Early Soviet policies of women’s emancipation in the Kazakh steppes

by Mohira Suyarkulova

korkpoThis post reflects on a controversial and ambivalent page of Central Asia’s history by turning to a booklet authored by Antonina Nurkhat – a women’s movement activist from Bashkortostan, who worked and travelled widely in Central Asia in the 1920s –“Nomadic Yurts: On the Work of Women’s Red Yurts” (Tsentrizdat, 1929). This lively brochure, written as a dialogue with women-activists working in a so-called ‘red yurt’ in Kazakhstan, gives the reader a glimpse into a fascinating local history of khujum – early Soviet campaigning for emancipation of women in Central Asia. Continue reading

Involving Communities in Pasture Management: The Challenge of Pasture Committees in Kyrgyzstan

by Irène Mestre

Irene MestreWhen I arrived in Kyrgyzstan to investigate pasture management in July 2010, the new Law “On Pastures” had been in place for only just over a year (it was released on January 29, 2009). During summer 2010, the content of the new pastoral regulation was hardly known by pasture users, or by governmental and local self-governance employees (ayil okmotu, equivalent to municipalities). That was only a few months after the 2010 protests which overthrew President Bakiev and tensions around this so-called “Bakiev’s Law” were perceptible. After years of centralized management, the law aimed at implementing a community-based management of pastures. At the village level (ayil ayimak), all pasture users are members of the Pasture Users Association (PUA) and elect the Pasture Committee (PC). This is the executive body in charge of managing, allocating and monitoring pastures. It collects pasture use fees and manages its own budget. Part of it, the land tax, is transferred to the central budget as pastures are state property. The new law carries environmental, economic, and social expectations: the degradation of pastures underpinned the promotion of this model and made sustainable management essential. The law also intended to improve social equity by ensuring equal access to all pasture users and to foster long term economic benefits by preserving resources for livestock production. Continue reading

Who Is Benefiting from the New Pasture Management Reform in Kyrgyzstan?

by Ulan Kasymov

KasymovRearing livestock has always been a vital part of life according to the ancient nomadic traditions of Kyrgyzstan. Despite the slow but steady encroachment of modernity this still remains true for the majority of rural communities today. Many households rely on livestock as part of their livelihood, but as the number of hooves multiply, so do the problems associated with poor pasture management. Pastures close to villages are overgrazed, and remote summer pastures are often underutilized because of decaying infrastructure and their remoteness. Such coordination problems, partially a symptom of the Soviet Union’s collapse, are being tackled through a variety of measures since the pasture legislation reform was introduced in 2009. Yet, reforms need to be undertaken with caution as changes to the laws that govern pasture management can have a serious impact on the way pastures are locally negotiated, allocated and how disputes are resolved. 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