‘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

The Revival of Spiritual Healing in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan

by Danuta Penkala-Gawęcka

D. Penkala-Gawęcka[1] My anthropological research in Bishkek between 2011-2013 focused on people’s health-seeking strategies and choices, and means of protection against illness. City dwellers can choose between many options, ranging from offers provided by state and private medical institutions, through treatments from the margins of biomedicine, like acupuncture or leech therapy, to methods rooted in local traditional healing. Moreover, various home remedies usually serve as a first resort in case of affliction. Continue reading

High Politics and Low Politics in Central AsiaHigh Politics and Low Politics in Central Asia

by Edward Schatz

schatzThe British historian Lord Acton once claimed that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and it is easy to find examples—historical and contemporary—that confirm our worst fears about politics and politicians. If it is a nasty game with sky-high stakes, then it logically follows that the most effective politician is one who flies high and plays nasty.by Edward Schatz

schatzThe British historian Lord Acton once claimed that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and it is easy to find examples—historical and contemporary—that confirm our worst fears about politics and politicians. If it is a nasty game with sky-high stakes, then it logically follows that the most effective politician is one who flies high and plays nasty. Continue reading

Urkun

by Aminat Chokobaeva

Pic ChokobaevaWe stopped at a narrow gorge with forbidding sides; a steep ascent lay ahead of us. Yet I had asked the bus driver to stop here because it was at this location that an obscure monument to the victims of a forgotten uprising rested. Two hours from Bishkek, the Boom Gorge is home to a small monument commemorating the victims of a local uprising against Tsarist authorities in 1916. The uprising itself is commonly known as Urkun (‘exodus’ in Kyrgyz). After taking a few of photos, I got back on the bus, only to be bombarded with questions. Continue reading

The Invisible Tenants

by Kishimjan Osmonova

kishimjanAstana, the new capital of Kazakhstan since 1997, has become a major migrant destination attracting thousands of internal as well as external migrants from neighboring Central Asian states. The city’s population tripled in the last decade making it number around one million residents today. The migrants are a diverse group with different backgrounds, professions, and places of origin. Most of them are young and ambitious people seeking better opportunities in the futuristic capital, which is referred as the City of the Future. Inspired by the capital’s shimmering look and construction boom many are determined to stay and create their prosperous future. Realizing this goal is not easy and one of the problems they face is propiska. Continue reading