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MIKHAIL SHVYDKOY: RUSSIAN SPECIAL ENVOY FOR INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL CO-OPERATION WORDS, TENGRISM, AND WITTGENSTEIN FROM PETROLEUM TOWARDS INVESTMENTS THE GUARDIANS OF TIME: CAUCASIAN TOWERS THINK DUBNA, THINK HIGH TECHNOLOGICAL BUSINESS
Celebration of Russian Music 7.30pm Friday 18th March 2016 Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace, London SW1
With Philharmonia Orchestra
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF NICK ROWAN CONTRIBUTORS ALEKSANDRA VLASOVA, KRISTINA GLAZUNOVA, DR.SHAKHID KURESHI, CHRISTOPHER SCHWARTZ, ANNA LARI UMIDA AKHMEDOVA, ROSA VERCOE, DR. SHIRIN AKINER, NEIL WATSON, TATIANA LARI, VESNA PETKOVIC, RUSTAM QOBIL, DARIO COLON, CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, DAVID PARRY, SHAHSANEM MURRAY, ANDREW GLENISTER OCA MAGAZINE 21/ 1 SPRING ON COVER: MIKHAIL SHVYDKOY (SEE P. 6)
PUBLISHER MARAT AKHMEDJANOV DEPUTY EDITOR - ALEKSANDRA VLASOVA DESIGN - ALEXANDRA REY EDITORIAL TEAM - ANASTASIA NOSKOVA, CHRISTOPHER SCHWARTZ SHAMIL AKMEDJANOV, ANNA SUSLOVA,
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Special gratitude for cooperation and support to Embassy of Azerbaijan to the UK. Embassy of Kazakhstan to the UK. Embassy of Tajikistan to the UK. Embassy of Kyrgyzstan to the UK.
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FROM THE EDITOR Security concerns continue as news stories break of defections to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, including the defection of the head of Tajikistan’s elite police and his subordinates. The influence of radical groups is growing and the threat to local infrastructure and citizens is high, if not higher than ever before. Russia is still a key security guarantor in the region, and although it is also flexing its muscles further abroad, it will likely have to play a greater co-operative role in the region if it is to protect its citizens at home, which adds an interesting and uncertain dynamic as we enter 2016. Throw in the likely need for the Chinese to build upon and defend their initiatives in the region (both economic and security) and the world’s attention may need to centre even closer upon this critical landbridge between East and West. 2016 is shaping up to be anything but dull. Central Asia is fast becoming an increasingly important region for China and its “overseas” interests. For years Beijing has grown its influence in Central Asia and will continue to do so in 2016. Already in 2015 China overtook Russia as the region’s major trading partner and investor. Chinese interests are centred around cementing stability on the Xinjiang border, access to natural resources and the One Belt, One Road project that this magazine has covered before.The last is President Xi’s diplomatic efforts to integrate Asia better and make it stronger together. But the backdrop to this is a volatile and unpredictable one. The sharp decline in commodity prices have hit the Central Asian countries hard. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are very dependent on the price of hydrocarbons, while Kyrgyzstan has been affected by the falling copper and gold prices. The Central Asian governments have long talked of a desire to diversify, but the reality has hit home much harder and faster than any could have anticipated and this brings real risks to social stability, raising concerns not just for the Chinese investors, but any investor looking at Central Asia. Returning migrant labourers from Russia, given the deep recession that country is currently experiencing because of the low oil price and continued Western sanctions, are also likely to be seen, raising unemployment in Central Asia.
I hope you enjoy this issue, which is expanded and will be bigger than anything we have produced to date for the magazine. We continue to bring you the best opinion, commentary and interviews from and about the region and are delighted to announce that for 2016 we will be taking an even wider approach to incorporate the whole of Eurasia in the topics that we cover. This expansion reflects the wider integration that Central Asia now has with its neighbouring states and the growing interest in these cultural and economic ties. Expect to see more from China, Mongolia, Russia, Bulgaria, Armenia, Georgia and other former Soviet Union countries in the coming issues! Thank you for your loyal support in continuing the journey with us.
Yours, Nick Rowan Editor-in-Chief
RUSSIAN SPECIAL ENVOY FOR INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL CO-OPERATION Kyrgyz-born Mikhail Shvydkoy is no ordinary diplomat. Since 2008, he has been the Special Envoy for International Cultural Cooperation to President Dmitry Medvedev, which followed a stint as the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation. Before becoming Minister of Culture, however, Shvydkoy held many prestigious positions, including editor-in-chief of Channel 5 and later Chairman of Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Deputy Minister OCA MAGAZINE
of Culture and General Manager of the Kultura Publishing Complex. Open Central Asia had the exciting opportunity to interview this remarkable man and capture some of his thoughts on journalism and Russian culture. “I was born in Kyrgyzstan and left there at the age of nine months,” Shvydkoy begins the interview. “I returned for the first time more than half a century later, when I was already Minister of Culture for
Russia.The Kirghiz have a saying that “you come to die where the first drop of your blood at birth was spilled on the ground.” Kyrgyzstan –a place of my biological attachment, I get a great pleasure when I arrive there. I am pleased with all the positive changes that are taking place at my homeland.”
awards are a sign of the international reputation and regard that he is held in. The idea of Russian culture is easy to promote for a man so embedded within it.
“As you know, since 1993 to 1997 I was the Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Today Shvydkoy is a distinguished professor of Federation, since 2000 to 2004 -the Minister of foreign theatre history and a member of the Culture of the Russian Federation, since 2004 to Academy of Humanities. He is also a member 2008 I headed the Federal Agency for Culture and of the Russian Writers Union, Union of Theater Cinematography. So I do not need to convince you Workers, and Union of Journalists having published that culture, which is the guardian of tradition, not numerous books, including Drama, Theater, Life; only provides the identity of peoples, but also is an Secrets of Lonely Actors; and Notes on Foreign important tool for development.” Theater of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century. He has authored numerous publications But the promotion of Russian culture goes further in various newspapers and magazines and over and deeper for Shvydkoy. “Russia and culture – they are synonymous today, especially when 600 academic papers. the consumer society in the world is in crisis. It “I graduated from the theatre department of The is not so much economic in the value sense but Russian University of Theatre Arts,” he continues. Russian culture takes a special mission. Unlike oil, “I started working in journalism since 1967. I Russian culture does not change its price - over changed and the journalism in our country changed the years it has increased. Unlike the ruble, it does as well. In Soviet times I worked in the “Theatre” not threaten devaluation, it’s still demanded. For magazine. It was a “thick” professional journal in example, we hold a semi-annual festival of Russian which it was possible to deal with professional culture in Japan and the interest of Japanese issues that are not fully reflected on television, viewers of different generations is increasing.” radio or newspapers.” He is not fazed by a question about the newly When it comes to the effect that this early career independent states of Central Asia trying to gain has had on him and the changes it had driven it is their own independent identity, away from Russia clear that Shvydkoy has a bond to the profession, and Russian culture, either. “After the collapse of almost as strong as to his homeland. “Today, the Soviet Union new states formed on the postit’s accepted to blame journalism, and, in fact, Soviet territory,” he ponders. “Of course, we journalism is an intermediary between the public, tried to achieve not only state independence, but the authorities and the individual. The mission autonomy and their own cultures. National identity of journalism is very important, but if it is real, has become their national idea. But it is important to understand that the Russian language remains profound and truthful journalism.” the language of communication in the post-Soviet Shvydkoy has been awarded the Order of Honor space. But, nevertheless, they lack the education from the Russian Federation and L’Ordre du Mérite and culture in Russian, as often politicians and from the Republic of France. He also holds the title intellectuals say. of Merited Master of Culture from Poland. These 7
“Of course, I have no illusions. I know that for a quarter century, the range of the Russian language has decreased significantly. But at the same time it is clear that the reference to the Russian language in publications is still in harmony. Russian language in the post-Soviet space is important, because through it, many people are attached to the world culture, to its scientific and artistic achievements. In the former Soviet Union, Russian classical and contemporary authors enjoy the increased interest, but not so on the global book market, where Russian books occupy about 2% of the total circulation.” Shvydkoy is particularly enthused by the number of projects launched within the framework of the Year of Russian literature in 2015. “This OCA MAGAZINE
will be able to change the situation. Russia’s participation in international book fairs should bring positive results. Recently, Russia has adopted a special program for promoting Russian literature abroad. So, in conclusion I want to say that the Russian culture needs no artificial promotion in the world, it is a necessary part of the need for spiritual nourishment, which is inherent in civilized humanity.”
MOSCOW SILK ROAD FORUM PROGRESSES CROSS-CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT Over the last few years attitudes to culture, the understanding of its importance and role in modern society, the recognition of culture as one of the most important resources for social and economic development have radically changed. As a result, the implementation of a program of cultural development, giving a special recognition to national cultures of peoples and nations, with specific steps identified is critical. The role of culture as a driving force of social development is the subject of much discussion in the business community who held a series of activities at different levels in Moscow at the end of 2015. One of them was the II International Cultural Forum of the Silk Road held on September 14-15, 2015.
state of cultural exchanges, projects in the field of preservation and development of intangible cultural heritage, the use of tourism resources of the Great Silk Road. The result of the meeting was an agreement on the establishment of cultural cooperation called “Silk Road - Eurasia”. The Forum’s mission was to provide participants with numerous opportunities for international exchanges and co-operation, promote the development of the cultural traditions of different countries and to develop co-operation in the field of culture between the foreign partners.
The history of the Silk Road shows us just how important it is for countries of this region to keep in touch, maintain and develop their own cultural traditions, to borrow the best in the experience of The forum gathered participants of the SCO their neighbouring countries in order to maximize countries and representatives of other states development. Encouraging intercultural dialogue located along the Great Silk Road. There were and strengthening co-operation was the outcome directors of museums, libraries and theaters, of the Moscow meeting culminating in the signing scientists and cultural figures, mass media of an agreement to establish a new inter-state representatives from 16 countries (including structure titled, the “Organization of cultural China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia and cooperation “Silk Road - Eurasia””. Turkey), and a representative of Open Central Asia magazine, Marat Akhmedjanov. Text by Kristina Glazunova This year’s topic was “Development of Partnership: The development of joint projects in the field of cultural cooperation.” During the meeting participants talked about the prospects and the 9
ADOPTING THE KAZAKH WAY OF LIFE Different people are drawn to Central Asia for different reasons. Indeed many come by accident, knowing little of what awaits them or how life changing it could be. Once such person is Gareth Stamp who came to Kazakhstan five years ago for what he describes as his ‘daily adventure’. ‘I remember seeing a small advertisement in a newspaper in Great Britain asking for teachers to come to Kazakhstan and help develop the education system. So I applied and was successful, but I have to admit that I did not even know where Kazakhstan was or what would greet me. I now feel very ashamed that this wonderful country and its amazing people were not even on my geographical radar.’ OCA MAGAZINE
Five years later, Gareth has become a wellknown figure in Astana, networking and sharing his experiences with the quickly expanding international community. He is the president of the newly formed Rotary Club of Astana. Rotary is an international organisation with over two million members worldwide. It is the largest NGO and brings likeminded people together to do humanitarian projects, both in their local community and internationally. In Astana they are already fundraising for a number of projects involving disabled children, orphanages and other disadvantaged groups. The Astana club has grown quickly, having twenty five members from different professions and backgrounds. ‘Rotary has become a big part of my life and I am very proud to have been elected as the first president in Astana. Although we are not the first club in Kazakhstan we are the biggest already and aim to carry on the good name of Rotary here in Central Asia. It is not just about the projects
it is also about the fellowship and it has become a great social gathering too. Real friendships are made and we have a common goal to keep us together like a family’ Gareth’s original role at the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools involved helping to write the new curriculum for Kazakhstan, train teachers and develop a new education model for the country. He has since moved to Haileybury Astana, the British School, as their Director of External communications, using his contacts and management skills to help market a fast growing educational institution. ‘Kazakhstan and Astana in particular is now my home. I love the people and opportunities that are here. Every day is an adventure.’ ‘One of the biggest issues here is the scale of the country. There is so much to see but travel takes longer than you would expect. Rather than get
on a plane I allow a little extra time and take a train. It is amazing the new friends that you meet stories you share and barriers that you break down. My Russian and Kazakh are limited but once people find out there is a foreigner on the train communication happens. I often wondered how ancient explorers like Marco polo broke down the language barriers and now I know. People are naturally curious and Kazakhâ€™s are naturally generous. This linked to a pride in their country and culture makes me richer with every journey I take.â€™ Gareth records most of his experiences through his photography, drawings and in a diary, sharing his new life with his friends in the west through social media. He has also had exhibitions of his work in Astana. He has become part of the growing Art OCA MAGAZINE
and Design scene in the capital and was recently presented with an award for services for the development of design in Kazakhstan. The world for Gareth is very different but his story is not unique. As Kazakhstan develops its International status so more travellers come to see it for themselves, to do business and increasingly as tourists. With future events, such as Expo 2017, the country is revealing more of its natural and manmade attractions that put Kazakhstan on the map.
AIWC ALMATY WINTER BAZAAR 2015 RAISES 1.5MLN TENGE On Sunday 6th December 2015, the Almaty International Women’s Club (AIWC) raised almost 1.5 million Tenge at its Winter Bazaar 2015. A core team of four volunteers managed to attract ad select over 40 local craft designers, set up three food stands, a play corner for the children and a big raffle. The event was coordinated with concerts and live performances all day long in the big ballroom of the InterContinental hotel, which saw almost 1,200 visitors. Thanks to generous sponsors, that included Air Astana, Caspian Beverages, Move One, The RitzCarlton, Shymbulak Ski Resort and Six Senses SPA, visitors were rewarded with fantastic gifts before the holidays. The warm atmosphere provided vendors, volunteers and attendees alike with a wonderful festive cheer. “They complimented us about the great atmosphere and the good organization, asking us only one thing: to repeat it again next year!” said Sarah Chenevier-Tardy, currently President of the AIWC.
Like every charity event of the AIWC, all proceeds from the Winter Bazaar will go to local charities such as Ark Village (www.u-kovcheg.org), DARA (eng.darafoundation.org), “Милосердные руки” (in English “Hands of Mercy”) and Seven-Trees (seven-trees.org). The AIWC has followed and supported these charities for many years.“Sponsors and the great work made by our volunteers have lowered the cost of organisation and enabled us to give more to charities,” explains Sarah ChenevierTardy.“This is particularly important for us because through AIWC members giving their hands-on support to these charities, and visiting them every week, we know exactly the needs and results of each charity”. This years’ funds will go to support the visit of women in prisons in Almaty, a family support center in Talgar, over 50 elderly ladies without family in Almaty and several centres for disabled children in Kazakhstan.
WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL TO KAZAKHSTAN Before visiting Kazakhstan, the country had never really been on my radar. I knew where it was, and a little of its history, but I had never considered it as a holiday destination. I definitely do now. And I would recommend that anyone with an interest in a more adventurous type of holiday consider it too. Though my time there was short, eight days in all, it was big on experiences. Bearing in mind my adventure was primarily limited to southern Kazakhstan and the Caspian coast, here, in no particular order, are my top five reasons to visit Kazakhstan. CHARYN CANYON Charyn Canyon is a few hours east of Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, and can easily be visited on a day trip. Part of the Charyn National Park, it was easily the most ‘touristy’ part of my adventure, with signposts guiding you down to the base of the canyon. Do not let this deter you though, as the surroundings are magnificent. In the layering of the canyon walls you can see how this land was built over tens of thousands of years, and in the fast flowing Charyn River at the bottom how it was all carved away. THE MAUSOLEUM OF KHOJA AHMED YASSAWI Kazakhstan has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of them is the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yassawi in the city of Turkestan. It is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever had the pleasure of visiting, easily the equal of more famous religious landmarks such as St Pauls Cathedral in London or the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, despite the fact that it remains incomplete more than 500 years after building began.
BAIKONUR COSMODROME When most people think of watching rocket launches they think of the Kennedy Space Centre; it is, after all, where the first men on the moon launched from aboard Apollo 11. But it is worth remembering that the first man-made object in space, the first man in space, and the first woman in space all departed from Baikonur Cosmodrome. That alone makes it worth a visit. But if you want to see something truly special, and make your friends jealous in the process, try visiting during one of the regular rocket launches. A Soyuz rocket ready for take-off THE RUINS OF SAURAN Sauran. Not Sauron. There be no Hobbits here. But there are extraordinary panoramic views of the Kazakh steppe. An old fortress city of the Silk Route, it is now a collection of partially excavated walls offering a fantastic, tourist-free, view of the how the eastern and western worlds traded and communicated nearly a millennia ago. THE AK-MECHET CAVE A hidden treasure.Those three words best sum up this otherworldly cave. It is so hidden that, at last check, two of the top four search results on Google are my blog. It is probably for the best that it remains hidden, lest the calm, tranquil, and spiritual feeling be spoilt. From the dripping of water from the roof of the cave, to the assortment of birds and bats twittering, and the extreme calm that comes from being out of winds way, Ak-Mechet Cave is an experience like no other. Text by Andrew Glenister
AZERBAIJAN - ARMENIA DISPUTE: A FUTURE TOURISM DESTINATION? For Azerbaijan, after the occupation of its sovereign areas, Armenia has proven to be something of a neighbour from hell, causing harm to the millions of people in the occupied territories and those who are displaced as a result. Armenians are backed by their former Soviet big brother, who seems to be joining in and supporting this illegal occupation. This issue has obviously invited international players into the region. If Russia was a ‘wise elder brother’ it would have helped resolved this issue long time ago. This issue has been going on for over 20 years and had the Russians resolved this issue, there might not be Ukraine on its doorstep. Whilst it is, of course, not as simple as that but it is also not that complicated in that one has to do things the hard way, like it or not.
The UN has, regrettably, become a useless tool for the majority of countries and the UN’s Veto allocated to some members must be rationalised in 21st century. This lollypop of non-permanent attendance of the security council for a limited period is nothing more than a scam. This whole thing is non-democratic and irrational. The UN is OCA MAGAZINE
good at putting such issues into the deep freeze. Maybe it should be moved to somewhere in Europe or Asia where more people live. So far, it has kicked the issue of Nagorno Karabakh onto the sidelines, which suits both Armenia and its backer, Russia.
Now, one has to find a realistic solution to this injustice and stop the sufferings of the refugees and internally displaced people in the region. These are hotspots that must be handled carefully and wisely. There is no way in which all parties will be happy, so we need to identify the ‘victims and perpetrators’ of this issue. On this the UN has done some work and passed four resolutions. In April and November 1993 the UN Security Council passed four resolutions: numbers 822, 853, 874 and 884 demanding the immediate withdrawal of all occupying Armenian forces from Azerbaijan. Due to the full support of the Russian Federation all UNSC resolutions have been ignored by Armenia. In a conversation with Mr Hikmat Hajiyev, the spokesman of the Government of Azerbaijan at the foreign ministry in Baku, during press briefing this author gave him an example that: “If you don’t put sugar in your tea, no matter how many times you stir or shake it, it will never be sweet and that is your position with the issue of Nagorno Karabakh which is occupied by the Armenians.You need to do something different and more solution focused with all options open.
Furthermore he was told that: “The UN has become a useless body for Muslim countries especially and it has completely failed to protect the member states and the rights of the people. Having said that: The UN is too quick to resolve East Timor and South Sudan just because they are Christian dominated areas and it suits the security council where not a single Muslim country permanent member with veto powers. 1.5 billion Muslims from over 55 countries are therefore not represented. The issues of Kashmir and Palestine are long standing with UN resolutions since 1948”. Speaking to people from the occupied territories they are frustrated and angry, saying: “they can take their areas back swiftly from Armenia”. They were forcibly displaced by the Armenians and have become refugees within Azerbaijan. If this issue is not addressed, there might be a movement for the liberation of Nagorno Karabakh. According to the UN charter “people occupied by foreign forces have the right to ‘resist and start armed liberation’ until the
POLICY occupying forces leave their area”. That is true for Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Imagine if international players jumped to support the liberation rights of the occupied people? With the ‘Berezniki Doctrine’ in place it would become impossible for big brother Russia to contain and its influence in the region will shrink. As per the ‘Brzezinski Doctrine’,Turkey is the new Pakistan in the region. As is the US habit, they will put too much pressure on their friend until they collapse, are damaged and destroyed. We have no reason not to believe US President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who reportedly said that the US lured the Soviets into the Afghanistan trap that gave the USSR its Vietnam. At the same time Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, published in January 1998 makes clear:“The Muslim terrorist apparatus was created by US Intelligence as a geopolitical weapon”. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 and political instability in Azerbaijan and in Armenia encouraged the Armenians to attack Azerbaijanis in NagornoKarabakh, in the city of Khojaly in 1992. Known as the Khojaly genocide, thousands of Azerbaijani residents were killed or captured and Khojaly City itself was destroyed. In his book Black Garden, (2003) British journalist Thomas de Waal published an interview with the President of Armenia and an Armenian field commander commenting on the destruction of Kholjaly. The former field commander said: “Before Khojaly, Azerbaijanis thought they could play tricks with us. They thought Armenians would never touch civilians. We were able to break that myth. In 1993, the Armenian armed forces occupied six districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in the occupation of almost one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s territory.”
Can we resolve the conflict? If nothing is working for now Azerbaijan can take this matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC), International Court of Justice, and the European Court, and if rules need changing with regards to jurisdiction of the ICC they must. We cannot obviously expect the perpetrators of crimes, in this case Armenia, to accept the responsibility of their actions. Hence rule must be changed to make the ICC a viable and effective body. The Prime Minister and military and civil officials of Armenia must be put on trial for war crimes and atrocities committed in International court of Justice. If that is not possible then: (a) Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court must take “Suo motto” and order anopen trial of those responsible for genocide in Nakgorno Karabakh. (b) The Supreme Court has jurisdiction as crimes have been commented on Azerbaijan’s soil. (C) The Supreme Court Order Government of Azerbaijan to issue Red Warrants to the Interpol for the arrests of the Armenian leaders involved in the war crimes and genocide of the people of Azerbaijan. This issue has become a ‘ping pong’ game and talk shop for the international players who could yet resolve it in one day. Arms dealers from various countries have been able to sell arms and equipment to Azerbaijan. On the other hand, officials say that Russian forces are supporting the Armenian army and there are daily exchange of fire causing injuries and deaths. The conflict if very much alive. According to the latest reports from the region ‘tensions are on the rise’ and the patience of Azerbaijan is likely running out.
Armenia says a ceasefire with neighbouring Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh no longer exists, describing frequent skirmishes at the front line as “war”.Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesman of Armenia’s defence ministry, said that Azerbaijan was using “all existing armaments: tanks, howitzers, and anti-aircraft artillery” against Armenian soldiers in the disputed region. “What we have today is a war,” said Hovhannisyan. “We must use the word ‘war’ as there is no ceasefire anymore.”
alone. He said: ‘if tourists from Azerbaijan and region buy just one bottle of water on their way it will make enormous difference to the economy. Armenians will be able to access the local sea and land routes of neighbouring countries including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and of course Russia.
Text: by Dr Shahid Qureshi Images OCA archive
Azerbaijan responded with counter-accusations, blaming Armenia for the recent escalation. “Ceasefire violations are taking place because of the illegal presence of Armenian forces in the occupied lands of Azerbaijan,” Hikmat Hajiyevm, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry spokesman, told the AFP news agency. “Armenia has to withdraw from the seized lands ... only afterwards can sustainable peace be guaranteed in the region.” Energy-rich Azerbaijan, whose military spending exceeds Armenia’s entire state budget, has repeatedly threatened to take back the breakaway region by force if negotiations fail to yield results. Moscow-backed Armenia says it could crush any offensive. Earlier in December 2015, Azerbaijani tanks shelled positions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region for the first time in more than 20 years, the rebel defence ministry said. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mediators recently warned “the status quo has become unsustainable”. Speaking to a few defence analysts of the region, they were very positive about improving relations with Armenia if it let go its ‘nostalgic claims’ that they call the ‘Armenian illness’. One of them was of the view that in case peace prevailed, the Armenian economy would go sky high by just tourism activity
Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and chief editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Kazakhstan 2015 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He is a PhD in Political Psychology and also studied Law at a British University 19
Text by Christopher Schwartz Photos: Umida Ahmedova, OCA Archive OCA MAGAZINE
ONE DOES NOT TRAVEL TO TULA WITH ONE’S OWN SAMOVAR It is no secret that at present there is growing discomfort with Western influence throughout Central Asia. One can encounter it from elite and everyman alike. From a Western perspective, it is easy and tempting to attribute the emerging difficulties to various cynical forces in the region, just as much as it is easy and tempting from a Central Asian perspective to cast them as an inevitable backlash to ignoble designs from the West. And although the unhappy truth is that there is indeed a lot of ignobility to go around, there are some genuine issues, as well. One crucial issue concerns the philosophical baggage that Western aid agencies have brought with them to Central Asia. An especially problematic piece of conceptual luggage, one that has been a centrepiece of Western human rights and democratisation advocacy efforts since the region’s independence in 1991, has been their notion of civil society. Specifically, civil society has been, in a sense, iconized in the visage of the nonprofit non-governmental organisation (NGO), which is moreover represented by Western agencies, both to themselves and to their local partners, as an entity that confronts government – and in extreme moments, even seeks to overthrow or supplant government altogether – rather than one that checks and holds it accountable, and even assists and counsels it.
FOCUS This difference in models, which can be loosely described as adversarial versus counselory, is fundamentally a difference in vision about the ethical nature of government itself – namely, whether it is composed of human beings who are either essentially immoral and materialistic, and hence must be compelled to do the right thing, or who are essentially moral and motivated by some sense of public duty, and hence can be worked with. It is similarly a difference in vision about the role of elites, as either puppet-masters or latter-day aristocrats. Put another way, a counselory model of civil society is not blind to the influence of corruption in governance, but it is also not blinded by such difficult and disappointing realities, either. It does not automatically assume officials and elites are inevitably nothing more than egoists.
to which the majority of locals constitute what is essentially a passive battlefield between heroic activists and villainous officials. Such a view is proving to be very dangerous for the cause of human rights and democratisation in the region. The region’s governments and general public, already deeply frustrated by Central Asia’s weak sovereignty and immense economic dependence, are internalizing yet inverting this view into an “ours versus theirs” or “local versus foreign” framework. The further down this path the West and Central Asia go together, the more likely they will part ways at the end.
Consider the example of Kyrgyzstan, whose citizens have been the region’s most active local partners with Western advocacy programs, Besides taking an adversarial approach to observers often tout the country’s impressive government, there is also an often unspoken and number of registered NGOs: 14,880 in 2015 even more fundamental notion that civil society is according to the International Centre for Not-forsomething not native to Central Asia, and hence is Profit Law. Such numbers translate to an average something that has needed to be introduced into of approximately one NGO for every 400 citizens the region (i.e., in the guise of the NGO). One can in this tiny nation of 6 million. Although reliable discern this assumption not so much by looking at numbers for comparison are hard to come by, what Western agencies and their local partners do Kyrgyzstan probably has one of the highest nominal as by what they do not do – namely, their tendency concentrations of NGOs per capita in the world not to work with local alternatives to the NGO. (Haiti is often said to be the world’s “republic of Indeed, I would even go so far as to say that they NGOs”, but it has approximately one NGO for actively ignore or distrust most of the interesting every 1000 citizens). and unique things that Central Asians can offer as indigneous civil society institutions, some of which have been around for centuries (later in this editorial, I will discuss three examples of such institutions). In sum, these assumptions come together to engender an over-fixation upon the Westernstyle NGO as simultaneous source, substance, and supporter of civil society in Central Asia. It also engenders a strange view of the region’s human landscape and the kind of partnership possible between Westerners and Central Asians, according OCA MAGAZINE
Unfortunately, beneath the surface is a sadder story of an institution becoming alienated from the population it is intended to serve.According to the Association of Civil Society Support Centres, 53% of all NGOs are concentrated in Bishkek, with the rest scattered across the country. Furthermore, the Association believes that only 33% of registered NGOs are even active. More problematically, a 2012 sustainability assessment by USAID, one of the country’s main NGO donors, found that “strategic planning is not a core element in the decision-making processes” of NGOs. Instead, NGOs “often develop their activities based on the agendas of international donors, while neglecting their strategic missions and goals”. Problematically, these donors have often inculcated a vision of civil society, in the words of civil society researcher Ann-Katharin Rothermel, as “the antonym of authoritarianism” and hence as a force that by its very nature must engage in a power struggle with government.
of civil society. And what is especially frustrating about this model is not even how defeats itself, but how antiquated it is, as arguably, it can be traced back to the nineteenth-century ideas of G.W.F. Hegel and Alexis de Tocqueville.
Hegel was arguably the first thinker to identify civil society as such, describing it as a zone of competition between government and citizens, and moreover that this competition generates itself perpetually in a kind of cat-and-mouse game. According to Hegel, modernity is the consciousness of this clash, and a modern society is one that actively understands itself as at war within itself. As for de Tocqueville, he was the first thinker to articulate not only the existence of the NGO, which he initially identified during his famous travels to the young United Sates, but also what he perceived to be its function in society. His thoughts on the subject intersected with Hegel’s in that he more or less portrayed the NGO as the embodiment of that zone of competition – and Little wonder, then, that local politicians fear NGOs hence, as the sign and engine of modernisation. and recently have been taking forceful legislative steps to curtail their activity. Moreover, the idea Keep in mind that de Tocqueville was visiting that Western-back NGOs not only participated what was then the world’s controversial and in the country’s 2005 and 2010 revolutions but experimental democratic republic, and he was actively planned and instigated them at the behest coming from France, which had been rocked by of Western donors or governments is nearly democratic revolutions and aristocratic counteruniversal in the population. And despite all the revolutions for over forty years. For this reason, positive things that these donors have given to Kyrgyzstan through NGOs – ranging from public works projects to schools – public opinion seems inclined to take the government’s side in the perceived conflict: in a September 2015 public opinion poll performed by the International Republican Institute, 59% of respondents positively assess the government versus 43% for NGOs. Of course, there are many ways to explain such a statistic. Yet, I firmly believe that it is to a great extent the fruit of Western agencies’ confrontation-focused and NGO-centric model 23
FOCUS the confrontaional power of the NGO made a distinct impression upon de Tocqueville. He went so far as to argue that “citizens joined together in free association might … replace the individual power of noble”, or in other words, the NGO is at its best a revolutionary institution, constituting something of a vanguard comprised of everyday citizens who come together to combat the tyranny of the elites – a tyranny that is exercised through officials.
because of the perceived “taint” of state control that they all underwent during the Soviet era. They thus seem “not serious” to a Western mind. This is a serious mistake, although it is certainly true that some institutions do have legitimacy problems, such as the subbotnik (the Saturday of volunteer community work originally innovated by the Bolsheviks). Although subbotniks should have been organised voluntarily by neighbourhoods, during the Soviet era more often than not they were enforced by authorities (in local slang, To be sure, Hegel and de Tocqueville were complex “dobrovol’no prinuditel’no”, “voluntarily compelled”). thinkers. However, what is important is not so Consequently, subbotniks became associated much what they actually believed as how their with a kind of public sphere that in general was ideas have gradually transformed into a vision of experienced as fake. However, today parts of the civil society – unhealthily fixated upon the NGO population are reclaiming this institution from its and antagonistic toward government – that is still authoritarian past, using it as an organizational in the back of the minds of many Western agencies. mechanism to maintain apartment blocs and entire neighborhoods. This process of reclamation and Simply put, the West needs to do some serious repurposing should be interpreted as an important re-thinking about what civil society should look sign of the subbotnik’s ultimate validity and power. like – and is looking like – in Central Asia. There In a society such as Kyrgyzstan, in which the ability are a wealth of distinctive institutions in the of government to deliver public services is rapidly region, arising from a rich array of deep-historical declining, could the subbotnik be pointing in the sources as far and wide as ancient China, Russia, and Siberia, that we could and should consider as indigenous forms of civil society. Take for example the subbotnik, the chaikhana, and the akyn. All of these institutions have long served as interfaces between government and citizens in Central Asia. Even by the confrontational standards of Western conceptual preferences they are quite promising, as they actively contributed to the fall of the communist regime a generation ago. However, it is important to note that their contributions to that world-historical event were done not so much with confrontation as their primary modus operandi, but with akyikattyk (“rectitude” in Kyrgyz), i.e., publicly holding the Soviet government accountable to its own promises. Unfortunately, these instititions are frequently overlooked or dismissed by Western agencies OCA MAGAZINE
the Soviet planners understood the chaikhana to begin with (much less the exhaustions of factory labour).
direction of a people ready and willing to take its infrastructural needs into its own hands? With respect to the chaikhana, the traditional teahouse whose earliest beginnings can be traced to three thousand years ago in China, this appears to be one of those ancient institutions that seem to have a life of their own, confounding authorities since time immemorial. For instance, Soviet architects and urban planners were under the impression that the chaikhana was an apolitical and nonreligious space that they could enlist for their own purposes. They sought to establish “red teahouses” (krasnyye chaynyye, qizil choyxonalar, kyzyl chaikanalar) physically attached to factories that were clean, contained newspapers and musical instruments, and showed propaganda films. The red teahouses were promoted as an example of “proper” Soviet institutional and social culture, although apparently Central Asians flocked to the new institution to use it simply as a place of rest and were disinterested in participating in programs offered to help them better understand communist ideology. One wonders, then, whether
The chaikhana today continues to resist industrialisation, which is a good indicator of its credentials as a civil society institution. In terms of Western analogues, it bears the most resemblance to the cafe or coffeehouse, which during the Enlightenment era was a crucial institution for the emergence of a democratic public sphere.Yet, unlike the cafe, the chaikhana has not evolved into a knowledge-economy workspace. Instead, it is expanding upon its age-old purpose as a meeting-place, serving the middle class, business class, artists, and activists. Another important difference between the chaikhana and the cafe is postural: chaikhanas do not typically have chairs, but instead carpeted elevated booths for lounging and cross-legged sitting. Such an arrangement immediately invites a deliberative peer-to-peer use of the space much more than the rigid straight-back office-style of the Western chair. Nor has the chaikhana remained a male-only territory as it appears to have been a century ago prior to the Soviet era, as it is increasingly admitting women. Finally, a very promising local institution from the Turkic tradition is the akyn, the battle-lyricist of the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen.According to asyet-unpublished field research by anthropologist Mustafa Coşkun, akyns provide a rapidly growing venue for grassroots civic expression in Kyrgyzstan. Akyns are also translatable into terms familiar to Western culture. For instance, they are readily comparable to the Hip Hop artist, as both improvise lyrics based upon his/her immediate surroundings. The typical setting, an aitysh contest, certainly resembles “rap battles”, even in terms of scale (a single aitysh can draw audiences of as many as 2000 attendees, without any prompting by authorities). And importantly, there is almost always political content in a Kyrgyz akyn’s lyrics, 25
articulated through caricature and sarcasm. Even in government-sponsored aityshes, an akyn may criticise politicians to their very faces, frequently calling them out for a criminal or immoral act. However, where the akyn diverges from the rapper is that he or she ultimately has the goal not of tearing down the authorities, but of akyikattyk – holding them accountable, even advising them. What is remarkable to an outsider is that, despite numerous brazen performances in which Kyrgyz akyns have publicly reprimanded important officials and elites, they have all so far appeared to be immune from reprisals. This suggests that the modus operandi at work here is shame, honour, and morality, not confrontation and struggling for power. In other words, the assumptions underlying what the audience expects in an aitysh are the exact opposite of the adversarial model of civil society: the ruling class, for all its problems, is seen as constituted by inherently ethical beings who can be convinced to do their duty.
To close, the truth is that the Western model of civil society is not only maladapted to a Central Asian context, but it is increasingly unable to meet the unique challenges of modern Western life, as well. It is hard to imagine how Hegel and de Tocqueville have much to say to us in an era of mass digital surveillance, the intrusion of corporations into individual private life, and the decline of sovereign nation-states vis-à-vis regional and global superstructures. My argument here can be summed up in the Russian proverb, “V Tulu so svoym samovarom ne yezdyat” – “One does not travel to Tula with one’s own samovar” (in the eighteenth century, the Russian city of Tula was famous for its samovars). On the one hand,Western agencies should begin to re-think their engagement in Central Asia in more local terms, but on the other hand, Westerners striving to make a positive change in the world should consider whether there is anything we can learn from Central Asians. Indeed, why would one journey so far from home just to bring one’s own ideas?
Unnoticed by the international art world until recently, the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art - located in Nukus, Uzbekistan - houses the second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art in the world (after the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg). This extraordinary museum is the life’s work of Igor Vitalievich Savitsky, a Russian painter born in Kiev who first visited Karakalpakstan in 1950 as a member of the famous Khorezm Archeological & Ethnographic Expedition led by Sergei Tolstov. Subsequently, having moved from Moscow to Nukus, Savitsky began collecting the works of the Russian avant-garde - including of such well-known names as Falk, Mukhina, Koudriachov, Popova, and Redko - whose paintings were banned during Stalin’s rule and through the 1960s because they did not conform to the officially prescribed Soviet ‘socialist realism’ school of art. The current English language publication, already issued in Russian in 2011, helps make the Savitsky Collection accessible to a broad international audience for the first time.
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UIGHURS: BETWEEN CHINA AND CENTRAL ASIA It was March, and a whole neighbourhood on the outskirts of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city and former capital, was once again preparing for the spring festival of New Year. Men were handling outdoor tasks while women were chopping carrots for pilaf, the main dish of their Zoroastrian New Year celebration - Nowruz. The men and women I came to meet with were Uighurs – one of the biggest Turkic-speaking people of Central Asia. Here, in Kazakhstan, they are a minority. It was a vibrant scene. Women in brightly coloured clothes and small headscarves, worn across most of the Muslim regions of the former Soviet Union, singing traditional songs while chopping the carrots. The older women playing folk instruments, the kashgar rubab and the dutar. The dutar is a two stringed lute and the kashgar rubab traces its origins to the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar in Xinjiang, China. Xinjiang is home to at least 11 million Uighurs – a Turkic, Muslim people. It is a vast region of China about the size of Western Europe, culturally and linguistically close to Central Asian nations. The events of the 19th and 20th centuries led to the wider region’s division between China and Russia. As a result, Xinjiang came under full Chinese rule, becoming part of modern China – the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. 29
CULTURE Twice in the last century there were attempts to establish an independent Uighur state in parts of Xinjiang but they were crushed by the Chinese. In the mid-20th century tens of thousands of Uighurs fled China, crossing the borders into the then Soviet Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. There are now about 350,000 ethnic Uighurs in this region, the majority of them living in Kazakhstan.
In Kazakhstan they may feel close to their historical homeland, but the 250,000- strong Uighur community fears losing their culture and traditions. And even though Nowruz is widely celebrated across Central Asia, today Uighurs are trying to make their festival a little different.
“Everyone celebrates Nowruz. Kazakhs cook gojee and Uzbeks make sumalak. So we Uighurs prepare pilaf - this makes us a little different from Their language and traditions make Uighurs simi- them,” says Halima, a dutar player and actress. lar to all Central Asians – but they are closest to “We are trying to keep our traditions alive, speak Uzbeks in their dialect, culture, food and general our language and teach our children to respect lifestyle. our culture, but it is very difficult.” She says all her children speak Uighur but the grandchildren “Until recently, the biggest Uighur community was prefer speaking Kazakh and Russian. in Uzbekistan,” – says Kakharman Khozhamberdy, an activist I met in a Uighur neighbourhood of Al- In recent years Central Asian Uighurs have made maty. “But due to this closeness they have assimi- a point of displaying their culture to the younger lated into the Uzbek society.” generation during Novruz: women wear their co-
lourful national outfits and hats with golden em- As many Uighurs made modern Central Asia their broidery. The stalls are piled high with all kinds of home, many have lived with a dream of having an Uighur food and musicians play Uighur melodies. independent homeland in Xinjiang. This is an aspiration China fears greatly. Rooted in Zoroastrianism, ancient Nowruz somehow survived in the region throughout the cen- In the early 1990s, when the republics of Central turies of Islamic worship, coexisting alongside a Asia gained independence following the collapse strong Muslim identity. In fact, Uighurs “tried” of the Soviet Union, many Uighurs both in Xinjiang many other religions before becoming Muslim, and in the wider region were inspired, too. They also including Shamanism, Buddhism and Chris- started organising themselves into political groups, tianity. Since they became Muslim, Uighurs have talking about Uighur independence and reviving been known for a history of practicing a moderate their cultural traditions. However, independence form of Islam. is rejected, not only in China, but also by other Central Asian states. Uighur dances and songs are of mixed-gender – there is no separation between men and wom- China’s economic and political presence is exen when Uighurs perform their folk dances and panding in the neighbouring post-Soviet Central songs. Something non-existent in this predomi- Asia. All the nations here are now members of nantly Muslim region, physical contact during the the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation dances – holding hands, putting an arm around a which promotes Beijing’s political ambitions as female partner – is part of tradition. well its economic interests. 31
CULTURE The Chinese have invested billions of dollars into the Kazakh oil industry. They have built new pipelines to import gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The region’s two smallest and poorest countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, rely on Chinese investment, goods and services, too. New railways and roads are already bringing this region even closer to China. Just as for all Central Asians, this is a good opportunity for the Uighurs, too. “We built a big house in Almaty after starting our small business selling Chinese-made industrial and surgical gloves,” says Jahan, a local Uighur woman. She and her husband travel to China to buy the gloves. With the recent construction boom in Kazakhstan, trade is flourishing. “Everything we have earned so far is due to new trade relations with China, and our family is grateful for this,” says Jahan. “We travelled to China, saw their beautiful cities, and people there are very hospitable and welcoming.”
She doesn’t want to talk about politics. Right now many Uighurs on both sides are enjoying new business opportunities. But most of all – the Uighurs outside China are happy to be able to visit their long lost relatives in their historical homeland of Xinjiang. “Thousands of Uighurs fled China in the 1950s and almost all of them had relatives left back in Xinjiang,” says Shaymardan Nurumov, an Uighur representative in the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, the country’s national political body. “Parents were separated from their children, siblings couldn’t even write to each other let alone talk on the phone or meet face to face,” Mr Nurumov says in his office in central Almaty. “Now Uighurs on both sides of the border have re-established their family ties: we visit each other when there is a wedding or a funeral. People are doing business, interacting with each other. This was not possible until recently.”
Imam Sadriddin is worried that Kazakhstan’s Uighur youth may be radicalised. He is using his mosque to deter them from that path. “We have just finished this volleyball pitch and are now building a basketball pitch,” he told me as he showed me around his mosque which looks more like a sports centre. “With these facilities we can attract young people to our mosque and keep an eye on them so they don’t get distracted from the right path.” A majority of Uighurs in Xinjiang as well as in Central Asia have a secular lifestyle. But in the age of the internet and global jihadist ideas, Sadriddin Ayupov finds it challenging to make young people listen to moderate clerics rather than the firebrand preachers on the net. “It is tricky to be an imam,” admits Imam Sadriddin. “We need to deliver the true meaning of religion. But as we preach moderate vision, some brainwashed young people don’t think this is genuine Islam.”
But not all Uighurs are happy that what they regard as their homeland is part of China. Violent attacks committed by radicalised Uighurs across China over the last few years have killed hundreds of people. Some say that these attacks are used as an excuse for the Chinese to crack down on Uighur nationalism.
For the Uighurs in Kazakhstan, it is very important to have relations and open borders with their homeland in Xinjiang. In fact, China, too, wants these Uighur people to act as a bridge with its Central Asian neighbours. However, the main question for China as well as Central Asian governments is:Will these trade and cultural relations lead to a new Uighur political and religious activism on either side?
“We haven’t been to Xinjiang and don’t know what these people went through. Maybe their In the meantime, many Uighurs simply don’t want family members were killed and the anger made to talk about it. them violent,” says Sadriddin Ayupov. The young imam whom I met in his mosque in Almaty’s Uighur quarter is dressed in modern clothes and an embroidered Uighur hat. “So these people forgot Text & Photos by Rustam Qobil, that Islam is all about patience and peace,” he adds. journalist, BBC Central Asian service “They have clearly got the religion by the wrong end.” 33
THE EEU: TOWARDS A WORLD OF TEAM PLAYERS - ECONOMY MATTERS He who drives along the motorway from Russia into Belarus or vice versa will see no control posts either for cargo, vehicles or persons at the border. Further southeast, control posts between Russia and Kazakhstan are at an advanced stage of being dismantled.Together with Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, they make up the Eurasian Economic Union, a block of states within which all barriers concerning trade, investment, human employment and other economic transaction are lifted OCA MAGAZINE
One of the (many) misunderstandings” regarding the EEU is the misconception that the new trade block has been formed at the initiative of the Russian Federation, or, as often suggested by Vladimir Putin in person, with the aim of “re-establishing the USSR” as a dominating political power house on the territory of the former Soviet domain. None of this bears an inch of truth: it was in fact Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev who first came up with the idea more than a decade ago, after having seen several similar attempts strand. Moreover, if the USSR’s main aim was to keep free, private enterprise out, the EEU aims to get it in and develop it in a joint effort. “A powerful long-term vector of peace” “The year 2015 will go down in history as the beginning of the new stage of Eurasian integration.The Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union that incorporates Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, will come into force on January 1. For the first time in history, an economic union with a powerful natural and resource potential, strategically important in terms of global and regional transport, energy and technology systems is being created on the vast expanses of Eurasia on a voluntary, equal and mutually beneficial basis,” Nazarbayev was quoted by the Kazakh independent newsreel Tengrinews as publicly declaring on the occasion. “We have combined our economic potentials in response to the challenges of the XXI century,” the Kazakh head of state continued. “The Eurasian Economic Union is created primarily for the ordinary people and their vital interests. On the vast territory stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific, from the Arctic to the Tien Shan mountains, more than 180 million citizens of the member states are gaining equal opportunities for business, free trade and employment, use of communications, expansion of interregional cooperation and humanitarian cooperation. Today, we are defining a powerful long-term vector of peace, harmony, mutual support and benefits for our countries. At the same time, integrating economically, all member states shall strengthen the immutable principles of political sovereignty and independence, cultural and linguistic uniqueness of our peoples. Of course, volatility of the world markets, economic sanctions, failing trust between the major powers of the world, threats, aggravation of military and political situations – all this will affect the processes of formation of the Eurasian Economic Union. We are taking these challenges into account.” Dixit et fecit. Goods, services, capital and work force In spite of what most western mass media have suggested all year long in a lengthy and exhaustive statement published by the Kremlin on the occasion of the signature of the EEU treaty in Astana towards the end of 2014,Vladimir Putin frankly explains the new Union’s advantages but also its limits and restrictions. “The Agreement we signed is a truly historical milestone that opens up broad prospects for the development of our economies and improving the well-being of our countries’ citizens,” the text reads. “Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are moving towards a completely new level of 35
cooperation by creating a common space where goods, services, capital and work force can move freely. The three states will follow a coordinated policy in such key branches of the economy as energy, industry, agriculture and transport.” Similar statements have been disseminated concerning the entry of Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, which took place in the course of 2015.
has appeared on the international arena, one that has full juridical personality and acts based on the principles of the World Trade Organisation,” Putin stated. “It is important that the transfer of certain authority to supranational agencies of the Union is of no detriment to the sovereignty of our states. Mutual benefit from integration has already been demonstrated in practice. The economic ties between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are The spectre of a “reborn USSR” on the rise, expanding, their trade structure is improving, much-suggested by western political pressure the share of high-tech goods in the overall trade groups and their media outlets is categorically structure is increasing and our countries are wiped off the table by the EEU leaders and becoming ever more economically competitive in representatives. “A new economic organisation the world. In the past three years trade turnover
within the Customs Union has gone up by 50 percent – that is by $23 billion (in 2013 it amounted to $66.2 billion). Belarus and Kazakhstan together come in third in the overall trade balance of the Russian Federation (after the EU and China).” Keep provisions flowing The most remarkable thing of it all is that so far the process has taken place in a perfectly serene manner. Thousands of officials in all corners of the Union are working feverishly on the giant task of harmonising quality and label procedures. Especially in cash-strapped Kyrgyzstan, this was needed badly. The country will profit from its entry in the form of support for its state budgets for 2015-2018 to keep the deficit within acceptable limits, prevent debt accumulation and keep basic social provisions flowing. Meanwhile, the EEU continues to spread its wings and to consolidate its position in the word. Trade pacts with China, Vietnam, Egypt, Israel and the Latin-American bloc Mercosur are expected to be inked and ratified this year, and in repeated statements state leaders have declared that the door for the EU is wide open. Brussels remains under pressure from Washington not to engage with the EEU, but in the end advantages may well prevail over political demagogy. Several European governments are already in such a mood. For Europe, the advantages will be enormous: it will have its food export market back, profitable investment opportunities will return and tourists will come by the million on both sides of the current fence.
Text by Charles Van Der Leeuw Writer And News Analyst
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THINK DUBNA, THINK HIGH TECHNOLOGICAL BUSINESS
At the end of October 2015 OCA magazine was invited to the Russian Federation’s science city of Dubna. The trip was organised by Ross Sotrudnichestvo, Mayor of Dubna city. Although not well-known outside of Russia, the city is a hotbed of high technology set in a Special Economic zone. More than this, however, the city also has the benefit of hosting a Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna State University, enticing environment, a lively social life and plenty of art and crafts and tourism attractions. Dubna demonstrates that business development is possible in Russia, and not just inside Moscow.
Dubna is twinned with La Crosse (Wisconsin, USA), Givat Shmuel (Israel), Alushta (Russia) Lincang (Yunnan, China), Goldap (Poland), Kurchatov (Kazakhstan) and Nova Dubnica (Slovakia). Modern Dubna is known worldwide as a centre for science and high technology. It is the only city in Russia, which is immortalised in Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, one of the city’s scientists synthesized the Dubna element with atomic number 105 and it was named ‘Dubnium’.
Dubna is a science city, dating from the time immediately after the end of World War II on the bank of the Volga river, 120 km north of Moscow, where the Moscow canal joins the Volga river. With a population of over 75,000 people, a unique environment and atmosphere for a science city has been created for 50 years. And the nearest international airport, “Sheremetyevo”, is located just 80 km from Dubna, making it a surprisingly well connected location.
and enterprises located in the city. Since 1956 the city has grown and developed around five core enterprises: The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (est. 1956), Dubna Machine-Building Plant (1939), Engineering Design Bureau “Raduga” (1951), Instrument Plant ‘Tensor’ (1973) and the Research Institute ‘Atoll’ (1976). By the mid-1980s the city was fully formed and it was already known as the research and production centre of Russia.
The history and development of Dubna is directly linked to town-forming organizations
ECONOMICS Half of the working population of the city at that A Technological Innovation Special Economic time were in one way or another associated with Zone â€œDubnaâ€? was established in the territory of Dubna, Moscow region by Government Decree science and technology. #781 on December 21st 2005. Such Special By the mid-1950s the world had come to realise Economic Zones were set up to increase the that nuclear science could not be locked in secret Russian market share in international hi-tech laboratories and that only wide international products and machinery development.Today many co-operation could ensure progress in this areas of activity have been developed beyond the fundamental realm of human knowledge and nuclear sphere, including biological and medical peaceful utilization of atomic energy. In 1954 the technology and complex engineering systems. European Organization for Nuclear Research Some 96 companies are resident in the Special Economic Zone, which has special conditions for foreign companies investing in Russia, including a reduced tax burden (0-13.5% instead of 20%) and special measures for highly qualified specialist.
(CERN) was established near Geneva to unite the efforts of West European countries in studying the fundamental properties of the microcosm. About the same time, under the stimulus of the USSR Government, the countries then belonging to the socialist world took a decision to establish the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. The agreement on the establishment of the Institute was signed on 26th March 1956 in Moscow. The same year specialists from 12 countries came to Dubna and founded the city as we know it. Investigations in many fields of nuclear physics research were launched here, bringing it international status and recognition.
Far from being a poor neighbour of the capital, Moscow, Dubna is fast becoming a place of great international interest and success and demonstrated yet another success story for Russian industry. EU and US sanctions may have dampened the mood for foreign direct investment in the country, but this has not stopped Dubna forging ahead with its ambitious growth plans.
By Aleksandra Vlasova
FROM SCOTLAND, VIA THE SOVIETS, TO THE STANS INTERVIEW WITH BARONESS ALISON SUTTIE
Born and brought up in Hawick, in the Scottish Borders, Baroness Alison Suttie is perhaps not the most likely of fluent Russian speakers you might expect to meet. However, having graduated from Edinburghâ€™s Heriot-Watt University in 1990 with a degree in French and Russian she then went on to study at Voronezh University in the Soviet Union in 1988, witnessing the time just prior to the great changes that were about to unfurl as the Central Asian states gained independence one by one. Baroness Suttieâ€™s career has focused around her love of foreign affairs and European politics. For 10 years she worked as a policy adviser and press secretary in the European Parliament and then as press secretary to the President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox MEP, from 2002 to 2004 during which time she worked extensively OCA MAGAZINE
in the countries of central and Eastern Europe in the run up to their accession to the EU. In 2006, she returned to the UK to become Head of the Liberal Democrat Party Leader’s office and later as deputy chief of staff to the Deputy Prime Minister for the first 18 months of the Liberal Democrat coalition government with the Conservatives.
then) in 1990 and 1991. It was the dying days of the Soviet Union and life was extremely tough. I often had to rely on the friendship and generosity of my Russian friends at a time when food was rationed and there was very little in the shops.
The complexities and contradictions of a country that can never quite decide whether it wants to Although Baroness Suttie now works as a look east or west continue to fascinate me today. consultant, running a variety of training courses on effective campaigning and influencing for UK civil OCA: You visited the Festival of Language in servants, NGOs and charities, she also has begun Kazakhstan in 2014, which was your first visit to to explore the once hidden countries of Central Central Asia. What were your first impressions of Asia. Open Central Asia finds out more. the country and its people? Open Central Asia: You studied Russian as part of your course at university and spent time in Russia. What is it about the Former Soviet Union that appealed to you then? And why does it continue to attract you today?
BS: My visit to Astana in September 2014 was my first time in Central Asia. I was immediately struck by how modern the Kazakh capital city is with all of its amazing contemporary architecture. Interest in the arts is clearly a very important part of Central Asian culture as can be seen by the Baroness Suttie: Growing up in the 1970s and brand new museums as well as by the huge new 1980s against the backdrop of the cold war, we opera house in Astana. were constantly being told that the Soviet Union was the enemy. From the age of about 15 I I visited three different universities while I was became determined to go and see the country for in Astana and was extremely impressed by the myself and meet the Russian people and to be able dynamic, young multi-lingual students that I met. to speak to them in their own language. I was I also have a powerful memory of our drive out fascinated by the music, literature and art of Russia of Astana to visit a former Gulag from the Soviet and the Soviet Union as well as by its frequently era, which has now been turned into a museum. I tragic and complex history. was struck by the sheer scale of the country. The physical environment of the steppe obviously has In 1988 I went to the Soviet Union for the first a powerful impact on the culture and the people. time to study for three months at Voronezh University in southern Russia and I met students OCA: What were the objectives and outcomes of in my hall of residence from all over the Soviet the festival? Union, including from Central Asia. I was fascinated by the similarities as well as by the differences of BS: The festival aimed to promote cultural culture and was constantly struck by the warmth understanding and highlight the importance of and spontaneity of the hospitality. learning foreign languages through performing the play, “The Transit Passenger” by Dulat Issabekov, And so after university I went back to Russia to in three different languages – Kazakh, Russian and teach English in St Petersburg (Leningrad as it was English. Each evening the theatre was full with 43
about 500 people in the audience. It was extremely interesting to see three different interpretations of the play on three consecutive evenings and to feel the impact that language has on the interpretation of a play. The play is about life, love, loneliness and the fear of growing old, which are themes common to all humans, no matter which culture. But each of the three performances had a slightly different emphasis, which also illustrated the power of language and culture.
work in North Africa and the Middle East) but I would really love to go on holiday at some point soon to go and explore the sights and sounds of the Central Asian section of the Silk Route. OCA: Since the days of the British Empire, the British have played a role in Central Asia. What role do you think the British Government should play in the region today?
BS: Fortunately the days of the British Empire are far behind us! The British Government, along with our European partners, can play an important Through visiting three different universities in role in promoting trade between our countries as Astana, the Kazakh students we met were able to well as through promoting educational exchanges practise their English and to have debates about between our universities, which I think is vital cultural and topical issues. Many of the students for the future development of the countries of Central Asia. also attended the performances of the play. OCA: You are also a great supporter of Orzu Arts, the first Central Asian theatre company in the UK. What do you think this theatre group can bring to English audiences? BS: I met Yuldosh Juraboev, the founder of Orzu Arts, during our visit to Astana. I have been extremely impressed by his drive and commitment to introducing Central Asian writers, dance and theatre to UK audiences. I have had the privilege of watching several of the cultural events produced by Orzu Arts in London, as well as being introduced to Central Asian cuisine by Yuldosh! I think that generally speaking, very little is known about Central Asia in the UK and a theatre group like Orzu Arts can help to introduce British people to Central Asia through the performing arts.
I think that cultural exchanges through organisations like the British Council can also play an extremely important role in promoting mutual understanding, as well as through providing English language programmes. I think through trade, cultural and educational exchanges we can each learn from each other and will be enriched by a greater understanding of one anotherâ€™s cultures.
OCA: Do you have further plans to visit (and/or work with) Central Asia in the near future? If so, what are they? BS: I donâ€™t currently have plans to do further work in Central Asia (I am currently doing quite a lot of 45
ARMENIAN HOLOCAUST: HOW A CRIME THE WORLD FORGOT CREATED BITTER ISOLATIONISM What has estranged the Armenian nation from virtually all other nations in the world when it comes to the build-up and maintenance of a national identity? The answer could be: a profound collective conviction of “It’s them or us”. Armenians tend to believe that in the end they have no friends to defend their land and their lives. Hideous experiences coming from having been near the point of near-extinction have hardened Armenians’ point of view to such an extent that giving in means suicide. Nothing else can ever prevail over that. Each and every Armenian, whether he lives in the poor, barren deep south of Armenia’s deprived rural provinces or in a luxury estate on the coast of California, is ready each and every moment to engage himself in the struggle for the Hay-dat, the Armenian “cause” – even if it means taking up arms for the purpose. Claims to incorporate vast territories outside the present-day Republic of Armenia, stretching from Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding areas in southwestern Azerbaijan (under occupation since 1993) to the east to vast areas including the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Kars, Hamadan and from there westward including the historic city of Trabzon on the Black Sea Coast, are the most visible aspect of the movement. But underneath there is an entire half-mystical world of notions and convictions not as usual shared by members of some sect or congregation, but by a whole nation, scattered over the earth but yearning for one thing only: being free at home, in the lands surrounding Mount Ararat, the place where Noah’s ark is supposed to have landed. The Armenians are believed to stem from Noah’s son Japheth, and in later times became subordinate to the northern-Mesopotamian, King Bel, the same who ordered the Tower of Babel to be built. In the chaos that followed the Armenians decided to leave the king’s domain and travel north. The campaign itself
was conducted by the supposedly legendary leader, named Hayk. After having successfully waged battle against Bel, the people travelled out of Mesopotamia until they found (or conquered) a new homeland which would shield them forever from domination by more powerful nations of different origin. As the nation consolidated in the course of many centuries, it developed under a dynasty of kings into a power to be reckoned with in the region. The Armenian Church was founded in the early fourth century A.D.Though a member of the Church of Rome, the Armenian Church has been autocephalic (self appointing) from the very beginning and remains so up to this day. Not unlike other Christian communities in the Middle-East, the Armenian clergy has been a hardline defender of its people’s rights and territorial claims throughout its history. In centuries that followed, feudal families took the lead where secular power was concerned. These “erestavis”, as they are known, did a lot to preserve the identity and the lives of the Armenian people under the occupation of (mainly Persian, later in cohesion with the Arabs and finally with Turks come from the east) – but a true, independent fatherland aloof from external threats was something they were unable to offer.
It was only in the course of the eighteenth century A.D. that the ideology dating from biblical times was picked up again by a jeweller from Constantinople, named Mikayel Chamchian (1738–1823), who at a younger age entered an Armenian clergy order and withdrew in a cloister to dedicate himself to reviving the written Armenian language, write an updated and revised version of the History of Armenia, several liturgies and other works. His chef d’oeuvre was the tale of the creation and development of the world – starting from the very beginning up to the day of writing. It is in this voluminous work that the Hay-dat has elaborated upon. It comes down to the notion that God created the Armenians with a special purpose, namely to preserve His identity and purposes in their purest form, clean from the deviations caused by other faiths (the Georgians have similar beliefs in this context). But this task can only be carried out under conditions of purity, meaning keeping the Armenian nation purely Armenian and the land on which it is living free from outside distortions. This quest has not only spiritual dimensions, but also secular ones now, here on earth. It was exactly this that must have worried the Ottoman authorities in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the Empire was over its apogee and fears of disintegration were on the rise. In late 1985, massacres of Armenians broke out in Constantinople and soon spread east to the rest of the Armenian-populated provinces of Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Harput, Sivas, Trabzon, and Van. Estimates differ on how many Armenians were killed but European documentation of the pogroms, which became known as the Hamidian massacres, placed the figures at between 100,000 and 300,000. In the course of the next decade, tensions resulted in a new round of massacres in the east-Anatolian Adana province. The number of Armenians killed in the course of the Adana massacre ranged between 15,000 and 30,000 people.
There is general agreement among western historians that over 500,000 Armenians died between 1914 and 1918. Estimates vary between 800,000 and 1,500,000 (per the governments of France, Canada, and other states). Encyclopædia Britannica references the research of Arnold J. Toynbee, an intelligence officer of the British Foreign Office, who estimated that 600,000 Armenians “died or were massacred during deportation” in a report compiled on 24 May 1916. This figure, however, accounts for solely the first year of the Genocide and does not take into account those who died or were killed after the report was compiled on 24 May 1916. Some tend to claim that hardly more than 100,000 Armenians survived the ordeal. On numerous occasions between 1895 and 1916 the ailing Ottoman Empire witnessed scenes unseen since the days of Tamerlane in the region: people including women, children and the elderly were dumped from vessels into the sea, raped and cut into pieces, left to rot in the desert of northern Syria, poisoned among other crimes. Not just western witnesses (including diplomats from Turkey’s allies in the war such as Germany and Austria) but also numerous well-educated Turkish citizens showed themselves indignified over the countless massslaughters they encountered. Yet, no member of the Entente appeared to care about the massive atrocities once the war was over about the terrible, and by and large senseless campaign against the Armenians. No justice was sought on any level. Revenge is held equal to survival, pardon equal to surrender and opening the door to new campaigns of extermination. This created the Hay-dat as it is today as an unshakable notion on every Armenian’s mind. This homo armeniensis neither tolerates no argument nor trusts no friend. Reconciliation can be seen as a tactical mover at best: it will never come from the Armenian heart. Text by Dario Colón
WORDS, TENGRISM, AND WITTGENSTEIN A personal reflection by David Parry Words are not as they seem. They neither yield to linguistic analysis, nor allow an uninitiated mind to unravel their secrets. A staggering fact haunting Tamburlaine the Great (died 1405), ultimately frustrating Abai (1845-1904), although stimulating my colleague Sultan Raev (born 1958) in his theatrical productions. Perhaps this is why I have always dreamed of unpacking the word “Tengri”. An exploration (possibly), making me the first European to delve into Central Asian Spiritualism. Indeed, my mind’s eye already watches me dance with regional shamen to interpret the agitated sounds inside a beehive. Or recite tribal songs along with the Bards of Kirghizia and, thereby, share the memories of ancient hero’s from ages past. Undoubtedly, when indulging in such reveries, I can almost feel my drum beating alongside those of young warriors on the endless and anxious steppes. After all, there is so much more to the lexical item “Tengrism” than the simple “animism” or “totemism” belonging to a primitive past. So very much more than merely the primal runes of preindustrialized Turkic clans bereft of a continuous civilization. Unbelievably more, I suspect, than the type of Paganism, which nonetheless evolved into esoteric knowledge concerning the Breath of breaths – an old Sufi phrase. So conjectured, Tengrism, is akin to a spiritual vocabulary, a lifestyle preserving deep ancestral wisdoms as well as a type of sensual mysticism characteristic of Turkic cultures at their zenith. 49
REFLECTION Of course, dictionaries attempt to define Tengrism, albeit in a pedestrian sense. Enclosed in their academic covers, these volumes speak of populist views contending Tengriism is a nationalist religion. Described alternatively, they argue this religious ideology is an attempt to discover meaning through harmonious collaborations with our surrounding environment. It is a stance that modern Tengriist devotees are said to embody as poets and wrestlers. Men who understand that by living an upright and respectful life, a human being will keep his world in balance, whilst maximizing personal power. Undoubtedly, other sources claim Tengrism was the underlying philosophy of ancient Turkic States like Göktürk Khaganate, Avar Khaganate,Western Turkic Khaganate, and Eastern Tourkia. One may additionally read in Irk Bitig, that Tengri is Türük Tängrisi (the God of Turks). An epithet revived in contemporary times amid intellectuals advocating the political necessity of a clearly Turkic “language consciousness” within Tatarstan, Buryatia and Kazakhstan. So observed, in decades subsequent to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tengrist concepts obviously held their ground in Sakha, Khakassia and Tuva, along with other micro-Turkic populations in Siberia. All of this is reminiscent, at least to me, of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (1889-1951), thoughts concerning context and tradition. A position meticulously detailed in The Blue and Brown Books, wherein traces of Wittgenstein’s linguistic radicalization into an independent, highly reflective, and truly analytical thinker, become apparent. Especially, it should be stressed, on issues like grammar, rulefollowing, and private language. Above dispute, his evolved discernments claim language has a wide range of purposes, each defining a specific “language-game”. In themselves, such “games” include a picturing of facts, despite extending to our sense of self, prayer, soul, poetry, cursing, and ceremonial enactments. Their potential range is endless, because even paradox insinuates a reality OCA MAGAZINE
beyond itself. Astonishingly, in these latter stages of his inquiries, Wittgenstein abjectly refused to reduce language into a utilitarian functionality or single pattern. Conversely, he discovers significance underneath every type of expression in its own terms. For instance, Sect. 43 Philosophical Investigations says, “For a large class of cases – though not for all – in which we employ the word “meaning” it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.” Herein Wittgenstein is not offering a general theory that “meaning is use,” as he is sometimes interpreted as doing. Neither does Wittgenstein forget to warn us against rival views, whereby the meaning of a word is directly related to some object it names – inferring the meaning of a word could be disassembled, locked away, or stolen. Undoubted nonsense! Nor is he positing that the meaning of a word is merely a psychological feeling – hinting every user of a word could mean something slightly different by it, or have a vaguely different feeling making communication tantamount to impossible. Rather, Wittgenstein is suggesting that knowing the meaning of a word can involve grasping many things: to what objects the word refers (if any), whether it is slang or not, what part of speech it occupies, whether it carries subtle overtones, (and, if so, what kind they are), and so on. To know all this - or to know enough of these associations to get by - is to know the usage. Consequently, a “general knowing” of the use means knowing the meaning. By extension, for Wittgenstein, as one comes to comprehend the nature of the language-game being played within an already given, agreed, situation, philosophical perplexity disappears. Contrarily to wondering what a word represents for a language user, any fair-minded observer will expect to uncover “family resemblances” in its usage among a vast number of possible applications for each word. What is more, these “forms of life” shape our experience. Unarguably
then, these inherited structures allow us to orientate ourselves within a given context. So if a camel could speak, Wittgenstein would maintain, none of us would be able to really understand it. One might realise with the course of time “bleat” meant “wolf”, while “bleat, bleat” means “injured wolf”, yet we would not understand camel politics, ethics, aesthetic tastes and such like - if camels enjoy these things. One could never honestly say, “I know what you mean” to a camel, due to the fact understanding someone else involves structural empathy. It demands the kind of intimate familiarity one simply does not have with camels, as well as, sadly, the vast majority of other human beings. At the end of the day, therefore, Wittgenstein would approve of the idea that spoken language is the icing on an extremely fancy cake. Our gestures, surroundings, beliefs and expressions, animating the essential confines of an active language game: a culture, a tradition, a form of life. As a case in point, if a portrait by Thomas Gainsburough (1727-1788) means something, it must mean something to someone. Its meaning is not merely being an objective property of the picture - similar to its size and shape. The same goes for any mental picture. The things one does and says, the way one behaves, our interactions with a given, consanguineous, communicationcontinuum, all mould our individual and collective meaning.
arts. Unarguably, there are notable exceptions, like Fergus Kerr (born 1931) – even though they appear hampered by the majority of Wittgenstein “scholars” who themselves wield a cognitive blunderbuss bequeathed to them by cowardly university faculties eager to denude Wittgenstein’s message - a weapon shooting everywhere, but ultimately hitting nothing. Turning - as they are desperately trying to - Wittgenstein’s work into an instrument of disenchantment and a cause for concern amongst those groups who prize the best of our human endowments - the sanctity and grace of spiritual Tradition. However, Wittgenstein is an unsuspected ally and friend – particularly, perhaps, towards Tengrists. When all is said and done, he is a much more “conservative” man this is often realised, never “a secular mole who lives in a hole”, nor a mystic feared of grappling with the world. Facts making him, maybe, the rarest of philosophical commodities. Instead, he wants to proclaim from the rooftops that we are the way we live – whether wrestlers, poets, adherents of Tengri, Sufi’s, or Spiritualists. Allowing me, in turn, to shamelessly declare analytic Art is the greatest religion. And Tengrism is pure Art. A remark Wittgenstein would have applauded, along with a questing attitude towards Turkic cultures that will inevitably take his work outside the narrow confines of Eurocentric academia into Central Asian fields awaiting the crosspollination of vocabularies.
To conclude, any overview of Wittgenstein, or Tengrism for that matter, inevitably suffers from divergent social timelines and other textual torments. Overall, it is hard to know where to stop, let alone what to edit. For the sake of clarity, this confided, my association with Wittgenstein started as a shared joy in letters.Without question, both Wittgenstein and I love language. Equally, we accept its primacy in human affairs. As such, it endlessly saddens me that Wittgenstein is so often marginalised or misunderstood, especially within the arena of experimental and theological 51
INTERVIEW: GULSIFAT SHAHIDI Journalist, Author and Narrator, Gulsifat Shahidi, shares an insight into the life behind her words and what she sees for the future. She is the author of recently published, The City Where Dreams Come True, by Hertfordshire Press and took part in the OECABF-2015. OCA sent our reporter to meet this fascinating lady, the mother of three sons and seven grandchildren. Recipient of ‘Golub Mira medal” by the International Association: ‘Generals of the World for Peace’
OCA Magazine: What inspired you to start OCA: Do you think do printed books have a writing? future in the digital world? Gulsifat Shahidi: Professionally I am a journalist and a narrator by vocation; I have always composed very funny fairy tales for small children and written books for adults. As a journalist I started writing early on and only later did I start having books published. My family has always been foremost in my mind and so have taken much of my time, but now that my children are all grown up I have time to create.
GS: It’s hard to say … but I do hope they will! I’m an optimist. How can we get on without books? And, besides, presenting an autographed book to someone is better than simply sharing the site where it is printed. OCA: And how does a creative mind like yours spend their downtime?
GS: I like swimming.. if we can call it a hobby. For OCA: What drives your inspiration and how do leisure I go to concerts and performances with my the ideas of your works take form in your mind? grandchildren and children. Recently my husband and I went to the opera, “Carmen”, at the Bolshoi GS: While working as a journalist I had gained a Theatre, which was pretty special. lot of knowledge, impressions and extraordinary memories, which I wanted to share with the reader. OCA: What are you working on currently for It was a fascinating era and we were living in it. My your next publication? ideas are born for many reasons. World literature, ranging from the ancient to modern, as well as the GS: I am writing a book about the fate of women. contrasts of despair and excitement when thinking I know it’s hard, but it seems possible. I would of today’s world have all influenced my ideas. like the book to be presented at the next Open OCA: Which writers do you admire? Which book Central Eurasia and Central Asia Festival as part or books would you advise everybody to read? of the contest. I have not even dreamed of the publication of my book in English before. It is for GS: I can only list some of them: the Tajik-Persian me a gift of fate. I would like the linguistic and poetry of Rudaki, Firdous, Khayyam, Hafiz, Rumi, stylistic features preserved in the English version. modern Tursunzade, Loic, Sattor Tursun, and, of course, world classics such as Byron, Shakespeare, OCA: Finally, what would you like to wish our Balmont, Remarque, Hemingway, Chekhov, Dosto- readers? evsky and Nabokov. GS: Harmony in the world ... that’s all! You can see Also I would advise the following influential books: by yourself what’s going on in the world. I think “Bird Talk” by Hattori, Mesnevi Jalaluddin Rumi, it’s because people read and understand books “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov, “The less. OCA and Silk Road Media are doing a very Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, “Notre important job in printing, translating and publishing Dame de Paris” by Victor Hugo, “War and Peace” more books! I hope that your readers will be by Leo Tolstoy, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, faithful to books, as they are the light of learning “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by and education. Dale Carnegie and “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. All of the above is just a small selection. 53 OCA MAGAZINE
MEET THE MAN: VITALY BONDAR WINNER OF THE OPEN EURASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA BOOK FORUM CONTEST IN THE CATEGORY OF ‘ILLUSTRATION’
No book is ever finished without at least some illustration or artwork. Even the most simple books will have a hint of creative design and that is why the OECABF contest also includes a category dedicated to those in the illustration business. Last year’s winner, Vitaly Bondar of Belarus, gives us his perspective. OCA: In what field does your work align artistically?
OCA: What effect does literary art have on your work? VB: Visual art and literature have been inseparable companions since the advent of printing. It looks like literature and philosophy form the artist to a greater extent than their surroundings. The first book that moved me to understand the art experience was “Islands in the ocean” by E. Hemingway.
OCA: What does winning the Open Eurasia and VB: Universalism. Due to the impossibility of un- Central Asia competition mean for you? ambiguous interpretation of art, just comprehensive assessment forms the objective idea.The abili- VB: It is a great honour, because for the creator ty for different kinds of creativity, breadth of vision, not only is knowledge important, but also confirunderstanding of hidden patterns and multiplica- mation of selected targets. The Open Eurasia and tion of artisan experience give us great signs that Central Asia book forum and literature festival allows authors to “be heard” and stimulates the we are developing as an artist. creation of new original works. OCA: Is the fact that you think it impossible for art to be unambiguously interpreted a demonstra- OCA: What do you think about contemporary art that are closest to you directions? tion of our own human imperfection then? VB: The imperfection of knowledge puts us into dependence upon the solemn assurances of others. That is why I prefer the designation of basic concepts that characterize my values and antagonism. For example, I am far from the destructive ideas in art, considering the overall humanistic message of religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc...) is based on the concepts of eternal love and justice. As you know, the problem in their interpretation. Hopefully, the therapeutic, healing qualities of art play an important role for each individual.
VB: Unfortunately, modern art is “on decline waves.” The radicalism of ideological and aesthetic concepts, the amorality of science, environmental pessimism and lack of legal protection of personality all provide serious obstacles to its recovery. In fact the conflict between so-called contemporary art and its predecessors / opponents doesn’t exist, because all have different learning tools.
OCA: Which artists do you admire? VB: I enjoy the works of many artists starting from the Renaissance and ending with representatives of non-figurative art. Among the classics I prefer are John Sargent, Giovanni Segantini, Tavik Simon, Luigi Becky, Guy Rose and William Merritt Chase. 55
IV OPEN EURASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA BOOK FORUM & LITERATURE FESTIVAL - 2015 For the fourth year running, the international literary festival and forum “Open Eurasia and Central Asia Book Forum & Literature Festival - 2015”, organised by the publishing house “Hertfordshire Press” together with the Yunus Emre Institute London Turkish Cultural Centre and “ORZU Arts” theatre was held from 6th to 9th November 2015 in London (UK). The forum, which has alternated between Central Asian countries and the UK since its inception, held 22 events and brought writers, poets, artists, diplomats and politicians together from 20 different countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Norway, Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, England, Iraq, Netherlands, USA, Russia, Latvia, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Scotland and Wales. Spread across 8 different venues both in London and Cambridge, the festival has gone from strength to strength and this year included the wider Eurasian region amongst its topics and participants. It remains the only such festival that seeks to promote the literature of Central Asia, past and present, to new English-speaking audiences. Opening on 6th November at theYunus Emre Institure London Turkish Cultural Centre, OCA MAGAZINE
Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, Abdurrahman Bilgiç welcomed guests and participants of the festival and contest, followed by opening remarks from the Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic, Gulnara Iskakova and Her Highness Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and Serbia, who both wished attendees well for the next few days of cultural immersion. Rounding the evening off, London Uyghur Ensemble performed from their repertoire. A traditional part of the festival, and indeed the culminating highlight of the proceedings, is the annual competition among writers, poets, translators, artists and filmmakers from Eurasia and Central Asia. The contest is extremely valuable to budding authors and filmmakers not only because of the promotion to their works that it brings but the total prize money of $31,000 is the largest injection of funds to promote Central Asia that is genuinely open to anyone to apply for by submitting extracts of their latest work. The main prize is a grant of $20,000, which is put towards the publication of the winner’s book in London, followed by a presentation at the London Book Fair 2017.
from Uzbekistan took first place in the category of literary translation and Nikolay Anisimov from the Ukraine took the winning spot in the category of illustration. For the second year the Marziya Zakiryanova Prize, worth $5,000, for the best female work was won by Harlampyeva Natalia (Russia) and the award was presented by Tamerlan Zakiryanov. The Arkadiy Bezrukov Prize, worth $1,000, for the best work on the subject of mountains was won by Pavel Shumov (Russia). The prize was handed out by Elena Bezrukova. Once again the Generals Awards, from the Association of Generals “Generals of the World are for Peace”, were made at the festival. The Association’s highest award, the “Dove of Peace” medal for the best work on the topic of strengthening of peace, friendship and mutual understanding between peoples, was awarded to Gulsifat Shahidy (Tajikistan). The prize was handed out by honorary member of the Association, Marat Akhmedjanov. A number of certificates of merit were also handed out, including to Yuldosh Yuraboev whose Orzu Arts theatre group delighted festival participants throughout the weekend.
The Literary Contest 2015 had very strong participation, with entries from some 800 contestants from 28 countries, including Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Armenia, Israel, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Estonia. The number of participants is now five times higher than when the competition began in 2012. The winners were announced at a glittering awards dinner at Pasha restaurant with Zinaida Longortova from Russia winning the contest with her book titled “XXX”. She was presented her award by renowned author and former Kazakh politician, Mukhtar Shakhanov. Ikhtiyar Hodja 57
LITERATURE The organising committee of the festival continued its tradition of awarding the authors who have made a special contribution to the development and promotion of literature in Central Asia. This year the diploma was awarded to the outstanding Kyrgyz fiction writer, poet, Begenas Sartov (19451978). The diploma was received by a niece of the writer, Shahsanem Murray. In 2015, the festival organizers established tow new awards: “Breakthrough of the Year”, with the diploma went to Kazakh poet and member of the Writers’ Union and the Kazakh PEN club, Raushan Burkitbayeva-Nukenova. “Author of the Year” went to the British historian, Robert Toby Wight, author of “Vanished Khans and Empty Steppes”. At the heart of the capital, at the University of London (University College London) and the Yunus Emre Institute London Turkish Cultural Centre, there was a presentations of several new books, including last year’s winner, Davlat Tolibshoi for his book “Cranes in the Spring” and Lenifer Mambetova’s poetry, “My Homeland, Oh My Crimea!”. A round table devoted to the Central Asian literature took place at Cambridge University. The meeting was held with the students of Cambridge University and discussed books by Mukhtar Shakhanov, Sultan Raev and Raushan BurkitbayevaNukenova that were also were given to the Cambridge Library. An important panel discussion on the topic of “Central Asia through the eyes of Western writers” was held at Yunus Emre Turkish Centre. The moderator of the meeting was author of “Friendly Steppes” and Editor-in-Chief or Open Central Asia Magazine, Nick Rowan, who had to be on top of his game to keep an enthusiastic set of contributors under control.
For the first time, a special session of London’s highly fashionable Extremists Club was organised as a part of the overall festival. Participants were invited to share Remembrance Sunday worship at St. Peters church in Clapham as an insight into British cultural life. Following which, they withdrew to the upstairs “Theatre Room”, wherein Mukhtar Shakhanov was asked to speak about his literary work and political views to colleagues from across the capital. As an experimental “arts and politics” club (currently receiving rave reviews) David Parry took his usual position as chair - in his now legendary persona “The Whig” – and led a lively discussion.
Previous festivals in 2012-2014: The first OECABF festival was held on 24 to 25 November 2012 in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), gathering 1300 guests and becoming the first event of its kind in the region. The festival was opened by the former president of Kyrgyzstan, Roza Otunbayeva. The winner of the literary contest was Galina Dolgaya (Uzbekistan).
The 2013 festival took place from 5 to 9 November in London and Cambridge, providing an opportunity to the British public to get a better idea of the work of artists from Central Asia. The winner of the literary contest was Zaur Hasanov With the event taking place over the Remembrance (Azerbaijan). Sunday weekend, several recitals were held in memory of those writers no longer with us: Nemat The 2014 festival was held from 14 to 17 NoKelimbetov (1937-2010), Kazat Akmatov (1941- vember in Almaty, Kazakhstan. OECABF 2014 was 2015), Ravil Bukharaev (1951-2012), Cengiz Dagci organized by the publishing house “Hertfordshire (1919-2011) and Beganas Sartov (1945-1978). Press” in conjunction with the National State Book . Chamber of the Republic of Kazakhstan, “Elena David Parry, playwright, poet, and member of Bezrukova Centre”, and supported by the Ministry the Royal Society of Arts, David William Parry of Culture of Kazakhstan, Almaty city administraconducted the Nemat Kelimbetov Prize ceremony, tion and the Kazakh Academy of Sports and Tourawarding prizes to the contestants in the category ism. The festival held 38 events. It was visited by of “Video Film”, with the winner of the Nemat 2,500 people. More than 65 writers from 10 counKelimbetov Prize (for $5,000) being named as tries spoke with their reports and presentations. Kamal Hasanov (Azerbaijan). The winner of the literary contest was Tolibshohi Davlat (Tajikistan). The extended weekend festival once again proved that there is significant interest in and The 2016 Festival is currently planned to be held great authorship from Central Asia and its wider in Yakutsk ( Russia) Eurasian sphere. It would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Marat Akhmedjanov HERTFORDSHIRE PRESS and the Hertfordshire Press, Open Central Asia Since 2002, the publishing house “Hertfordshire Press” and Silk Road Media teams. Next year’s festival (London) has specialized in the publication of modern is proposed to be held in Yakutia, Russia, and will non-fiction literature by Eurasian authors, as well as continue to grow from strength to strength if the re-release of important works of previous years, which, 2015 festival is anything to go by. despite their undying relevance, currently unavailable in English.
BEGENAS SARTOV’S 70TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS, BISHKEK 2015
On 20th November in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, at the City’s Philarmonia Organ Hall a celebration event was held to commemorate the 70 th birthday of the first Kyrgyz Sci-Fi writer, Begenas Sartov. Many of his former students from the Literature group “Too - Jyldyz”, which was active in the Sixties and Seventies, attended. Interestingly they have all become well known leading writers , musicians, journalists. In total almost 360 guests attended this memorable event. A short film, “Paradox”, was screened, which tells the story of Kyrgyz scientist Nurania who falls for her new laboratory assistant, Dias, and kick starts a chain of events that only she can stop if she overcome her mad love. Written at the height of the Cold War between East and West and just as the Space Race was at its most intense it is a joy to realise that writers within the Soviet Union still looked outward from the country and yet at the same time were able to mock the rigid Soviet system: the final “Press Bulletin” highlights how every event could be portrayed in a positive manner by the Soviets. OCA MAGAZINE
The film was recently produced in the summer of 2015 as a dedication and present from new upcoming filmmaker Janylmyrza Sartova (the writer’s niece), and is currently being shown at a number of Film Festivals before being released. Following the film, the Deputy Minister of Culture, Mr. Sekimov, started his speech with references to Begenas Sartov’s book, “When The Edelweiss Flowers Flourish”, and how so many Kyrgyz and foreign readers have commented. For example Dr. Zina Karaeva once said: “ This book has many aspects from historical, scientific point to our young generation and almost priceless gift to our modern lives. In our term it shows to young people how to be human beings, how to enjoy the environment without damaging it and how to be polite and educated. This is great example from author himself” Mr. Tolomushev Myrzayan who used to work with Begenas told the audience how much impact he made to new upcoming writers and had inspired them. The very famous critic and translator Aman Toktogulov recalled a conversation with Begenas as follows: “Look Beke, you came to this world with your sci-fi ideas some 70 or 80 years too early. Maybe you should just write poems. You could almost be as good as our famous poet Alykul.” Begenas answered “Mr. Aman, I do feel I have talents to write poems too, but if I don’t write this sci-fi genre then nobody is going to write it. Besides if in the future, in 70 or 80 years, readers will understand my books, then my spiritual soul will be very happy” Writer Asan Jakshylykov said, “Begenas helped me to publish my first book - he paid from his own salary, even though he should have been looking after his own young family. It was the most unforgettable kindness from a human being” Writer Sultan Raev told to the audience how much he enjoyed being in the Literature group “ Too Jyldyzy” while he was one of his students. Meanwhile, talented musician Mr. Begaliev said that while he was in Moscow and having conversation with Chyngyz Aitmatov about his sudden and early death, Aimatov said : “ he manage to show to whole world with his one book how much of a talented writer he was” Publisher of Open Central Asia magazine, Mr. Marat Akhmedjanov gave to Begenas’ son, Zulpukhor, a “ Life time achievement award” voted for by participants from twenty Europe countries. In his speech of appreciation Marat noted “The book When the Edelweiss Flowers Flourish and the writer, Begenas Sartov, is only one sci-fi writer not only in Kyrgyzstan but in the whole of Central Asia. And this is first ever translated book into English language” text by Shahsanem Murray 61
THE LEGACY OF THE SILK ROAD CELEBRATIONS, HERITAGE, AND TRADE
The Silk Road was a “highway”, which ancient China used to reach other realms in order to trade. Nomad and Mongol hordes rode and reached Europe. Central Asian Emperors developed a military and intellectual nest from where science, mathematics, philosophy and medicine “travelled” and enlightened the medieval world. Tribal warlords conquered the greater part of the then-known Euro-Asian land. Once upon a time it brought extraordinary wealth to Europe, measured in silk, precious stones, spices and medicinal plants. Today The Silk Road continues bringing profit through the supply of the most in-demand products: gas, oil, minerals, cotton, water and other products, also art and craft inspired and delivered from their rich regional heritage. The very concept of the Silk Road carries enormous romantic and historic weight in the West to the present day. The concepts of long distance travel and trade, of meeting new peoples and discovering new luxury items, of the transport of silks and other goods thousands of miles across deserts, mountains and seas, are powerful and evocative. In an age of swift air travel, and of the increasing globalisation of international trade, the history and emotional impact of the Silk Road provides a unique cultural basis upon which to build a programme of engagement between the modern nations on the Silk Road networks. Where it will be presented. The organisers, Legacy Routes Ltd in collaboration with Pro Art & Co, a leading and experienced cultural and educational non-profit company with a team of international experts, intends to present this project widely across Europe, benefiting from an existing network of European business organisations, cultural and educational institutions, local authorities and media in order to secure venues, funding, digital dissemination, communica-
tion with the diverse audiences and multicultural collaboration. The project includes participation of Silk Road and European artists, scientists, social and cultural workers and a wide range of relevant people involved in topical subjects. An additional programme (exhibitions, lectures, discussion cafes, seminars, public talks, trade/investment presentations, TV documentaries and cultural programme, festivals, conferences and mini trade fairs etc.) will accompany this project. This is an introduction to the Legacy of the Silk Road, with a multidisciplinary and interactive series of events planned over a three year period. The intent is to provide an insight into the regions of Central Asia, the Caspian – The Black Sea, The Mediterranean and to present this concept of the network of the silk routes directed towards Europe. The aim is to explain the present and historically important exchange of trade, experiences, knowledge, from the past to modern times. It will also present sources of wealth and supply of life-sustainable products and energy to million’s of consumers’ final destinations in Europe. The focus is on the specific heritage, geography, history, science and culture of the Silk Road and the other relevant countries. It will look closely at the important branches of the region’s industries, agriculture and tourism, which are highly dependent on the traditional understanding of relationships, exploitation and development of resources such as energy, transportation, environment, infrastructure and financial resources of the country. The intention is that the project complements and supports existing national and corporate marketing approaches – whether those be attracting tourism or selling products. It is not envisaged that the project directly competes with any of the existing approaches, but rather that it works alongside them to drive their success.
SILK ROAD The final events conference subjects will be: the Why sponsorship/involvement is important? enlargement of international cooperation, improvement of the wider populationâ€™s living stan- - Build and develop new markets dard, enhancement of education, future increase - Present your company as one of the leading in of renewable energy sources and appropriate use the region. of revenue from the exploitation of natural, energy - Showcase your activities and expertise. and industrial resources for sustainable develop- - Present the opportunities for trade, investment ment with consideration for environmental issues and cultural-heritage exchange. and specific collaboration between multicultural - Opening excellent networking opportunities ethnic populations. - Developing new professional and personal contacts The cultural aspect of the project is to celebrate - Increase your profit and other economic cultural diversity, artistic festivities and food as an benefit essential attraction which will open up the magic of the Silk Road to those who live in different conContact tinents, through focusing on past knowledge and Vesna Petkovic the transfer of its oriental mysticism to our time. Legacy Routes Ltd. Plaza 319, 535 Kings Road, Who will benefit London SW10 0SZ UK Tel: +44(0)2073517555 +44(0)7836585274 Legacy Routes Ltd expects to engage a wide range firstname.lastname@example.org of commercial, educational, governmental and cultural organisations as sponsors, advisers and supporters of the programme.We kindly invite you all to examine the presented programme, and to look at possibilities to act and give your voice by letting us know which area you can participate in and contribute to with your expertise. This call is for both European and Silk Road/Central Asian participants and other countries interested in using this opportunity to cooperate on many levels. This is an opportunity to learn, pull resources and present to their population the importance of this ancient route for multicultural collaboration, which did not yet lose its significance in present time.The project will include young people from the region, as a new and educated force, which would carry on with the regionâ€™s progress and accumulation of wealth in a more responsible way.
100 OUTSTANDING PEOPLE OF EURASIA Throughout human history there have been outstanding personalities, who one way or another have made their valuable contribution to the development of society and left their mark in history. But history remembers not everyone who deserves it, even though each such individual is worth remembrance and recognition in order to become an inspiration to others.This is not necessarily someone who did something on a large scale, it could be a scientist who made a very important discovery in his/her field, or it could also be a self-sacrificing mother, who by overcoming all difficulties gave her children a decent education. What is important is the significance of that personâ€™s action. Spurred on by this idea, the Eurasian Creative Guild, a nonprofit organization for creative people, and the Cambridge International Press publishing house, which is the only publishing house in the world that specialises in the publication of documentaries, biographies and popular science books of Eurasian authors in English, are preparing to publish an annual collection of the 100 most prominent personalities of Eurasia.The organisers will focus on 10 countries from the continent in the publication, namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as the history of these countries have been intertwined in the context of culture, life, customs, traditions, and politics for centuries. And for this collection, a panel of experts with extensive experience and knowledge of the region will choose 50 historical and 50 contemporary personalities from all the nominees.The aim of the publication is to recognise and reward great people and tell the world about their achievements. The collection will be published annually with a choice of new members each year. Ceremonies will be held to present the book and announce the winners. Commemorative gifts will also be presented at the events, which will be held at leading universities in the UK. The first ceremony of the presentation of the book will be held in celebration of the International Day of Nowruz in 2017 at Cambridge University, UK.
SILK ROAD And towered castles on the hard precipice above the entry to the Caucasus, in cloud stood guard grim as some Cyclopean sentry! лю.Y. Lermontov
THE GUARDIANS OF TIME: CAUCASIAN TOWERS The beauty of Caucasus is charming. Many historical, cultural and natural attractions there attract people from all over the world. For me the Caucasus has always been associated with towers. They are an integral part of the highland scenery. This is the world of towers. Their simplicity of form, rigorous elegance, conciseness, monumentality reflect the spirit of mountaineers - courage, self-esteem, pride and cohesion.The construction and architectural craftsmanship of these unique towers is striking. Each is individual, since every master had his own style and methods of work. According to one of the stories, from the early Christian era, the caravan routes that connected East and West used these towers as a lookout and signaling instrument. OCA MAGAZINE
Tower complexes played an important role in the protection of the “Great Silk Road” There is also no unanimity among scientists in dating the first appearance of the fortifications. It is believed that the oldest was built in the 8 or 9 centuries AD. The real dawn of tower building falls in the Middle Ages, when the typical style of Caucasian towers with the characteristic and peculiar features of each nation had emerged.
at the bottom reached up to one meter. Defenders of the tower controlled all the approaches, making it very difficult to storm. Sharaf al-Din Yazdi (“The Book of Victories” (1424-1425)) wrote about the Caucasian towers: “... fortresses and defenses on the top of the mountain, and to go there was extremely difficult due to their height, which was so great that the beholder’s eye blurred and the hat fell from the head ... “ Such towers have been built since ancient times. “And they said: we build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and we will
The towers were used in transmission of signals to warn of a military threat against strategically important places such as roads, bridges or gorges. They provided shelter to withstand a siege and a stronghold to defend from. Generic towers could only be afforded by wealthy people of high social status. The cost of construction (if it was a family tower) was around 50-60 cows, and it took one year to build. In case of danger, the family hid in their defensive tower while a guard of usually 4 to 6 soldiers patrolled. The entrance to the combat tower was located in a remote place, at a height taller than a human’s height. The towers were five to seven levels with loopholes and machicolations. The wall thickness
make us a name, before we would be scattered all over the earth” (Bible, Old Testament. Genesis, chapter 11). Worldwide, similar towers can be seen in Ireland, Italy, China, Tibet, India, North America, but the Caucasian towers have their own unique architectural style and harsh charm. Their power and inviolability are a stunning symbol of the Caucasus.
Text and Photos by Tatiana Lari 67
MAKING IT TO THE TOP
INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR RASHID SHADAT Uzbek actor, Rashid Shadat talks to OCAâ€™s Aleksandra Vlsasova about his life as an international actor. 2015 saw him involved in many well known films and television programs, including 24 (TV series), Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Now You See Me 2, Spectre (James Bond), City of Tiny Lights, Bourne Sequel and A Streetcat Named Bob. OCA: Please tell about your background and biography? Rashid Sahadat: I was born in October 1975 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). In 1995 I studied Drama and Cinema at the Uzbekfilm Cinema Studio,Tashkent, followed in 1996 by studies at the Theatre and Cinema Faculty at Tashkent State Art Institute. At the same time, I was working at the National Drama Theatre of Uzbekistan and the Yuldosh Ohunboboev Republican Youth Theatre. I have taken part in many international theatre festivals in Tajikistan, Egypt and Germany and have been awarded number of prizes for my performances. Between 2001-2007 I had my own daily morning radio show on Avtoradio Hamroh, FM102. I have starred in many adverts, music videos and films. 69
ART sible, Now You See Me 2 plus some others. I have also just completed filming for a big budget Hollywood production, which comes out later in 2016 – I can’t tell you the name just yet, though, as they are still filming it. OCA: Can you remember first movie in which you played the lead role? RS: The first film where I was a lead was called “Test of Love 2” (Muhabbat Sinovlari 2). I went for dinner with my friend and there were a few actors and directors there. One of the directors was very interested in my appearance and we had a chat and he asked me if I would be interested in taking part in his film. I said yes without having thought about it. But it went very well and was very memorable for me.
I have also been a producer on a number of films including The Wolves (2007) and “Hoja Nasretdin - The Game Begins” (2006). Now living in London, I have maintained my interest in acting and directing theatre and film. OCA: When did you first appear in a movie? RS: My first screen role was a music video where I played the hero. In 2002, director Scan Multi invited me to play a lead role in the video for a song called Don’t cry sweetheart (Anvar Sanaev – Yiglama Jonim). It was very funny and interesting - there was a fight scene where I had to spin in the air – like one of the characters in The Matrix. After this video they started to call me the ‘Uzbek Matrix’. Since coming to London I have been involved as an extra in lots of big productions. In 2015 I WAS in Star Wars, Spectre, Mission ImposOCA MAGAZINE
OCA: How do you get all these parts? What is your approach? RS: For the big budget film productions I am registered with some of the main acting extra agencies in London. They manage most of the big name films. For TV roles, you also have to register with some of the more specialist agencies. Of course, you also have to keep up contacts with people to hear what is going on and when. OCA: What should one expect from such a job? What is a typical day’s filming like? RS: It’s tiring work, sometimes filming throughout the night or outdoors in bad weather. However it’s a lot of fun and you will meet a whole range of interesting people. I have been lucky enough to meet some of the big names during 2015 - JJ Abrahams, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Renner, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Christoph Waltz.
It’s very interesting watching a big production film being made – nothing really prepares you for the amount of detail and time they take to get things right. OCA: What are your plans for 2016? RS: At the moment I am short listed for a new big budget film production, which starts filming in February. I’m not allowed to reveal the name just yet. To improve my skills further I am starting an acting course at Pinewood Studios – you always need to keep refreshing your skills. I am taking part in a tour of Turkey in May, performing traditional Central Asian dance with a team from the US. I will also be giving some dance master classes while we are there. I am also going to Greece in July to take part in the Edipsos Folk Dance Festival. It’s going to be a busy year.
REMINISCING AROUND A DASTARKHAN IN LONDON
A special event with a truly Central Asian flavour of music and dance was held in London in December. The event was aimed at providing an informal and enjoyable occasion for students and researchers following Central Asian Studies at London Universities as well as for anyone else with a love and interest of the Central Asian Region. The idea for a special get-together came up spontaneously, after a lively on-line discussion by followers of the popular Facebook group ‘SOAS Vostok Society’ organised by PhD students at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The Group, with about 280 members, represents a student-led forum where the academic community and general public discuss and share new research and academic events related to the culture, history, economics and politics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. The Group’s members are passionate about this part of the world and happy to share latest news about the Region. The idea about a Central Asian get-together around a dastarkhan was born during a very lively discussion about London places, where you can taste authentic food from Central Asia and Caucasus. Following an active exchange of information amongst the Group’s members, the choice was made with a small but very hospitable and cosy restaurant called ‘Pasha’ in South-East London. The restaurant can be seen as a small oasis, away from the hectic centre of London, giving you a real feel and touch of Central Asia, thanks to its friendly atmosphere, hospitality, music and, most importantly, food! The group of about 20 people gathered on 4th December to enjoy famous Central Asian salads, delicious plov and manty, and a conversation about various engagements, both academic and personal, with the Region. The guests were entertained by lively singing performances by the famous ‘London Uyghurs Ensemble’ and its soloist, singer Rahima
Mahmut. Sardor Mirzakhojaev, a well-known singer from Uzbekistan, was also there keeping everyone on their feet thanks to his ample dancing music and charming songs. Rakhima Mahmut put his heart into an authentic Uyghur dance. Guests enthusiastically joined the singers, dancing along with the memorable Central Asian music.
The event proved to be a wonderful occasion where people with an interest in Central Asia could meet each other in an informal friendly setting, and share their knowledge and experience on the region. Authentic food and great music were the perfect ‘ingredients’ to make it a really enjoyable and exciting evening. It is very much hoped that this initiative will be continued with other similar events in the future.
Text by Rosa Vercoe, Projects and Operations Manager at London Centre for Social Studies
BOOK REVIEW stan in the mid-nineteenth century. They recorded their adventures in books – two by Thomas and one by Lucy – and in a series of brilliantly executed pictures by Thomas.Their combined work gives a unique first-hand account of their experiences in a wild and remote region, at a time of epochal change.
NICK FIELDING, SOUTH TO THE GREAT STEPPE: THE TRAVELS OF THOMAS AND LUCY ATKINSON IN EASTERN KAZAKHSTAN 1847-1852, FIRST PUBLISHERS, LONDON, 2015, ISBN: 978-0-9546409-9-6; 160 PP. (LARGE FORMAT), FULL COLOUR ILLUSTRATIONS, MAPS; PAPERBACK: £35.00.
Review by Dr Shirin Akiner, Senior Fellow of the Cambridge Central Asia Forum, University of Cambridge, London, January 2016.
This is a captivating book about extraordinary people, involved in extraordinary adventures. The main protagonists are Thomas Atkinson, an English painter and architect, and his wife Lucy, who travelled across southern Siberia and eastern KazakhOCA MAGAZINE
The ‘Great Steppe’ was (and is) a place of great and varied natural beauty, but also of inhospitable terrain, earthquakes and harsh weather, including extreme temperatures, fierce gales, hurricanes and blinding snowstorms. Much of this territory, strategically close to China, had only recently been incorporated into the Tsarist Empire. It was still very much ‘frontier land’. The local Kazakh khans were powerful and the traditional Kazakh way of life continued to be practised, but the Russian (Cossack) military presence was steadily growing, aided by the expansion of roads and railways. Relations between the Kazakhs and the Russians were generally cordial, but mutually wary. There was a degree of social interaction between the social elites, male and female, on both sides. Balls, tea parties and official receptions initially gave rise to bafflement and amusement at each other’s odd behaviour, but gradually this was replaced by accommodation and at times, emulation. This was the world that the Atkinsons discovered during their travels. On the way they made friends with a variety of intriguing individuals, such as the Gloucestershire-born railway engineer Charles Austin; the Italian-born Admiral Peter Ivanovich Ricord, who had served as a midshipman in the Royal Navy under Nelson before settling in Russia; and the German-born naturalist and collector Dr Friedrich August von Gebler, who became Inspector of Hospitals for the Altai. Thanks to Thomas’s talent and Lucy’s charm, the couple had managed to secure unprecedented official sanction for their journey, which not only enabled them to go where they pleased but to receive all possible as-
sistance from civilian and military personnel. Over a period of five years they covered a distance of some 40,000 miles, mostly on horseback, living in whatever accommodation was available in Kazakh settlements or Russian townships. In November 1848, as winter was setting in, the indomitable Lucy gave birth to their son in Kapal, a Russian military outpost that had been established scarcely two months earlier. The terrified young army surgeon, who had never before attended a delivery, fully expected the child to die. However, the new arrival, christened Alatau Tamchiboulak in honour of his birthplace, had inherited his parents’ resilience and he not only survived, but accompanied them on the further stages of their journey.
ceral, impression of the landscape and the people. Thomas is known to have made some 500 pictures during his travels; some are held in Russian collections (in St Petersburg, Moscow and Krasnoyarsk), some in London (the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Geographic Society), but the great majority have disappeared from public view. This is a pity, since his work stands comparison with the foremost artists of his day. Perhaps this book by Nick Fielding will not only stimulate interest in the travels and writings of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson, but will also help to restore the reputation of an important British artist.
The challenge for a modern author who seeks to write about this intrepid family is to preserve the authenticity of their voices, but to add ‘something extra’. Nick Fielding accomplishes this task with sensitivity and skill. He is not only a fine story teller, but also a meticulous scholar. Having followed, quite literally, in the footsteps of the Atkinsons, he is able to speak with authority about the places he describes. Moreover, although he quotes extensively from the writings of Thomas and Lucy (the latter in particular has a magical ability to conjure up a scene), he weaves this material into a broader social, cultural and historical narrative. Thus, his biography of Thomas – which traces a career that progressed from village stonemason to architect to accomplished painter to distinguished traveller – fits into a contemporary pattern of upward social mobility.The notes that Fielding gives on other individuals, such as the Russo-Italian mentioned above, add further richness to the text. Fielding also highlights the importance of Thomas as an artist. One of the great strengths of this book is that it is lavishly illustrated with examples of Thomas’s work. The early architectural details are interesting, but the pictures – mainly watercolours – are a revelation. They give a vivid, at times vis75
LATEST EVENTS FROM THE EUROPEAN AZERBAIJAN SOCIETY The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) is a UK-registered pan-European foundation dedicated to raising awareness of Azerbaijan and fostering closer economic, political and cultural links between that country and the nations of Europe. In addition to promoting the positive aspects of Azerbaijan, TEAS also highlights the plight of the 875,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within the country.These people are unable to return to their homes and lands due to the illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions by Armenia’s armed forces – in defiance of four UN Security Council resolutions. TEAS was launched in November 2008, having initially been established as the London Azerbaijan Society four years earlier. The organisation now has offices in the UK, Belgium, France, Germany and Turkey, along with a representative office in Azerbaijan. TEAS has three main facets to its operations: • Culture – TEAS raises awareness of Azerbaijan’s rich and vibrant culture to a worldwide audience by organising cultural events and operating as a networking centre. • Business – TEAS supports its membership of European and Azerbaijani businesses. It provides a platform for organisations to establish links and strengthen their existing business relationships via a programme of networking opportunities across the regions. • Public Affairs – TEAS works to increase awareness about Azerbaijan amongst key opinion-formers, key decision-makers and other political, academic and civil society stakeholders. For more information on all TEAS events, both past and future, go to www.teas.eu
Gulmira Rzayeva, Senior Editor of the Geostrategic Maritime Review – The Caspian Sea and Senior Research Fellow, SAM, delivered the keynote address (Photo: Stylin’Co)
AZERBAIJAN’S CENTRALITY IN THE GEOPOLITICAL ROLE OF THE CASPIAN In the context of the refugee crisis and changing relationships between the West with Russia and Iran – both of which are neighbours of Azerbaijan – this is a pivotal time for the South Caucasus powerhouse to demonstrate its importance to the region. On 21 October these were highlighted during a panel discussion in Paris at L’Hôtel de l’Industrie, headquarters of the Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale (SEIN), located near the Sorbonne University, and the centrepiece of French industry since 1852. The conference was organised by TEAS France, the International Geostrategic Maritime Observatory (IGMO) and SEIN, and attended by over 60 delegates, including H.E. Elchin Amirbayov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to France; H.E. Aurelia Bouchez, incoming French Ambassador to Azerbaijan; and diplomats from the Iranian, Georgian, Russian and Turkish embassies, amongst others.
$45bn Southern Energy Corridor, which will see gas piped through the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to an Italian interconnector, thereby representing supply diversity for much of Europe, away from overreliance on Russian resources. This will initially see up to 16bn m3 (bcm) of gas pumped to Turkey per year, and then Europe, by 2018 and 2020, respectively. The corridor is being constructed at over-capacity, and has the potential to carry up to 31bcm, augmenting Azerbaijani Caspian supplies with those from Central Asia – and possibly Iran – and transforming Azerbaijan into both a supply and transit country. After Gilles-Henri Garrault, Vice-President: International Relations, SEIN, opened the event, Ellen Wasylina, President, IGMO, presented the special edition of the Geostrategic Maritime Review, which focuses on the Caspian region. Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France commented: “This is an important time to hear about the strategic importance of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan is a major partner of the EU, located in the Caspian, and has established many business and commercial relationships with EU member countries. This publication is a very important addition to the available literature on the country.” Gulmira Rzayeva, Senior Editor of the Geostrategic Maritime Review – The Caspian Sea; Associate, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies (SAM) under the President of Azerbaijan said: “It is necessary to raise awareness of the countries around the Caspian Sea by organising events of this type in Paris and other capitals in Europe.”
She continued: “Energy is certainly the most imAzerbaijan is currently in the midst of an energy portant issue in the Caspian region. In the publicarevolution. The development of the Shah Deniz tion, we tried to cover the Caspian from different II full-field development has led to the 3500km, angles. We included such topics as the Trans-Cas77
EVENTS pian Pipeline, which has geopolitical implications, in addition to the demarcation of the legal status of the sea. EU countries are key customers for Azerbaijan, as it reduces their reliance on Russian gas. Azerbaijan is developing the Southern Energy Corridor, and this represents an alterative energy source to Russian Gazprom. Liquiefied Natural Gas (LNG) will be particularly important in the future. Iran has the resources, but it will need to produce more gas and oil.”
Sonja Lekovic, Energy Analyst, International Energy Agency, explained: “The Caspian Sea has an important role to play in the world of energy. Azerbaijan continues to pursue an independent policy, is achieving its 2020 objectives, and has achieved a greater reduction in energy intensity of any country in the region, partly due to the replacement of oil with natural gas and the adoption of new, energy-efficient technologies.”
Jane Amilhat, Deputy Head of Russia–CIS Unit, Dr Efgan Niftiyev, Expert, Hazar Strateji Enstitüsü, DG Trade, European Commission, continued: “We who moderated the panel discussion, reiterated are in favour of greater economic integration, but this, saying: “The Caspian is taking centre-stage in this doesn’t really exist in the Caspian Region. The global geopolitics and is central to the former So- countries need to be integrated with the world viet space. The West is interested in collaborating monetary market, and Azerbaijan is coming closer with the region in terms of energy security and to this. The EU is seeking market integration, enhas been primarily responsible for the develop- ergy security and supply diversification and hence ment of resources in the region. Now we are see- the Caspian Region is particularly important to ing local companies involved in the development us.” of the Shah Deniz field and construction of the Southern Energy Corridor.” Agathe Thomas, ENGIE Representative in Baku, concluded: “Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and KazakhOktay Tanrisever, Professor at METU-Turkey, spe- stan account for 13 per cent of the world’s gas recialising in Regional Security, Energy and Environ- serves. With around 18 per cent of total reserves ment and Turkish Foreign Policy, commented: “The – making it the top potential supplier of gas – it development of the Eurasian Economic Union is possible that Iran will become a major export (EEU) since 2012 has resulted in Russia unleashing country, and this will be a gamechanger. Azerbaijan its power in the region, and Russia and Kazakhstan is an oil producer with huge ambitions for gas and – two littoral states in the Caspian Region – are has the potential to produce 30bcm per annum.” members of the EEU. However, Baku has demonstrated its ability to pursue an independent policy.” RICH PALETTE OF OPPORTUNITIES BROUGHT TO THE HEART OF BRUSSELS Slavtcho Neykov, Chairman, Energy Management Institute, Bulgaria, said: “All presentations today On 14 October, more than 100 businesspeople have focused on security of energy supply. It is and diplomats from across Europe flocked to the also important to take into account the security prestigious Diamant Conference and Business of demand and infrastructure. The Southern En- Centre, near the diplomatic area of Brussels, for ergy Corridor will play an important role, but it the second Brussels Business Forum to highlight will initially carry only 16bcm per annum, whereas the investment opportunities available in Azerbaitotal EU consumption is 530bcm.” jan. Bylined as Azerbaijan Through the Eyes of International Investors, the event was organised by TEAS Benelux. OCA MAGAZINE
of Belgium and Grand Duchy of Luxembourg explained: “More than 50 per cent of investment in my country comes from EU countries. TEAS is bringing Azerbaijan to the heart of Europe, and that is very constructive. Despite all the challenges,Azerbaijan has demonstrated that its strong will has enabled it to achieve success.”
Herman De Croo, Belgian Minister of State, spoke warmly of his two visits to Azerbaijan (Photos: Alain Colard)
Marc Verwilghen, Director, TEAS Benelux and former Belgian Minister of the Economy, Development Co-operation and Justice, acknowledged: “Europe has a new heart – everyone seems to have discovered the ‘new’ Silk Road for which Azerbaijan will, once again, be the epicentre. Azerbaijan has huge investment potential. The objectives of Azerbaijan, Belgium, the whole of Benelux and the EU are the same. If Azerbaijan is in your head, there will be fire in your heart, enthusiasm in your soul, and dynamism in your body.”
The focus of the event was on changing preconceptions about Azerbaijan – a country renowned for its oil and gas reserves. James Hogan, Managing Partner, Dentons Baku – a TEAS member company – explained: “We have been active in Azerbaijan for 25 years. Azerbaijani investment policy is very open and, since independence, a stable legal regime has been implemented. This now includes Special Economic Zones, aimed at stimulating diversification of the economy.” Haji Huseynov, Senior Infrastructure Specialist, World Bank, outlined some of the World Bank-supported projects currently underway in Baku and across Azerbaijan. He said: “The Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) railway will become functional by the end of this year. The physical infrastructure is already built, and the first train completed its journey in August.” Axel Enthoven, President, Enthoven Associates, ranks amongst the most renowned Belgian designers of the past four decades. He explained: “In order to develop, mobility is extremely important.” He then outlined the options available for constructing urban and countryside infrastructure, and how the chosen concept can impact the relationship of the population to their country and their quality of life.
Herman De Croo, Belgian Minister of State and the longest-serving Belgian MP, spoke from his own experience: “I have visited Azerbaijan twice – in 2011 and this year. Between those dates there was enormous change in the infrastructure, and I noticed there has been an ongoing evolution in the receptiveness of the Azerbaijani people to external business investment from Europe.The successful hosting of the European Games in Azerbaijan is indicative of the drive of the authorities to be Agriculture is one of the predominant industries anchored to Europe.” in Azerbaijan, employing around 40 per cent of the workforce. Home to 11 climatic zones, and H.E. Fuad Isgandarov, Head of the Azerbaijani Mis- blessed with fertile soil. Azerbaijani farmers prosion to the EU and Ambassador to the Kingdom duce a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Man79
EVENTS uela Traldi, President, Italy–Azerbaijan Trade Institute (ITAZERCOM) commented: “Agriculture has become an extremely important sector in the country. It plays a key role in the process of diversification, and has the potential to become very important to European companies.” As would be expected, the energy session – chaired by journalist Rick Gill, Managing Director, Natural Gas Europe – attracted a great deal of interest. Dr Urban Rusnak, Secretary-General, Energy Charter Secretariat, said: “In the 1990s, Azerbaijan was an importer of oil products, but within a decade was an exporter, and ten years later became one of the leading producers and exporters of oil and gas and will play an important role in the future of the EU.”
service, launched just under three years ago, provides access to 280 services from 10 government agencies using e-government services. These are supplied via a network of ASAN Centres, complemented by mobile ASAN services for those in the rural regions. Kamran Agasi, Director of the Innovations Centre, State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, explained: “We have served around 6m of the 9.5m people in Azerbaijan, and feedback indicates a 98 per cent satisfaction rate.” The day concluded with a series of lively business-to-business meetings.
Vusal Mammadov, Director, State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR), Belgian Office, spoke on the current status of the $45bn Southern Energy Corridor, which will bring gas from the Caspian – and eventually Central Asia and Iran – direct to an Italian interconnector. Azerbaijan is currently striving to become the information and communications technologies (ICT) hub of the region. The sector has received $3bn of investment over the past three years. It is also central to the UN-mandated Trans-Eurasian Super Highway (TASIM) project, which will bring Farhad Badalbeyli and Janna Gandelman acknowledge their enhanced-bandwidth services between Frankfurt applause following a performance of Massanet’s evocative and Hong Kong, thereby reducing the digital diMeditation from his opera Thais (Photo: Dan Burgess) vide between Western and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Zaur Hasanov, Director, TASIM, said: LIFE CELEBRATION CONCERT “TASIM is a challenging and strategic project – AIDS CANCER RESEARCH UK passing through Azerbaijan – stretching for around 3000km and connecting the West to the East. It is a project of economic and geopolitical signifi- Held amidst the impressive historic surroundings of St. James’s Church, Piccadilly – designed by Sir cance.” Christopher Wren, also the architect for St. Paul’s Azerbaijan is currently leading the way regarding Cathedral – a concert on 10 November was held the unified provision of public services. The Azer- to celebrate the life of Fiona Maclachlan, a great baijani Service and Assessment Network (ASAN) friend of Azerbaijan. The evening featured leading OCA MAGAZINE
conductor and cellist Dmitry Yablonsky, alongside composer, educator and pianist Farhad Badalbeyli, Rector of Baku Music Academy – co-directors of the annual Gabala International Music Festival in Azerbaijan. Violinist Janna Gandelman, who has brought Arab and Israeli music students together via her Polyphony Foundation initiative, joined them. The event, attended by 300 family members, friends of Fiona and of Azerbaijan, was organised by TEAS and a retiring collection was made in aid of Cancer Research UK. Alastair Maclachlan, husband of Fiona, whose work brought her to Azerbaijan in 2004, recalled: “This is the kind of evening that Fiona would have enjoyed. She loved to be with family, old friends and new friends, but most of all she loved to extol the wonders of Azerbaijan – particularly the music, heritage and culture that has come out from this marvellous country. This concert was suggested by Dmitry and Farhad, and I am grateful to them and TEAS for organising it.” Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS, stated: “Tonight’s event is dedicated to memories of Fiona, our much-missed former colleague. She was a great advocate of Azerbaijan. She loved the people, the countryside, the ecology, and the country generally. Fiona’s enthusiasm for the country extended to its music, and we are honoured that tonight’s concert will feature performances by Dmitry and Farhad, both of whom were close personal friends of Fiona.”
tion, the deep sonorities of which summed up the emotional nature of the evening.This was followed by Robert Schumann’s Drei Fantasiestücke, which are imbued with a melodious and song-like quality. Thereafter came a rare performance, featuring Janna Gandelman, of Gara Garayev’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, written in 1960, and dedicated by this leading composer to the memory of the pianist Vladimir Kozlov, a long-term friend. Garayev was a student of Dmitry Shostakovich and applied his modernistic atonal and chromatic style to the eastern harmonies and microtones of mugham, the national music of Azerbaijan. In a surprise addition to the programme, Farhad Badalbeyli performed his best-known composition, The Sea (Deniz), a rhapsodic and melodious piece for solo piano, inspired by his wife. The contemplative theme recommenced with Rachmaninov’s romantic Three Romances for Cello and Piano, written in 1890 and dedicated to his cousin Vera, and Janna Gandelman again came to the stage for Debussy’s impressionistic Clair de Lune, which describes the motion of dancers in the moonlight. The evening continued with the cello transcription of Rachmaninov’s emotionally-charged Vocalise – literally a song without words.
Following a standing ovation, Janna returned to play Massanet’s evocative Meditation from the opera Thais, and the evening concluded with the Dmitry Yablonsky commented: “Fiona was, and is, Largo from Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, my friend. She probably knew more about Azer- played by Farhad and Dmitry. This was a glorious baijan than anyone else, due to her extensive re- musical celebration of Fiona, a wonderful mothsearch and travels in the country. She was a re- er, grandmother and friend of Azerbaijan, who is markable woman and is in my heart every day.” much missed. The programme of reflective music began with Czech composer Jan Benda’s Grave, taken from his Violin Concerto in G Major, in a cello transcrip81
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