Lupine Mayhem

Unlike the United States, where wolves are considered an endangered species and protected, Kyrgyzstan faces an exploding population of wolves that are becoming a menace. Experts suggest the wolf population has multiplied three- or fourfold in recent years [in Kyrgyzstan]. Attacks would normally be rare, restricted only to instances when a wolf is suffering from extreme hunger. But they are no longer a rarity. Some of the stories tell of savage assaults. Passing a field in the Chui region of Kyrgyzstan, a taxi driver, Bakyt Mailiev, said, “recently on this field, wolves threw themselves on two tractor drivers. One managed…

Blogosphere Roundup

These roundups are posted on Global Voices and appear a day or two later on our homebase. Buzkashi in Tajikistan – by Dushanbe Pictures, Erik Petersson, 2006. Armenia: The Armenia section of our travels through the regional blogosphere is essentially a roundup of three great roundups: Onnik Krikorian continues to post weekly summaries from the Armenian blogosphere on his Oneworld blog. This week has been heavily dominated by failed peace talks between arch-rivals Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Another roundup is brought to us by Myrthe, a Dutch national with a passion for everything Armenian. She…

Central Asian Tiger Becomes Largest Investor in Georgia

By Nurzhan Zhambekov According to the official statements of the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, which was broadcast on radio “Georgia” Kazakhstan has become the largest investor in Georgia. (KUB.kz, February 10) The Caucasus Republic’s head of state has come up with an ambition to turn the Black Sea coast of Adjaria into an international resort. There is an agreement between the government of Georgia and Kazakhstan’s second largest bank Turan Alem, whereby the Kazakh side would commence construction of new hotels in Adjaria in the year 2007. Previously the Kazakh bank had already stated its willingness to invest into Georgia…

You Wait for One Gas Deal…

Turkmenistan has once again threatened to rock the boat over the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute by pledging another hike in gas prices. In an announcement on Turkmen state television President Saparmurat Niyazov suggested that the cost of gas exported from his country could be increased by around 50 percent to $100 per 1,000 cubic metres. This follows a raise in the price being sold to Russia and Ukraine to $65 from an earlier rate $44 per 1,000 cubic metres. As has been widely reported, this threatens to upset the uneasy truce over gas tariffs reached between Kiev and Moscow earlier this…

GDP Grows 9.4%

Kazakhstan’s economy is growing in leaps and bounds, at a whopping 9.4% increase in GDP in 2005, matching the increase in 2004. As positive as that impressive figure sounds, it is almost entirely the result of the current price of oil, and is not necessarily indicative of the state of the Kazakh economy. … the “Dutch syndrome” – harm to a country’s industry caused by excess cash inflows from sales of natural resources – looms as a major threat to Kazakhstan’s longer-term economic well-being. The only sector rivalling energy in terms of rapid expansion is the construction industry, whose share…

Microfinance brings hope

Tajiks, or at least some of them, are capitalizing on United Nations micro-loans. Initiated by the Tajik government and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the local Women in Development bureau is providing assistance to rural women through training and micro-credits. UNDP’s programme on community development in Tajikistan is currently working in 30 districts of the former Soviet republic and has distributed loans worth some $3 million, with around 40,000 beneficiaries, of whom some 30 percent are women. The article provides an anecdotal case study, but hopeful nonetheless. Mavliuda decided to borrow a micro-credit to buy seeds and…

Turmoil in the Mountains

The Kyrygyzstan soap opera has reached a new pitch in recent weeks. President Bakiyev recently addressed the parliament to denounce their squabbling and corruption, saying that the parliament is, “turning into an arena for political squabbles, and becoming the source of an atmosphere of instability in the country.” “Quit your vodka-selling businesses — by the way, it’s against the law for members of parliament. Then you won’t need bulletproof vests,” Bakiev said. “Stop breaking the law. Shut down your businesses, legal or illegal. Stop fighting competitors using your authority as parliament deputies — and sleep in peace.” He also dropped…

Kazakh Opposition Leader Murdered… Again

Kazakh opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly was found very dead today; his hands had been bound behind his back, and his head shot from both the front and back. The Kazinform state agency reports that Sarsenbaev was killed while hunting. At least Kazakh police haven’t called this a hunting accident yet. In November of last year, an opposition figure’s death was called a “suicide” after the opposition figure managed to shoot himself twice in the chest, and once in the head. Maybe politicians should just stop hunting altogether; it doesn’t seem to be ending well lately. According to RFE/RL, the police…

Ashgabat Calling

The Institute of War and Peace Reporting has issued a press release about the launch of its own radio programme, which has been broadcast into Turkmenistan since February 9. The programme, Inside View, will be in Turkmen, though IWPR have also stated that they will eventually also provide transcripts of the programs in English and Russian. IWPR has been reporting on Turkmenistan since 2000. The program will be made in collaboration with Radio Free Europe, which is theoretically available in Turkmenistan via shortwave and satellite. It is questionable however, how much impact such an initiative can have in what is…

Best Practice

On a lighter note, last year president Niyazov enacted a law banning lip-synching during public performances. The West was quick to envisage this as another of Niyazov’s eccentric policies. However, a report, in the British Newspaper The Independent, last week discussed how the Musicians’ Union in the UK are seeking a similar law in Britain. While not asking for an outright ban, the campaign is seeking for it to be made known to the audience when a performer is miming. Could it be a case of Niyazov implementing a law which could provide a template of best practice around the…

Pensions and Protests…

The pension crisis in Turkmenistan has begun to elicit a response since it was publicised in the British press. Writing to the letters page in the Guardian Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, argued that the newspapers description of events is but only the tip of the iceberg in Turkmenistan. He goes on to highlight what he considers the deteriorating health situation in the country, commenting that: For many Turkmen citizens, healthcare is now unaffordable, child mortality is reported to have risen dramatically (to the extent that observers report a visible increase in the…

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