Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

Cows by Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan Welcome to the latest roundup from the Central Asian and Caucasian blogosphere brought to you bi-weekly by neweurasia. As usual, we take you through the countries alphabetically. Armenia: As a matter of routine, we’d like to draw your attention to the Oneworld blog where Onnik Krikorian has written up his latest roundup from the (English-speaking) Armenian blogosphere. This week, there has been little political discussion, and the bloggers focus on writing about culture. On the same blog, Nessuna summarises the Armenian-language blogosphere, containing great information on the country’s higher education system and the…

Shul Destruction

Neweurasia hasn’t covered it yet, but a major piece of news coming out of Tajikistan lately is the government’s decision to demolish the the country’s only synagogue to make way for a presidential palace. Pleas from the international Jewish community have still met no success in changing the government’s mind. Democracy in Central Asia and Registan (plus a discussion) have the full scoop.

The Saints are marching in?

A Forum 18 article “KYRGYZSTAN: Intolerance against Christians highlighted by murderâ€? highlights the tenions caused by evangelist activity in Central Asia. The late December murder of a Protestant in a village in eastern Kyrgyzstan has highlighted the difficulties for ethnic Kyrgyz of Muslim backgrounds in rural areas who convert to Christianity, The issue of hostility to Muslims who convert to Christianity is a widespread problem in all the Central Asian republics. (…) There are at least two factors underlying the intolerant attitude of Muslims towards Muslims who have converted to Christianity. Under Islamic law, Muslims who reject their faith have…

Bribery in HE Institutions

This story’s been rumbling around in Bishkek for a while now and there’s been some interesting debate in Russian language media, so thought a quick look would be in order. Even so, it is worth noting that the issue is, alas, nothing new – as this paper by Nadezhda Romanchuk from 2002 shows. As she concludes, the situation is far more complex than simply increasing lecturers’ pay: Nowadays higher educational institutes in Kyrgyzstan is a place which is represented by 2 structures working in different directions: corrupt instructors against honest and professional lecturers, students “studying” for diploma against students who…

A Russian Comeback

The determination of what languages are taught in school is naturally a very political process. Uzbekistan’s shifting political climate has led to an increased emphasis on Russian in education, and the obvious cause of it is Uzbekistan’s and Russia’s increasingly cozy relationship. Not only is the language being emphasized more, but not surprisingly, praises are being sung to Russia instead of America. While Uzbekistan finding Russia waiting with open arms following the events in Andijan is a decided negative, increasing emphasis on the Russian language is not necessarily bad. Language facilitates communication, and a lingua franca in a region of…

Two Feet, Two Directions

Tajikistan may well establish an independent national human rights organization with the backing of the OSCE and United Nations. The deputy head of the OSCE Center in Dushanbe, Andrei Shugurov, said a Tajik national human rights institution could become an effective mechanism to remedy “weaknesses” in the justice system. Weaknesses like… systematic and politically motivated persecution of the opposition? Not to be too cynical, but it seems that Tajikistan seems to be moving in two opposite directions at once – reform and repression – but the reforms have been largely soft (creation of plans, organizations and the like), and the…

Jews in Uzbekistan

There’s a fair bit of coverage concerning the death in Tashkent of Avron (Avraam, or Avraham) Yagudayev, a prominent member of the city’s community of Bukharan Jews. This has raised concern as it follows shortly after an attack on Grigori Akilov, the son of Tamara Akilova, head of Simho, the Bukharan Jewish cultural centre. Akilov remains hospitalized. However, the reaction of Shoazim Minovarov, Chairman of the Uzbek Committee for Religious Affairs, seems a bit odd. According to Minovarov: “There are no Yagudayevs among chairmen of Jewish communities or among rabbis. There is only one Yagudayev I know of, and he…

How to reform the Tajik military

The Government of Tajikistan has decided not to carry out a planned transition to a professional army, rather than a conscripted one. It has not renounced reform, just Western-prescribed remedies. Some analysts are suggesting that Tajikistan is increasingly wary of President Bush’s pro-democracy policy, and is increasingly trying to distant itself from Western nations. Alternatively, this break from the professional army plan could be a play to get more Western funding, as the stipulated reason for the change in policy is that it is financially infeasible (which is probably true). The Jamestown article referenced above makes a forceful argument that…

Bird Flu Scare

According to Deutsche Welle, sources within the Turkmen veterinary service have reported widespread deaths among migratory birds on the Caspian coast. However, while authorities in countries across the world have adopted stringent measures to pre-empt the threat of a bird flu pandemic, it appears that the relevant state bodies have failed to investigate the causes of the mass deaths. This information was also backed up fishermen operating in the Caspian Sea, who have testified to sighting from 30 to 50 dead birds around the Turkmenbashi peninsula. Among the birds spotted were pelican, wild ducks and geese. Though such findings have…

Theories abound

A day after the demonstration on Respublika Square, the Kazakh authorities explained everything to the confused observer. “Personal enmity” between Utembaev and Sarsenbaev led the former to call a hit on the latter: After Sarsenbaev published an article giving a negative characterization of [Utembaev] in one of the national newspapers, their relations deteriorated rapidly. After the publication of that article, Erzhan Utembaev’s career, in his own words, went downhill. Blaming that on Sarsenbaev, he nurtured the idea of taking revenge on him for a long time.” Any questions? Well, a couple of them, really. First off, the timing of the…

Cash Not Goods

Ukraine again reached an agreement with Turkmenistan about gas deliveries over the weekend. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov spoke on his optimism on the future of energy dialogue in a televised announcement, according to a ForUm report: “Yesterday, the Turkmen Foreign Minister and the Ukrainian Ambassador in Turkmenistan discussed the gas problem, the ambassador told me by phone. Judging by the results of the negotiations, Turkmen views on the conflict are absolutely constructive.” The main issue under discussion appeared to relate to the outstanding debt of $80 million owed by Kiev. As a result of the latest wave of negotiations…

Load more