Soviet Frunze – a Centre of Space Research?

by Mohira Suyarkulova
When one strolls along the streets of Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, it never registers that this city was once a centre for space research. A modest building on Toktogul Street, which is now home to textile sweatshops, once housed a unique institution with a long cryptic abbreviated name – OKB IKI AN SSSR (Особое конструкторское бюро Института космических исследований Академии наук СССР), which when translated from Russian stands for “Special design bureau of the Institute of space research of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR”. Continue reading

How Images and Sounds Translate into Matter: Economic Turnarounds in the Eastern Pamirs, Tajikistan

by Tobias Marschall

As for many places in Central Asia, a small container bazar grew in Murghab town. The centre of the Eastern Pamirs’ Murghab district in Tajikistan did not escape the quasi-rule of post-soviet countries: A marketplace where people turned to retail trade activities on individual or collective initiative. Behind a metal gate, a main footpath emerges between two rows of small to big shipping containers that were aligned to gather commercial activities in one place. Visitors make a particular sound when walking over the gravel that covers the otherwise dry and hard ground, a sound that is not to be heard somewhere else in Murghab. Jeeps, minibuses and other small vehicles gather at the taxi stand behind the containers on dusty soil, waiting for passengers. Continue reading

Recent floods highlight the Tajik Pamirs’ entanglements with the outside world

by Carolin Maertens and Martin Saxer

On 16 July 2015, a large mudslide buried parts of the village of Barsem, located in the Ghunt Valley sixteen kilometres east of the town of Khorugh in Tajikistan’s mountainous Pamir region. The mud dammed up the Ghunt river and a sizeable lake formed, interrupting the Pamir Highway that leads along the river. The mudslide at Barsem was triggered by a period of heavy rainfall and exceptionally high temperatures that caused glaciers and snow to melt more rapidly than usual. Accordingly, the Barsem case was only one of many flood related incidents in the Pamirs. Thus, for instance, several bridges along the Pamir Highway were washed away. While the disaster found some coverage in the media, little has since been written about its wider socio-economic significance. Continue reading

What Future Does Coal Have in Kazakhstan?

by Almaz Akhmetov

Almaz AkhmetovPower derived from coal is an intrinsic part of daily lives in Kazakhstan in the form of electricity, heat and hot water. Coal has been a backbone of industrial development of Kazakhstan since the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to abundant reserves and relatively low mining costs. While oil and natural gas export earnings are the main drivers of economic growth of the country, coal is almost solely utilized for domestic purposes. Continue reading

Rural Teachers in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan

by Damira Umetbaeva

“During the Soviet Union teachers earned and lived like ministers.”

“In the past teachers were respected by everyone, even by the president, because they earned well and had a strong knowledge.”

These are the accounts of Janarbek about his position as a teacher in the past, told from his present socio-economic status as a teacher. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the quality of education in Kyrgyzstan, as did the quality of many other public services, decreased substantially. Since the break-up of the USSR, the country has not managed to support this sector well, which along with many others, had been generously subsidised by the Soviet state. As a result, there are many acute problems in the education sphere and if these are not addressed soon, they will lead to the total collapse of Kyrgyzstan’s education sector. Continue reading