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Quick Reads + Central Asia & Caucasus

Media archive · 5909 posts

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Latest stories from Quick Reads + Central Asia & Caucasus

Tajikistan Celebrates the Beginning of Spring

On March 20-21, people in Tajikistan celebrate Navruz (Nowruz), an ancient festival that marks the beginning of spring and is often referred to as the “Persian New Year”. 

Icekandar congratulates [ru] the readers of his blog:

Here comes Navruz, the best and most cheerful holiday! This holiday is not like other celebrations. [Navruz] means a lot to our country and our people. Navruz is like a bridge that links contemporary Tajikistan with our ancestors and their culture…

Happy Navruz to everyone!

News website ozodagon.tj presents several videos showing how the festival is celebrated in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.

Kazakh Artist Remembers Zhanaozen Oil Riot

A piece of art by Saule Suleimenova. Image by Selikzhan Kovlanbaev, used with permission.

A piece of art by Saule Suleimenova. Image by Selikzhan Kovlanbaev, used with permission.

Photo blogger Serikzhan Kovlanbaev presents [ru] a photo report from a recent exhibition of works by Saule Suleimenova, perhaps the best known contemporary artist in the country. Suleimenova has been described by another blogger as “one of Kazakhstan’s deepest, most interesting and prolific artists”.

The theme of the exhibition is Zhanaozen, an oil town in southwestern Kazakhstan where police and riot troops clashed with unarmed protesters in December 2011, killing at least 15 people and injuring nearly 100.

Letters From Tajikistan: We Are Different, But We Have Much In Common

A unique book has been published in Tajikistan. Loki explains [ru] how the book, Letters from Tajikistan, differs from everything else that has been produced in the country:

The book is a collection of letters written by people who either live in Tajikistan or have visited the country. The authors of these letters come from various social and professional backgrounds as well as from different generational groups. The book reproduces original letters, leaving the authors’ writing styles unchanged and unedited.

Most of the letters in the book are in Russian, but there are also letters in English and French. The letters are also posted on a Facebook page.

The book is a final stage of the project that two Tajikistani artists, Anton Rodin and Sergey Chutkov, presented at the 2013 Venice Biennale, a biannual contemporary art exhibition held in Venice, Italy. In an interview conducted during the exhibition, the artists told [ru] that their aim was to identify issues which are relevant to all people in Tajik society irrespective of their various religious, cultural, social, and ethnic backgrounds.

Speaking Through Graffiti in Kazakhstan

Graffiti by Repas Workshop, image used with permission.

Graffiti by Repas Workshop, image used with permission.

Over the last ten years, a street art group based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, has been using graffiti to express ideas and statements. The group, Repas Workshop, presents [ru] the most recent examples of their impressive graffiti artworks in a blog.

Voices Against Women's Day Remain Rare in Tajikistan

As Tajikistan celebrates the International Women's Day (re-branded as Mother's Day in the country in 2009), social media help amplify the rare voices that speak against the holiday. Writing on his personal website, prominent religious leader and politician Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda urges [tj] Tajiks not to celebrate on March 8:

Celebrating Mother's Day or Women's Day is inadmissible. This is not our religious or national holiday. We inherited this holiday from the Soviet period.

Similar messages have appeared on social media sites, particularly on Odnoklassniki and Facebook. For example, Said Boboev argues [tj] in TAJIKISTAN Online, a Facebook group that has over 13,000 members, that marking the Mother's Day is against the Islamic tradition. 

Such claims remain unpopular in Tajikistan where 90 percent of men and 87 percent of women celebrate the holiday on March 8, according to a recent survey [ru]. Following a Soviet tradition, the country's leader has congratulated [tj] the women of Tajikistan in a televised address. Reacting to Turajonzoda's comments about the holiday, one Tajik netizen tweeted [ru]:

Burn in hell if you celebrate on March 8? Turajonzoda has totally lost his mind http://t.co/YeVoFZXrXk

Young Activists Battle Bad Parking Habits in Kazakhstan

A group of young activists in Pavlodar, a city in northeastern Kazakhstan, have founded a movement aimed at teaching manners to drivers. The young people confront motorists who park on sidewalks or in other improper places and ask them to move the vehicles to designated parking spots. The movement coordinates its activities and recruits activists via social media.

A Kazakhstani blogger interviews [ru] the founder of the movement:

When we just began to carry out our raids, motorists often threatened us and told that we were not police, using very offensive language. This is the only problem we have encountered so far. We are seeking support from the authorities because we help them enforce the law and ensure public order…

The movement calls itself ”Stop, Twerp” [Стоп Хам], borrowing its name and tactics from a similar group in Russia [ru], an offshoot of the Kremlin-supported Nashi youth movement.

Winter in Tajik Capital, the “Worst City in Asia”

An expat blogger writes about how she spent winter in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. 

I spent most of the coldest times huddled next to the space heater (pechka), cup of tea in hand. Some mornings everything in the kitchen froze. I once tried to pour hot water into a cold cup and it cracked in half…

On several nights the electricity went out, sometimes for hours…

The story helps understand why Dushanbe was recently ranked the worst city in Asia for expatriates to live in.

Kazakhstan's Charyn Canyon

Charyn Canyon. Image by Sergei, used with permission.

Charyn Canyon. Image by Sergei Terekti, used with permission.

Sergei Terekti presents [ru] a photo essay about his recent trip to Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan's own smaller version of the Grand Canyon in the United States:

The main canyon is about 150 kilometers long; the Charyn River crosses it. Multiple gorges, valleys, and smaller canyons surround the Charyn Canyon. One of the main [attractions] here is the Valley of Castles where rock formations have been crafted by water, wind, and soil erosion over millions of years. When you get to the Valley of Castles, you feel like you are at an architecture [exhibition] featuring masterpieces of biotech and neo-organic architecture of the past and present. Styles vary from Muslim shrines and minarets to Christian Orthodox cathedrals…

Women Out For The Evening Risk Arrest in Turkmenistan

The Vienna-based opposition blog Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports that police in northern Turkmen town of Dashoguz raid cafes and restaurants in search of women out for the evening. According to the blog, single ladies and women dining without their husbands are taken to police stations. Chronicles of Turkmenistan alleged back in November 2013 that similar raids were carried out in the country's capital, with women detained and forcibly tested for sexually-transmitted infections and narcotics-use as part of the authorities’ effort to curb prostitution.

Tajikistan's Tastiest Blogs

Tajik plov. Image from vk.com/taomtj, used with permission.

Tajik plov. Image from vk.com/taomtj, used with permission.

There are three blogs in Tajikistan that are a must read for anyone interested in Tajik cuisine.

Tajik Restaurant [Tarabkhonai Tojiki] [tj] shares cook-it-yourself videos and recipes of popular Tajik dishes. Suhailo's Cooking Diary [Daftari pukhtu-pazhoi Suhailo] [tj] teaches its readers to bake pastries popular in the country. Finally, Osh Khona [ru] offers detailed reviews of the best places to eat plov in Tajikistan. 

There is also the Tajikistan Cuisine [Taomhoi millii Tojikiston] [ru] public page on VKontakte, where hundreds of users share yummy recipes, pictures, and videos.

Warning: when you access these sources, be prepared to see much, much meat as Tajik cuisine is not for vegetarians.

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