A soldier’s story. Afghan War veterans and Soviet patriotism in Tajikistan.

by Markus Göransson

P1160694When Zafar was a platoon commander in Afghanistan during the Soviet war of 1979-1989, he put together an album that he has kept until this day. He labelled the album “Memory of Service” and studded its pages with photographs from his service and text cuttings that praised the Soviet military. On one page he stuck a banner that read “Glory to the defenders of the motherland”. On another he glued stickers of the Soviet army insignia and the Soviet navy flag. Some of his photographs show him standing proudly in his uniform, his face determined, in Afghan landscapes. Continue reading

A history of creation and destruction: To rebuild or not to rebuild Bamiyan’s Buddha statues?

bandeamir-2-1by Melissa Kerr Chiovenda

In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, locals’ discussions on Hazara history and recent oppressions faced by Hazaras would often incorporate the meanings that two Buddha statues, built in the 6th and 7th centuries and destroyed on March 10 2001 by the Taliban, held for Hazaras. During my stays in Bamiyan between 2011 and 2013, some individuals recalled myths that explained the statues as symbolising the foundational ancestors of Hazaras, while others considered them to be nothing more than un-Islamic idols. Against the background of these myths, many locals pondered whether the destruction of the statues by the Taliban epitomised the suffering of Hazaras that reaches far into history. Continue reading

The Waiting Game of Kazakhstan’s Nation-Building

by Diana T. Kudaibergenova

DKSince the mid 2000s, amongst political and non-political circles, the question of when Kazakhstan would become a real nation had turned into a fixation point. Numerous state programs and development strategies seemed to raise more questions rather than give answers to the growing demands of Kazakh national-patriots. During this time, unofficial and official media outlets presented programs in the Russian language, initiating debates surrounding ‘concrete’ nation-building projects. The multiplicity of national discourse, symbols and opinions within Kazakhstan had intentionally been facilitated by the regime. For various nationalist and semi civic signifiers, the completed project of the ‘national idea’ became a strategically ambiguous field as well as a waiting game for the elites. The past Soviet tradition of a concrete nationalist policy and definitive nation-building through a state language had a decade later, transformed into a growing demand amongst national patriots and their sympathizers. Continue reading

‘How do I get across?’: Food in Central Asia

by Malgorzata Biczyk

Malgorzata-BiczykA man named Nasreddin had been sitting on a river bank when someone shouted to him from the opposite side, “Hey! How do I get across?” Nasreddin responded with “You are across”.

In the context of Central Asian cuisine, ‘crossing the river’ might have also the meaning of crossing over some basic truths. Food has by nature the capacity to keep a memory vivid. However, the longer I eat and smell Central Asian food, the more I get the feeling of a kind of food-related romantic paradox. Everyone wants to cross the river to taste the food of others, whilst forgetting about the value of their own local specialties. Take osh (a form of Central Asian rice) for instance. Whose osh is better is probably a question that is, if not as old as the world, then at least as old as the city of Osh itself. Continue reading

Reading Dostoyevsky in English: A Who Dunnit in Khorog, Tajikistan

by Brook Bolander

picture for blog You meet people in Khorog who read Dostoyevsky in English, and others who barely speak a word of English. Nestled in Tajikistan’s Pamir mountains, just over 2000 metres above sea level, the city of Khorog is home to a population of approximately 30,000 people, the majority of whom are native speakers of Shugni. Other predominant languages are Tajik and Russian, both of which used to be official languages. Yet since Tajik was made the country’s sole official language through President Emomali Rahmon’s 2009 law “On the state language of the Republic of Tajikistan”, it has been gaining ground at the expense of Russian, at least in official institutions. Continue reading