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

The Legal Empowerment of the Poor and the Residential Registration System in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan

by Balihar Sanghera

Lacking tenure security and city residency permits (propiska), poor residents in major cities in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan struggle to survive without adequate access to education, health care, electricity, and running water, and are treated with contempt by state officials and middle class urban residents. They are also practically disenfranchised from electoral politics. Several international donors (such as the United Nations and the World Bank) argue that poverty can be tackled by enhancing the legal rights of poor groups, such as land and property tenure, protection from labour exploitation, and access to justice.[1] Although residential registration in these cities formally restricts basic human rights, its abolition or simplification will not necessarily improve the lives of poor residents or increase their access to social goods and services, because structural inequalities and widespread corruption remain unaddressed. Continue reading

Abai’s Thoughts, Kazakh Matters

by Christopher Schwartz

What does it mean to be critical? As the Editor-in-Chief of NewEurasia Citizen Media (neweurasia.net), Central Asia’s largest citizen-journalism network, I frequently ask myself this question. Obviously, as an editor, a sloppy answer risks sloppy content. Worse, in a region like this, it could endanger reputations and lives.

Alhamdulilah, I have found some insight from Kazakhstan’s Ibrahim “Abai” Kunanbaev (1845-1904). Indeed, as his nation’s first-ever philosopher, he is in many respects the ancestor, if not prototype, of today’s independent Kazakh journalist. Continue reading

Railways in Central Asia

by Alexander Morrison

The first time I went to Tashkent, in October 2001, it was by train: the “Uzbekistan” express left Moscow’s Kazan station near midnight. I had a coupé, which I shared with a middle-aged Russian visiting his father in Tashkent, an indestructible Ukrainian grandmother returning to her home in Namangan, and an elderly Tatar gentleman in high leather boots travelling back to Khujand in northern Tajikistan, which he still referred to by its Soviet name of ‘Leninabad’. We talked about politics and travel, made each other tea from the samovar at the end of the carriage in the little blue-and-white pot provided, and munched on the salo (salted pig fat), of which our babushka’s bag turned out to contain incredible quantities. I can still remember her satisfied sigh of ‘poryadok’ (order) as the tablecloth was straightened and the rubbish removed, and her voluble insistence that true hospitality had disappeared from Russia, and was now only to be found in Central Asia, where she had lived since her 20s. Continue reading