. “What [we] found was indeed something more interesting: that ultimately, beyond poverty and traditionalism, [is] a complex problem of power and privilege, symbolism, and political-social systems.”
Here it is, the long awaited final chapter of CyberChaikhana. We may yet still decide to include a “capstone” semi-chapter, but at present we’re inclined to let the existing ten chapters, plus introduction, conclusion, and a final reflection and series of acknowledgements by Ben, stand for themselves.
So, what you’re about to read is the gender chapter. This was always a difficult chapter to write, for several reasons. To begin with, very early on we realized that it would end up not really about gender per se, but about women. Gender is, of course, something far larger than the traditional dimorphism between the sexes. We initially hoped to have the chapter embrace the full range of topics, from homosexuality to transexualism. However, this proved too vast for a single chapter to tackle.
Secondly, once we focused upon women, we were faced with a new problem: what could we say that hadn’t been said before? At first glance, the available material seemed to say nothing particularly unexpected, namely, that the gains made by Communism were now receding in many quarters under the assault of poverty and traditionalism. And you’ll notice that the first half of the chapter does indeed discuss this phenomenon, precisely because it is real.
However, that story was not only unoriginal, but insufficient for a full chapter, so closer examination was needed, and what was found was indeed something more interesting: that ultimately, beyond poverty and traditionalism, is a deeper, more profound, and more complex problem of power and privilege, symbolism, and political-social systems.
There are three key metaphorical figures in this chapter: Roza Otunbayeva and the Daughters Karimov. These women, in my opinion, manifest the contradictions, possibilities, and limits of women in contemporary Central Asia. Indeed, it is after Lola and Gulnara that the chapter is titled, “Daughters of Ambiguity” (also intended to capture the general sense of women everywhere as daughters). I wanted to show that a simple feministic criticism of the region will not work, and as you’ll see, the chapter quite purposefully ends on an absurdist note in the attempt to prove this point.
A final note before proceeding: along the way, I was able to at least find posts with allusions to the broader gender issues, including male identity, as well as other matrices with which gender issues overlap, for example, HIV/AIDS. Hence, although I consider this chapter to be flawed in several respects, I nevertheless consider it an important one, because it succeeds in highlighting a central theme that runs through the entire book: if you truly want to understand Central Asia today, you need to look beyond euphemisms like “post-Soviet” and the established narratives, and look at the way in which systems, history, and life interact. You need a microscope and a macroscope, and most of all, an open mind.
Daughters of Ambiguity
The ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, speaking in Plato’s Symposium, proposed that there was a time when human beings had no gender, but then were split in two, into men and women, by the wary gods. “After that,” he said, “with their natures cut in two, each one missed the union with its other half.”
When it comes to gender relations, Central Asia is very much a region split in two, between the abortive legacy of Communism’s reforms and the disrupted religious and cultural traditions of the past. Take Kyrgyzstan for example, where tradition and modernity can make for odd bedfellows, or even outright enemies, as the next two bloggers discuss.
The charmed apple—A story I heard recently was about two young sisters who were upset with their female neighbor for burying a charmed apple under a male chestnut tree in their garden. The apple was charmed by a traditional fortuneteller who was helping the neighbor to arrange a marriage. The neighbor actually got married shortly afterward. The sisters, who are in Kyrgyz tradition past marriage age (over 20), were angry because the charmed apple could have turned away potential husbands from them.
This story illustrates some of the traditional beliefs that give supernatural powers to traditional healers and fortunetellers, powers which usually help in situations within gendered frames. For example, a young woman called a crisis shelter hotline crying because she could not get a charmed stone out of her vagina. The woman was desperate to get her boyfriend to marry her and was advised by a healer to use the stone as a tool.
Another example: a transsexual person reported being forced to meet with various healers and fortunetellers to drink charmed liquids and experience their healing touch in different parts of his body. His family wanted to cure their child of acting outside normal gender boundaries. The healing did not help.
The Kyrgyzstan Captive—The whole day I have been thinking about a Kyrgyz tradition called “ala kachuu”—bride kidnapping. The reason is that two women who are close to me have had it happen to them recently.
The first case happened to my friend’s eldest sister. She is 28 and single. Keep in mind that in Kyrgyz culture, a woman older than 22 is considered to be over the hill, so she was way, way over the hill. Although from Osh, she went to Bishkek with her mother to visit relatives. After a few days, her mother suggested that she meet with a certain young man, very intelligent and clever. She refused on the grounds that she didn’t trust Bishkekis. So, the mother escorted her. She met the man at a café. When the mother went away to use the restroom, this very intelligent and clever young man kidnapped her. Last week, they married.
The second case happened to my acquaintance only a few days ago. She had just finished her shift at work and was standing at the bus stop waiting for the marshrutka. A car drove up to her. The front passenger window rolled down and the young man inside introduced himself as a friend of her brother. He offered to drive her home as it was getting dark. My acquaintance was familiar with all her brother’s friends and didn’t recognize this man, so she politely refused. Suddenly, two men from the back seats and one from the front burst out from the car and forced her inside. She fought as hard as she could, but in half an hour she was at the “groom’s” residence, where his female relatives tried to put a veil on her head—a symbol that the woman “agrees” to marry. Once it’s on her head, she has no other option but to stay. Well, they eventually succeeded, and now she’s married.
Even though both cases are pure acts of ala kachuu, they totally differ from each other by the content and purpose. I found out that my friend’s eldest sister actually liked the young man and, well aware that she was over the hill, she agreed to be kidnapped. My acquaintance, however, was taken against her will. However, she’s likely to stay married because of enormous pressure from society. First, it’s a great public shame for a girl and her parents if she leaves, and in our culture, being ashamed is equal to being dead. Second, tradition dictates that once a woman passes the threshold of her kidnapper, she has to stay, otherwise she will be cursed and her entire life will be miserable. Finally, once a girl is kidnapped, she is not considered to be pure (a virgin) anymore, and in most cases when kidnapped girls refuse to stay, their “grooms” rape them. The fact is that more than 90% of kidnapped girls stay. Many of these marriages end tragically, with the girls committing suicide.
So, what is this tradition? People say it is really old, but no one can tell precisely how old. I notice that it’s not mentioned in the Kyrgyz epic “Manas”, the millennial anniversary of which was celebrated in 1995. Whatever the truth, it is a huge worry for women in Kyrgyzstan, especially in remote areas. Even though our country is considered a democratic country and ala kachuu is illegal, the government is reluctant to fight the practice. In other words, there is a big conflict between obeying the law and obeying tradition.
When I hear about an incident of ala kachuu, I always think of the Soviet movie, “The Caucasus Captive,” where the major of the city in one of Caucasus countries “struggles” against such “uncivilized” traditions, but meanwhile hires gangs to kidnap a girl precisely so he can marry her. They should have filmed it in Kyrgyzstan.
An important subtext in the above post is whether ala kachuu is really as old and legitimate a tradition as it’s claimed to be. This ambiguity is important to understand its clash with the Kyrgyz legal system, a system that is the direct inheritor of Soviet ideals of gender equality. The key question to ask here, then, is whether these Soviet ideals were able to lay their own roots in the region. Perhaps not, if we closely read the following blogger from Kazakhstan:
Eighty years later—Statistics show that there are very few professions without at least a minimal female presence, whereas there are certain professions where it is practically impossible to find men. Yet, Kazakh laws prevent women from working certain jobs involving heavy manual labor or personal risk.
Only recently has female labor been treated with such care. It used to be that the fair sex was employed in any capacity, regardless of physical intensity. For example, in the 1930s, when the country was industrializing, women worked as cement mixers, masons, diggers, peat cutters, unskilled laborers and metalworkers. In fact, according to the Soviet magazine “Rabotnitsa” (“Female Worker”), metalworking was a job especially suited for women. The most prestigious occupations for women included driving tractors and trucks, weaving, parachuting, flying and building aircraft—in other words, anything involving mastering technology, traditionally a male domain.
Today, there is a whole list of jobs (over 400) that have restrictions for female labor. The majority of them involve working underground, lifting heavy things, and being exposed to toxic fumes or explosives. Meanwhile, many women themselves no longer strive to prove their skills in all spheres, instead settling to occupy those positions that are most suited to the female personality type, like secretaries, human resources managers, nurses, and teachers.
Many factors could account for the popularity of these professions among women, including the ability to multitask, which is necessary for secretaries and office managers, or to give care and attention, which is necessary for working with children and hospital patients. These qualities are more commonly found in women than in men.
Nevertheless, in professions like sales managing, public relations managing, law, architecture, ecology, journalism and fitness instruction, men and women have an equal chance to develop their professional and personal qualities.
Publicist’s choice of words notwithstanding, the data he highlights proves that Soviet reforms were not especially penetrating. This reality frustrates the progressive wings of the Central Asian republics. Take for example neweurasia’s Inga, a child of Soviet secularism, questions whether over 70 years of social reform in Kyrgyzstan had any long-lasting results at all:
Should we give up gender equality? I ask because our “island of democracy” has certain problems when it comes to gender equality: (a) every second woman in Kyrgyzstan faces domestic violence on an almost daily basis; (b) compared to men, women are more affected by unemployment; and (c) women earn only 70% of what men generally do. Meanwhile, women’s representation in government is terrible.
Anara Niyazova is a presidential representative in parliament. She deals with the issues of gender equality and she doesn’t seem to be extremely happy with the current situation. She comments: “Women are almost non-existent when it comes to their representation in decision-making. To balance the situation we need to introduce quotas. I think this step should be made and men shouldn’t be fearful.”
But men are fearful. How else can we explain the fact that, exactly in the middle of a national campaign for gender equality, the parliament failed to pass legislation for countering the preponderance of men in government agencies? The proposed legislation, which would have introduced a quota ensuring 30% of government to women, represented a small social revolution. A member of parliament told us with a laugh: “Members of parliament probably decided that there was no chance to find so many smart women to take those positions and that’s why they decided against passing that draft. Male politicians are generally very suspicious when it comes to women.”
The problem is that our patriarchal society is prepared to embrace only women who comply with traditional stereotypes. I talked to several of my countrymen about their opinions, and I was not extremely encouraged, to tell you the truth.
Jakshilyk 50: “She first has to bring up three to four sons and only then can she think about doing a career, if she is still capable of doing so.”
Sergey (father of two): “I think women should stay at home and take care of kids. Why do they need this quota?”
Anonymous (state servant): “I’m still not sure how we are supposed to deal with this gender imbalance. On the one hand, it seems that something should be done. On the other, if everyone is pretty comfortable now, why should we change the rules of this game? ”
Toktokan Boronbaeva used to be a member of parliament. Now she is a chair of the presidential committee on gender equality. She mentioned to me that she used to suffer some severe gender discrimination: “A male colleague and I once had an argument about my legislative initiative. He was screaming at me: ‘If the draft is passed you’ll be deserving nothing more but sitting at home and wearing a headscarf.’”
And in general, as I said before, even where women are allowed to flourish professionally—like in shadow businesses—they can still hardly catch up with their male colleagues in terms of salaries and promotions. Zulfia Kochorbayeva, an expert with the Agency of Social Technologies, sums it up: “You can have two Masters’ degrees, know several languages, and be extremely hard working, but it still will not guarantee that you get equal promotions with men. According to our statistics, women get leadership positions much later.”
Yet, Kyrgyzstan is also the same country that, as of this book’s writing, has the region’s only female head of state, Roza Otunbayeva. She is a mother of two with a doctorate in philosophy, and she is versed in Russian, English, German, French, and, of course, Kyrgyz. The simple fact that Otunbayeva can be president shows us that looking at gender simply through the lens of old traditions and Soviet legacies may actually miss a more interesting story.
That story is a multifaceted one of privilege, symbols, and systems. Consider Uzbekistan. There we see the daughters of the country’s strongman ruler, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Gulnara Karimova, living very public lives of philanthropy, wealth, and celebrity, in stark contrast to the lives of quiet desperation and difficult choices faced by many of their countrywomen.
Our fabulous “Uzbek Princess,” Gulnara, uses every single opportunity to become more popular using her power, money, and title of “Her Excellency Ambassador.” May 20 was her Day of Glory: she finally attended the Cinema Against AIDS event at the Cannes Film Festival and co-chaired the event which was hosted by the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR).
I’m saying “finally’”because her supporters did everything possible to get her on the list of participants. The fight over the moral legitimacy of her participation has been taking place since an anti-AIDS activist named Maksim was jailed in Uzbekistan for his campaign to promote healthy sexual hygiene. He was condemned as immoral by the government.
“And this happens in a country that has one of the world’s fastest-rising HIV infection rates?!” you would say, perhaps doubting your sanity. But you would be correct. As the Guardian notes, about 16,000 cases of HIV were reported in 2009—more than an 11-fold increase from 1,400 cases in 2001.
Renowned in her own mind—The hot news on the Uznet involves Lola and a certain Italian supermodel. It turns out that she hired Monica Bellucci to attend the gala for her new charity, “Uzbekistan 2020″, at Paris’s Museum of Modern Art on April 8, 2009. Bellucci spent four hours at the event and even gave a short speech. Can you guess how much she was paid as an honorarium? Nearly $300,000!
Lola also invited several other celebrities, including both the brother of the current French president and the wife of a French ex-President, actors Alain Delon and Emmanuelle Béart, and 69-year-old playboy Massimo Gargia. Their price of attendance has yet to be revealed. God only knows the impact this will have on Uzbekistan’s budget…
According to Wikipedia, the purpose of the new organization is supposedly to “promote cultural, intellectual, and human exchanges between Uzbekistan and Europe” and to fund projects in child protection, education, and sport. A press release for the gala event describes Lola as “…renowned in her home country for playing a major role in promoting the centuries-long heritage of Central Asia in Europe and launching key nationwide reforms to improve the situation in orphanages across the country.”
Renowned in her own mind would be more accurate. The ego of this woman would make an ancient Roman blush.
“I don’t want to be a second wife!” The majority of my high school mates have already gotten married, but I always dreamed of graduating from university. Unfortunately, nobody wants to marry a girl with a university degree. Now I am confronted with only one choice—being a second wife.
This is actually the recommendation of my friends because these days in Uzbekistan polygamy is “cool”. Situations wherein wealthy guys have three wives are getting more normal, and people don’t consider it wrong: some of them think that polygamy should happen because the number of women in the population is getting larger than men.
But I never wanted to be one of them. First of all, the marriage is not formal, performed via nikah. The children of this kind of marriage are not going to be considered “legal”. Secondly, I’d prefer to end up as an old spinster then become number two. I’ve heard stories about second wives who got nice cars and apartments from their “husbands”.
But do you think this is a real happiness? What do you think about it?
Abdusattor, 28.07.2006: I don’t see anything wrong with polygamy. Our grandfathers and our fathers used to have four to five wives. In addition to that, it’s allowed by Islam. In my city, Samarkand, we have more than enough cases of men with several wives. Is there anything bad if a man can have many wives? They help so many women to have their own homes. We shouldn’t accuse them, but thank them.
Toshkentli qiz, 28.07.2006: @Abdusattor, what if a woman earns good money, would you agree if they have more husbands than just one? What if they help so many men to have their own homes, would you thank them?
The post above casts light upon the earlier discussion on tradition. Supposed traditions can resurface, but not necessarily because of some innate power of their own. To the contrary, it may simply be economic deprivation.
And then there’s Turkmenistan. Here, a combination of totalitarian ideology and machismo has radicalized patriarchalism and penetrated it deeply into the national psyche, as neweurasia’s Annasoltan discusses:
Amazons no more—In pre-Islamic times, when the Turkic peoples of Central Asia were nomads, the female characters that appeared in epic stories were actually very masculine-like figures, riding on horseback, hunting animals, wrestling, fighting with swords, and defending their territory against enemies. Later, when the Turkic peoples settled into sedentary life, social roles changed a lot, transforming female characters into something more domestic. For example, in the epic story Görogly, a male heroic legend in the oral traditions of the Turkic peoples—a sort of Eastern “Robin Hood” in which the hero defends his clan or tribe against threats from outside—the female figure Gülendam is praised for her hospitality and household work, for the care for her family, and exemplary behavior. In other words, the Turkic people’s idealized woman went from being an Amazon to a softie.
Fortunately, that changed somewhat under the Soviets, when women began to work outside the home and it became more common for women to attain higher education and to work. A few female ministers emerged, too. But overall, their place in Soviet mythology and propaganda didn’t change very much. And it got worse after the Soviet Union collapsed. Today, the official Turkmen propaganda stresses the traditional role of the woman as a homemaker and mother. The catchword is “tranquility”—the less active, the better. Other catchwords include “charming”, “caring”, “respectful”, “soft”, and “breakable”, yes “breakable”, as if they’re pieces of glass.
Interestingly, a “First Lady” culture has never developed here as it’s done in other countries, particularly the United States. This only reinforces the message that women need to stay out of the way. Not only that, but it means there isn’t a good living role model for Turkmen girls. Well, unless of course you count Niyazov’s mother, who died in a devastating earthquake in Ashgabat in 1948 when he was a child and who he later elevated to the status of demi-goddess.
This doesn’t mean the image promulgated by our government is always consistent. For example, in Niyazov’s Ruhnama—which, remember, is supposed to be our new Qur’an—you find this passage: “Pay attention to the jewelry worn by Türkmen girls; the gupba-tuvulga, çekelik-bukav protects the neck from attacks with swords, the gül-aka protects the chest. The bracelet covers the wrist, and various pieces attached on the front and back of dresses prevent injuries from arrows and spears. If the Türkmen girl wears all her jewelry, she becomes like a warrior shielded by her jewelry. Calculations tell us that a woman should be carrying a total of 36 kilograms of silver and gold if she wears all her jewelry. The Türkmen praises the woman highly.” That sounds a bit more like the tough woman of pre-Islamic lore than of the secluded neo-Gülendam otherwise promoted in propaganda.
And then there was Niyazov himself. Odddly, he used to pose for photographs wearing elaborate diamond rings. He also used to dye his hair, changing it from white to blond, then reddish blond, and finally dark brown, in order to make himself look younger. These actions were so completely alien to Turkmen culture and traditions—almost a sin for Turkmen men!—that the great Turkmenbashy was often nicknamed “Turkmenbajy”—“Turkmen-sister”!
For neweurasia’s Humane, gender relations in Turkmenistan have almost become a caricature of the worst post-Soviet stereotypes:
Diamonds are a Turkmen girl’s best friend—Do you know Michael Jackson’s song, “Money”? It goes like this: “Anything, anything, anything for money…” It reminds me of our girls. In Turkmenistan, we have many of the most beautiful girls in Central Asia and the world. They’re beautiful from outside and from inside, though, I think by now, their inner beauty is turning into a fugly thing. And I mean real fugly: all they can think and talk about is MONEY.
Every time I go back home, all I hear my cousins and friends talking about are other people’s cars, houses, jewelry, jobs and blah blah blah. How did they go from being such beautiful creatures into such fugly things? I think that blaming our government is one way to go; but then, you cant really blame the government all the time, can you?
Since the USSR collapsed, people have been divided into two kinds: the ones who can steal and the ones who don’t know how to do it. The ones who can steal are doing much better. They steal money, sell government property or exploit/blackmail people and businesses into giving them money. The ones who don’t know how to steal are the ones who don’t really have any high position or power due to the lack of their ability to shine among others. You know, something like Darwin said: “The strongest of the species will survive.”
That’s the overarching culture, so, no surprise that our girls are becoming like the worst Russian female stereotypes. They are ready to sleep with men, marry the ones they don’t love, date with a married man, or simply have sex with him for money, even if it’s a one night stand. In the West, it would be considered as prostitution, but in our countries, it’s simply called: “survival,” which I don’t agree with. Survival is when you work your butt off to eat or to pay your bills, but not to sell your body or soul for money. I think it would be unfair of me not to mention our guys too.
Our Turkmen guys are as good as our girls: materialistic and damn stupid. If they can find a rich girl to marry, they’re ready to kiss the girl’s butt for her money. Again, I’ve seen some awesome Turkmen guys who are not like that all; so, I can’t really say that all of them are like that.
Indeed, the question of the status and role of men is never far from that of women. Take for example Defender of the Fatherland Day, the annual celebration of the founding of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War:
Naked women and axes—Today is men’s day because it’s only men who are supposed to be conscripted into the army. It’s always been a holiday to value men for their protective and defensive powers. Men get “manly” stuff for the holiday—socks and handkerchiefs, lighters and beer, and cards saying that they are “real men” or “defenders” with illustrations of swords, axes, and naked women. It would be really strange to see a card with “real woman” to signify International Women’s Day. Somehow we know what “real” men have to do: be tough, strong, and aggressive, to protect and kill the enemy. Yet we still have to remind them to be real by celebrating these “masculine” characteristics.
Which leads to the next and final point: what if things were different? What if women were equal, or more, what if they were in charge? neweurasia’s Annasoltan and Timur give their perspectives on how life might be different—or just the same—under a woman’s rule.
Dreams of Otunbayeva, nightmares of Niyazova—Frankly, there isn’t much confidence in the current political system to expect that it would ever bring truly capable and popular leaders to the surface, either male or female. But besides that, most women who are actually in politics are virtually unknown and usually end up on the political stage by indirect means. Generally speaking, few to none of my countrywomen are politically educated, anyway. Most of all, the Soviet nomenclature system is gone, so that means no one would want to see “lightweight” women coming from nowhere into the boys’ club of politics.
Remember that a woman is supposed to be the epitome of “tranquility”. So, if she is tough, men will not see her as such, but as a cruel and mean person, and women will forsake her as too competitive. And the standard set for the presidency is all the more impossible to achieve for a woman. There is an endless list of extraordinary skills and achievements she would need to accomplish. If she did, it would put her far above a man, even a demi-god like Niyazov. To attain to the Turkmen presidency, a women’s going to have to be a god, as much figuratively as literally!
But the real question isn’t if, but so what? Turkmenistan’s no Kyrgyzstan, which has undergone two pro-democracy revolutions and in some respects seems to get more liberal in its ideals as the years go by, at least liberal enough to entrust a woman, Otunbayeva, with the country’s most important job (although leave it to men to make such a mess of their country, especially in the Osh area, and then beg a woman to clean it up for them…)
By contrast, Turkmenistan is so entrenched in the legacy of Niyazov’s personality cultism, not only ideologically but bureaucratically, that it seems the only way someone can be a president here is by being a totalitarian. Some observers pessimistically believe that only a Gorbachev-style strongman—someone who can resist the temptation of believing in his own personality cult while using it to bring about real liberal reform—can bring change to Turkmenistan.
On days when I’m feeling more cynical, I’m really tempted to agree. Today is one of those days: I don’t think a woman is any necessarily more likely to be a truly decent president for Turkmenistan than a man. Considering the dog-eat-dog tactics that she would probably have to resort to even to reach the presidency, it’s a good chance that she’ll be even more of a deceitful crook. I wouldn’t be surprised if dreams of an Otunbayeva were exploited by a Niyazova.
But on days when I’m feeling more optimistic, I believe that maybe a woman could bring something different. The traditional viewpoint isn’t wrong: we’re natural caretakers. Yes, that quality could make a woman president even more totalitarian—a mother hen refusing to let her chicks out of the nest—but it could also make her more noble and open-minded. I’ve also talked with a lot of young people in my country, and they all say that if a woman carried a sincere promise of genuine change, then they would support her. That’s not bad to hear at all.
Message from the President of Uzbekistan, 17 November 2013, live broadcast from Tashkent: “My fellow Uzbeks! Allow me to introduce myself, your new president. I have the humble right to be Lola Islomovna Karimova-Tillyaeva. It is my solemn duty to welcome you to a new era for our glorious country, one in which we reach the goals set out by my dear father. Our country has always been the shining star of Central Asia, with the most promising history and greatest potential for success and human happiness. The sudden death of my father from high blood pressure allows us to reflect on his call, some five years ago, for more women in politics. Voila!
“The great Soviet Empire of my youth is no more. During the years of oppression leading up to our inevitable and righteous moment of independence, my father struggled against the corrupt forces in Moscow. Following his heart and our own Uzbek traditions, with the help of glorious Allah, he was able to gain independence for our lands. I shall not squander what my father has worked so hard to give to me.
“And I am certainly one of the most fortunate of successors. I have the honor to be both handpicked by my father and unanimously supported in free elections across the country, where more than 98% of our citizens expressed their willingness to follow me into our future. I have a freely elected parliament of able bodied and intelligent lawmakers and deal brokers ready to protect our Constitution, our traditions, and our borders. I am also fortunate that those few misguided persons fooled into opposition to our future are all notorious drug addicts, whose habits will surely catch up with them sooner rather than later.
“My biggest helper in our nation’s government will of course be my big sister, the Harvard graduate, no matter what those enemies of truth at Wikipedia say about her PhD actually being domestically granted after returning to Tashkent in disgrace. To paraphrase our dearly departed friend and ally, Dimitry Medvedev, ‘I am the President, and she is the Prime Minister.’
“We have already decided to fund the writing of 5,000 additional articles for the website on our own .uz servers, in the glorious language of Amir Temur and Alisher Navoi, Uzbek. Make no mistake, fellow citizens of our glorious motherland, we are the Presidents of Future Uzbekistan. With the help of our closest allies, South Korea and India, our place in the world economy is assured.
“Allow me to address, in one breath, the assertions and accusations of our esteemed neighbor Otunbayeva. The Legitimacy of my presidency is the Legitimacy of the Will of the Uzbek Nation! Let Kyrgyzstan and our neighbors doubt that will at their own peril, for history, as always, is the best teacher. While others have fallen prey to the infectious aid packages of the West and the over-bearing alliances of the North, Uzbekistan remains, as ever, independent. And to those that question my fluency of our glorious mother tongue, those that would insult the blood of our ancestors, those that would question the sun’s right to cross the sky, I have only one thing to say. Ты что, совсем что-ли? Я—президент!”
Schwartz is NewEurasia's Editor in Chief. In 2004, he co-founded our predecessor site, Thinking East (http://www.thinking-east.net), with Ben Paarmann and Oliver Dams. He was also the editor of the book, "CyberChaikhana: Digital Conversations from Central Asia", and has published academically on Central Asia's mediascape. Check out his personal blog @ http://schwartztronica.wordpress.com.