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

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

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

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