Karaganda – The Mining Town

Strong Russian influence is felt in Kazakhstan, especially in the northern part of the country Some 200 km southeast ward from the capital Astana is the famous northern town of Karaganda (also spelled as Qaraghandy or Karaghanda). What made Karaganda famous were coal, labor camps, and AIDS. This second biggest city in Kazakhstan after Almaty started its history when a small-scale coal mining settlement was built in 1857, and the mining developed fast after the completion of railway link in early 20th century. The town was actually founded in 1920s by mining slave labors, and the labor camp riots dominated Karaganda’s early history. Mining industries of Karaganda, dominated by coal, included iron, steel work, and ore. Coming from Astana by bus, in early cold morning by a minibus which cost 1000 T a seat from Astana to Karaganda, I saw grey polluted air around the mining town of Karazhal, which supplied ore for industries in Karaganda. As a mining and industry city, I have learnt that Karaganda also processed another dark side: to be the place of majority HIV cases in the Republic of Kazakhstan. My first image coming to Karaganda was bleak and grey. It was like the grey [...]

December 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Almaty – Borat’s Land

Night is coming in Almaty “All people writing about Kazakhstan are telling bullshit!” – Nurslan Kazakhstan was surprisingly much more expensive compared to it was in my short visit in 2004. That time I stayed in Kazhol Hotel and it cost 26$/night. For my student pocket it was enormous amount. But staying in cold, dirty, dark room of Kazkontrakt was indeed uncomfortable and I decided to go back to Kazhol. Kazhol now turned to be a very neat and smart hotel, after renovation. The tiles on the floor were glittering, as it was emphasizing the golden age Kazakhstan enjoying at this moment. The price also skyrocketed. The cheapest room now costs 69$. It was much beyond my budget. I was told by some travelers that the cheapest option in Almaty was dormitory of the bus terminal (10$). But imagining staying in ‘dormitory’, especially in a bus terminal, the idea itself reminded me to many bad experiences of mine in Tajikistan. I preferred to invest just a little bit more, for my safety and comfort. But the problem is that ‘a little bit more’ was much more powerful than I thought to blow out my pocket. I walked to a big [...]

December 3, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murgab – 100 Questions and Answers about Tajik Presidential Election

Browsing through the list of candidates A friend of mine, Rosalina Tobing, works in social political section of the Embassy of Republic of Indonesia in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She often gets assignments to make reports about political moments in Central Asia. These days, the thing which people in Tajikistan like to talk about was the presidential election which is going to happen on November 6, 2006. Besides of this, people in GBAO also like to know more about the spiritual leader Aga Khan who visit the area together with the president. Rosalina asked me to get a book for our embassy’s reference, entitled ‘100 Questions and Answers about Tajikistan Presidential Election”. The book is as mythical as the 1001 Nights. I couldn’t find anywhere in Tajikistan (maybe because I always bumped into wrong places all time) but in election booths in the villages in GBAO. First I saw the book in the community hall , which was magically turned to be an election booth, in Vrang. I tried to ask permission to photocopy it, but the chief of election committee said there was no photocopy machine at all in the village. When I started to take photos of the book with [...]

October 30, 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

Dushanbe – A Night in Student Dormitory

Rainbow in Tajikistan I went early to the Kyrgyz embassy just to find that the embassy only opened one day in a week, that is on Tuesdays. The embassy itself is well hidden in the alley, long way from the city center. It is next to a medicalcampus of the university Teby. When I was asking direction here and there, I met this boy. His name is Alyourov Bakhriddin. He is a medical student in the second year. He is an Uzbek boy from the northern town of Istaravshan, about 200 km away from Dushanbe. Bakhriddin has a Russified Islamic name. The names of Uzbek and Tajik were following the same pattern as those of the same ethnics in Afghanistan, but since the Russian occupation, the names of the people also consist of 3 parts: imya (name), otchestva (fatherly name) and familia (family name). The father’s name (otchestva) has ending –ovich for males and –ovicha for females, and the family name or grandfatherly name has ending –ov for men and –ova for women. Thus the Tajik president, Imamali Rakhmanov Sharifovich, hasname Imamali, is the son of Sharif and grandson of Rakhman. The Russians follow the pattern: imya – ochestva – [...]

October 9, 2006 // 0 Comments