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

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

‘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