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February 19 2014

February 14 2014

Despite Bans, Central Asians Observe Valentine's Day

Central Asian countries have a special relationship with Valentine's Day. While some nations in the region embrace the holiday that has become popular in recent years, other countries ban or try to replace it with more “authentic” local celebrations.

Global Voices has reported about social media debates related to Valentine's Day in Tajikistan, where one third of people celebrate the holiday according to a recent survey. Below is a brief overview of how Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have observed February 14 this year.

Kazakhstan

The authorities in Kazakhstan are generally much more tolerant towards new holidays and traditions than their neighbors in the region. Kazakhs are free to celebrate Valentine's Day as they wish. As in many other countries, however, social media users argue about whether the holiday should be celebrated. Responding to frequent portrayals of Valentine's Day as a holiday that contradicts Islam, blogger Ainura Rai asserts [ru] that the holiday has a “secular character” and, therefore, does not run against any religious conviction. Another blogger, Kuanushbek Zhakparov, agrees that “the day of love” is a secular holiday but contends [ru] that Valentine's Day is an “evil” capitalist phenomenon promoted by companies that make money by selling cards, flowers, and other love-themed products. Other bloggers discuss [ru] inexpensive gifts that people could give their loved ones on February 14.

Meanwhile, in the northern Kazakh city of Kostanai, traffic police has used the holiday as an opportunity to improve its image among drivers:

In Kostanai, police officers presented drivers with Valentine's Day Cards.

An unusual group of police officers was on duty at the Abay Avenue, near TSUM, today. Drivers did not expect such a surprise from police officers.

On the Day of Love, [police officers] gave drivers Valentine's Day Cards and gifts from insurance companies.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has joined the list of “enemies of Valentine's Day” this year. Tursunbai Bakir uulu, a member of Kyrgyz parliament (who has been calling for a ban on Valentine's Day for several years now) recently called February 14 a “holiday from the devil”. The authorities in the southern city of Osh have banned the observance of Valentine's Day in schools, arguing that the “holiday of love is a bad influence on children’s morality.” Education officials have suggested that schoolchildren should instead observe the Family Day on February 15.

This has not stopped young Kyrgyzstanis from celebrating, however. Blogger Bektour Iskender reports [ru] that students in several school in Osh did organize Valentine's Day events. Similar events were held in many schools and universities across the country. On kloop.kg, blogger Darya Solovyova shares [ru] gift ideas for Valentine's Day.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has been more aggressive than its neighbors in trying to root out celebrations of Valentine's Day. For several years now, the country's authorities have been trying to convince people to celebrate February 14 as the birthday of Mohammed Zahiriddin Babur, the Uzbek people's “great ancestor”. 

The birthday of Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur is celebrated today.

This year, the authorities have stepped up their campaign against Valentine's Day. Officials at a number of universities in the country have forced students to sign contracts affirming that they will not observe “the day of love”. A traditional February 14 concert by a popular Uzbek pop singer has been cancelled. In many mosques throughout Uzbekistan, mullahs have denounced Valentine's Day during Friday sermons as a “harmful holiday that contradicts both Islam and local traditions”.

Despite these restrictions, however, some people in Uzbekistan have celebrated Valentine's Day. On Facebook and Odnoklassniki, many Uzbekistani users congratulated their followers or shared love-themed images and electronic cards. 

February 08 2014

Three Main Blogging Platforms in Kazakhstan

Mr Wow! introduces [ru] the three most popular domestic blogging platforms in Kazakhstan:

A decent and law-abiding blogger in Kazakhstan inhabits one of the three reserves: Yvision [yvision.kz], Gonzo[gonzo.kz], or Horde [horde.me]. 

Some Kazakh Bloggers Dine With Mayor, Some Get Jail Terms

alm

Almaty Mayor and selected Kazakh bloggers, February 5, 2014. Image by @evlaman, used with permission.

A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced three bloggers to 10 days in jail on “minor hooliganism” charges. Nurali Aitelenov, Rinat Kibraev, and Dmitry Shchyolokov were detained by police outside a restaurant in Almaty, where the city's mayor, Akhmetzhan Esimov, was meeting with selected bloggers on February 5. The three young men were prevented from entering the restaurant because they had not been invited to the meeting. They were also not allowed to film the restaurant. Police detained the three bloggers after they unfolded posters saying ”Esimov Talks To Tamed Bloggers Only” and “Esimov! Come Out”.

‘Corrupt bloggers’

The meeting with the mayor has split the Kazakh blogger community. Those who had not received an invitation to the event accused the invited bloggers of being “venal” or “corrupt”. One of the detained individuals, Aitelenov, tweeted one day before the meeting:

Tomorrow at #Esimov's lunch… [Text under Esimov's photo reads, "Dear corrupt bloggers"].

Shortly before his detention, Aitelenov tweeted this image:

Rally against corrupt bloggers

Several social media users found it strange that the bloggers who had frequently criticized the Almaty mayor were dining with him at one of the city's most expensive restaurants, apparently at his expense.

I hope at least some of the bloggers attending a lunch meeting with Esimov have taken out their wallets and paid for their food?

Some netizens interpreted the meeting as a deliberate tactic by the mayor to divide the blogger community and improve his own image.

Brilliant move by the [mayor]: If bloggers don't come to the meeting, they don't want to hold a conversation. If they do come, they are corrupt.

Blogger Ernar Prediktor suggests [ru] that the Kazakh public views bloggers as “just and independent”. He argues that the meeting with “not the most prominent or popular” bloggers was part of the Almaty mayor's public relations campaign:

[P]ебята, вас просто поюзали. Использовали имидж блогера для достижения своих целей. Теперь на каждом углу будут говорить (писать), что аким такой распрекрасный и демократичный, без проблем встречается с представителями алматинцев, решает совместно проблемы и пр..

You have been used, guys. They have used the blogger's public image for their own benefit. Now they will claim everywhere that the mayor is good and democratic, that he easily meets with the representatives of the residents of Almaty and solves problems jointly with them, etc.

‘Useful’ meeting

But those who attended the meeting and some of their followers on social media sites thought the event was useful.

Judging by the bloggers’ meeting with Esimov, he has made a good impression and evoked their empathy.

Following the meeting, bloggers have also responded to criticisms.

If someone thinks that an opportunity to have at least some kind of a civilized conversation and discuss problems is a matter of who pays the bill at the restaurant, unfollow [me].

Only recently they all complained that they could not get hold of #Esimov; now those who are not at a meeting with him curse those who are there. Typical #Kazakhs.

Bloggers Samson keeps a record of online discussion related to the Almaty mayor's meeting with bloggers here [ru].

February 06 2014

Kazakh Bloggers: Some Dine With Mayor, Some Get Jail Terms

alm

Almaty Mayor and selected Kazakh bloggers, February 5, 2014. Image by @evlaman, used with permission.

A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced three bloggers to 10 days in jail on “minor hooliganism” charges. Nurali Aitelenov, Rinat Kibraev, and Dmitry Shchyolokov were detained by police outside a restaurant in Almaty, where the city's mayor, Akhmetzhan Esimov, was meeting with selected bloggers on February 5. The three young men were prevented from entering the restaurant because they had not been invited to the meeting. They were also not allowed to film the restaurant. Police detained the three bloggers after they unfolded posters saying ”Esimov Talks To Tamed Bloggers Only” and “Esimov! Come Out”.

‘Corrupt bloggers’

The meeting with the mayor has split the Kazakh blogger community. Those who had not received an invitation to the event accused the invited bloggers of being “venal” or “corrupt”. One of the detained individuals, Aitelenov, tweeted one day before the meeting:

Tomorrow at #Esimov's lunch… [Text under Esimov's photo reads, "Dear corrupt bloggers"].

Shortly before his detention, Aitelenov tweeted this image:

Rally against corrupt bloggers

Several social media users found it strange that the bloggers who had frequently criticized the Almaty mayor were dining with him at one of the city's most expensive restaurants, apparently at his expense.

I hope at least some of the bloggers attending a lunch meeting with Esimov have taken out their wallets and paid for their food?

Some netizens interpreted the meeting as a deliberate tactic by the mayor to divide the blogger community and improve his own image.

Brilliant move by the [mayor]: If bloggers don't come to the meeting, they don't want to hold a conversation. If they do come, they are corrupt.

Blogger Ernar Prediktor suggests [ru] that the Kazakh public views bloggers as “just and independent”. He argues that the meeting with “not the most prominent or popular” bloggers was part of the Almaty mayor's public relations campaign:

[P]ебята, вас просто поюзали. Использовали имидж блогера для достижения своих целей. Теперь на каждом углу будут говорить (писать), что аким такой распрекрасный и демократичный, без проблем встречается с представителями алматинцев, решает совместно проблемы и пр..

You have been used, guys. They have used the blogger's public image for their own benefit. Now they will claim everywhere that the mayor is good and democratic, that he easily meets with the representatives of the residents of Almaty and solves problems jointly with them, etc.

‘Useful’ meeting

But those who attended the meeting and some of their followers on social media sites thought the event was useful.

Judging by the bloggers’ meeting with Esimov, he has made a good impression and evoked their empathy.

Following the meeting, bloggers have also responded to criticisms.

If someone thinks that an opportunity to have at least some kind of a civilized conversation and discuss problems is a matter of who pays the bill at the restaurant, unfollow [me].

Only recently they all complained that they could not get hold of #Esimov; now those who are not at a meeting with him curse those who are there. Typical #Kazakhs.

Bloggers Samson keeps a record of online discussion related to the Almaty mayor's meeting with bloggers here [ru].

January 29 2014

Kazakhstan's Largest City Hides Its “Beautiful” Side from Cameras

Top rated Russian photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov presents [ru] a photo report about his recent trip to Almaty, Kazakhstan's capital before 1997. What the blogger found most surprising about the city is that police officers do not allow anyone “photographing anything good, beautiful, and new” in Almaty. Curious travelers are, therefore, restricted to snapping pictures of the “uglier” side of Kazakhstan's largest city.

almaty

Woman selling mushrooms at a market in Almaty. Image by Ilya Varlamov, used with permission.

January 28 2014

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan: Trip to the Dying Aral Sea

The Aral Sea lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was once one of the world's four largest lakes. Over the last five decades, however, the sea has lost over 90 percent of its original size, mainly as a result of disastrous irrigation projects which diverted rivers feeding it. On the Caravanistan travel blog, Aziz Murtazaev presents a photo report about his recent trip to the “dying sea”. A more detailed report by the blogger, in Russian, can be accessed here and here.

January 27 2014

Best Dresses of Kazakhstan Selected

On January 23, 2014, an international jury named the winners of the ‘Best Dress of Kazakhstan’ contest, a competition for young fashion designers in the country. Ten designers competed in the event, showcasing one or two of their best dresses. The three winners of the contest will represent Kazakhstan at the International Fashion Competition ‘Dress of the World’ in Romania, in late February. Bloggers enporcelaine and Altynai Imanova present great photo reports from the event.

January 23 2014

Goodbye Alexandros Petersen, Prodigious Guide to China in Central Asia

With a sprinkle of humor, Alex slipped seamlessly and gracefully into a region of stories and storytellers, abundance and poverty, toasts and toast-makers. 

The 29 year-old go-to-scholar and commentator was eloquent and big-hearted in everything he did. 

It was with great shock that I comprehended the loss of Alexandros Petersen, co-author of the excellent Eurasian affairs blog ChinainCentralAsia.com, in a suicide bomb attack carried out by the Taliban at a restaurant in central Kabul on January 17, 2014. 

Alexandros Petersen at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Alexandros Petersen at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

This is not an obituary.

Alex was so well-traveled and well-affiliated that compiling his biography would probably be a task beyond any single person, and certainly the author of this post. A great number of people knew Alex in a great number of capacities, all of whom lost something in this brutal, highly coordinated and premeditated attack.

America-born to a Greek mother and a Danish father, he had friends and admirers across the world, with a notable concentration of both in lands sandwiched between the shores of the Black Sea and the sands of the Taklamakan desert.

As an occasional journalist, I had known ‘Alex the source’ – always reliable for an astute and erudite quote – for some time before I knew Alex the person.

While the first Alex will leave a gaping hole in the rolodex of many analysts and reporters covering Central Asia and the Caucasus, it is the second Alex, known by family, friends, colleagues and students, that will be missed even more. 

As a noted expert in energy politics, Alex's scope was global, yet like many that have traveled through, lived and worked in, or wrote about the states of Central Asia and the Caucasus, there was a specific set of countries he found infectious. As he emphasized in his book The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West, and later through the ChinainCentralAsia blog and book project, this is a region that western policy-makers ignore at their peril.

Many people that knew Alex, even as briefly as I knew him, will know that he had an aptitude for anecdotes. Through the warm fuzzy memory of one of several excellent dinner evenings at a well-known Georgian restaurant in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (a dash of the Caucasus in Central Asia) I can still hear his tale of the duplicitous Azerbaijani ambassador that summoned him for a dressing down after he had written a critical article about that country, only to promptly stop, smile, and break out a teapot and tea cups. The dressing down, it emerged, had been recorded for the benefit of a political high-up in Baku, while the teapot and tea cups were symbols of the perennial hospitality with which any visitor to the region rapidly becomes familiar. 

On a good night, Alex could reel off a dozen such recollections from his years traveling through countries in Europe and Asia, nearly all of which were outrageously funny. A Petersen punch line could leave your ribs hurting from laughter, a potent and particular gift that the Taliban stole from the world.

China in Central Asia

Through ChinainCentralAsia.com, one of the most readable English-language blogs covering geopolitics in the Eurasian region, Alex had begun in combination with co-writer Raffaello Pantucci and photojournalist Sue Anne Tay, to document what he was convinced, with good reason, would be one of the stories of the 21st century, namely China's giant economic push through the countries lying west of its own restive Xinjiang province. These countries, cobbled together as “the stans” by the western media, lie at the historical heart of some of the greatest land empires the world has known, but are now isolated states increasingly shorn of options. Hamstrung by geography, corruption and various other internal problems, they have few reasons to reject Chinese largesse, and even fewer means to resist it.

Belatedly the chronicle of exponentially increasing Chinese trade and investment in Central Asia has started to turn heads beyond the region and its regular gaggle of foreign observers. Last September, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping's whirlwind tour through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan raised eyebrows across the world by virtue of the sheer size of the deals struck for oil, gas and other giant infrastructure projects in the region. For Petersen, Pantucci and others, this is a plot that has been bubbling for some time, and one that is increasingly central to the epic that is China's rise towards superpower status.   

While Alex diligently tracked every stretch of pipeline built by the Chinese in the region, he also knew that China's influence in Central Asia could not be measured in kilometers of road, barrels of oil, and cubic meters of gas alone. Many of the articles on ChinainCentralAsia.com are enjoyable to read precisely because they gather the testimonies of ordinary Central Asians being affected by the changes that have accompanied China's expanding clout; from university teachers observing the installation of Confucius Institutes in their places of work, to local businessmen whose bank accounts have been swelled by trade with China, and villagers who believe the roads Chinese companies are building in their country – paid for by cheap Chinese credit – are designed to support the weight of Chinese tanks in a future military invasion.

The practitioners of Beijing's westward pivot, and the protagonists in the emergence of what ChinainCentral Asia.com has labelled China's “inadvertant empire” are also human beings rather than mere pawns on a chessboard, a fact Petersen captured in an October article in the Atlantic: 

These actors include Chinese owners of market stalls in Central Asia’s largest bazaars. One I spoke to had lived for years in a shipping container he shared with four other men at the back of a clothes market in Kazakhstan’s largest bazaar. A multi-millionaire, he provided for his children’s Western education, multiple apartments in Shanghai, and even overseas property investments. To him, Central Asia is the land of opportunity. These actors also include Chinese teachers sent to staff the many Confucius Institutes sprouting up around the region. Some I spoke with missed home, but many said they preferred the exciting “frontier life.” CNPC engineers across the region know that they are in for the long haul, as their company and its many subsidiaries build imposing structures in every Eurasian capital. The immense pipeline network CNPC is threading through the region consists of infrastructure set to last half a century.

Alex the Guide

Beyond his writing Alex also inspired as a teacher, and it was during his semester-long stint at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, that I got to know him on a personal level. Among the juniors and seniors in the International and Comparative Politics department (many of whom have written articles for Global Voices) that took his elective courses, and freshmen of all departments undertaking the First Year Seminar, Alex was a universally admired guide and friend, as well as a teller of fantastic stories. To both students and colleagues at the university, he was open, approachable, and a great person to bounce ideas off.

We are thinking of his family.  

A man of many temporary homes, Alex was in Kabul to embark on another research and teaching stint at the American University of Afghanistan. Writing to him a few days before he died I told him I was looking forward to a new series of dispatches on the nature and shape of Chinese influence in this fascinating, beautiful, tortured country. Now those dispatches will never be written and the students he was teaching will miss out on the tremendous wealth of knowledge, experience and color he brought to a classroom. When the Taliban cut his life short so brutally, it was fellow Afghans they punished. 

As his friend and writing partner Raffaello Pantucci communicated via email, “a bright light has gone out.”

Chris Rickleton manages the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

January 22 2014

Kazakh Rapper Asks Fans for Money to Finish a “Political” Song

Kazakh rapper Takezhan (Oteghaliev) has reached out to his fans to help fund the production of a new song. In a video [ru] posted on his blog, the rapper sings for his fans and asks them for financial help to finish a “political rap [song]” he is working on. 

kz_takezhan

Scheenshot from video in which Takezhan is asking his fans for cash. The video was uploaded on yvision.kz on January 22, 2014.

Takezhan, who never shunned controversy, took the spotlight in 2011 after he announced plans to organize a concert in support of striking oil workers in western Kazakhstan. The authorities then pressured him to cancel the performance, while the oil workers’ strike soon burst into deadly riots.

January 16 2014

Facebook Teams Up with Russia's Top Search Engine

Yandex gets to drink from Facebook's firehose. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock, pulled from YouTube captures.

Yandex gets to drink from Facebook's firehose. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock, pulled from YouTube captures.

Scholars and researchers of the Russian Internet can rejoice this week, for Russia's leading search engine, Yandex.ru, is now the second website in the world, after Bing in the United States, to gain access to Facebook firehose data [ru]. This means that Yandex can now search Facebook's streaming API and provide live results for all public posts. The new deal with Facebook is limited to users based in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. Currently, only Yandex's blogs-specific search feature is capable of returning Facebook results, but the company's spokesperson told TechCrunch on January 13, 2014, that Yandex hopes to incorporate Facebook links in its general Internet search results soon.

December 24 2013

Search Engine Suggests Kazakhstan is a “Satan's Den”

Popular web search engines often have bizarre autocomplete suggestions. Kazakhstani blogger Fyodor Kovalyov writes [ru]:

Сейчас решил узнать о наиболее значимых событиях уходящего года, произошедших в разных городах Казахстана, и пришёл в тихий ужас – если верить поисковой системе Yandex.kz, то мы живём, как минимум, в логове сатаны!

I have just tried to find out about the most significant events that have occurred in the various cities of Kazakhstan over the past year. The results are shocking: if one believes the search engine Yandex.kz [Russian search engine popular in the country], we live in a Satan's den!

The blogger carried out several Yandex searches by typing in the word “in” followed by the names of major Kazakh cities in the search field. He then made screenshots of the generated autocomplete suggestions. If one believes the screenshots posted [ru] by the blogger, Kazakhstan is a truly scary place. Kovalyov notes, however, that other search engines generate “more positive” autocomplete predictions about Kazakhstan.

November 15 2013

“I have Dreams of My Own”: Revolting Against Patriarchy in Kazakhstan

A Kazakhstani blogger writes [ru] about her transformation from a “wife and mother”, the role that the patriarchal society reserves for women, to a “free woman”. She calls the process a “revolution in my head”:

And then I realized it… I have dreams of my own, the dreams that have little to do with my family or my husband. I have a right to have these dreams! I want to find myself in a profession; I want my brain, education certificates, and skills to be used for the benefit of society. I want to be independent financially. I want my husband and my son to be proud of me – not only because I [cook well] and take care of the house. [I want them to be proud of] me as a professional, citizen, a woman who has achieved much while remaining a loving mother and wife. I want my interests to go beyond the children's playground, illnesses, kitchen, and a wardrobe. I want to be myself!

She also lists several recommendations for girls and women that wish to break away from the social norms and conventions of the patriarchal society.

November 13 2013

Kazakhstan's “Bilingual” Currency Turns Twenty

Kazakhstani tenge, the 2008 series. Image by, used with permission.

Kazakhstani tenge, the 2008 series. Image by Serikzhan Kovlanbayev, used with permission.

Kazakhstan has recently marked the twentieth birthday of the national currency, the tenge. Blogger Serikzhan Kovlanbayev presents [ru] a brief history of the tenge, showing how it has changed since 1993 and what is unique about it:

A unique thing about the Kazakhstani currency is that it is “bilingual”, that is, the [tenge] carries texts in both Kazakh and Russian. There are no other currencies like this in the post-Soviet countries… Kazakhstan was also the last among the [former Soviet countries] to introduce the national currency.

Kazakhstani tenge, the 1993 series.

Kazakhstani tenge, the 1993 series. Image by Serikzhan Kovlanbayev, used with permission.

This book, published by the National Bank of Kazakhstan, contains poems that tell children about the national currency and its history.

This book, published by the National Bank of Kazakhstan, contains poems that tell children about the national currency and its history. Image by Serikzhan Kovlanbayev, used with permission.

October 31 2013

Kazakhstanis Divided on Whether Home Is Really Best

A debate about why some Kazakhstanis stay in their country while others choose to emigrate has unfolded online. It started after Daniyar posted his “What Is Keeping You in Kazakhstan?” [ru] on yvizion.kz. The blogger identified seven main reasons why he preferred to stay in the country:

#1. Великая история…

#2. Гражданин РК…

#3. Женщины… Я люблю наших женщин…

#4. Природа…

#5. Друзья…

#6. Президент РК. Огромное спасибо, нашему президенту Назарбаеву Нурсултану Абишевичу.

#7. Любовь… к родине…

1. [The country's] great history…

2. [Being] a citizen of [Kazakhstan]…

3. Women… I love our women…

4. [The country's] nature…

5. Friends…

6. President of [Kazakhstan]. Lots of thanks to our dear president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

7. Love… for Motherland… 

The blog has so far drawn more than 110 comments, with most comments following the line of “East or West, Home is Best”.

The discussion has prompted another blogger, Artyom Volkov, to look at the issue from an opposite angle. In his “What Is Driving You to Leave Kazakhstan?” [ru], Volkov named five problems leading young people to want to try their luck abroad:

1. Низкое качество высшего образования…

2. Фальшивая демократия…

3. Страх перед будущим…

4. Проблемы с трудоустройством…

5. Экология…

1. Low quality of higher education…

2. Fake democracy…

3. [Uncertain] future…

4. Difficulties with finding jobs…

5. Environmental [problems].

October 24 2013

Singing Presidents and Singing Against Presidents in Central Asia

Presidents of the post-Soviet Central Asian countries like to be regarded as strong, paternalistic leaders. They look down on their populations from millions of portraits and instruct them from TV screens and newspaper pages. Some of them are immortalized in statues and monuments. Yet sometimes these ”fathers” and “leaders” of their nations like to remind their populations that they, too, are human. They dance and sing.

Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, a video of the country's president Emomali Rahmon dancing at his son's wedding went viral in May 2013. While some netizens criticized their leader for his joyful behavior at the wedding, others thought the video showed that the president was “a real, normal man” after all. 

One segment of the controversial video shows Rahmon singing with a popular Tajik singer. They sing in Tajik, praising the beauty of their country, while several senior officials dance to the song:

Commenting on this video, one person writes [tj]:

зур месарояд неки. хаккатан зур. агар президент намебуд, ситораи эстрада мешуд, дар туйхо баромад мекард.

He sings well. Really well. If he wasn't president, he could have become a pop star and sing at weddings.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan's “leader of the nation” Nursultan Nazarbayev not only sings, but also plays a musical instrument.

Netizens reacting to the video apparently like the way Nazarbayev sings. Under the video, Farida Salmenova comments [ru]:

Ya priyatno udıvlena!!! ne znala, 4to on tak klassno poyet!!!

I am pleasantly surprised!!! I didn't know he was such a good singer!!!

Uzbekistan

Islam Katimov, the veteran leader of Uzbekistan prefers not to sing in public. He does dance, however:

Yet his dancing apparently fails to impress the country's netizens as most comments under the video are very critical. For example, Kate Malayev writes [ru]:

Urod. Vsyu stranu iskalechil. Narod v nishete sidit a on plyashet.

Freak. He has crippled the whole country. Yet he dances while people are in poverty.

While Karimov does not sing in public, people who disapprove of his regime sing against him. An English-language song that was recently uploaded on YouTube urges the “king of kings in the cotton land” to leave the office:

October 23 2013

Kazakhstan's Soviet Mosaics: “Ghosts of an Epoch Gone By”

In a post titled “The Walls Are Crying”, a blogger reflects [ru] on Kazakhstan's slowly disappearing Soviet artistic mosaics that once adorned housing blocks and industrial facilities across the country:

Many of these works of art died along with the buildings which they adorned. Some are being destroyed. But many mosaics can still be seen, and they are in a great state. They are like ghosts of an epoch gone by, reminding us of the country that does not exist any longer, of which we once were part.

The post includes images of several beautiful Soviet-era mosaics.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

September 27 2013

“You Can Kick Female Flight Attendants” in Kazakhstan

A former government official in Kazakhstan recently kicked a female flight attendant, reportedly because she did not speak Kazakh. The story has caused a stir on social media. Blogger Pivovar offers [ru] the most interesting and most widely shared Twitter posts on this incident, such as the one below:

Kazakhstan-2013: you can kick female flight attendants. You cannot show a finger to [senior officials'] corteges. I will pencil this down.

September 26 2013

Busting Myths about Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is not part of the Middle East; Kazakhs do not have Chinese blood in their veins; and not everything about Kazakhstan is bad. Blogger busts (part 1, part 2) [ru] common myths about the oil-rich Central Asian nation.

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