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Voices from Central Asia and the Caucasus

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Club in Almaty/Kazakhstan – (c) Christopher Herwig – www.herwigphoto.com

Welcome to the latest roundup of the Central Asian and Caucasian blogospheres. A lot has happened over the past two weeks – so let's get down to business straightaway.

Political crisis in Kyrgyzstan…
The stalemate between opposition and the Bakiyev/Kulov administration in Bishkek continues, with analysts looking at a new proposed constitution brought forward by President Bakiyev yesterday. Kyrgyz Report, a new blog set up by young people from Bishkek, is constantly updated and provides great insights from the ground, including frequent photos. Edil Baisalov, prominent opposition figure and active LJ blogger, is also a good place to start if you read Russian. neweurasia's Russian Kyrgyzstan blog has had many posts over the last couple of days, with opinions ranging across the board and featuring a lot of eye-witness accounts. Nathan on The Registan combines media roundups with great commentary, and as usual, interesting discussions arise in the comment sections. Sean Roberts, the Georgetown Central Asian Affairs fellow turned blogger, is also weighing in with daily posts on the opposition protests in Kyrgyzstan. Be sure to check out Theodore Kaye's Flickr Photostream for some visual context of the protests.

…and wider repercussions
Kamron (RUS) reports that Kazakh President Nazarbayev met with his Uzbek counterpart Karimov, allegedly to discuss the ramifications of the events across the border in Kyrgyzstan. On neweurasia, Leila took up the same topic and said that images of the perpetual crisis in Kyrgyzstan had previously been used on Kazakh television:

In a disguised election campaign, Kazakh television showed the riots in Paris, the Kyrgyz revolution, followed by peaceful pictures of Kazakhstan reality. Maybe it helped really.

Kamron (RUS) also reports about the third and unsuccessful round of negotiations between Kyrgyz gas and electricity companies and UzbekGasOil state company. As energy resources are a popular way to exert political pressure on post-Soviet neighbours, it comes as no surprise that the Uzbek authorities are also making use of that wonderful tool. They declared that the gas price (which is currently 55 dollars) will be increased to 100 USD next year. Despite protests of Kyrgyz President Bakiyev, the Uzbek company refused to negotiate the price. As if Bakiyev doesn't already have enough to worry about…

Borat hitting the theatres
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released last Thursday and was the box office champion over the weekend. The blogosphere is buzzing with posts on Borat, some highlights here: On neweurasia, James asks whether Kazakhs are rightfully being offended by the defamations put forward in the movie, and the spokesman of the Kazakh embassy to the US replies in the comments. With the controversy about the movie come first conspiracy theories: Borat's sidekick Azamat is played by the Armenian Ken Davitian, and after the credits, the fake national anthem has a picture of Azeri President Aliyev in it. Onnik on the Armenia-based Oneworld Blog, Katy at neweurasia and Sean Roberts (who includes the Youtube video of the anthem) all follow up on the Armenian-Azeri-Kazakh Borat link. KZBlog has a great post on the anthem, which he thinks is a poignant parody of Kazakhstan's PR campaigns.

Georgia on my mind
DJ Drive's LJ is one of the only frequently updated blogs from within Georgia that provide English language posts (he's got a wordpress.com blog as well here). On doing business in Georgia, DJ Drive reports of one of his friends who opened a business recently. Bear in mind that Georgia is a fomer republic of the Soviet Union:

It took him and his partners a couple of months to transform the idea to an actual start-up, financed by a bank loan and ready for the first import in coming 4 weeks. As of now he has not have pay a single bribe. He agrees that was he in Moscow things would have been very different.

Speaking of Moscow, DJ Drive also wrote a post on the bitter bilateral relations between Russia and Georgia. The former has decided to increase gas prices for the republic in the southern Caucasus.

Gas is almost the last thing that Moscow has left itself to annoy Georgia with after banning Georgian wine and mineral water, severing trade and transport links and cracking down on ethnic Georgians living in Russia and their businesses.

Tajikistan voted
Alexander and Vadim on neweurasia continue to provide excellent coverage of Tajikistan's elections both in Russian and in English. Now that the elections are over, the observers are busy writing up their findings. It is only a small surprise that the CIS observer team has put their thumbs up, whereas the OSCE is not happy (and is experiencing visa problems on top).

Read on!
Fortunately, my job is a lot easier these days thanks to a lot of blogosphere roundups: Check neweurasia for the latest buzz in the Tajik blogosphere, Global Voices for both a roundup on the political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan and the latest Voices from Kazakhstan.

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