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

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