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THE

Spektator №12

October 2010

Your monthly guide to what’s happening in and around Bishkek

s on cti ial! Ele pec S

Up Air in the

Plus: Kicking back in

Barskoon & Tamga In search of

Sunken Cities 2010 Elections:

The Style Guide

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Tourist Map What’s On Restaurant Guide


0312

66 40 79

Boulevard

Erkindik

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Focus

Contents Founder: Tom Wellings

Design: Alena Krivyh Advertising Manager: Irina Kasymova (email: advertise@thespektator.co.uk)

Nevermind the Ballots...

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...its the Spektator style guide to the October elections. Want to know your Bobanovs from your Baisalovs? Get the word on your favourite Kyrgyz politicians plus fashion analysis from Tilek and Saltanat.

Managing Editor: Chris Rickleton (editor@thespektator.co.uk)

Guest Contributor: Zein Javed

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Our friends the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan (TUK) go on a jaunt around the сountry’s favourite lake in search of sunken cities and semi-valuable artefacts.

The Spektator Magazine

Staff writers: Alex Ward (alexward@ thespektator.co.uk), Robert Marks (robertmarks@thespektator.co.uk), Natalya Wells, Evan Harris, Patrick Barrow, Pavel Kropotkin Anthony Butts (anthonybutts@ thespektator.co.uk)

Whispers of History

This Month News and Views

Its all about voter registration, smear campaigns, kickboxing candidates and Uzbek reticence as Kyrgyzstan’s finest prepare to do battle on October 10th.

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Out & About Barskoon Noon

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Up in the Air

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Lake Issyk Kul can still provide excitement off season, and its rugged and lawless southern shore is no country for old men.

Zein Javed takes to the skies in a Soviet war plane to break his parachutist’s cherry.

The Guide Blog of the Month

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Restaurants, Bars, Clubs

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www.thespektator.co.uk

City Map

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Want to contribute as a freelance writer? Please contact: editor@thespektator.co.uk

What’s On

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What has caught our eye this month?

All the best bars and clubs in town. Don’t get lost.

The pick of the entertainment listings.

ON THE COVER: Parachuting in the Kyrgyz Republic, like elections, can be a rewarding or disastrous experience

THE

The Spektator Magazine is available at locations throughout Bishkek, including: (Travel Agencies) Adventure Seller, Ak-Sai Travel, Carlson Wagonlit, Celestial Mountains, Ecotour, Glavtour,Kyrgyz Concept, Kyrgyz Travel, Muza, NoviNomad (Bars & Restaurants) Cowboy, Hollywood, Metro, New York Pizza, No1, 2x2, Boulevard, Coffeehouse, Doka, Fatboy’s, Four Seasons, Live Bar, Lounge Bar, Meri, Navigator, Stary Edgar’s Veranda, Adriatico, Cyclone, Dolce Vita, Santa Maria, Golden Bull (Casinos) Europa, Golden Dragon, XO (Hotels) Dostuk, Hyatt, Golden Dragon, Holiday, Alpinist (Embassies and Organisations) The UN building, The American base, The German Embassy, The Dutch Consulate, CAMP Ala-too, NCCR, The Bishkek Opera & Ballet Society.

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The Spektator is now online at www.thespektator.co.uk


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This Month

Some Parties Playing Nationalist Card in Election Campaign ULAN TEMIROV BISHKEK, September 14 (Eurasianet.org) As Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary election campaign intensifies, some observers worry it can stir up still-raw emotions connected to this summer’s violent clashes in the South. Twenty-nine political parties have registered to participate in the October 10 elections, which will determine the composition of the 120-seat legislature. Many of the parties are little more than vehicles for individual politicians. [For background see EursasiaNet’s archives]. With the atmosphere following interethnic violence in June still heated, some parties are appealing to nationalist emotions. And just days into the official campaign season, the rhetoric is reaching an alarming level, according to Edil Baisalov, Otunbayeva’s former chief of staff and the current leader of the Aikol El Party. “Some political leaders lack the social responsibility to refrain from kindling strife in their speeches,” Baisalov told EurasiaNet.org. Nationalist campaign rhetoric is more prevalent in the South than in the North, said Kadyr Malikov, head of the Independent Analytical Research Center. “Because parties don’t have developed platforms or programs, there is no ideology. Now parties use ultra-patriotic expressions, which are nationalist and threaten the internal stability of the country,” Malikov said. Many election-watchers are worried that the campaign, or the vote’s aftermath, could turn ugly, especially if a losing party makes claims about voting irregularities. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archives]. Provisional President Rosa Otunbayeva is among those concerned. Over the past week she has repeatedly called on individual candidates and political parties to show restraint, reinforcing that message with a reminder that she has the power to cancel the elections, if the “integrity and unity of the country” is at stake. “[I am] concerned about the intentions and behavior of individual parties,” she said on September 7. “I ask you not to allow the issue of interethnic relations to become politizised.” Later, during a September 13 visit to Osh, the provisional president issued a more pointed statement. “I want to emphasize that the most severe measures will be taken against parties that allow themselves to raise the interethnic issue, and to divide the people into northerners and southerners, or along family and clan lines, in order to score political points,” the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Otunbayeva as saying. One party that has faced close scrutiny is Ata-Jurt, or Fatherland. The party’s ranks are filled with former officials in Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s administration, which collapsed in April. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive]. The party has a significant following among ethnic Kyrgyz in southern regions that are considered strongholds of support for the former president. Bakiyev’s former minister of emergency situations, Kamchybek Tashiev, the former State Tax Service chief, Akmatbek Keldibekov – both from the South – and Bakiyev’s former chief of staff, Myktybek Abdyldayev, are prominent party leaders. Tashiev, in particular, has frequently stated October 2010 The Spektator

that Kyrgyz are not accorded the respect that a titular nation deserves. “In Kyrgyzstan there are people of various ethnic groups and it will remain so, but the Kyrgyz are the basis of this nation,” Tashiev said in comments published in an August edition of the Obshchestvenniy Reyting newspaper. “All the people living in Kyrgyzstan must live in peace and accord and they have to respect our traditions, our history.” In an interview with EurasiaNet.org, Tashiev rejected accusations his party is nationalistic, while insisting that Ata-Jurt would promote the rights of the “titular nation.” “As a political party we represent the interests and rights of people from all nations and layers of the population,” Tashiev said. “The party protects national interests and the culture and unity of the titular nation [i.e. Kyrgyz], which can be interpreted mistakenly as an expression of nationalistic views.” Tashiev believes integrating minorities into “Kyrgyz culture” will help prevent future interethnic conflicts, as long as they acclimate to Kyrgyz society. “Be it an Uzbek, Russian, Turk or Dungan who decided to live and make a career in Kyrgyzstan, he should know the language and culture of Kyrgyz, and respect the spirit and culture of the titular nation,” he said. “When smaller ethnicities conflict with titular nations, and try by force to get some power or political preferences

in the country, it could lead all of us to a new dead end.” Some observers believe Ata-Jurt is being subjected to unfair attention. “Ata-Jurt is trying to revive the idea of unity among Kyrgyz,” said Bakyt Ibraimov, an Osh-based journalist. Every political party has tried to develop a distinctive political profile for the election campaign, he added. “AtaJurt – especially considering the June interethnic clash between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks – decided to focus on the Kyrgyz as a titular nation as [such a platform appeals to] the majority of the electorate,” Ibraimov said. Ibraimov went on to assert that the complaints against Ata-Jurt had more to do with the party leadership’s close connection to the Bakiyev administration than to irresponsible campaign tactics. “It is nothing more than black PR by their political opponents,” he said. Baisalov, the provisional government’s former chief-of-staff, also saw a political motive in the criticism of Ata-Jurt. “There is no need to demonize Ata-Jurt for allegedly having connections with former president Bakiyev,” he said. “All current parties […] have leaders who, in the past, used to work in ministerial positions under former presidents.” Editor’s note: Ulan Temirov is a pseudonym for a journalist based in Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan in brief Russia waiting on elections to Obama urges Kyrgyzstan begin military talks leader to curb violence MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will start negotiations on the status of its military facilities in Kyrgyzstan only after parliamentary elections in the Central Asian republic, the Russian foreign minister said on Thursday.”Let’s wait until the elections in Kyrgyzstan, until a new, permanent rather than interim, government is formed in the country,” Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

Kyrgyzstan ready to join customs union WASHINGTON DC, September 22 (CentralAsiaNewswire) - Kyrgyzstan wants to join the Russia-Kazakhstan customs union, and both Russia and Kazakhstan have strong reasons to welcome it in. Kyrgyz President Rosa Otunbayeva took the plunge and announced her country’s desire to join the new customs union, which also includes Belarus, at a July meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC). After many delays, the Russian-led customs union began operating on July 15 and is hoping to fully integrate its three markets, totalling 170 million people, by 2012.

NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama urged the President of Kyrgyzstan Rosa Otunbayeva on Friday to take more steps to prevent a renewal of violence after ethnic conflict that erupted in June. Obama held talks with the Kyrgyzstan leader, Roza Otunbayeva, on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Dmitry Medvedev meets the leader of Ar-Namys party MOSCOW, September 23 (Ferghana.Ru) - On September 22, 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met Felix Kulov, the leader of Kyrgyz Ar-Namys (Dignity) party, in his Moscow residence. According to Kremlin.ru, the parties discussed the current situation in Kyrgyzstan. The day before, Felix Kulov arrived in Moscow and signed an interparty agreement with Russian pro-President party Edinnaya Rossiya. As the strategic partner of Kyrgyzstan Russia is interested in peace and stability in Kyrgyzstan and hopes that all current processes will be resolved within the legal norms, Dmitry Medvedev specified. www.thespektator.co.uk


This Month

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In Bishkek, an art exhibition dedicated to events in the country ASKAR ERKEBAEV & ZHIBEK NURMANBETOVA BISHKEK, September 10 (Kloop.kg) The exhibition, presenting the work of “more than 10 authors” from several countries, began on September 3 at the Art Centre Koldo. The exhibition is in the style of contemporary art, using photography, audio and video mediums. Curator Gamal Bokonbayev said in an interview with Kloop.kg, that the initiative for this event belonged to a subsidiary of the Goethe Institute in Almaty. The focus of the original exhibition was to be the April 7 coup. However, “because of the June riots”, the event was postponed. According to Bokonbaev, following the riots there have been delays that have prevented the completion of several creative projects. “After the events in June, foreign sponsors fled from here [Kyrgyzstan]. Many projects have failed, because foreign artists weren‘t allowed here,” complains the exhibition curator. Despite this, the exhibition has now begun. Bokonbayev believes that “art should never remain silent, no matter what happens.” “After them [the riots in the south] the idea returned [...] Art is already responding to the events, the purpose of this exhibition is that very response,” says Gamal Bokonbayev. According to him, “the project is limited in terms of investment and scale,” so the resultant exhibition is “small”. Displays of works will continue until the end of the month. Works “with meaning” The curator said that the exhibition was represented by “around 20 works, and more than 10 artists” from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Germany. One element of the exhibition was sent from New York by an ex-patriate Kazakh artist. Among the works were images of “deep content”; one video from the scene of disorder in the South, as well as pictures drawn by children in Bishkek. In addition, the exhibition features a soundtrack in the form of street noise, conversations and laughter. “The soundtracks are characterized by the passions of recent events,” said an artist present at the show. According to the art centre representative Mirgul Bolotaliev, “many people did not understand the idea of the works”, but those who were themselves cultured and creative gauged the main ideas of the artists. As an example of one of the more engaging works on display, she cited an exhibit entitled “Elections 2010“– a ballot box, filled with ashes, representing the fallout from the disorders. Also participating in the exhibition was a “best selling artist” from Germany, Michael Mueller. According to Bolotaliev, he composed his four-day picture using nothing other than a simple pencil. “In his work, he wanted to say that life is changing as a sky [changes], and Kyrgyzstan is sometimes covered by clouds, which appear over the country before blue skies arrive,” explained Bolotaliev. Contemporary Art in Kyrgyzstan Gamal Bokonbayev also noted the position and history of contemporary art in Kyrgyzstan. Speaking to a Kloop.kg corretspondent she said: “How www.thespektator.co.uk

modern art differs from the old – is in the contextual meaning [of the reaction to current events] and the use of new media [audio, video, photos],” In his opinion, the state pays no attention to contemporary art, and as a result no infrastructure is in place to support its development. “In the USSR art was ignored, and our cultural institutions such as the Ministry of Culture are not recognized , nor [is art] taught in universities,” says the curator of the exhibition. However, Bokonbayev believes that “in comparison with neighbouring countries”, Kyrgyzstan

is “on a good level, owing to the help of Western funds and private initiatives”. “Every year we have held three or four small exhibitions of contemporary art,” explained the artist. As one example of the development of contemporary art in Kyrgyzstan, Bokonbayev mentioned Kyrgyzstan’s participation in the Venice Biennale. For English language articles about Kyrgyz politics and society visit www.kloop.info

Hunting for Homeless Kyrgyz in Osh NATASHA YEFIMOV OSH, September 19 (Eurasianet.org) A Kyrgyz woman compares the photo of a corpse with that of a missing loved one displayed outside the Osh mayor’s office. Portraits of missing Uzbeks are hidden away in an office in an Uzbek neighborhood. The summer camp looked deserted. Just inside the high metal fence, a plump woman in slippers and a purple kerchief squatted outside a two-room shack, washing dishes with a plastic tub and two dented kettles. “Maybe she’s one of them,” I thought -- an ethnic Kyrgyz who’d lost her home in the barbaric interethnic violence that swept across southern Kyrgyzstan in June. The camp lies at the end of a dirt road a few miles outside the city of Osh, where, three months after the clashes, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks still circulate photos of the dead and missing and each side tells the same stories, split into “us” and “them”: “their guys raped our girls”; “we are a peace-loving people”; “they’re the ones who started it”; “all the aid goes to them and we get nothing.” On this last point, the two groups differ in one respect: Uzbeks complain that humanitarian aid controlled by local officials (predominantly ethnic Kyrgyz) does not go to them, while Kyrgyz -- many of whom feel unfairly demonized by the outside world -- say the same of aid from international organizations. In Osh, the most visible type of aid from abroad is construction material: new bricks and gravel piling up on curbsides to build new homes before winter. Most beneficiaries are indeed Uzbeks, since their houses and shops make up the overwhelming majority of those hit by arson. But the painful battle of narratives is still raging, so when a prominent Kyrgyz activist and candidate for the national parliament told me that many ethnic Kyrgyz had also been displaced and were settled at the summer camp, my colleague and I felt compelled to check. “No,” said the woman washing dishes, with a gold-capped smile, “there’s no one living here but me.” She was Kyrgyz, but not homeless, just a local villager looking after the camp in the off season. She said there hadn’t been any IDPs at the camp that she knew of. “You should go to the sanatorium, by the checkpoint. There’s lots of

people living there.” “Are they Kyrgyz who lost their houses? How long have they been there?” “Yes, yes… Since June.” So off we went. The sanatorium -– really, a children’s tuberculosis hospital -– stands on the edge of town. Where the road past it slopes uphill, leading to two suburbs populated by ethnic Uzbeks, it is blocked off with concrete barriers manned by Kalashnikov-wielding Kyrgyz men in camouflage. They walked over as our car pulled up to the tank parked outside the sanatorium gate. The next five minutes wouldn’t surprise anyone who’s dealt with ominous security forces in the former Soviet Union. The men, who claimed to be local police, wore no insignia or identifying marks on their fatigues (easily buyable, by the way, at local markets), though by law -- if they were in fact police -- they must. They grabbed our press cards, deleted our tank photo and demanded to know why no officials were accompanying us. The most senior-looking of the three started making calls from his cell phone; I, in turn, scrolled through the numbers in mine, dropping names I thought might afford us some protection. The police force is made up mostly of ethnic Kyrgyz. Salaries are low, corruption rife and laws are viewed as suggestions at best. Well-documented studies by the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch have presented strong evidence that local security forces in the south did little to stop June’s violence and, in some instances, facilitated attacks against ethnic Uzbeks. Outside the sanatorium, our explanation that we were following up on reports of ethnic Kyrgyz IDPs -- an example, one might think, of the fair reporting many Kyrgyz have felt is missing -- did not persuade the men to let us in. They insisted that the building stood within their security perimeter and they had to guard it; moreover, they said there were no displaced people on the territory of the hospital, just sick children. I called back the activist to let her know what we’d found. “Ah, that means they’ve been taken to other places already,” she said of the displaced. “But, before, they were definitely there. I didn’t see them myself, but they were definitely there. I know. I heard about it.” October 2010 The Spektator


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This Month

Novostroiki residents must vote at their place of registration ULUGBEK AKISHEV

BISHKEK, September 14 (Kloop.kg) As parliamentary elections near, the issue of voting for internal migrants has come to the fore. According to the electoral code, they must vote at their place of registration, rather than their current abode. Therefore, residents of large housing estates or novostroiki have decided to arrange a meeting with the authorities demanding the abolition of the law. In the referendum held on June 27 this year, a provisional government decree authorized all citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic to vote at their de facto place of residence. However, in the upcoming elections there is no such authorization in place for them to do so. Meanwhile, the problem has become more relevant as the level of internal migration has increased due to June’s bloody ethnic conflict in the South. But, according to Dinara Oshurahunova, director of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, the election code does not allow for such people to vote outside their registered constituency. “We as a coalition in 2005 called for the abolition of registration, because it affects not only the election but many of the social rights of people who are not registered at their place of actual residence,” said Oshurahunova. The head of the coalition drew attention to the fact that this question emerges in every election that takes place in Kyrgyzstan. “However, the election is only 3 weeks away and now it is not possible to make any changes to the electoral code. Even if we were to try and deal with this issue, there is no legislative body [to pass the legislation],” declares Dinara Oshurahunova. Oshurahunova noted that the elections “will be intensely competitive and every vote will be counted,” but that if any changes to the code were to be made, it “could simply escalate into conflict”. However, conflict appears to be brewing anyway. The residents of a housing estate New Uchkun, led by Tynchtyk Mederbekov, said at a news conference earlier in the week that they will arrange a meeting with authorities demanding a resolution to this problem. “At the referendum we were able to vote at the place of our actual residence, but now the law requires us to go to our homes [places of registration] and vote there, which is very expensive,” said Tynchtyk Mederbekov. Oshurahunova sees no opportunities to influence the situation. According to her, in contrast to the parliamentary elections, the referendum was held on the basis of a Code of Referendum [COR]. “Now, of course, amendments cannot be made because this will lead to falsification, and if we remove these barriers, then it will affect the outcome of the elections themselves,” said the head of the Coalition for Democracy and Society. But Mederbekov insists that people who work and live in Bishkek’s novostroiki should vote on a par with those on the voter lists. “Bishkek has about 42 new housing sites and about 150,000 internal migrants who have no right to vote,” says Tynchtyk Mederbekov. Simple peaceful rally According to human rights activist Oshurahunova, October 2010 The Spektator

the issue of electoral rights needs to be addressed not through rallies, but rather in the form of recommendations from the parties, which “should be raised in terms of the issue of residence at the first meetings of the new parliament”. However, residents of the novostroiki are demanding an address with the president and want to reach a solution to the problem in the next two weeks before parliamentary elections take place. “The question of the problem of internal migration has [traditionally] been raised only by non-governmental organizations, and we were surprised by the actions of the residents of the novostroiki. It seems to me that it has not been without nudges from the political parties,” said the head of the coalition. Elmira Mukambetova, one of the residents of New Uchkun, argues that “it would be a simple and peaceful rally, which we would arrange with our own money, raise money along the road and design posters”.

said that “the difference between a trip to vote in the election, and a trip [to obtain] absentee ballots - is nothing, because you [have to] spend all your money [in any case]”. Mamaraimov detailed a second possible solution to the problem. Nine days before the election, voters have the opportunity of voting early. “But other [options] are impossible, in any case, voters need to go and vote at their residence, or receive an absentee ballot,” said the CEC representative. The elections seem to have aroused genuine interest among voters. According to the consulting agency M-Vector “now about 85% of the inhabitants of the republic are going to demonstrate their opinion and take part in the vote, out of which 53.5% of the participants expressed their firm intention to go to the polls”, their report states. The other 15% were split equally, with one half saying that they “probably will not vote”, and the remaining 7.5% undecided. According to the electoral code a party can only enter parliament if it meets the threshold of Absentee certificates 5% of the total vote throughout the country and a Member of the Central Election Commission minimum of 0.5% in each region, as well as in the (CEC) Abdumomun Mamaraimov said that “vot- municipalities of Bishkek and Osh. ers may also obtain an absentee certificate up to 15 days before the election from their local elec- This material was prepared within the framework of the Deutsche Welle Academy training on election tion commission. The permit allows absentee voters to vote on a coverage site next to their de facto place of residence, rather than their place of registration. But in order to obtain a certificate, it is important to have documents proving that you cannot vote at your place of registration for a certain reason. “We have never heard of these absentee ballots, we only hear that we have to vote at our places of residence,” says Mukambetova. Mederbekov

Editor’s Note: The word novostroiki refers to large plots of low density housing, usually on the outskirts of large metropolises. Novostroiki near Bishkek often lack basic infrastructure such as electricity and running water. The plots are typically occupied by migrants from the country’s regions and accommodation therein often lacks formal legal status.

Dirtying Kyrgyzstan’s New Political Field BRUCE PANNIER BISHKEK, September 23 (RFE/RL) - Kyrgyzstan holds parliamentary elections on October 10 amid great expectations - for the first time, really, in post-Soviet Central Asia, there is a fresh and clean political field competing. But the reemergence this month of a sex tape featuring the leading contender in the current race shows that dirty-tricks politics is alive and well in Kyrgyzstan. The target is Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, which polls say is likely to win the most votes among the 29 parties contesting the election. If those predictions are accurate, it would put Tekebaev on the inside track to be Kyrgyzstan’s next prime minister, which owing to new constitutional changes will be the most powerful position in the country. A video of Tekebaev cavorting with a woman, naked, in a hotel room has mysteriously resurfaced nearly two years after it was first posted on the web. It shows Tekebaev using a belt to induce erotic asphyxiation on his partner and is interspersed with faux campaign slogans such as “We won’t let anyone bring us to our knees” and “I’ll give you democracy.” Obviously no one knows who posted (or re-

posted) the video, but the intent to smear Tekebaev’s reputation is clear enough. It’s a mark on an election that so far has been remarkable for its lack of scandals and accusations. With no political elite ruling the country, the prospects for one of the freer and fairer polls ever seen in Central Asia are good, and seen as a positive break from the past. Interestingly, this smear attempt comes at a time when seemingly no one is in a strong enough position to influence the results. The video appears to have had no impact on the campaign, and has not gained traction as a topic in the media or on the street. As for Tekebaev, it is not the first time someone has tried to blacken his reputation. In 2006, customs officials at Warsaw airport detained Tekebaev after finding 695 grams of heroin in a matryoshka doll. It turned out that Janysh Bakiev, a brother of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, had plotted to plant the heroin on Tekebaev and then inform Polish law enforcement to be on the watch for the then-opposition leader. When the sex video first appeared last year, Tekebaev declined to comment on it and the Kyrgyz political world seemed not to want to know any more about it. www.thespektator.co.uk


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Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbeks Sitting Out Parliamentary Campaign BISHKEK, September 27 ((Eurasianet.org) Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming parliamentary vote on October 10 is creating a quandary for the Central Asian nation’s Uzbek minority. Some Uzbek politicians see the elections as an opportunity to try to enhance minority rights. But the majority of Uzbeks, mindful of the harm that their community suffered during the June violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, appears hesitant to get involved in the political process. The experience of the past four months has left many Uzbeks profoundly skeptical about their ability to produce change via the ballot box, Uzbek community observers say. “After the violent events, Uzbeks are afraid to come out to the streets,” said an Osh-based human rights activist who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Many Uzbeks were jailed, others are continuously harassed. How can they vote under such circumstances?” The activist added that harassment by Kyrgyz security services and fears of persecution prompted an estimated 30,000 Uzbeks to flee the country in recent months. Some Uzbeks believe participation in politics stands a better chance of aggravating what they say is the existing atmosphere of discrimination, rather than easing it. “We should leave politics to the Kyrgyz; it’s their business. This will be a safe choice for us,” said Husanbay, an Osh carpenter who asked his last name not be printed. Overall, 29 political parties are vying for the 120 parliamentary seats. Given the provisional leadership’s intention to re-fashion Kyrgyzstan as a parliamentary republic, the composition of the new legislature could have a profound impact on the country’s democratization process. Not all Uzbeks are staying away from politics. Two prominent Uzbek political leaders - Anvar Artykov and Murat Juraev, representing the Ar-Namys and Ak-Shumkar parties, respectively – hope to gain seats in parliament. Meanwhile, other Uzbek public figures have campaigned with Kyrgyz politicians during appearances in Uzbek neighborhoods. A few Uzbeks also say there are practical benefits to joining political parties. For example, an instructor at an Osh university who recently joined the Ata-Meken Party, contended that party membership can offer protection from police harassment. The police are almost uniformly ethnic Kyrgyz. Prior to May 14, Uzbeks traditionally shied away from aligning with Kyrgyz political factions in promoting their long-standing demands, including the designation of Uzbek as an official language and greater political representation. When supporters of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev briefly seized government offices on May 13-14 in the southern cities of Batken, Osh and Jalal-Abad, ethnic Uzbeks from Jalal-Abad led by Kadyrjan Batyrov, a local Uzbek community leader and prominent entrepreneur, helped the provisional government reestablish its authority. Many Kyrgyz subsequently blamed Batyrov for involvement in an arson attack on Bakiyev’s family compound in the nearby village of Teyit on May 14. Many Uzbeks believe that episode was a contributing factor to the outbreak of the June violence. Apart from fear, many Uzbeks doubt that the election outcome can advance their causes. Many October 2010 The Spektator

are chagrined to see that many political parties are ignoring issues that Uzbeks care most about, including the deployment of an OSCE-led mission to advise police in Osh, and an end to the widely documented harassment and discrimination that has followed the June violence. Following the June unrest, most political parties appear to be tailoring their messages to appeal to rising nationalist sentiments among Kyrgyz, observers add. Even parties linked to the provisional government are not distributing material in any language but Kyrgyz at rallies in Osh. Fliers are not even printed in Russian, which is one of Kyrgyzstan’s “official” languages. Kyrgyzstan’s electoral code requires political parties to have at least 15 percent of its membership come from ethnic minority groups. Koreans and Russians can help fill that quota. But Kyrgyz political parties have also been trying to reach out to Uzbeks, the single largest minority group in the country. “Representatives of various political parties are going from door to door in [Uzbek] neighborhoods, cajoling Uzbeks to join their parties,” one Osh resident said.

Campaign activists, meanwhile, are openly frustrated with Uzbeks’ lack of interest in the electoral process. A representative of Butun Kyrgyzstan (“United Kyrgyzstan”), a southern-based party, said he was fed up trying to seek Uzbek votes. “We are going around Uzbek neighborhoods trying to find people who can join our party. But Uzbeks are not eager to join. It sometimes feels like it is a waste of time,” he told EurasiaNet.org. An Osh representative of another party, Zamandash (“Contemporary”), complained to EurasiaNet.org that “Uzbeks have become apolitical.” Many Uzbeks are aware that their reluctance to participate in politics could have long-term consequences. Lacking representation, for example, could put Uzbeks at risk of losing cultural rights, such as access Uzbek-language education, one Uzbek journalist told EurasiaNet.org. But most seem to believe that non-participation is currently their best available option. “Uzbeks lost the war; the Kyrgyz won. It was an unfair war. But we must accept what we have,” said Ibragim, an Osh entrepreneur who witnessed atrocities in June.

The ‘Black Kyrgyz’ enters the political ring BISHKEK, September 29 ((Eurasianet.org) Omurbek Babanov, leader of Kyrgyzstan’s nascent Respublika Party, has a habit of forging opportune relationships. As a young businessman during Askar Akayev’s presidency, he reportedly became one of the richest men in Kyrgyzstan. By subsuming kickboxing champion Alene Ofoyo – ‘the Black Kyrgyz’ – into his campaign trail for October’s parliamentary elections, it appears he has made yet another prudent choice. Created in June, and combating a perceived deficit of electoral experience, Respublika operatives have set about swallowing up Bishkek’s billboard space in a well-funded campaign that has attracted both jealousy and criticism from opponents. Unlike other parties, whose campaigns are typified by the overwhelming predominance of ethnic Kyrgyz, Republic’s billboards have provided at least a token acknowledgement of the country’s broad ethnic spread. Even providing for Kyrgyzstan’s highly cosmopolitan base, however, the image of kickboxer Alene Ofoyo on a billboard at one of the capital’s main intersections is a jarring sight for passers by. Of Congolese-Russian descent, and yet born in a Bishkek suburb, Ofoyo is a hero in Kyrgyzstan’s kickboxing community. In 2008, fighting under ring name ‘the Black Kyrgyz’ he defeated Belarusian fighter Zamin Guseinov to become WBKF champion of Europe, a title he still retains. Despite a distinctively non-Kyrgyz appearance, Ofoyo represents something of a national treasure in sporting terms. He is that all-conquering competitor who wears his unique identity on his shorts, flying to Moscow, one of the centers of the kickboxing world, and regularly returning home victorious. “Alene Ofoyo is our champion,” says former Minister of Labor and Social Protection Roza Aknazarova, the 12th candidate on Respublika’s ticket. “He is someone our youth can admire. He is

in good moral and physical health; a born winner but also humble in character.” Demonstrating Respublika’s wide base, Aknazarova appears beside Ofoyo in the billboard commercial. Youth is seemingly one of Respublika’s main ideals. Of their top ten candidates, 40-year old Babanov is the second most senior. The youngest of the ten is only 25. Yet despite a political campaign as visible as traditional political powerhouses such as AtaMeken and the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, few experts expect Respublika to come out on top of the pile, instead tipping them as a party for the future, shorn up by the financial might of Talas-born Babanov, who experienced the upper echelons of power as deputy first prime minister during the final year of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s reign. Moreover, even if Respublika were to surprise everyone by sweeping to victory in October’s poll, Ofoyo would still be able to rest assured that life in politics won’t complicate his day-today regimen of training to fight other kick boxers across the countries of the CIS. Guidelines set out by the CEC stipulated that every party must submit lists of 120 candidates, yet due to limits on the number seats any one party can acquire in the new parliament, those ranked outside of 60th place can be confident they will not get a seat. Ofoyo is ranked 110th and thus his involvement is largely symbolic. Yet that doesn’t mean that there isn’t political capital to be made via association. At a gym not far from the billboard commercial, 19-yearold Akzholtoy Ibraev aims roundhouse kicks at a body-length bag suspended by a metal chain. He says he isn’t interested in politics, but would vote for any party Ofoyo supports. “If Alene put his name to it, it means it [the party] must be honest,” he says. “He [Ofoyo] is a gentleman who fights with the Kyrgyz spirit.” www.thespektator.co.uk


10

Out & About

Barskoon

Noon O CHRIS RICKLETON

For those who have already had their fill of N A DRY AUTUMN day the Barskoon region of Issyk Kul oblast reveals itIssyk Kul’s primmest beaches and pensionaself as pure Clint Eastwood territory. ti, a visit to Barskoon and Tamga on the lake’s Once off the smooth, meandering rugged southern shore offers something a track that clings to the lake itself, you little less predictable. Sensing adventure, have it all; lone stallions grazing rocky outcrops, the Spektator packed its towel, trunks and a bull skulls staring bleakly out from scrub foothills and provincial saloons thinly peopled by strangemake-believe Smith & Western.

Above Barskoon and Tamga’s cemetries would not look out of place in a John Wayne movie set (all photos Chris Rickleton) Right While this abstract monument to Yuri Gagarin in Barskoon is thoroughly destroyed, many of the region’s other homages to the Soviet cosmonaut remain in tact

October 2010 The Spektator

faced cattle herders, blown in from a dusty ranch. Along the rattling route to mining enterprise Kumtor, this Stetson fantasy can be briefly continued. This, you tell yourself, is the path to riches, paved by pioneers and rustlers, the precious metal object at its end obsessing the early American West before oilmen changed the game forever, and black became the new gold. What shakes you out of such a daydream is a fresh threat to your personal security - the sound of bloodcurdling shrieks coming from the mountains nearby. As your vehicle rolls closer to the mighty Barskoon waterfall, the so-called ‘Bowl of Manas’, you realize with vague disappointment and and a hint of relief, that this is not a pack of Native Americans descending on you in a fury of feathers and tomahawks, but groups of boisterous Kyrgyz teenagers loaded on Nashe Pivo beer, who wish, in their own clumsy manner, to make your acquaintance. The romance of bygone cowboy flicks sharply forgotten, you find yourself surrounded by a new, unique kind of lawlessness. At the bottom of the incline leading up to the waterfall a large family are celebrating around a camp fire. The older generation is as drunk as its offspring in the mountains, but a new crop of children - for whom there may yet be hope - are innocently taking part in sack races, tug-of-wars and skipping contests. Back by the road’s edge, yet more youths are crawling over a despoiled statue of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, while just behind them, inexplicably lifted onto an unmarked mar-

ble plinth, is a quarrying lorry stripped of its front wheel. Here the weird makes embrace with the wonderful, that same, heart-warming paradox for which you might just have come to Kyrgyzstan in the first place. The hike up to view Manas in full flow can be done in two ways. A gentle, verdant route decorated with iris flowers in their apogee leads to a viewing platform just above the waterfall, while a steeper, more strenuous trek takes you up through a forest, to within toe-dangling distance of Barskoon’s premier natural attraction. Both walks take around half an hour to complete, with the option of going beyond the bowl, up to the falls’ icier source. Back at the base, driver Boris was concerned. The Nashe Pivo gang had moved onto vodka, and had sabotaged their siblings’ sack race. Our car could be next, he suggested. Rolling back along the road out of Kumtor, Boris told us a few things about Kyrgyzstan’s foremost mineral extraction operation - a joint stock venture which is partly Canadian-owned. “They are the region’s biggest employer,” he said. “Over 3,000 locals work in that operation - mostly full-time, too. You’ve probably heard there are some environmental problems there. Yes, its safer to swim in Tamga than in Barskoon.” Aside from Kumtor and tourism, Issyk-Kul region offers few working opportunities for its residents. Much of the land immediately around the lake is uncultivated, and the fishing isn’t as good as it used to be. “Up at Song-Kul [Naryn oblast], you can pull out all sorts of strange and exciting fish,” Boris, a keen angler, continued. “But here, its over-fished. They don’t breed like they once did - and what’s left is only good for kippering.” He scratched his head at this conundrum as we glided alongside the lake’s sparkling sapphire eye, through the featureless town of Barskoon and onto Luba Dainichkina’s guesthouse in Tamga. www.thespektator.co.uk


Out & About

Few homestays in the region are likely to rival Luba’s for charm, homeliness and quality of cuisine. This final factor assumes major importance to the traveller making his way around the IssykKul region of Kyrgyzstan, since many will tell you that the oblast’s one and only shortcoming is its cooking. Here, however, we arrived to tasty pizza served with seasoned vegetables and left on a full stomach of deliciously tender beef stroganoff. A beautifully kept garden full of interesting statuettes and blooming roses hosts a table-tennis table for the semi-active, whilst those seeking full blown relaxation can enjoy a nap on the veranda, imitating Luba’s three friendly, sleepy canine companions who are invariably found dozing in the picturesque courtyard of their hozyaika. Folks who haven’t had their thirst for local handicrafts quenched in other parts of the country may well wish to take advantage of the Dainichkins’ on-site shop, where an interesting range of felts, ceramics and Soviet memorabilia can be found at-cheaper-than-Bishkek rates. According to Luba, Tamga means ‘rock drawing’ in an ancient language that long departed from Issyk Kul’s environs, although those with a spattering of the native tongue may mistake the village as being inhospitable, since its name coincides with the Kyrgyz command ‘go home’. To help us in our quest for Tamga’s sacred stones we hired Sasha, a thirteen year-old Russian boy whose services cost under 200 soms. Ambling across the landscape with a makeshift staff, he cut a reluctant Gandolf, bored of Tamga and dreaming of Moscow, where he had relatives. When I asked him what percentage of Tamga’s population was ethnic Russian, he said: “About three”. Yet a guidebook of mine produced in 2003 had recorded it as being closer to fifteen. Amidst this apparent exodus, his family had stayed on, and I wondered why. His father, he told us, was a geologist, who worked with both Kumtor and www.thespektator.co.uk

11

an international organization based in Bishkek. Many of his friends had left and his grasp of the state language was rudimentary. I imagined him a little lonely. But his solace was in swimming, which he did for two hours every day in the summer, with briefer forays in the spring and autumn. With Sasha storming ahead we wandered the wilderness in awe, tramping across fields of spuds, over stiles and out into rusty meadows full of giant rocks and patches of a crop called poline, which smelled like lavender but wasn’t. Everywhere there were ladybirds - four or five times the size of their European counterparts - and transient lilac butterflies that fluttered across our path, then vanished into ether.

our featured article by the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan]. Past us a man and son tandem sidled by on a horse, saluting us stoically before trotting off into the dusky horizon. It was time to make tracks. On our way back to the village, Kyrgyz cemeteries with their distinctive graves baulked out from the brows of barren hills. The landscape had regained its ‘shootout at sundown’ feel, and no amount of under-age alcoholism could have taken it away. A Tamga sunset can be spectacular, and is best viewed from any crest that overlooks the lake itself. We followed its incandescent bob as we descended to the nearest beach to enjoy a spot of wild swimming, finding the water much warmer here than by Cholpon-Ata and elsewhere along the northern shore. As we dried off, an old “Ambling across the landscape man, naked in a straw hat and full of vodka and greeted us. He said he was planning with a makeshift staff, he cut a re- bonhomie, to take his decrepit fishing boat and row it out luctant Gandolf, bored of Tamga to the lake’s opposite side - where people were apparently more civilized. We wished him luck and dreaming of Moscow” and headed back to Luba’s place for a sumptuous homemade broth, sad at our last night in this “Its just potatoes that grow here,” Sasha said, totally unfamiliar pocket of Kyrgyzstan. grinning. The omnipresence of this very Russian crop seemed to comfort him. But there were also orchards; apricot and apple trees bowed under the weight of ripening fruit. Against one of them a ladder had been propped up, then discarded. 700 soms usually covers bed and breakUnder another, a man lay sleeping, his day’s work fast for one person here, half done. The guesthouse is situated on 3, OzorThe stone itself was impressive, a large square naya st., Tamga village. Tel. (+996) 394 slab bearing a weathered Sanskrit script that may 625 333. Luba speaks English and can anhave known the earliest years of the Great Silk swer further questions via tamgahouse@ Road itself. gmail.com. “It marked a border once,” Sasha claimed con- A place in the guesthouse can also be fidently. I knew the Tibetan empire had, at the booked at ‘Kyrgyzland’ on 237, Elebesov peak of its powers, conquered the mighty Pamir st., Bishkek. Marshrutka buses leaving range, but had it slipped over the Tien Shan and from Bishkek’s vostochni vokzal marked nestled in the Barskoon Valley too? He wasn’t so ‘южный берег’ pass through the village sure. [For more on Tamga’s Buddhist stones see itself.

Tamga Guesthouse

October 2010 The Spektator


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Out & About

Up in the

Air

P

ZEIN JAVED

For anyone that wishes to acquaint themselves with the laws of gravity, but can’t be bothered waiting for an apple to fall on their head, parachuting offers a perfect solution. Moreover, in health & safety-challenged Kyrgyzstan, there is a near total lack of potentially life-saving bureaucracy to spoil the adrenaline rush.

ARACHUTING IS FUN. It’s a manly thing, but women are allowed to do it as well - to be honest, in Kyrgyzstan, even if you‘ve got a dodgy ticker, a respiratory illness, a broken leg or extreme vertigo, the legendary hospitality of the Kyrgyz will nevertheless see you and all your deficiencies pushed out of a World War II plane for a modest 50 $ fee. This rather informal introduction to the hobby takes place most Saturday mornings at the Kyrgyz military airbase near Kudaebergen market. A friend of mine put me in touch with the man who ‘organizes’ jumps in Bishkek. Unlike many other people in positions of life or death authority here, he was polite, friendly and welcoming, if a little entrepreneurial. His pricing scheme fluctuated from 40$(1500soms) to 100$(4400soms), depending on the height from which we would jump. We were told to be at the air base no later than 8 am the following day. “Americans are nuts”

That’s the most common statement you hear when you talk to local folks about Yankee expats. Sometimes, the stereotype vindicates itself. Vicariously, I knew of one American who had hurled himself from a Soviet plane with his own parachute, not far from Prednastrovie, paying no more than $5 for the privilege. He acted as a kind Above Top Gun: our hero prepares to take of role model for my friend and I, an adrenaline to the skies and freefall out of a plane called junkie who spoke of Kyrgyzstan as a ‘land of op‘Anton 2’ (all photos Zein Javed) portunity’; a lesser-known haven for the extreme sports fanatic. Right Should you ever board a plane whose Friday night we partied like it was the last of pilot tells you “it can fly without an engine”? our lives. We started off at Barcode - a high speed October 2010 The Spektator

Wi-Fi hotspot where we were fed and watered at a reasonable price. After dinner, we headed to Promzona to kick back and listen to ‘Susha‘, a pretty chanteuse popular in Bishkek’s underground music scene. Leaving this post-industrial hangout at 1am, we arrived at GVOZD (nail), a club attached to the Philharmonia spinning funky grooves and providing a sense of calm before the storm. Yet time that night was like a snail that wouldn’t pass. Back home in Saturday‘s early hours, I found I couldn’t sleep. Finally, dawn broke on our day of destiny. Frantically, I searched for my passport, thinking that I wouldn’t be allowed to jump without it (as it happened, they never asked). At 8 ‘o’ clock sharp we were at the gate of the airbase, where we were greeted by the officer in charge, and waited lemming-like for our transport to the site. Roughly 15 people were set for the jump - 7 paying customers subsidizing the other 8 jumpers, all relatives of the organizers. At around half past nine we were told that we didn’t have enough funds for the jump and would have to wait until next Saturday. Like a trader’s trick at the bazaar, this was actually a last- minute call to haggle. We upped our bid for a battle with gravity, and guess what?: the jump went ahead. At least the parachute is “American” At the base, we signed a contract around 10 pages long to certify that if something happened we wouldn’t sue them or demand compensation. Although cardiac and pulmonary diseases were briefly referenced there was no medical test or request for certificates. Then, the instructor started to brief us about the parachute. It was an Ameriwww.thespektator.co.uk


Out & About

can parachute, ‘Set-10‘, which, according to him, was the safest in the world. It was a pleasure to hear a former Soviet soldier praising the Americans so highly. Next, he demonstrated how we would have to jump and control our parachute. Finally, he told us what we should do if our primary parachute failed to open. At this point I called my mom and told her that I was about to eject myself out of an aircraft known simply as ‘Anton 2’. Knowing my own natural cowardice, she was immediately aware I had fallen under the influence of an “American”. I avoided the subsequent lecture by turning my phone off. If all parachutes failed to open, they would at least know where to find my body. “Is this the plane we are going to jump from?” I asked the instructor. “Da,” he replied with a smile on his face. I was confronted by the same sort of craft that you see riddled with bullets in World War Two documentaries. Many of them, I learned, had been bombed before having a chance to take off, when Hitler began his invasion of the Soviet Union. “Ne perezhivai, on litaet dazhe bez motora” (“Don’t worry, this one can fly even without an engine,” ) the pilot contributed; a fanciful claim that did little to put me at ease. He gave us numbers and we were to jump from the plane in that order. I was second, and my friend was third. Inside, there were no seats and just two long benches on each side, where up to 10 people could sit. One of the instructors stood watchfully by the door like a bus conductor. When the engine started, it felt as though an earthquake had hit, and I was reminded of the pilot‘s hopeful comment. But takeoff was smoother than expected. www.thespektator.co.uk

There was no announcement as they had no PA system on board, but there were red and green lights above the door. The red light signified that we were ready to fly, whilst the green light did not work, so the red blinked a second time when we were at an appropriate height to jump. As the instructor opened the door, I felt an intense heat all over my body. The first jumper, a professional, leapt at his barked command. “Davai ti sledushi” (“Go on, you’re next!” ) I stood in the doorway looking down, and saw nothing as he pushed me out of the aircraft. Suddenly I was flying, or rather falling. For a moment I thought only of the end - the game’s over. The rush of air at this speed is so noisy you can’t hear yourself yell, but you will. Then the parachute blooms. I felt stationary in the air now; the plane fading away as barely visible stick figures made their own descents. This is something I will never forget. I found the cords and started to steer the parachute. I took photos - of my friend, of fields that slowly expanded in size as we drifted down towards the ground. Happy Landings One other thing the former Soviet officer had informed us of was the need to position ourselves against the wind direction, so as to execute a safe landing. I never found out the direction of the wind - the lick your finger method stops working at a certain degree of resistance - but seemed to enjoy the best landing anyhow. Other guys were pulled by their parachutes for some distance. When you are about a hundred meters from the

13

ground you see the surface rushing towards you like the ‘zoom‘ effect on a handy cam, then your canopy flails around you as you finally touch terra firma. After the landing, I put my parachute into the bag and helped a girl who had landed about 100 meters away from me do the same. My friend helped another girl close to him. The local team seemed sluggish to help the female jumpers. Losing my parachutist’s virginity was something I will remember forever. We did it without a trainer attached to our backs, pulling the cord for us. We did it without a static line. Personally, I’m glad I did it in a country like Kyrgyzstan, rather than some other country, where health and safety regulations might have got in the way of the whole hedonistic thrill of it. For fifty bucks I came to truly understand the concept of gravity, and lived to tell the tale.

Just Do It!

For those who want, like Zein, to lose their parachutist’s cherry in a former Soviet state with less-than-Soviet legal/health infrastructure, just call Mikhail (0555) 304559. Then head down to Frunze Voennaya Avia Baza on Saturday morning to pull the cord. Note: the views expressed herein are solely those of the author. The Spektator accepts no liability for damaged limbs and/or death. October 2010 The Spektator


14

Focus

Whispers of History

T

V. PETROV, D. LUJANSIY, S. GLUHOVEROV, E. GORBACHEVA

Although sunbathing season is drawing to a close, the Issyk Kul region of Kyrgyzstan has a historical interest that keeps archaeological teams busy long after the dawn of autumn. Last month, the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan hiked, drove and dug their way around the lake’s perimeter, uncovering antiquity at every turn….

Above Skull and bones - possibly belonging to the ancient Saks of Issyk Kul (all photos Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan) Above Right Tamga’s Buddhist stones offer a good opportunity for a spot of mock meditation Bottom Right For historians, archaeologists and ceramic enthusiasts, untended sections of Issyk Kul’s shore throw up a range of delights October 2010 The Spektator

OURISTS GOING TO LAKE ISSYK-KUL in search of its vivid sunlight, chill waters and hot sand are often unaware that they are surrounded by the ghosts of long lost civilizations. Some such reminders of forgotten history are buried deep below the ground, others, including whole towns and cities, have been submerged by the fluctuating water levels of the lake. But Issyk Kul is not a jealous guardian of its secrets, and a generous wave or the shifting of its sands can reward even the most amateur of treasure hunters with unique and intriguing artefacts. If you keep your eyes open, it is not unusual for a stroll along the lake shore to throw up whispers of the distant past: a shard of pottery, the glint of sunlight on an ancient blade, or even a macabre tangle of prehistoric human bones lying partly uncovered in the earth. The Issyk-Kul region was settled at least as early as the 10th century BC, a fact proven by the number of tools and prehistoric sites that pepper the lake’s shore. Since then, a succession of different tribes and peoples, constantly replacing each other, left monuments to their own culture behind them. This land at the water’s edge remembers the tribes of the Andronovs, Saks (a branch of the Scythian people), Usuns, Turks, Karakhanids and many others – mysterious and exotic names whose history few can claim to know much about. New monuments, ruins and artefacts are found and registered each year as a result of underwater scientific expeditions, and such discoveries are not only of value to archaeologists but can be of great interest to the ordinary beachskimmer as well. An amateur-archaeologistenthusiast, Dmitry Lujanskiy from Chigu Open Air Archaeology Museum, invited myself and a group of adventurers from the Trekking Union

of Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz Association of Tour Operators and the Excursion Plus travel company to undertake a journey around the lake to see what fragments of forgotten history we could discover for ourselves. The trip turned out to be severe enough – we tackled long stretches of shoreline overgrown with hardy bushes and rush, taking steep turns along dirt tracks, rivers, ravines and rocky paths heaped up with stones – we encountered all the elements necessary for a true adventure. And, of course, throughout the expedition, the overwhelming spirit of antiquity and mystery was never far away. The first fragments of forgotten history which we encountered were carved stone paintings, or petroglyphs, left by the nomadic tribes who once roamed the region. Next, we came across the remains of ancient cities and Sak kurgans, prehistoric graves constructed along both the northern and southern shores of Issyk Kul. The medieval city of Toru-Aigyr, the remains of which we visited in awe, bears too great a similarity to its larger middle-ages counterpart Sikul to believe that they were not once one and the same settlement. Nature has divided the city into two parts, and now on the shore, there seems to be the remains of several tells or ‘tepes’ (a type of archaeological site in the form of an earthen mound, created by the occupation and abandonment of cities over the course of many centuries) and the ruins of a huge medieval bathhouse which was dug out by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s. The second part of the city has long been submerged by the lake, and it was this section that particularly interested us. We walked along the shore for several kilometres before we discovered hundreds of fragments of pots and dishes, and a great number of human bones. Most likely we had come upon a medieval www.thespektator.co.uk


Focus

necropolis that had been situated in the drowned section of the city. In respect of old customs we carefully gathered the bones and reburied them. Then we began the search for the city of Chigu, one of the most famous of the Issyk-Kul ‘Atlantises’. Chigu (recorded as Chiguchen in Chinese chronicles) used to be the captial of the Usun state whose people migrated from eastern Central Asia. In the 2nd century BC, Usuns conquered the Tien-Shan valleys, and their overlord moved in on the former territory of the Saks in Issyk-Kul, yet by the end of the 1st century AD their city had been submerged by the rising waters of the lake. At the bottom of the bay near the village of Peschanoe, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a separate ancient settlement know as Sarybulun (dating from the 1st millennium BC). Unfortunately, one would now need scuba diving equipment to walk along its ancient streets, but the southern shore of the bay reveals another glut of ancient ceramics deposited by the waves. At present, archaeologists are conducting an intensive investigation into this ancient city. The settlement would have been situated north of the modern-day village of Darhan, and is represented by a typically wild section of lake shore. A thick layer of sand stretches from the edge of the shore to tangles of buckthorn and briar, springs and wetlands. However, the wilderness of this secluded spot is deceptive: from time to time the waves release all sorts of ancient memories that suggest a long-term period of sedentary inhabitation. Among findings from the bottom of lake one can recognize everyday objects from the Sak and Usun cultures, but the majority of the relics are tools and household items of the early medieval period. By the lakeside a tortkul (type of ancient settlement) has been preserved, and in the area www.thespektator.co.uk

around this site it is possible to find ceramics and also building bricks that date from somewhere between the 8th and 12th centuries AD. If you are fortunate enough, you may even manage to find coins, millstones or something even more valuable. A villager from Darhan, Toktobai Mooliev, found two decorated daggers, a cup with a spout and the better half of a large bronze cauldron dating from the Sak period. These findings are thought to be the residue of a complex sacrificial rite, conducted on the shores of the lake over two thousand years ago.

“If you keep your eyes open, it is not unusual for a stroll along the lake shore to throw up a shard of pottery, the glint of sunlight on an ancient blade, or even a macabre tangle of prehistoric human bones lying partly uncovered in the earth”

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in the predominantly Buddhist regions of South and Central Asia. The mantra is particularly sacred to followers of the Dalai Lama. It is believed that the inscriptions in Tamga were engraved by Tibetans who inhabited the shore of Issyk- Kul during their supremacy in the southern and eastern Tien-Shan between the middle of the 8th and the 12th centuries AD. Returning to Bishkek we stopped off at the village of Kyzyl-Tuu , famous for its yurt masters. The whole village is a giant yurt production zone, and wherever one goes in the village, one finds oneself surrounded by the various components that make up a yurt. We were fortunate to meet the famous yurt master Doku baike, builder of the largest yurt in Central Asia with a diameter of 15 metres. We were most impressed by his spirit and his devotion to his work. He revealed to us the secrets of the manufacturing process and showed us some of the technology that goes into these durable nomad dwellings. Upon finishing construction of a yurt with Doku’s help, we were able to sit in its cosy felt confines, witnessing in turn the emblems and smells of the most recent civilization to settle the Issyk Kul region.

The last fragment of forgotten history on our journey was at the village of Tamga, namely, four stones of Buddhist pilgrims that stood at one kilometre intervals around the shore. The stone nearest to the lake bears the name ‘Tamga- Tash’ (‘branded stone’). It is believed that this inscription belonged to a hero from a forgotten national folklore, who had cleaved the stone into two with his sword and inscribed on it the amount of scalps he had taken from his enemies. Another inscription represents the traditional Buddhist mantra “Om mani padme hum”. This mantra is often found inscribed on small icons, prayer wheels, monastic clothes and beads October 2010 The Spektator


16

Focus

Nevermind the

Ballots... W

THE SPEKTATOR WITH TILEK AND SALTANAT

Having sized up the competition and the cost of participation, the Spektator tried desperately hard to enter the 2010 parliamentary scrum, only to be rejected by the Central Election Commission on citizenship grounds. Therefore, as compensation to our many thousands of constituents, we teamed up with local stylists Tilek and Saltanat to tell you who’s hot and who’s not this coming October.

Top Kyrgyzstan’s Jogorku Kenesh parliament (H. Firouzeh) Left President Rosa Otunbayeva will remain in her post regardless of the outcome of the vote (archive) Centre Omur Tekebayev in full song (archive) Right Azimbek Beknazarov will be overseeing proceedings, whilst hoping that his party (BEK) make an impact without him (archive) October 2010 The Spektator

OW, WHAT A year 2010 has been for Central Asia’s first female president, Rosa Otunbayeva. Coming to power on the back of a popular uprising, that April 7 coup must have been like a déjà vu with added violence for Kyrgyzstan’s leading lady - she was, lest we forget, one of the key figures in the ‘Tulip Revolution’ that brought her predecessor and subsequent rival Kurmanbek Bakiev to the White House in 2005. It has hardly been smooth sailing since. In the aftermath of those two nights of looting and anarchy, Otunbayeva’s provisional government a motley selection of some of Kyrgyzstan’s most familiar faces - never gave the impression of being in control of the country proper. Struggling with illegal land grabs, recordings of telephone conversations between feuding colleagues and a spate of assaults on government buildings in the South, Otunbayeva must have been hoping the country could limp along until the long heralded referendum on June 27th, devised to bring a modicum of legitimacy to the republic’s new caretakers. Tragically, events in the town of her birth, Osh, cast a giant shadow over efforts to bring stability and due process to the country. Despite her diplomatic skills, honed in the Soviet Union foreign ministry as well as under presidents Askar Akaev and Bakiev, Otunbayeva could not persuade Russia to interfere and restore normality. In its report on the southern conflict, the International Crisis Group (ICG) named the provisional government’s “loss of control over the South” as “the most concerning development” since violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks erupted in mid-June.

Yet in spite of this, and in spite of suffering defeat in a humiliatingly public standoff with Osh mayor Melis Myrzakmatov, the October elections could yet prove a light at the end of the tunnel for the woman cruelly nicknamed gvozdika (pink carnation). This English (speaking) rose has, after all, long championed the idea of Kyrgyzstan as a parliamentary democracy, and overseeing a smooth transition to this state of affairs would surely represent the high point of her jack-in-a-box domestic political career. But now to focus on the issue that really matters: what should Otunbayeva wear on the big day? Tilek: To be honest I liked Rosa’s ‘April look’ - the headscarf might have been borrowed from Benazir Bhutto, but it gave her some revolutionary kudos. Ever since then it’s been a descent into dowdiness - drab waistcoat and undershirt combinations that lack imagination and puff out that figure. I’m not saying “go for the cleavage”, but our lady president has to sex it up a bit. Even a few sharp suits like ex-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher used to wear would go a long way to instilling some cutting edge. Saltanat: The hair has to go! No wonder that nasty man down in Osh isn’t scared of her with that garish bowl cut. If you look at pictures of Otunbayeva back in 2009, she touched up her hairdo with some tasteful auburn highlights. That said “modern”. This cut screams “mushroom”. Generally I think her wardrobe complements her maternal style, so we don’t need any changes there, but a trip to the hairdressers is definitely in order before such a historic date. www.thespektator.co.uk


Focus

Azimbek Beknazarov: The Enforcer It is safe to say that big ‘Bek has been enjoying the limelight recently. At the peak of his powers and yet still largely powerless, he has decided to eschew participation in the parliamentary elections (his party will participate without him) in order to cling to his unelected position in Otunbayeva’s caretaker government. Whether pronouncing on Kazakh-owned resorts in Issyk Kul (he believes they should be nationalized), befriending Osh strongman Myrzakmatov, or drawing up legislation to deny Kyrgyzstan’s first president Askar Akaev of political immunity, Beknazarov has shamelessly used his increased access to the media to indulge in nationalist rhetoric and general demagoguery. The Aksy-born sumo derives his limited base of support from the South, and is thus seen as a sort of bridge between Bishkek and the country’s ‘other half’. A leaked telephone conversation between him and Almas Atambayev revealed Beknazarov as having more interest in the appointment of bent customs officials than the running of the country. He is generally recognized as one of the Central Asian nation’s top legislators, which under the circumstances is profoundly worrying. Tilek: Beknazarov definitely gets bravery points for putting that face out into the public as often as he does. The power moustache may curry favour with those who are seeking a ‘Stalin’ character to bring iron order to the country, although Uncle Joe was undoubtedly more handsome. Alimbek’s main strength lies in his choice of suits, which he fills out majestically. Stick to dark colours with a neutral coloured tie and election day should pass smoothly for the double-barrelled Bekster. www.thespektator.co.uk

Saltanat: Dark colours? He needs to be dressed in a ninja suit! What has it come to when this kolkhoznik makes our national laws? Smart jackets or no smart jackets, Azimbek Beknazarov is a pint-sized blot on our body politic. That whole look is symbolic of the politics of corruption and greed we are trying to get away from. As a feminist I wouldn’t normally say this, but in his case I wholeheartedly recommend the burkha. Omurbek Tekebayev - The Heavyweight Born into the powerful southern Ichilik clan in Jalalabad region, 1958, Omurbek Tekebayev certainly knows the ropes in terms of domestic party politics. His party Ata-Meken was formed way back in 1992, originally as an offshoot of Erkin Kyrgyzstan (Free Kyrgyzstan). Since then Tekebayev has held positions as both the deputy speaker and speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh parliament, leaving the latter post in 2006 following a conflict with former president Kurmanbek Bakiev. Given the extent to which his rival set out to destroy him, we can deduce that Tekebayev represented one of the greatest political threats to the last ruling family. En route to an economic conference in Warsaw in September, 2006, Polish customs officials found over half a kilo of heroin in Tekebayev’s luggage. A Polish court acquitted him of charges and a parliamentary investigation later pointed to security chief Janyshbek Bakiev’s collusion with a customs official at Manas airport. A second scandal dogged Omurbek in the form of a mystery woman snapped snogging with his likeness in a limousine. Tekebayev insists that this was yet another podstava (framing) designed by the Bakievs.

17

of Rulesthe Game

29 parties registered to compete in this year’s parliamentary elections, doing battle over a total of 120 seats in the Jogorku Kenesh. As a requirement for entry into the vote, each party was asked to submit lists of 120 candidates, at least a third of whom should be women. The lists indicate a kind of ranking system and dictate the order in which MPs will enter the parliament from their respective parties. Thus, candidates halfway down the list, even in the major parties, have only a marginal chance of securing seats. In smaller outfits, only the top five on this list have a realistic hope. Other rules include a general cap on seats - no party can win more than 65. This has attracted criticism due to the fact that it negates proportional representation, and yet it has been put in place to prevent any one party from being able to control parliament without forming some sort of coalition. All parties must meet a threshold of 5% of the overall vote, in addition to at least 0.5% of ballots cast in each of Kyrgyzstan’s seven regions and the municipalities of Osh and Bishkek. Parliament will thereafter approve a prime minister and cabinet actually charged with running the country - a first in a region marked by strongmen presidents and rubber stamp representative bodies. October 2010 The Spektator


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Focus

Speaking at a rally in Bishkek against increased utility tariffs on March 17th, 2010, Tekebayev said that if the government didn’t heed the population’s demands for more democracy and cheaper heating, “the opposition should take power into its own hands”. Less than a month later, he appeared to have made good on his threat. After April 7th , Tekebayev took up the role of deputy chairman in the provisional government, overseeing amendments to the national constitution before departing on the campaign trail. Tilek: Peaky hairline, heavy jaw line - a good presidential combination in any Central Asian country. Unfortunately for Tekebayev, the post he is competing for this time round is that of prime minister. Nevertheless, as Omurbek has proved throughout his career, he is a man for all seasons - baseball cap and denim shirt in front of his Ata-Meken rowdies, specs and suit for the culture vultures. Expect him to be there or thereabouts by the end of the count. Saltanat: (Alleged) sex, (planted) drugs and an appreciation of the sounds of the komuz - O.T has a bad boy appeal that certainly registers with the zhigits prone to looting supermarkets and smashing up restaurants every five years. Still, if Tekebayev wants to wind up on top of this vote, he might want to play down his wilder side. I’m going to advise a discrete three-piece and a red tie - his party’s colour - for what might just be a golden day in autumn for Ata-Meken.

perately trying to sit on. A former leader of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society in Kyrgyzstan, Baisalov was roundly criticized when he made the jump into politics. An ill-advised blog post featuring a scanned ballot ruined his Social Democratic candidacy in 2007, but a recent spell as chief of staff to interim president Rosa Otunbaeva has gone some way to restoring his credibility. He left the coalition government to form his own party, Aikol El. Baisalov has a reputation as a PR man - eloquent, astute and comfortable in front of the cameras. But that doesn’t mean he lacks a tough streak. In February 2003, Baisalov was scheduled to attend a Freedom House roundtable, but government authorities hospitalized the activist. Three years later, he survived an assassination attempt with an iron bar outside the CDCSK’s headquarters, allegedly due to his campaigning the Bakiev administration to crack down on organized crime. Disregarding these setbacks, Edil Baisalov has laboured on, tirelessly pushing for domestic reforms and a more powerful ’third sector’. October will provide the real test as to whether or not he can make a splash in the domestic political scene.

Tilek: He’s a bit skinny, isn’t he? Clearly Baisalov hasn’t figured that weight equates to power and status in Central Asian politics. I would say he has a few bowls of beshbarmak to get through before he can grapple with the likes of Tekebayev or even Temir Sariev - the man looks Edil Baisalov: The Lightweight practically vegetarian. The glasses, while sure Educated at the American University of Central to swing votes amongst the capital’s educated Asia, Edil Baisalov represents ‘the new breed’ of middle class, are unlikely to win friends in the Kyrgyz politicians that the old breed are des- regions. October 2010 The Spektator

Saltanat: With his foppish hairdo and stylish frames I think Edil Baisalov possesses a sensitive urban charm. For this reason, the Aikol El poster campaign featuring him in a kalpak was a disastrous piece of PR. This simply betrays Edil’s complex - that he isn’t ‘traditional’ enough to win votes outside Bishkek - he comes off looking like a tourist in his own country. Baisalov should lose the wizard hat and play to his strengths if he wants to make an impact in October - slick hair, a trim suit and imported Italian shoes are the order of the day. Temir Sariev: The Bird of Prey In the humble opinion of the Spektator, Temir Sariev has the best named party of the bunch. Ak Shumkar translates from the Kyrgyz as ‘white falcon’, and Falconer-in-Chief Sariev should certainly get the opportunity to spread his political wings in the next convocation of the Jogorku Kenesh. A former co-chair of the ‘For Reforms Movement’ that lobbied for a stronger parliament, Sariev also tagged along in the 2005 delegation that went to Moscow to persuade Askar Akayev to resign from his office. Born in 1963 in the Sokoluk area of Chui region, Sariev will face stiff competition from other northern leaders such as Almas Atambayev. Sariev was moreover tarnished when as acting finance minister earlier this year, his phone conversations with Atambayev and other members of the provisional government were bugged and released on the Internet. Sariev is nothing if not active. In the months leading up to April’s political upheavals he led demonstrations against the tyranny and corruption of the Bakievs and was driven away and arrested on the day UN Secretary General Ban-Kim www.thespektator.co.uk


Focus

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Far Left Edil Baisalov’s kalpak campaign is a ‘disastrous piece of PR’ as far as Saltanat is concerned (H. Firouzeh) Left of Centre Almas Atambayev knows the drill as far as elections are concerned (archive) Centre Temir Sariev’s Ak-Shumkar are one of several virgin parties hoping to gain seats in the new parliament (archive) Right of Centre Bobanov: out to prove he is more than just ‘the other Omurbek’ (archive) Fashion Fascists Bitchy trans-Atlantic stylists Trinny and Susannah know nothing of the political situation in Kyrgyzstan (library image)

Moon visited Bishkek. Before going into politics Sariev made his name in business. From 19952000 he was general director of industrial firm Toton and he remains the owner of several cafes and discotheques in Bishkek.

ond most represented party after Bakiev’s Ak Jol. Like his de facto political ally Otunbayeva, Atambayev has been in and out of ministries more times than a foreigner trying to renew their visa. In free and fair voting conditions, this veteran of Kyrgyz politics will surely be hoping Tilek: “Need a result?: that means Sariev!” is a that this time will be his time. kind of dorky campaign slogan, but we get the idea - Ak-Shumkar mean business this October. Tilek: Man I’m bored of this guy - he’s older than Everyone knows that party leader Temir Sariev is the mountains, right? Aside from dressing up as a C.E.O type, and the fact that he’s doing nothing a chick, I don’t think Almas Atambayev can do to hide that is a good thing. Wear the Rolex, drive anything to surprise the electorate this Octothe Beamer - this party could soon be soaring. ber - we know what he’s all about. He’s not a suit man generally, preferring shirt-and-tie tandems Saltanat: New party, new look and guess what? that give him a well-travelled ‘office look’. While I like it. Temir is sharply dressed and sticks to his I’d love him to take some risks this campaign chosen colour scheme of turquoise and white. season, I can’t see him altering his image much During his brief tenure as acting finance minis- there is too much at stake. ter Atambayev accused him of having certain ‘predatory’ instincts, so I think Sariev and the Saltanat: I happen to think that Atambayev falcon are a good fit. Nevertheless, Sariev and and Otubayeva would make a really cute prime his people are a bit pasty and urbane to make minister-president combination. He has taken to headway beyond Toktogul,while their manifesto middle age really well and has finally developed stance against populism reveals a fundamental that waistline that most men in this country renaivety regarding politics in this country. spect. I disagree with Tilek that his style is boring, rather it is symbolic of a man who is ready to Almas Atambayev: The Old Hand get down to work on behalf of his country. True, Another old face, Chui-born Almas Atambayev his face isn’t as fresh as some of the other candiand the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan dates, but I think it’s a face we can trust. which he chairs have been active in Kyrgyz politics since independence, the height of his Omurbek Babanov: The Wild Card personal power coming in 2007 when former Omurbek Babanov’s party ‘Republic’ was only president Kurmanbek Bakiev appointed him as created in June 2010, but they haven’t wasted prime minister. any time swallowing up billboard space in the The SDPK had made inroads in nearly all elec- capital as they seek to encroach on the political tions since independence; in the heavily rigged territory of older, better-established units. Baba2000 vote he finished third behind Omurbek nov himself is one of the youngest major candiTekebayev and incumbent Askar Akayev, while in dates in these elections at just forty years of age. 2005 the SPDK became the Jogorku Kenesh’s sec- A successful entrepreneur who managed assets www.thespektator.co.uk

for Aidar Akayev, son of the first president of Kyrgyzstan, Babanov had already made a fortune before he made his political debut by joining the ranks of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SPDK). Opportunity came calling in January 2009, when former president Kurmanbek Bakiev invited Babanov to switch sides and take up the post of first deputy prime minister, supposedly as part of an initiative to bring fresh, reformminded youngsters into the highest reaches of government. In joining the government and relinquishing his SPDK membership, Babanov revealed his penchant for pragmatism, quipping that “you can’t ride two horses at the same time”. Tilek: With his jacket-slung-over-the-shoulder look, ‘the other Omurbek’ has certainly been the star of the 2010 parliamentary elections billboard campaign. Also, Babs is clearly mixing with the right crowd - sportsmen and other young, upwardly mobile sorts providing solid evidence that he is keeping better company than he kept during his misspent youth. Nevertheless, I still look at him as one for 2015, rather than this time round. A few grey hairs would give him a sense of seniority, without overtly damaging his appeal to the fairer sex. Saltanat: Wow, the Republican party are hot, and up against what we are used to seeing in the Jogorku Kenesh parliament, so is Babanov! No-one knows a lot about this party - but given the prevailing apathy towards other candidates, that could be their secret weapon. The light blue/yellow/white colour scheme is quite tasteful - a bold approach that stops short of being obnoxious. The future is bright, the future is Babanov! October 2010 The Spektator


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Blog of the Month

Right: Even in distant Kyrgyzstan, porridge lovers are being confronted by buckwheat shortages

The

Buckwheat

Blues ANTOINE BLUA

MOSCOW, September 18 (RFE/RL) - Devastating fires and droughts are not the only consequences of the heat wave that hit much of the former Soviet Union this summer. Millions of people across the region are now hit by another misfortune: buckwheat shortages. The scarcity of buckwheat, a regional food staple, has translated into rocketing prices. It has also triggered a number of practices reminiscent of the past such as panic-buying, speculation, and hoarding. This grocery shopper in the Belarusian region of Hrodna complained to RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service: “What can we, the little people, do when we have leadership like this all around? Why should Belarusians have to suffer and purchase [buckwheat] for high prices, when we grew enough and have plenty? Everything that trickles down to us we have to buy for insane prices.” Such a reaction is anything but trivial in countries like Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus, where millions of people eat buckwheat every day. Breakfast, Lunch, And Dinner RFE/RL correspondent Merkhat Sharipzhanov is among buckwheat enthusiasts who regularly consume the beloved staple as a cereal for breakfast, a side dish, stuffing, or pancakes. “We learnt about buckwheat when we were schoolchildren. It was my favorite porridge for lunch at school. It was very cheap and also it was very popular for households because it was so easy to cook,” Sharipzhanov said. “Of course, [I ate] buckwheat on a daily basis when I was a soldier in the Soviet Army in 1981, 1982, and 1983. Among other porridges, buckwheat was the yummiest, the most nutritious, and the most popular one among soldiers.” In Russia, this summer’s record-high temperatures, compounded by a devastating drought and forest fires, has destroyed one-quarter of the country’s crops and cut harvest forecasts. October 2010 The Spektator

According to some estimates, the buckwheat crop in Russia -- the world’s top producer -- may more than halve this year following another poor harvest in 2009. As a result, the average price for buckwheat jumped from 31 rubles ($1) per kilo in June to 47 rubles ($1.50) in late August, according to official statistics. The extreme weather has also affected the harvest in other countries in the region, particularly Ukraine - the world’s third-largest buckwheat producer - where areas growing buckwheat have halved in recent years. Acknowledging the shortage’s potentially destabilizing effect, officials in the region are taking the issue seriously. They say they are working to alleviate the buckwheat shortage but insist reserves will allow the countries to meet this year’s demand. Some governments have introduced or are considering introducing export bans or restrictions. Folklore Food

“If one opens a Soviet newspaper 50 years ago, one would find quite a number of articles titled ‘The Communist Party’s Care for Buckwheat,’ ‘Those who Underestimate Buckwheat,’ ‘Buckwheat - a Valuable Source of Nutrients,’” he says. Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t related to any grain, but is the fruit of a broadleaved plant. This little brown triangular kernel is believed to have originated in China. Sharipzhanov says it traveled to Eastern Europe along with Asian invaders “It is believed that it was brought to Russia and further to Eastern Europe by Mongol Tatar invaders who first invaded China and knew what buckwheat was. In the Czech Republic for instance, it is called ‘pohanka’ -- which means pagan or pagan’s food,” Sharipzhanov says. “When Mongol Tatars invaded Eastern Europe centuries ago, they managed to survive droughts, feeding their horses with buckwheat and eating it themselves.” Buckwheat has since colonized the region’s cuisine but also its folklore and traditions such as harvesting and pulling songs. Chalupa says that in Ukraine, buckwheat has become a euphemism for adultery. “’To jump into buckwheat’ means to commit adultery. And I can think of a multitude of literary references to this. It’s something that Ukrainians often use as a phrase, as a manner of speech,” Chalupa says. “Why buckwheat? I have absolutely no idea, because it doesn’t really grow that high -- five feet, or 1.5 meter, would probably be the maximum. So it isn’t such a very high thing to grow so you could hide in there and commit adultery. But, I suppose if you’re committed to do it, you can find ways of doing it even in the lowest [crops].”

Buckwheat is not necessarily as central to the region’s diet as wheat, but it is considered more of a distinctly national food. Irena Chalupa, the director of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, says “buckwheat is part of the dietary fabric of Ukrainian life.” “I particularly remember the [2005] Orange Revolution, when people started camping out in the streets. Many people, Kyiv residents, brought them food. It was winter and they would bring them boiled buckwheat, seasoned with salt and pepper, perhaps butter or oil, sometimes with a few mushrooms thrown in,” she says. RFE/RL’s Belarus Service Director Alexander Lukashuk points out that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s henchman, Vyacheslav Molotov, who died at 96, adored buckwheat and considered it a key to a long and healthy life. Lukashuk says the Soviet regime extensively promoted buckwheat, which is valued for its nu- RFE/RL’s Ukrainian and Belarus services contributed to this report trients. www.thespektator.co.uk


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22

THE GUIDE

and Bars restaurants

Bishkek life

Chuchuara Hoga (117, Chui) With this Chinese restaurant, a little out of the way and rarely visited by tourists, you really feel you are getting the real deal. Request a хого (your own personal Chinese boiling-pot) and randomly select There’s a fine line between ‘bar’ and ‘restaurant’ in a variety of unusual Chinese delicacies to throw in. Bishkek. Places more suitable for drinking sessions Beware, the ‘spicy’ sauce, although delicious, may leave delicate stomachs in some distress several are marked with a star * hours later - consider the ‘not-spicy’ sauce as a suitPrice Guide (main course and a garnish) able alternative $$ $ - Expect change from 150 som Frunze $$ - A little over 250 should do the trick (Chui/Pravda) $$$ - Expect to pay in the region of 350 Free semechki is one of many reasons to check out $$$$ - A crisp 500 (or more) needed in this joint this lively hangout, rammed with Chinese at lunch and dinner time. The menu is encyclopediac in American terms of scope, but if you’re feeling bewildered, just point to something tasty-looking on a neighCowboy* (Toktogul/Orozbekova) Bishkek’s all-American restaurant-cum-dance club bouring table like we did. $$ has now gone a little more up-market, but wild Peking Duck I & II nights are still to be had. Dig in to a kilo of chicken (Soviet/Druzhba & Chui/Tog. Mol.) wings and then hit the dance floor. $$$ Huge portions to feed even the biggest of gluttons and an English language menu that provides Hollywood*(Druzhba/Sovietskaya) plenty of amusing translations. $$ As you would probably guess, decorated with movie posters, photos of cinema icons and a bunch Shaolin (Zhibek Zholu/Prospect Mir) of American kitsch. Hollywood is popular with a This tidy looking restaurant sticks out for its sheer younger crowd and is usually packed from mid- range of oriental dishes and its large, round tables evening onwards. A fun place for a few drinks before that make it ideal for extended gatherings. $$ heading off to the clubs. $$

Dungan

Metro* (133, Chui) In the impressive location of a former theatre, Metro remains the première drinking hole for ex-pats. A high ceiling, a long bar and friendly staff compliment a good Tex-Mex menu and a wide selection of drinks. Metro is one of the best bets for catching sporting events on TV, although thanks to the hideously late kickoff times for Champions League football matches, don’t count on the staff waiting up unless it’s a big one. $$$

Hui Min (Relocated to the Hotel Dostuk) A former favourite, we have been told that Hui Min has now relocated to the Hotel Dostuk. Apparently the menu has been revamped and the prices increased. The Spektator will be checking it out soon. We hope they still serve the special Dungan tea, as it’s rather good.

New York Pizza (177, Kievskaya) Decorated with pictures of the Big Apple and serving a fine selection of steaks and other Americanthemed dishes, NYP is sure to get New Yorkers thinking of home. For home delivery ring (0312) 909909. $$$

Mimino (27, Kievskaya) Mimino is nice, cosy and serves up bowl-fulls of steaming, hearty Georgian fare with pomegranate seeds a-plenty. We recommend the kjadjapuri, khinkali and anything that’s served in a pot. Watch out for Uncle Joe at the door. $$$$

Armenian

German

Landau (Manas/Gorky) Fancy something a little different? If you can tolerate the arthritic service, Landau isn’t a bad spot for a pork steak or some other Armenian culinary goodies. Also, treat yourself to some decent Armenian conjac whilst your here, you’ll never go near Bishkek conjac again. Ever. $$$

Chinese Ak-Bata (108, Ibraimova) This place must serve up pretty authentic dishes as it’s always full of Chinese playing mah-jong and waving their chopsticks about. Smoky and stuffy, but in a nice way. $

October 2010 The Spektator

Georgian

International 2x2* (Isanova/Chui) Trendy drinking hole with a circular bar and friendly staff. A good place for knocking back a few prenightclub cocktails. Slouch into one of the comfy lounge seats and try to look cool. $$$ 12 Chimneys (TeplIkluchy village) Wooden cabin located by a rushing stream thirty minutes out of town. The overpriced food is more than compensated for by the chilled atmosphere and wild surroundings. Hotel accommodation also available. Head south on Almatinskaya and keep going. $$$$

Bacardi (Togolok Moldo 17/1) Elite lounge bar affair with separate rooms for dining, dancing and whiling the night away smoking hukkah pipes. Urban grooves played at a reasonable volume and a full menu that includes a range of tasty platters. $$$$ Blonder Pub (Pravda/Kulatova Blonder Pub is the new brewery-restaurant to try out. Cavernous yet cosy inside, there’s decent blues every night, live Premiership Football, Eurogrub and a good selection of ales. In regard to the latter we recommend ‘Datski Shnaffer’. $$$$ Buddha Bar (Sovietskaya/Akhunbayeva) Buddha bar offers a taste of the East inside a tastefully constructed zen log cabin. The sushi is excellent, and for those on a budget, the stir-fry noodle dishes make an excellent lunch. Recommended! $$$$ Captain Nemo’s (14, Togolok Moldo) Small nautically themed restaurant with a selection of evocatively named dishes including ‘Fish from the ship’s boy’ and ‘Tongue from the boatswain’s wife’. Cosy wooden interior and porthole style windows create an underwater log cabin experience. Spirits, cocktails and a good business lunch. $$$ Ceska (Alatoo Square) Cousin to Blonder Pub, this Bros Co. ‘theme bar’ is worth checking out for its fantastic tiramisu cake alone. Every third beer is free but don’t get too excited - they come in 0.4l glasses. $$$

Coffee House (9, Manas & Togolok Moldo/Ryskulova) Treat yourself to some of the finest coffee and cakes Bishkek has to offer at the imaginatively Steinbrau* (5, Gerzena) named ‘Coffee House’, a cosy boutique café with a Don your beer drinking trousers and head down European flavour. Curl up and read a book, or just to Bishkek’s take on a Bavarian-style beer hall. They drop in for a caffeine hit and a chocolate fix. $$$ brew their own stuff - such a relief from the insipid bilge that’s normally sold as lager. Compliment your Cosmo Bar* (Sovietska/Moskovskaya) pint with a plate of German sausage with sauerkraut. Board the sweet smelling elevator, ascend to the top-floor Cosmo Bar and splash the cash with your $$$ fellow free-spending cosmonauts. Elegant interior, plush sofas, fancy drinks and pretty waitresses. Uighur Huzzah! $$$$ Crostini (191, Abdrahmanova) Karavan (Almatinkskoya/Chui) Situated inside the Hyatt, this is a joint to be reExcellent little stolvya (canteen) full of the timeless regional favourites. Being an Uighur restaurant its gero served for a business lunch or marriage proposal only. Chef Taner Erdemir serves up mouth-waterlagman or lagman pa Uighurski particularly stand out. ing international cusine, but at a price. $$$$$ No smoking, sit, eat and leave. $

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Bars, Restaurants & Clubs Dillinger* (Gorky/Tynystanova) Glamorous VIP complex including a restaurant, bar and casino. A decedantly decorated and perculiarly endearing homage to the notorious bank robber we’re sure he would appreciate it. $$$$ Fatboy’s* (Chui/Tynystanova) Civilized, friendly cafe bang in the middle of town and a popular ex-pat meeting point. Sensible spot for conversation, but if you’re alone there’s a mini-library to peruse (although literary classics are thin on the ground). Check out the American pancakes for breakfast, top marks. $$$

Lounge Bar* (338a, Frunze) One of our favourite places to drink in the Summertime, when we can afford it. Outdoor balcony-cumterrace high above the street with slouch-couches and fine views of the circus - which you can sometimes smell in hot weather. Nice. $$$ Navigator (103, Moskovskaya) A pricy, but pleasant place to while away an afternoon. Sit in the bar area over a beer or lounge in the airy non-smoking conservatory. Attentive service and a refreshing selection of salads, a good place for a light, healthy lunch when fat and grease are getting you down. $$$$

Four Seasons (116a, Tynystanova) One of the poshest places to eat out in Bishkek. Elegant, yet modern interior and polite service. Great Stary Edgar’s* (15, Panfilova) place to splash out on a special occasion or just for The concrete monstrosity of the Russian Theatre conceals one of Bishkek’s finest attempts at a cosy basethe hell of it. $$$$ ment bar. Friendly staff, a decent menu and a collection Foyer (27, Erkindik ) of old bits and bobs decorating the walls make Edgar’s Run by a friendly young couple, Foyer is an excel- an attractive alternative to the city’s mainstream cafés. lent place to enjoy an evening cocktail or check A blues band plays most nights and a pianist adds a royour inbox with a cup of coffee. Free Wi-Fi, good mantic ambience on some Sunday evenings. $$$ deserts and live music on Wednesday and Saturday. Recommended! $$$$ U Mazaya (Behind ‘Zaks’ on Sovietskaya) Possibly Central Asia’s only rabbit themed restaurant. Griffon (Microregion 7) A cosy log-cabin affair with a large meat-roasting Descend into this underground warren and tuck in. central fireplace. On one disturbing occasion the Also check out the fairy-light adorned flagship sisterwaiting staff were about as plesant as a bunch of rabbit-restaurant in Asenbai micro region. $$$ chavs, but hopefully that was a passing phase. $$$ Vavilon (Microregion 7) Finely presented dishes, reasonably priced beer (60 Do you want to play som) genuinely friendly and attentive service and a music playlist that mixes up a bit of soul, jazz, swing and classical tracks played at just the right volume. Live music from 8-ish on most evenings. Definitely The Spektator is selling a worth the trek out to the suburbs ( tell your taxi driver shorthandle secondhand cricket bat, to turn left at the yuzhniy vorota and head towards imported from England and used Asenbai for about 1.5km) $$$ several times on the green fields of

Cricket?

Bishkek. 1700 som. Also, 2 tennis raquets available for 1000/1500 som.

Contact editor@thespektator.co.uk Jam* (179, Toktogula) An underground oasis of cool. Jam is a cafe with a full menu, kalians (shisha pipes) and a lounge bar atmosphere, open till 3am . $$$$

Cyclone (136, Chui) Smart Italian restaurant with plush interior, efficient, polite serving staff and a warm atmosphere to alleviate Bishkek’s winter chills. Pasta dishes stand out among a menu of traditional Italian favourites. $$$ Dolce Vita (116a, Akhunbaeva) Cosy Italian restaurant with smiling waitresses serving excellent pizza. Also serves salads and European cuisine. Small terrace outside for summertime dining. $$

Japanese Aoyama (93, Toktogula) Elegant sushi joint frequented by serious looking suited-types concluding their latest dodgy deals. The food’s excellent though - if you can scrape together enough soms. $$$$ Watari (Shevchenko, Frunze) A small Japanese-owned restaurant that serves sushi as well as dishes with a more indian flavour. The refined atmosphere makes it ideal for a business meeting or just a sophisticated night out $$$

Korean Petel (52, Zhykeeva Pudovkin) Operating in the back room of a Korean family’s house, this is Korean style home-cooking at its most personal. Closed on Sunday. Ring: 0543 922539 $$ Santa Maria (217, Chui) Plush Korean restaurant offering Eastern favourites, including exciting Korean barbecues where you get to cook your own dinner, plus an extensive European menu. $$$

Lebanese

Beirut (Shevchenko/Frunze) Now in a new location, Beirut continues to serve enThe Host (Sovietskaya, opposite the Hyatt) ticing Lebanese goodies including falaffle, humus, A varied and interesting menu including fine Indian and tasty little meat pie things. $$$ food make this place a real treat. On midweek days there are also several excellent business lunch deals Moldovan offering a soup, salad, main course and dessert for 250-350 som. A real stand out and a Spektator faMoldova Restaurant (Kievskaya/Turusbekova) vourite! $$$$ If it’s been a while since you last went out for a Moldovan, this wooden paneled, sturdy-tabled eaItalian tery may be the answer to your prayers. Also, the Adriatico (219, Chui) Moldovan Embassy is next door should you care Reportedly suffering following the departure of to learn more about the world’s favourite budgetits Italian chef, Walter, although we have been told wine exporting country. $$$ that the soup is still excellent. $$$$

Indian

Jumanji (Behind the circus) It’s strange. This place is decorated with fake jungle foliage and is based on a crap kids’ film yet still sort of works. You also get to roll a pair of Jumanji dice before you order for the chance to win a special secret prize - we like this. $$$ Bella Italia (Kievskaya/K.Akiev) Adriatico’s former Italian chef, Walter, has moved Live Bar* (Kulatova/Pravda) homes and is now serving a practically identical range Twenty-four hour sports bar with live music at of dishes at this spot just behind October cinema. weekends. Plenty of leather couches provide the Enjoy the best pizza in town, gnocci and other typiideal place to sip cocktails whilst watching the cal Italian numbers, tasty business lunches from 200 Champions league at three in the morning. $$$$ soms. $$$$

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Regional/Central Asian

Arabica* (Mederova/Tynastanova) This formerly sophisticated laid back shisha pipe) bar has moved to a new location and, by the looks of the bath in the toilets, may still be under development. Three floors, VIP rooms, kaliyans aplenty. $$$

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October 2010 The Spektator


24

Bars, Restaurants & Clubs

Arzu-II (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge) Twenty-four hour joint that’s a godsend for those who get cravings for lagman or manti at four in the morning. Sometimes smoking isn’t allowed, sometimes it is, however the food and prices are constantly pretty good. Comfy booth style seats to dig yourself into after a heavy night. $$

Zaporyzhia (9, Prospect Mira) Recently opened, Zaporyzhia is a cossack flavoured restauraunt in a varnish-scented log cabin. Hearty rustic dishes and a homely atmosphere. The medovukha is recommended! $$$

Turkish

Ajar (On Erkindik between Moskovskaya, Toktogula) Arzu-I (Togolok Moldo, next to the stadium) Offers a hearty selection of Kyrgyz and European Technically an ‘Azerbaijanian’, but don’t let this fact dishes and a homely atmosphere. There’s also a ruin the best value kebabs in town. The menu is great outdoor terrace and national favorouit Arpa limited and if your Russian is too, just say ‘kebab’ and something cheap and tasty will arrive. $ on draught. $$ Derevyashka* (Ryskulova, behind Dvorets Sporta) Atmospheric drinking cabin that serves a range of Central Asian and Russian cuisine, as well as an impressive array of pivo. Well worth it on football nights, when the locals are rather rowdy. $ Faiza (Jibek Jolu/Prospect Mira) Possibly the best place to munch traditional grub in town. Their fried pelmeni and manti are so good that they have often run out by supper-time. Save an appetite and go early. $$ Forel (Vorentsovka village) Twenty minutes outside of Bishkek, Forel is a fishbased ‘relaxation centre’ set amongst babbling streams and offering fine veiws of the mountains. Fish your own trout out of a pool and have it deep fat fried for your pleasure. Only salads, bread, tea and juice are sold on site but you are welcome to bring any booze or garnish you desire, it’s also possible to rent a BBQ. To get there take a taxi to Vorentsovka village and, if your taxi driver doesn’t know the exact location, ask a friendly villager. Trout is 800som/kilo $$$ Jalalabad (Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya) Basically the cheapest food (that won’t give you gut rot) in the centre of town. While it should stand out for its fresh lagman, Jalalabad is sometimes overlooked. Probably at its best in summer, when the shashlyk masters flanking the entrance offer their creations straight to guests sitting at Eastern-style tables – cross your legs and see how long you can last before cramp sets in. $

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Russian/Ukrainian

Apple (28, Manas) Fat, old, lecherous foreigners not welcome, this place is for a younger cooler crowd. Multiple bars, large dance floor, friendly atmosphere. Thursday usually a big night. (Entrance charge 100-300 som) Arbat (9, Karl Marks) Tel. 512094; 512087 Smart ‘elite’ club popular with a slightly older crowd. Strip bar and restaurant in same building. (Entrance charge 200/350 som midweek, 350/450 som Fri/Sat. Strip bar 700 som)

City Club (85/1, Zhukeyeva-Pudovkina) Tel. 511513; 510581 So exclusive it makes the Spektator crowd feel like cheap scum bags, City Club is one of the poshest clubs in town. Get past the ‘face control’ (ugly people beware) and spend your evening with gangHuzur (Kievskaya/Togoluk Moldo,) Convivial proprietor Ali claims to have Steven Ger- ster types, lecherous diplomats, Kazakh businessrard’s 2005 Champion’s League winning Liverpool men and a posse of young rich kids who all seem to shirt. If you don’t believe that, belive in free lipyosh- have studied in London. (Entrance charge: girls 200/ boys 300, Fri/Sat girls 300/boys 500 ka and good, affordable Turkish cuisine. $$ Carlson (166, Sovietskaya) A good outdoor terrace and some hearty food, but the Karaoke style crooners who provide evening entertainment are an acquired taste. $$

Konak (Sovietskaya/Gorkova) This Turkish joint used to be ‘Restaurant Camelot’ hence the incongruous suits of armour in the back room, and the rather crappy castle facade. However, the food is often great, the salads are large and fresh, and the staff are always pleasant. Recommended! (And now open 24 hours a day) $$

Golden Bull (Chui/Togolok Moldo) Tel. 620131 A Bishkek institution. Full of ex-pats and tourists literally every night of the week. Long bar, friendly staff, cheapish beer, everyone’s happy. (Entrance charge [girls/boys] free/400 midweek, 150/400 Fri/Sat. ‘Foreigners’ free.)

Retro Metro (24, Mira) www.retrometro.kg Bright, happy, 80’s kitsch bar, the DJ spins his records from inside the front of a VW camper van. One of the most popular places for post-2am partying. (Entrance charge: 200/300 som midweek, 350/450 There are some Bishkek old-hands who say that som Fri/Sat. Reserve for 200 som) things aren’t what they used to be when it comes to nightlife in Bishkek. They talk of legendary nights of Live Music carnage, vomit, and debauchery - delights that conPromzona (16, Cholpon-Atinskaya) temporary Bishkek struggles to offer. Not so, we say. Take your pick from the list below and www.promzona.kg we’re sure there’s still enough carnage, vomit and Promzona’s far-flung location sadly means a taxi ride or a long walk home are in order at the end debauchery in town to keep everyone happy. of a night. Nevertheless, this trendy live music venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an extenDiskoklubs sive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring, strangely, a wind tunnel fan, make this one of the Heaven (Frunze/Pravda - in the Hotel Dostuk) As Heaven is found inside a hotel it is surprisingly best nights out in Bishkek. Tuesday is Jazz night. unseedy. In fact it stands out for being a bastion of Rock or blues bands normally play at the weekthe well-dressed (if one is generous). Turn up in tatty ends. (Music charge 200-350 som)

Night

Clubs

jeans and a t-shirt and you may feel a little out of place; then again, you may not give a shit. Tables by the dancefloor cost 1000 som but include drinks up to this value. (Entrance charge 200-400 som)

Fire & Ice (Tynystanova/Erkindik) A slightly grittier version of Golden Bull. Again, forPirogoff-Vodkin (Kievskaya/Togolok Moldo) eigners can often get in for free. Popular throughout Classy restaurant with a turn of the 20th century the week. (Entrance ‘foreigners’ free) atmosphere serving Russian specialities. Have your tea in a giant samovar. $$$ Pharoah (East side of the Philharmonic) An underground lair packed with eyecatching nods Khutoryanka (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge) to Ancient Egypt. Foreigners can sometimes negotiUnassuming, to put it mildly, on the outside, this ate cheaper or free entry, but be prepared for the big place is a revelation on the inside. Delicious food, sting inside - beer costs the best part of 200som. reasonable service, Ukrainian brass band music Charge ( 400-500 som) on the cd player. We love it! $$$

Tequila Blues (Turesbekova/Engels) A possible misnomer, the tequila is just fine but the blues is non-existent. Russian studenty types mosh away the nights to Rock bands in an atmospheric underground bunker. (Music charge 150 som) Sweet Sixties (Molodaya Gvardia/Kievskaya) Live cover bands most nights. Full menu, popular with a younger crowd. $$

Zeppelin (43, Chui) Zeppelin is in the same vein as the old Tequila Blues but not quite so spit and sawdust. On the nights we’ve visited, there’s been a line up of young rock or punk bands strutting their stuff, heavier beats seem to go down best with the young Russian crowd. Full restaurant menu. Taras Bulba (Near the Yuzhniy Vorota on Sovietskaya) Platinum (East side of the Philharmonic) Like all the Ukrainian restaurants we’ve tried in Take a seat at the snazzy 360 degree bar and do bat- (Entrance charge 100-150 som) Bishkek, Taras Bulba serves great food. We liked the tle with some of Kyrgyzstan’s most convivial ‘elite’ for potato pancakes with caviar, the delicious soups gold-digging temptresses. (Entrance charge 400- Live music also common at Stary Edgar’s, Beatles 500 som) Bar, Foyer and Blonder Pub (see ‘restaurants’) and fresh salads. $$$

October 2010 The Spektator

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Map

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October 2010 The Spektator


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What’s On

Parliamentary Elections

Trekking Union Dates for July

Sunday, October 10th Polling stations near you Kyrgyzstan’s day of destiny. Show up in force to cheer on your favourite Kyrgyz politicians, and, hopefully, by the end of a day, raise a toast to a new era of stable democracy in the Kyrgyz Republic. Be forewarned: the authorities are extremely nervous. Wearing a balaclava in the vicinity of polling stations is not advised.

9th October Trip to Alamedin reservoir One day trip to Alamedin reservoir. Hike to a waterfall and open air picnic. Same day return to Bishkek. Transportation cost: 200 soms for non TUK members/170 soms for members.

Art Exhibition Until October 15th Exhibition by painter Alexander Viktorov Taking place in the Olga Manuilova house-museum, Viktorov’s collection of realist works is entitled “Autumn Blues”, focussing on the shapes and colours of fall. Viktorov has sold works in Austria, Turkey, Germany and the U.S.A, as well as the former U.S.S.R. Check 312.kg for more info.

October Dates 22nd October The Last Rose of Summer 18.00pm Classical music concert celebrating the beginning of the new season. This is expected to be very popular. Call (0555) 769 073 to book tickets in advance. Kyrgyz State Philharmonic Tel: 21 22 62 30th October Premiere of “Wedding in Malinovka” Musical Comedy Famous Tashkent-born Vyacheslav Brodyanskiy will direct a version of this classic in honour of the Russian Drama Theatre’s 75th anniversary. Originally a love story set during the Russian civil war, Brodyanskiy’s score will be modern and the storyline will “mirror present conflicts” . Russian Drama Theatre Tel: 66 20 32 31st October Halloween Disco ` These costume=discount affiars at apple are usually good fun. Don’t spare on the pre-party cognac, don your Azimbek Beknazarov face mask and scare the hell out of your friends. Apple Night Club Manas, 28

Entertainment Directory The Puppet Theatre Sovietskaya/Michurina Performances on Sundays at 11:00am.

Russian Drama Theatre Tynystanova, 122 (Situated in Oak Park) Tel.: 662032, 621571 10th October Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-18:00 White water rafting in Chui/Issyk Kul region Tickets 30-100 som Difficulty level 2-3 (not for complete beginners), A range of local and international plays in Rusduration 2-2.5 hours, distance 20-25 miles. Group sian. size 12 -16 people. Cost of rafting: 1400 soms per person /10% discount for TUK members. TransThe Conservatory port cost for a group of 12-16 people: 350 soms Jantosheva, 115 per person/300 soms for TUK members. Tel: 479542 Concerts by students and professors. 16th October Paintballing near Uncle Tom’s Cabin Same day return to Bishkek. Cost of participation: 360 soms per person with two teams of 9 people. Cost of transport for a group of 16 or more people: 120 soms per person/100 soms for TUK members.

Kyrgyz State Philharmonic Chui Prospect, 253 Tel: 212262, 212235 Hours: 17:00-19:00 in summer Tickets: 70-100 som (sometimes much more for special performances) There are two concert halls featuring classical, 17th October traditional Kyrgyz, and pop concerts and a variety Trekking expedition to Sokuluk gorge. One-day hike to Sokuluk gorge. Visit a waterfall. of shows. Collect medicinal herbs (thyme, oregano, etc. Mild to moderate intensity. Length of route: 8 km. Opera Ballet Theatre Cost of transport plus guiding and consultation Sovietskaya/Abdymununova costs for a group of 15 people: 250 soms per per- Tel: 66 15 48 son/220 soms for TUK members. Hours: 17:00-19:00 Tickets: 150-600 som 23rd October Tickets for performances sell out very quickly and Hiking in Issyk-Ata region it is necessary to book a seat in advance. Hike along the river bank to the foot of Botwe mountain (4008m). Open air picnic. Visit a waterfall. Swim in a hot spring pool. Same day return Live updates to Bishkek. Cost of transport for a group of 12-13 For all the Bishkek opera, ballet and concert listings, people: 250som/ 200som for TUK members. check our frequently updated What’s On listings at: 24th October www.thespektator.co.uk Berry campaign near Bishkek Hike in little Chun Kurchak. Walk around the gorge, picking berries (barberry, rose hips, hawSpektral Travel thorn etc.) Same day return to Bishkek. Cost of transportation plus guiding and consultation Last chance dashes to Issyk Kul may well be the safest and costs for a group of 15 people: 200 soms per per- most advisable option this autumn, with the water only starting to cool down following a long hot summer. For son/170 soms for TUK members. those with the guts to head southwards, Jalal-Abad provGroups meet the Thursday before the weekend of ince’s very own walnut forest in Arslanbob is reportedly departure. Call (0312) 906 115 or email us at trek@ fantastic in the fall. Pack a decent camera, some Alexander the Great trivia and write about it for the Spektator! elcat.kg. Website: www.trek-kyrgyzstan.com

Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, Chui av. 4A, Office A4 Tel.: +996 (312) 90 61 15, 90 61 39 e-mail: trek@elcat.kg, website: www.trek-kyrgyzstan.com, www.tuk.kg Map: Location guide 1. Tequila Blues 2. Metro Bar (American Pub) 3. Watari 4. Zaporyzhian Nights 5. Coffe House (I) 6. 2x2 Bar

October 2010 The Spektator

7. Beta Stores Supermarket 8. Derevyashka 9. Cyclone 10. Coffee House (II) 11. Adriatico 12. Santa Maria 13. Faiza

14. New York Pizza 15. Cowboy 16. National Museum 17. Navigator 18. Sky Bar 19. Foyer 20. Fatboy’s

21. Stary Edgars 22. TSUM Department Store 23. Jam 24. Mimino 25. Arabica 26. Konak 27. VEFA shopping Centre

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Spektator issue 12