#1Pic1Day: Lenin di Balik Terali | Lenin Behind Bars (Kyrgyzstan, 2006)

Lenin Behind Bars (Kyrgyzstan, 2006) Since the fall of Soviet Union followed by the independence of the new republics in Central Asia, symbols of communism had been deliberately erased along with the wave of nationalism and awareness of being independent nations. The statues of Lenin in many cities were smacked down and replaced; the Russian-style street names were replaced with those of local heroes or local concepts. Kyrgyzstan was among the countries with strong Russian influence. The Lenin Street in Osh was politely moved to another street, and while not common, Toktogul still has Lenin statue, hidden behind bars in a lonely park. Lenin di Balik Terali (Kirgizstan, 2006) Sejak runtuhnya Uni Soviet dan merdekanya republik-republik baru di Asia Tengah, simbol-simbol komunisme dihapus dengan sengaja seiring dengan bangkitnya nasionalisme dan kesadaran sebagai negeri merdeka. Patung-patung Lenin dirobohkan, nama-nama jalan yang berbau Rusia diganti nama-nama lokal. Kirgizstan dan Kazakhstan adalah dua negara yang cukup kental pengaruh Rusianya. Jalan Lenin di Osh hanya dipindah lokasinya, dan patung Lenin di dusun Toktogul ini dipinggirkan ke balik terali di taman. [...]

February 24, 2014 // 0 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Kota Para Syahid | City of Martyrs (Tehran, IRAN, 2009)

City of Martyrs (Tehran, IRAN, 2009) The concept of martyrdom is very important in Shia Iran. Their spiritual hero, Hussain ibn Ali, was martyred in the Battle of Karbala. Like the struggle of Hussain, Iran also regards itself as a minority defending the truth against the vice of majority. The history of Iran is full of similar stories: how the people power toppled the tyranny of Shah regime, how they were fighting against British and CIA plot, and how they are persistent defending their culture against Arab influence. Iran was involved in decade wars with the Arabs of Iraq, and now engulfed by the hegemony of America in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Afghanistan. With the strong concept of martyrdom, the cities of Iran are full of monuments and murals to remember the spirit of the martyrs. Kota Para Syahid (Tehran, IRAN, 2009) Konsep syahid sangat penting di negeri Syiah Iran. Pahlawan spiritual mereka, Hussain bin Ali, menjadi syahid dalam Perang Karbala melawan kebatilan Yazid. Seperti perjuangan Hussain, Iran juga memandang dirinya sebagai minoritas yang membela kebenaran melawan mayoritas yang zalim. Sejarah Iran juga penuh cerita serupa: bagaimana kekuatan rakyat berhasil menggulingkan rezim Shah, bagaimana mereka melawan plot jahat kolonialis [...]

September 19, 2013 // 0 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Nasionalisme di Lapangan Sepakbola | Nationalism on Football Field (Tehran, IRAN, 2009)

Nationalism on Football Field (Tehran, IRAN, 2009) Iran has among the most powerful national football team in Asia. As anywhere in the world, football match is not merely a sport event, but also a “war zone” of nationalism and superiority. Famous for their fanaticism, Iranian supporters have the power to shake the whole stadium, especially if their national team is fighting against any of the Arab countries. According to the law of the Islamic Republic, only men are admitted entry to the stadium. Nasionalisme di Lapangan Sepakbola (Teheran, IRAN, 2009) Tim nasional sepak bola Iran termasuk yang terkuat di Asia. Seperti di negara lainnya di dunia, pertandingan sepak bola bukanlah even olahraga semata, tetapi juga sebuah “medan perang”, pertarungan dari nasionalisme dan superioritas. Suporter sepak bola Iran terkenal dengan fanatisme mereka, punya kemampuan penuh mengguncang seluruh stadium, apalagi jika tim nasional mereka berhadapan dengan tim dari negara Arab mana pun. Menurut aturan dari pemerintah Republik Islam, hanya lelaki yang diizinkan masuk ke [...]

September 16, 2013 // 3 Comments

Shakhimardan – An Uzbek Island Surrounded by Kyrgyz Mountains

Shakhimardan, an Uzbek “island” surrounded by Kyrgyzstan As artificial as any other thing in Central Asia was the border lines between the countries. The nations created by the Soviet rulers now had to be provided their homeland. Stalin might say, land populated by most Uzbek should be Uzbekistan, those inhabited by mostly Mongoloid Kyrgyz then became Kazakhstan (the Kazakh was called as Kyrgyz) and Kyrgyzstan (of which people was called as Black Kyrgyz). But the matter was not simple in the Ferghana Valley. Ferghana Valley was always a boiling pot in Central Asia. The people were renowned as deeply religious Muslim, if not fundamentalist. It was more than necessary for the Russian to divide this huge mass with the highest population density all over Central Asia. Then, besides the division of ethnics (who were Uzbek, who were Kyrgyz, and who were Tajik), there was a clever intrigue by dividing the border lands to divide the people. Then, the identity in Ferghana Valley was not single ‘Islam’ anymore, but new artificial entities of Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik. But this was not something special if it was just borderlines. Borderlines created by Stalin were so complicated, zigzagging, and nobody understood the reason. [...]

April 7, 2007 // 1 Comment

Almaty – the Golden Man

The busy and colorful “green market” of Almaty During my stay in Kazakhstan, today was the first time I saw a sunny day in Almaty. The city suddenly became lovely and friendly. Somehow now I started to understand how this city had a lovely name, Almaty, which was the original form of its old name, ‘Alma Ata’, which literally means Father Apple. The Chinese call this name as ‘Alamutu’, which might be the closest form the Chinese spelling could make to this city’s name in Silk Road time. Anyhow, it was said that Almaty’s apples were as big as coconut, and it was said the best apples produced here at that time. Now, for a poor Russian dwellers like Lyubova, apple is a luxury in this ‘apple city’, as the price of apples was far beyond their budget. I got used already with Almaty’s high cost of price, and as people coming from financial power below poverty line, I started to know the strategy to keep living in low budget. I started to do self-catering from the Zelyonii Bazaar (Green Bazaar). There were many Korean ladies selling the famous Korean cabbage salad and prickles. There was also a cheap Chinese [...]

December 10, 2006 // 0 Comments

Tokmok – The Dungan

A Dungan family “Хуэйзу либянди щинфу” – Happiness Among the Dungan Hueimin Bo 26.01.2006 My first interaction with the Dungans was with its food. There is a busy, crowded, small restaurant near the Iranian embassy in Bishkek offering Dungan food. When I entered the underground room, I felt I was thrown again to China. It is Chinese, and only Chinese language, spoken among the cook and servants. The food also resembles Chinese food you eat in mainland China, with slight variation of Central Asia touch. That second I immediately decide: I want to know who the Dungans are. Tokmok is a little town 70 km east of Bishkek. This town is located nearby to Chuy River which now separates Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Tokmok is a kaleidoscope of ethnics: Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Russian, Uyghur, and Dungan traders stuff its busy Sunday bazaar. Tokmok is home of most Kyrgyzstan’s Dungan population. Not far from the bazaar there is a little Dungan mosque. Here, in Central Asia, as countries are split into ethnic-nation idea (e.g. Kyrgyzstan – the country of the Kyrgyz, Uzbekistan – the country of the Uzbeks, etc) even the mosques are now ethnic-based. The Dungans only go to their own [...]

November 26, 2006 // 1 Comment

Toktogul – The Kyrgyz Language

It still looks so Russia It is the first chance for me to get acquainted with one of the Turkic languages. Kyrgyz, as well as Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, Turkish, and Mongol are Turkic languages. The first five are quite close each other, but Mongol is completely intelligible to other Central Asian Turkic speakers. Some linguists put Korean and Japanese in the Turkic language group, due to similarity of word order and agglutinative verbs. But newer linguistic classification, as what I believe, has thrown away the two Oriental languages out of the group. Before getting confused, please notice the difference between ‘Turkic’ and ‘Turkish’. The Turkic languages family is a group of languages with similarities of grammar and word forms, which includes Turkish and most of Central Asian languages. Books for learning Kyrgyz in English language are quite difficult to find even in Kyrgyzstan, and I was lucky that I met two Peace Corps volunteers who lent me the grammar book. For me, Turkic language experience was very fascinating, full of formulas, and I read 100 pages of grammar rules in 2 nights, and used to wake up full of linguistic formulas in my head. The Turkish languages have similar word [...]

November 14, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – Life in Murghab

A morning greetings from Murghab Murgab (Murghab) was promising when it was built. It was a new Russian settlement built as frontier city of Pamir. The highway connecting the isolated mountains to the lowland towns was supposed to bring wealth to the nomadic community. Life had changed ever since. A town was built on the top of mountains. People were educated. Frontier military checkpoints were enforced. But how is life now, after Tajikistan gained independence from the USSR and civil war took place in the new country? The hope of the future had turned to be a bad fate. I had got a chance to know Gulnara, a 54 year old woman working as a primary school teacher in Murgab. Gulnara is the younger sister of Khalifa Yodgor from Langar. But the last time she saw him was 2 years ago. “It is too expensive to go there,” said her. Langar is not too far from Murgab. It is around 250 km only, but the public transport there is very rare and expensive. At present, Murghab-Langar cost 50 Somoni/pax. Gulnara’s salary is only 80 Somoni per month. She hardly manages to feed her family with that money, needless to say [...]

October 31, 2006 // 0 Comments

Alichur – Kyrgyz Community

The steppe of Alichur Actually I planned to stay for some more days in Langar, but I have heard that the transport onward to Murghab would be very difficult to get. This was caused by the high oil price, so people couldnt afford anymore to travel, and instead of going to smaller and hopeless Murghab they opted to bigger Khorog. Suddenly, even when I was not prepared yet, there was a passenger jeep going to Murghab on 27th. The khalifa told me if I didnt take this car, the next transport might be a month after. I had no choice but to leave Langar. The road continued to east along the river bordering Afghanistan. Afghanistan on that side of the river had no more motorable road as it already entered the Big Pamir area. Sometimes caravans of Bactrian camels were visible along the dirt road on that side of the river, while we were travelling in a russian jeep. World differed more than a century in the two sides of the river, which was very shallow and narrow in winter. It should be very easy to cross the border illegally here. The camel caravan must be the Afghan (Pashtun) traders [...]

October 28, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kabul: Tajik Visa SCAM

The US$ 250 Tajik visa The ex-Soviet countries are notorious for difficult paperwork and expensive bureaucracy. The Central Asian republics are just example of this draconian governments. From my previous experience in Central Asia, the visa fee for Uzbekistan was 75$, Kyrgyzstan 55$, and 5 day transit visa for Kazakhstan was 35$. For Indonesian passport holders, the matter was complicated with ‘Letter of Invitation’. This is a procedure where someone should be our sponsor during our stay in the countries. The Letter of Invitation (LOI), or in Russian: priglashenie, or in embassies’ term: calling visa, then should be sent by the sponsoring organization to be then authorized by the ministries of foreign affairs of the appropriate countries. The process can take weeks. Fast service from Internet cost me 30$ per LOI. I am aware of these complexities of obtaining Central Asian visas. I have contacted my embassy in Tashkent who told me that they could arrange the ‘calling visa’, or LOI, or whatever its name, free of charge. And with the invitation from embassy, it’s almost 100% guaranteed that the invitation will be approved by the concerning countries. I sent an email to the ambassador of Indonesia in Tashkent as [...]

October 1, 2006 // 2 Comments

Qala Panjah – The Afghan Values

The question is how to unite all of them. “What are the values to be a nation?” Arnault Sera It was a long dusty journey in the dusty unpaved main road connecting the Badakhshan province to Takhar. With most roads in the country unpaved and full of dust, Afghanistan simply might be the dustiest country in the world. Traveling here is not easy either. Passengers are usually packed, pressed in carries like Falancoach, can load up to 18 passengers (many times overloaded up till 20 people) in the narrow seats of the car. Those who can afford more might choose TownAce, comfortably at 7 passengers in the car. If the road track is not too difficult, Corolla and shared taxi might be the most comfortable way of traveling. Traveling is always costly in Afghanistan. Even the cheapest Falancoach may only carry you traveling from Faizabad to Ishkashim for 550 Af (11 $) for the 160 km distance, while the same amount in Pakistan might take you 1000 km away. In anyway, traveling in countryside of Afghanistan requires high stamina, luck, bunch of money, endurances. I was not made for this kind of trip, as most of the way, I force [...]

August 6, 2006 // 0 Comments