Post-Soviet (Caucasian) Businessmen in Beijing: From “Chelnoki” to “Globalization from Below”

by Susanne Fehlings

Informal economy has become a topic of many recent studies concerned with Soviet and post-Soviet economy. The current debates discuss whether informality (not regulated by the state) has a negative effect on national economies or whether it is, and should be, an integral part of a liberal market system. But before discussing the pros and cons of informality it is worth to have a closer look at the representatives of informal practices, who, among others, are so-called petty traders. Continue reading

Altyn Saat – The Social Life of Gold Watches in the Afghan Pamirs.

by Tobias Marschall

The “Seiko Panj”, as Afghans renamed the quartz wristwatch produced in Japan, is sold cheap on Afghan markets. “Seiko” stands for the Japanese manufacturer and “Panj”, the Persian word for five, hints to the five years guarantee logos that accompany the product. “It was hip to wear one ten years ago,” as an Afghan friend told me, “now, everybody has a Seiko Panj in Afghanistan.”  Continue reading

Soviet Frunze – a Centre of Space Research?

by Mohira Suyarkulova
When one strolls along the streets of Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, it never registers that this city was once a centre for space research. A modest building on Toktogul Street, which is now home to textile sweatshops, once housed a unique institution with a long cryptic abbreviated name – OKB IKI AN SSSR (Особое конструкторское бюро Института космических исследований Академии наук СССР), which when translated from Russian stands for “Special design bureau of the Institute of space research of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR”. Continue reading

Grasping the Scope of Environmental Crises

by Mark Neuzil & Eric Freedman

English walnut fruit

English walnut fruit. Photo: Utah State University.

Emil Shukurov remembers what the great walnut forest of Central Asia was like. His first memory dates back to shortly after World War II, when expansion plans of the centralized Soviet economy had only barely touched remote valleys in southern Kyrgyzstan where tens of thousands of acres of walnut trees grew. It was—and is—a complex ecosystem that also hosts apple, pear and plum trees—130 species overall—and wild boars, deer, bears, owls, hawks and other wildlife, as well as farmers, herders and nomads descended from people who roamed the region for centuries. Continue reading

A history of creation and destruction: To rebuild or not to rebuild Bamiyan’s Buddha statues?

bandeamir-2-1by Melissa Kerr Chiovenda

In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, locals’ discussions on Hazara history and recent oppressions faced by Hazaras would often incorporate the meanings that two Buddha statues, built in the 6th and 7th centuries and destroyed on March 10 2001 by the Taliban, held for Hazaras. During my stays in Bamiyan between 2011 and 2013, some individuals recalled myths that explained the statues as symbolising the foundational ancestors of Hazaras, while others considered them to be nothing more than un-Islamic idols. Against the background of these myths, many locals pondered whether the destruction of the statues by the Taliban epitomised the suffering of Hazaras that reaches far into history. Continue reading