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THE Spektator №12 October 2010

Your monthly guide to what’s happening in and around Bishkek

Up Air
Ele pec
in

cti ial!
S
on
s
the

Plus:
Kicking back in
Barskoon & Tamga
In search of
Sunken Cities
2010 Elections:
The Style Guide

. .
Tourist Map What’s On Restaurant Guide
0312 66 40 79
Boulevard Erkindik 27
Focus

ContentsThe Spektator Magazine
Whispers of History
Our friends the Trekking Union of Kyr-
gyzstan (TUK) go on a jaunt around the
сountry’s favourite lake in search of
sunken cities and semi-valuable artefacts.
14

Founder: Tom Wellings Nevermind the Ballots...
...its the Spektator style guide to the Oc-
16
Managing Editor: Chris Rickleton tober elections. Want to know your Boba-
(editor@thespektator.co.uk) novs from your Baisalovs? Get the word
on your favourite Kyrgyz politicians plus
fashion analysis from Tilek and Saltanat.

Staff writers: Alex Ward (alexward@
thespektator.co.uk), Robert Marks
(robertmarks@thespektator.co.uk),
Natalya Wells, Evan Harris,
Patrick Barrow, Pavel Kropotkin This Month
Anthony Butts (anthonybutts@
thespektator.co.uk) News and Views
Its all about voter registration, smear cam-
4
Guest Contributor: Zein Javed paigns, kickboxing candidates and Uzbek
reticence as Kyrgyzstan’s finest prepare to
do battle on October 10th.
Design: Alena Krivyh

Advertising Manager: Irina Kasymova Out & About
(email: advertise@thespektator.co.uk)
Barskoon Noon
Lake Issyk Kul can still provide excitement
10
off season, and its rugged and lawless
southern shore is no country for old men.

Up in the Air 12
Zein Javed takes to the skies in a Soviet
war plane to break his parachutist’s cherry.

The Guide
Blog of the Month
What has caught our eye this month?
20
Restaurants, Bars, Clubs
All the best bars and clubs in town.
22
www.thespektator.co.uk City Map 25
Don’t get lost.
Want to contribute as a freelance
writer? Please contact:
editor@thespektator.co.uk
What’s On
The pick of the entertainment listings.
26
ON THE COVER: Parachuting in the Kyrgyz Republic, like
elections, can be a rewarding or disastrous experience

The Spektator Magazine is available at locations throughout Bishkek, including: (Travel Agencies) Adventure Seller, Ak-Sai Travel, Carlson Wagonlit, Celestial Mountains, Ecotour, Glavtour,Kyrgyz Concept,
Kyrgyz Travel, Muza, NoviNomad (Bars & Restaurants) Cowboy, Hollywood, Metro, New York Pizza, No1, 2x2, Boulevard, Coffeehouse, Doka, Fatboy’s, Four Seasons, Live Bar, Lounge Bar,
Meri, Navigator, Stary Edgar’s Veranda, Adriatico, Cyclone, Dolce Vita, Santa Maria, Golden Bull (Casinos) Europa, Golden Dragon, XO (Hotels) Dostuk, Hyatt, Golden Dragon, Holiday, Alpi-

Spektator
nist (Embassies and Organisations) The UN building, The American base, The German Embassy, The Dutch Consulate, CAMP Ala-too, NCCR, The Bishkek Opera & Ballet Society.
THE

.co.uk
The Spektator is now online at www.thespektator.co.uk
4 This Month
Some Parties Playing Nationalist Card in Election Campaign
ULAN TEMIROV
BISHKEK, September 14 (Eurasianet.org) that Kyrgyz are not accorded the respect that a in the country, it could lead all of us to a new dead
As Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary election campaign titular nation deserves. end.”
intensifies, some observers worry it can stir up “In Kyrgyzstan there are people of various Some observers believe Ata-Jurt is being
still-raw emotions connected to this summer’s ethnic groups and it will remain so, but the Kyr- subjected to unfair attention. “Ata-Jurt is trying to
violent clashes in the South. gyz are the basis of this nation,” Tashiev said in revive the idea of unity among Kyrgyz,” said Bakyt
Twenty-nine political parties have registered comments published in an August edition of the Ibraimov, an Osh-based journalist. Every political
to participate in the October 10 elections, which Obshchestvenniy Reyting newspaper. “All the party has tried to develop a distinctive political
will determine the composition of the 120-seat people living in Kyrgyzstan must live in peace profile for the election campaign, he added. “Ata-
legislature. Many of the parties are little more and accord and they have to respect our tradi- Jurt – especially considering the June interethnic
than vehicles for individual politicians. [For back- tions, our history.” clash between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks – decided to
ground see EursasiaNet’s archives]. In an interview with EurasiaNet.org, Tashiev focus on the Kyrgyz as a titular nation as [such a
With the atmosphere following interethnic rejected accusations his party is nationalistic, platform appeals to] the majority of the elector-
violence in June still heated, some parties are while insisting that Ata-Jurt would promote the ate,” Ibraimov said.
appealing to nationalist emotions. And just days rights of the “titular nation.” Ibraimov went on to assert that the com-
into the official campaign season, the rhetoric is “As a political party we represent the interests plaints against Ata-Jurt had more to do with the
reaching an alarming level, according to Edil Bais- and rights of people from all nations and layers of party leadership’s close connection to the Baki-
alov, Otunbayeva’s former chief of staff and the the population,” Tashiev said. “The party protects yev administration than to irresponsible cam-
current leader of the Aikol El Party. “Some politi- national interests and the culture and unity of the paign tactics. “It is nothing more than black PR by
cal leaders lack the social responsibility to refrain titular nation [i.e. Kyrgyz], which can be interpret- their political opponents,” he said.
from kindling strife in their speeches,” Baisalov ed mistakenly as an expression of nationalistic Baisalov, the provisional government’s
told EurasiaNet.org. views.” former chief-of-staff, also saw a political motive
Nationalist campaign rhetoric is more preva- Tashiev believes integrating minorities into in the criticism of Ata-Jurt. “There is no need to
lent in the South than in the North, said Kadyr “Kyrgyz culture” will help prevent future inter- demonize Ata-Jurt for allegedly having connec-
Malikov, head of the Independent Analytical ethnic conflicts, as long as they acclimate to tions with former president Bakiyev,” he said.
Research Center. “Because parties don’t have de- Kyrgyz society. “Be it an Uzbek, Russian, Turk or “All current parties […] have leaders who, in the
veloped platforms or programs, there is no ideol- Dungan who decided to live and make a career past, used to work in ministerial positions under
ogy. Now parties use ultra-patriotic expressions, in Kyrgyzstan, he should know the language and former presidents.”
which are nationalist and threaten the internal culture of Kyrgyz, and respect the spirit and cul-
Editor’s note:
stability of the country,” Malikov said. ture of the titular nation,” he said. “When smaller
Many election-watchers are worried that the ethnicities conflict with titular nations, and try by Ulan Temirov is a pseudonym for a journalist based
campaign, or the vote’s aftermath, could turn force to get some power or political preferences in Bishkek
ugly, especially if a losing party makes claims
about voting irregularities. [For background see
EurasiaNet’s archives]. Provisional President Rosa
Otunbayeva is among those concerned. Over the
Kyrgyzstan in brief
past week she has repeatedly called on individual
candidates and political parties to show restraint,
reinforcing that message with a reminder that Russia waiting on elections to Obama urges Kyrgyzstan
she has the power to cancel the elections, if the
“integrity and unity of the country” is at stake.
begin military talks leader to curb violence
“[I am] concerned about the intentions and
MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President
behavior of individual parties,” she said on Sep-
will start negotiations on the status of its military Barack Obama urged the President of Kyrgyzstan
tember 7. “I ask you not to allow the issue of in-
facilities in Kyrgyzstan only after parliamentary Rosa Otunbayeva on Friday to take more steps
terethnic relations to become politizised.”
elections in the Central Asian republic, the Rus- to prevent a renewal of violence after ethnic
Later, during a September 13 visit to Osh,
sian foreign minister said on Thursday.”Let’s wait conflict that erupted in June. Obama held talks
the provisional president issued a more pointed
until the elections in Kyrgyzstan, until a new, with the Kyrgyzstan leader, Roza Otunbayeva,
statement. “I want to emphasize that the most
permanent rather than interim, government is on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly in
severe measures will be taken against parties
formed in the country,” Sergei Lavrov told re- New York.
that allow themselves to raise the interethnic is-
sue, and to divide the people into northerners
and southerners, or along family and clan lines, in
porters.
Dmitry Medvedev meets the
order to score political points,” the Itar-Tass news Kyrgyzstan ready to join leader of Ar-Namys party
agency quoted Otunbayeva as saying.
One party that has faced close scrutiny is
customs union MOSCOW, September 23 (Ferghana.Ru) - On
Ata-Jurt, or Fatherland. The party’s ranks are WASHINGTON DC, September 22 (CentralAsi- September 22, 2010, Russian President Dmitry
filled with former officials in Kurmanbek Baki- aNewswire) - Kyrgyzstan wants to join the Rus- Medvedev met Felix Kulov, the leader of Kyrgyz
yev’s administration, which collapsed in April. sia-Kazakhstan customs union, and both Russia Ar-Namys (Dignity) party, in his Moscow resi-
[For background see EurasiaNet’s archive]. The and Kazakhstan have strong reasons to welcome dence. According to Kremlin.ru, the parties dis-
party has a significant following among ethnic it in. Kyrgyz President Rosa Otunbayeva took the cussed the current situation in Kyrgyzstan. The
Kyrgyz in southern regions that are considered plunge and announced her country’s desire to day before, Felix Kulov arrived in Moscow and
strongholds of support for the former president. join the new customs union, which also includes signed an interparty agreement with Russian
Bakiyev’s former minister of emergency situa- Belarus, at a July meeting of the Eurasian Eco- pro-President party Edinnaya Rossiya.
tions, Kamchybek Tashiev, the former State Tax nomic Community (EurAsEC). After many delays, As the strategic partner of Kyrgyzstan Russia is
Service chief, Akmatbek Keldibekov – both from the Russian-led customs union began operating interested in peace and stability in Kyrgyzstan
the South – and Bakiyev’s former chief of staff, on July 15 and is hoping to fully integrate its and hopes that all current processes will be re-
Myktybek Abdyldayev, are prominent party lead- three markets, totalling 170 million people, by solved within the legal norms, Dmitry Medvedev
ers. Tashiev, in particular, has frequently stated 2012. specified.

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
This Month 5
In Bishkek, an art exhibition dedicated to events in the country
ASKAR ERKEBAEV & ZHIBEK NURMANBETOVA
BISHKEK, September 10 (Kloop.kg) modern art differs from the old – is in the contex- is “on a good level, owing to the help of Western
The exhibition, presenting the work of “more than tual meaning [of the reaction to current events] funds and private initiatives”.
10 authors” from several countries, began on Sep- and the use of new media [audio, video, photos],” “Every year we have held three or four small
tember 3 at the Art Centre Koldo. The exhibition is In his opinion, the state pays no attention to exhibitions of contemporary art,” explained the
in the style of contemporary art, using photogra- contemporary art, and as a result no infrastructure artist.
phy, audio and video mediums. is in place to support its development. As one example of the development of con-
Curator Gamal Bokonbayev said in an inter- “In the USSR art was ignored, and our cultural temporary art in Kyrgyzstan, Bokonbayev men-
view with Kloop.kg, that the initiative for this event institutions such as the Ministry of Culture are not tioned Kyrgyzstan’s participation in the Venice
belonged to a subsidiary of the Goethe Institute in recognized , nor [is art] taught in universities,” says Biennale.
Almaty. The focus of the original exhibition was to the curator of the exhibition.
be the April 7 coup. However, Bokonbayev believes that “in com- For English language articles about Kyrgyz pol-
However, “because of the June riots”, the event parison with neighbouring countries”, Kyrgyzstan itics and society visit www.kloop.info
was postponed. According to Bokonbaev, follow-
ing the riots there have been delays that have pre-
vented the completion of several creative projects.
“After the events in June, foreign sponsors fled
Hunting for Homeless Kyrgyz in Osh
NATASHA YEFIMOV
from here [Kyrgyzstan]. Many projects have failed,
because foreign artists weren‘t allowed here,” com- OSH, September 19 (Eurasianet.org) people living there.”
plains the exhibition curator. A Kyrgyz woman compares the photo of a corpse “Are they Kyrgyz who lost their houses? How
Despite this, the exhibition has now begun. with that of a missing loved one displayed out- long have they been there?”
Bokonbayev believes that “art should never remain side the Osh mayor’s office. Portraits of missing “Yes, yes… Since June.”
silent, no matter what happens.” Uzbeks are hidden away in an office in an Uzbek So off we went.
“After them [the riots in the south] the idea neighborhood. The sanatorium -– really, a children’s tuber-
returned [...] Art is already responding to the The summer camp looked deserted. Just culosis hospital -– stands on the edge of town.
events, the purpose of this exhibition is that very inside the high metal fence, a plump woman in Where the road past it slopes uphill, leading to
response,” says Gamal Bokonbayev. slippers and a purple kerchief squatted outside two suburbs populated by ethnic Uzbeks, it is
According to him, “the project is limited in a two-room shack, washing dishes with a plastic blocked off with concrete barriers manned by
terms of investment and scale,” so the resultant ex- tub and two dented kettles. Kalashnikov-wielding Kyrgyz men in camouflage.
hibition is “small”. Displays of works will continue “Maybe she’s one of them,” I thought -- an They walked over as our car pulled up to the
until the end of the month. ethnic Kyrgyz who’d lost her home in the barbaric tank parked outside the sanatorium gate.
Works “with meaning” interethnic violence that swept across southern The next five minutes wouldn’t surprise any-
Kyrgyzstan in June. one who’s dealt with ominous security forces in
The curator said that the exhibition was represent- The camp lies at the end of a dirt road a the former Soviet Union. The men, who claimed
ed by “around 20 works, and more than 10 artists” few miles outside the city of Osh, where, three to be local police, wore no insignia or identifying
from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Germany. months after the clashes, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks still marks on their fatigues (easily buyable, by the way,
One element of the exhibition was sent from New circulate photos of the dead and missing and at local markets), though by law -- if they were in
York by an ex-patriate Kazakh artist. each side tells the same stories, split into “us” fact police -- they must. They grabbed our press
Among the works were images of “deep con- and “them”: “their guys raped our girls”; “we are cards, deleted our tank photo and demanded to
tent”; one video from the scene of disorder in a peace-loving people”; “they’re the ones who know why no officials were accompanying us. The
the South, as well as pictures drawn by children started it”; “all the aid goes to them and we get most senior-looking of the three started making
in Bishkek. In addition, the exhibition features a nothing.” calls from his cell phone; I, in turn, scrolled through
soundtrack in the form of street noise, conversa- On this last point, the two groups differ in the numbers in mine, dropping names I thought
tions and laughter. one respect: Uzbeks complain that humanitarian might afford us some protection.
“The soundtracks are characterized by the aid controlled by local officials (predominantly The police force is made up mostly of ethnic
passions of recent events,” said an artist present at ethnic Kyrgyz) does not go to them, while Kyrgyz Kyrgyz. Salaries are low, corruption rife and laws
the show. -- many of whom feel unfairly demonized by the are viewed as suggestions at best. Well-docu-
According to the art centre representative Mir- outside world -- say the same of aid from interna- mented studies by the International Crisis Group
gul Bolotaliev, “many people did not understand tional organizations. In Osh, the most visible type and Human Rights Watch have presented strong
the idea of the works”, but those who were them- of aid from abroad is construction material: new evidence that local security forces in the south
selves cultured and creative gauged the main ide- bricks and gravel piling up on curbsides to build did little to stop June’s violence and, in some in-
as of the artists. As an example of one of the more new homes before winter. Most beneficiaries stances, facilitated attacks against ethnic Uzbeks.
engaging works on display, she cited an exhibit are indeed Uzbeks, since their houses and shops Outside the sanatorium, our explanation
entitled “Elections 2010“– a ballot box, filled with make up the overwhelming majority of those hit that we were following up on reports of ethnic
ashes, representing the fallout from the disorders. by arson. Kyrgyz IDPs -- an example, one might think, of
Also participating in the exhibition was a “best But the painful battle of narratives is still rag- the fair reporting many Kyrgyz have felt is miss-
selling artist” from Germany, Michael Mueller. Ac- ing, so when a prominent Kyrgyz activist and can- ing -- did not persuade the men to let us in. They
cording to Bolotaliev, he composed his four-day didate for the national parliament told me that insisted that the building stood within their secu-
picture using nothing other than a simple pencil. many ethnic Kyrgyz had also been displaced and rity perimeter and they had to guard it; moreover,
“In his work, he wanted to say that life is chang- were settled at the summer camp, my colleague they said there were no displaced people on the
ing as a sky [changes], and Kyrgyzstan is sometimes and I felt compelled to check. territory of the hospital, just sick children.
covered by clouds, which appear over the country “No,” said the woman washing dishes, with I called back the activist to let her know what
before blue skies arrive,” explained Bolotaliev. a gold-capped smile, “there’s no one living here we’d found.
but me.” She was Kyrgyz, but not homeless, just “Ah, that means they’ve been taken to other
Contemporary Art in Kyrgyzstan
a local villager looking after the camp in the off places already,” she said of the displaced. “But, be-
Gamal Bokonbayev also noted the position and season. She said there hadn’t been any IDPs at fore, they were definitely there. I didn’t see them
history of contemporary art in Kyrgyzstan. Speak- the camp that she knew of. “You should go to myself, but they were definitely there. I know. I
ing to a Kloop.kg corretspondent she said: “How the sanatorium, by the checkpoint. There’s lots of heard about it.”

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
6 This Month
Novostroiki residents must vote at their place of registration
ULUGBEK AKISHEV
BISHKEK, September 14 (Kloop.kg) the issue of electoral rights needs to be addressedsaid that “the difference between a trip to vote in
As parliamentary elections near, the issue of vot- not through rallies, but rather in the form of rec-the election, and a trip [to obtain] absentee ballots
ing for internal migrants has come to the fore. ommendations from the parties, which “should be - is nothing, because you [have to] spend all your
According to the electoral code, they must vote raised in terms of the issue of residence at the first
money [in any case]”.
at their place of registration, rather than their cur- meetings of the new parliament”. Mamaraimov detailed a second possible solu-
rent abode. Therefore, residents of large housing However, residents of the novostroiki are de- tion to the problem. Nine days before the election,
estates or novostroiki have decided to arrange a manding an address with the president and want voters have the opportunity of voting early. “But
meeting with the authorities demanding the abo- to reach a solution to the problem in the next two other [options] are impossible, in any case, voters
lition of the law. weeks before parliamentary elections take place. need to go and vote at their residence, or receive
In the referendum held on June 27 this year, a “The question of the problem of internal mi- an absentee ballot,” said the CEC representative.
provisional government decree authorized all citi- gration has [traditionally] been raised only by The elections seem to have aroused genuine
zens of the Kyrgyz Republic to vote at their de fac- non-governmental organizations, and we were interest among voters. According to the consulting
to place of residence. However, in the upcoming surprised by the actions of the residents of the agency M-Vector “now about 85% of the inhabit-
elections there is no such authorization in place for novostroiki. It seems to me that it has not been ants of the republic are going to demonstrate their
them to do so. without nudges from the political parties,” said the
opinion and take part in the vote, out of which
Meanwhile, the problem has become more head of the coalition. 53.5% of the participants expressed their firm in-
relevant as the level of internal migration has in- Elmira Mukambetova, one of the residents of tention to go to the polls”, their report states. The
creased due to June’s bloody ethnic conflict in the New Uchkun, argues that “it would be a simple other 15% were split equally, with one half saying
South. But, according to Dinara Oshurahunova, di- and peaceful rally, which we would arrange with that they “probably will not vote”, and the remain-
rector of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Soci- our own money, raise money along the road and ing 7.5% undecided.
ety, the election code does not allow for such peo- design posters”. According to the electoral code a party can
ple to vote outside their registered constituency. only enter parliament if it meets the threshold of
Absentee certificates
“We as a coalition in 2005 called for the aboli- 5% of the total vote throughout the country and a
tion of registration, because it affects not only the Member of the Central Election Commission minimum of 0.5% in each region, as well as in the
election but many of the social rights of people (CEC) Abdumomun Mamaraimov said that “vot- municipalities of Bishkek and Osh.
who are not registered at their place of actual resi- ers may also obtain an absentee certificate up to
dence,” said Oshurahunova. 15 days before the election from their local elec- This material was prepared within the framework
tion commission. of the Deutsche Welle Academy training on election
The head of the coalition drew attention to the
fact that this question emerges in every election The permit allows absentee voters to vote on a coverage
that takes place in Kyrgyzstan. site next to their de facto place of residence, rather Editor’s Note: The word novostroiki refers to
“However, the election is only 3 weeks away than their place of registration. But in order to ob- large plots of low density housing, usually on the
and now it is not possible to make any changes to tain a certificate, it is important to have documents outskirts of large metropolises. Novostroiki near
the electoral code. Even if we were to try and deal proving that you cannot vote at your place of reg- Bishkek often lack basic infrastructure such as elec-
with this issue, there is no legislative body [to pass istration for a certain reason. tricity and running water. The plots are typically
the legislation],” declares Dinara Oshurahunova. “We have never heard of these absentee bal- occupied by migrants from the country’s regions
Oshurahunova noted that the elections “will lots, we only hear that we have to vote at our plac- and accommodation therein often lacks formal
be intensely competitive and every vote will be es of residence,” says Mukambetova. Mederbekov legal status.
counted,” but that if any changes to the code were
to be made, it “could simply escalate into conflict”.
However, conflict appears to be brewing
Dirtying Kyrgyzstan’s New Political Field
anyway. The residents of a housing estate New BRUCE PANNIER
Uchkun, led by Tynchtyk Mederbekov, said at a
BISHKEK, September 23 (RFE/RL) - Kyrgyzstan posted) the video, but the intent to smear Teke-
news conference earlier in the week that they will
holds parliamentary elections on October 10 baev’s reputation is clear enough.
arrange a meeting with authorities demanding a It’s a mark on an election that so far has been
amid great expectations - for the first time, really,
resolution to this problem. remarkable for its lack of scandals and accusa-
in post-Soviet Central Asia, there is a fresh and
“At the referendum we were able to vote at tions. With no political elite ruling the country,
clean political field competing.
the place of our actual residence, but now the law the prospects for one of the freer and fairer polls
But the reemergence this month of a sex
requires us to go to our homes [places of registra- ever seen in Central Asia are good, and seen as a
tape featuring the leading contender in the cur-
tion] and vote there, which is very expensive,” said positive break from the past.
rent race shows that dirty-tricks politics is alive
Tynchtyk Mederbekov. Interestingly, this smear attempt comes at
and well in Kyrgyzstan.
Oshurahunova sees no opportunities to influ- a time when seemingly no one is in a strong
The target is Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader
ence the situation. According to her, in contrast to enough position to influence the results. The
of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, which polls
the parliamentary elections, the referendum was video appears to have had no impact on the
say is likely to win the most votes among the 29
held on the basis of a Code of Referendum [COR]. campaign, and has not gained traction as a topic
parties contesting the election. If those predic-
“Now, of course, amendments cannot be in the media or on the street.
made because this will lead to falsification, and tions are accurate, it would put Tekebaev on the
As for Tekebaev, it is not the first time some-
if we remove these barriers, then it will affect the inside track to be Kyrgyzstan’s next prime minis-
one has tried to blacken his reputation. In 2006,
outcome of the elections themselves,” said the ter, which owing to new constitutional changes customs officials at Warsaw airport detained
head of the Coalition for Democracy and Society. will be the most powerful position in the country. Tekebaev after finding 695 grams of heroin in a
But Mederbekov insists that people who work A video of Tekebaev cavorting with a wom- matryoshka doll. It turned out that Janysh Bak-
and live in Bishkek’s novostroiki should vote on a an, naked, in a hotel room has mysteriously re- iev, a brother of former President Kurmanbek
par with those on the voter lists. surfaced nearly two years after it was first posted Bakiev, had plotted to plant the heroin on Teke-
“Bishkek has about 42 new housing sites and on the web. It shows Tekebaev using a belt to baev and then inform Polish law enforcement to
about 150,000 internal migrants who have no right induce erotic asphyxiation on his partner and is be on the watch for the then-opposition leader.
to vote,” says Tynchtyk Mederbekov. interspersed with faux campaign slogans such as When the sex video first appeared last year,
“We won’t let anyone bring us to our knees” and Tekebaev declined to comment on it and the
Simple peaceful rally “I’ll give you democracy.” Kyrgyz political world seemed not to want to
According to human rights activist Oshurahunova, Obviously no one knows who posted (or re- know any more about it.

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
8 This Month
Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbeks Sitting Out Parliamentary Campaign
BISHKEK, September 27 ((Eurasianet.org) are chagrined to see that many political parties Campaign activists, meanwhile, are openly
Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming parliamentary vote on are ignoring issues that Uzbeks care most about, frustrated with Uzbeks’ lack of interest in the elec-
October 10 is creating a quandary for the Central including the deployment of an OSCE-led mission toral process. A representative of Butun Kyrgyzstan
Asian nation’s Uzbek minority. Some Uzbek poli- to advise police in Osh, and an end to the widely (“United Kyrgyzstan”), a southern-based party, said
ticians see the elections as an opportunity to try documented harassment and discrimination that he was fed up trying to seek Uzbek votes. “We are
to enhance minority rights. But the majority of has followed the June violence. going around Uzbek neighborhoods trying to find
Uzbeks, mindful of the harm that their commu- Following the June unrest, most political people who can join our party. But Uzbeks are not
nity suffered during the June violence in southern parties appear to be tailoring their messages to eager to join. It sometimes feels like it is a waste of
Kyrgyzstan, appears hesitant to get involved in the appeal to rising nationalist sentiments among time,” he told EurasiaNet.org.
political process. Kyrgyz, observers add. Even parties linked to the An Osh representative of another party, Za-
The experience of the past four months has provisional government are not distributing mate- mandash (“Contemporary”), complained to Eura-
left many Uzbeks profoundly skeptical about their rial in any language but Kyrgyz at rallies in Osh. Fli- siaNet.org that “Uzbeks have become apolitical.”
ability to produce change via the ballot box, Uzbek ers are not even printed in Russian, which is one of Many Uzbeks are aware that their reluctance
community observers say. “After the violent events, Kyrgyzstan’s “official” languages. to participate in politics could have long-term con-
Uzbeks are afraid to come out to the streets,” said Kyrgyzstan’s electoral code requires political sequences. Lacking representation, for example,
an Osh-based human rights activist who spoke on parties to have at least 15 percent of its member-
could put Uzbeks at risk of losing cultural rights,
condition of anonymity. “Many Uzbeks were jailed, ship come from ethnic minority groups. Koreans
such as access Uzbek-language education, one Uz-
others are continuously harassed. How can they and Russians can help fill that quota. But Kyrgyz
bek journalist told EurasiaNet.org. But most seem
vote under such circumstances?” political parties have also been trying to reach out
to believe that non-participation is currently their
The activist added that harassment by Kyrgyz to Uzbeks, the single largest minority group in the
best available option. “Uzbeks lost the war; the Kyr-
security services and fears of persecution prompt- country. “Representatives of various political par-
ed an estimated 30,000 Uzbeks to flee the country ties are going from door to door in [Uzbek] neigh- gyz won. It was an unfair war. But we must accept
in recent months. borhoods, cajoling Uzbeks to join their parties,” what we have,” said Ibragim, an Osh entrepreneur
Some Uzbeks believe participation in politics one Osh resident said. who witnessed atrocities in June.
stands a better chance of aggravating what they
say is the existing atmosphere of discrimination,
rather than easing it. “We should leave politics to
The ‘Black Kyrgyz’ enters the political ring
the Kyrgyz; it’s their business. This will be a safe BISHKEK, September 29 ((Eurasianet.org) - in good moral and physical health; a born winner
choice for us,” said Husanbay, an Osh carpenter Omurbek Babanov, leader of Kyrgyzstan’s nas- but also humble in character.” Demonstrating Re-
who asked his last name not be printed. cent Respublika Party, has a habit of forging op- spublika’s wide base, Aknazarova appears beside
Overall, 29 political parties are vying for the portune relationships. As a young businessman Ofoyo in the billboard commercial.
120 parliamentary seats. Given the provisional during Askar Akayev’s presidency, he reportedly Youth is seemingly one of Respublika’s main
leadership’s intention to re-fashion Kyrgyzstan as became one of the richest men in Kyrgyzstan. By ideals. Of their top ten candidates, 40-year old Ba-
a parliamentary republic, the composition of the subsuming kickboxing champion Alene Ofoyo – banov is the second most senior. The youngest of
new legislature could have a profound impact on ‘the Black Kyrgyz’ – into his campaign trail for Oc- the ten is only 25.
the country’s democratization process. tober’s parliamentary elections, it appears he has Yet despite a political campaign as visible
Not all Uzbeks are staying away from poli- made yet another prudent choice. as traditional political powerhouses such as Ata-
tics. Two prominent Uzbek political leaders - An- Created in June, and combating a perceived Meken and the Social Democratic Party of Kyr-
var Artykov and Murat Juraev, representing the deficit of electoral experience, Respublika op- gyzstan, few experts expect Respublika to come
Ar-Namys and Ak-Shumkar parties, respectively eratives have set about swallowing up Bishkek’s out on top of the pile, instead tipping them as
– hope to gain seats in parliament. Meanwhile, billboard space in a well-funded campaign that a party for the future, shorn up by the financial
other Uzbek public figures have campaigned with has attracted both jealousy and criticism from might of Talas-born Babanov, who experienced
Kyrgyz politicians during appearances in Uzbek opponents. the upper echelons of power as deputy first
neighborhoods. Unlike other parties, whose campaigns are prime minister during the final year of former
A few Uzbeks also say there are practical ben- typified by the overwhelming predominance of president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s reign.
efits to joining political parties. For example, an in- ethnic Kyrgyz, Republic’s billboards have pro- Moreover, even if Respublika were to surprise
structor at an Osh university who recently joined the vided at least a token acknowledgement of the everyone by sweeping to victory in October’s
Ata-Meken Party, contended that party member- country’s broad ethnic spread. Even providing for poll, Ofoyo would still be able to rest assured
ship can offer protection from police harassment. Kyrgyzstan’s highly cosmopolitan base, however, that life in politics won’t complicate his day-to-
The police are almost uniformly ethnic Kyrgyz. the image of kickboxer Alene Ofoyo on a bill- day regimen of training to fight other kick box-
Prior to May 14, Uzbeks traditionally shied board at one of the capital’s main intersections is ers across the countries of the CIS. Guidelines set
away from aligning with Kyrgyz political factions a jarring sight for passers by. out by the CEC stipulated that every party must
in promoting their long-standing demands, in- Of Congolese-Russian descent, and yet
submit lists of 120 candidates, yet due to limits
cluding the designation of Uzbek as an official born in a Bishkek suburb, Ofoyo is a hero in Kyr-
on the number seats any one party can acquire in
language and greater political representation. gyzstan’s kickboxing community. In 2008, fight-
the new parliament, those ranked outside of 60th
When supporters of ousted president Kurmanbek ing under ring name ‘the Black Kyrgyz’ he defeat-
place can be confident they will not get a seat.
Bakiyev briefly seized government offices on May ed Belarusian fighter Zamin Guseinov to become
Ofoyo is ranked 110th and thus his involvement
13-14 in the southern cities of Batken, Osh and WBKF champion of Europe, a title he still retains.
is largely symbolic.
Jalal-Abad, ethnic Uzbeks from Jalal-Abad led by Despite a distinctively non-Kyrgyz appear-
Yet that doesn’t mean that there isn’t politi-
Kadyrjan Batyrov, a local Uzbek community leader ance, Ofoyo represents something of a national
treasure in sporting terms. He is that all-conquer- cal capital to be made via association. At a gym
and prominent entrepreneur, helped the provi-
ing competitor who wears his unique identity on not far from the billboard commercial, 19-year-
sional government reestablish its authority. Many
his shorts, flying to Moscow, one of the centers old Akzholtoy Ibraev aims roundhouse kicks at a
Kyrgyz subsequently blamed Batyrov for involve-
of the kickboxing world, and regularly returning body-length bag suspended by a metal chain. He
ment in an arson attack on Bakiyev’s family com-
pound in the nearby village of Teyit on May 14. home victorious. says he isn’t interested in politics, but would vote
Many Uzbeks believe that episode was a contrib- “Alene Ofoyo is our champion,” says former for any party Ofoyo supports. “If Alene put his
uting factor to the outbreak of the June violence. Minister of Labor and Social Protection Roza name to it, it means it [the party] must be honest,”
Apart from fear, many Uzbeks doubt that the Aknazarova, the 12th candidate on Respublika’s he says. “He [Ofoyo] is a gentleman who fights
election outcome can advance their causes. Many ticket. “He is someone our youth can admire. He is with the Kyrgyz spirit.”

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
10 Out & About

Barskoon
Noon
O
CHRIS RICKLETON
For those who have already had their fill of N A DRY AUTUMN day the Barskoon ble plinth, is a quarrying lorry stripped of its front
Issyk Kul’s primmest beaches and pensiona- region of Issyk Kul oblast reveals it- wheel. Here the weird makes embrace with the
ti, a visit to Barskoon and Tamga on the lake’s self as pure Clint Eastwood territory. wonderful, that same, heart-warming paradox for
Once off the smooth, meandering which you might just have come to Kyrgyzstan in
rugged southern shore offers something a track that clings to the lake itself, you the first place.
little less predictable. Sensing adventure, have it all; lone stallions grazing rocky outcrops, The hike up to view Manas in full flow can be
the Spektator packed its towel, trunks and a bull skulls staring bleakly out from scrub foothills done in two ways. A gentle, verdant route deco-
make-believe Smith & Western. and provincial saloons thinly peopled by strange- rated with iris flowers in their apogee leads to a
faced cattle herders, blown in from a dusty ranch. viewing platform just above the waterfall, while
Along the rattling route to mining enterprise a steeper, more strenuous trek takes you up
Kumtor, this Stetson fantasy can be briefly contin- through a forest, to within toe-dangling distance
ued. This, you tell yourself, is the path to riches, of Barskoon’s premier natural attraction. Both
paved by pioneers and rustlers, the precious met- walks take around half an hour to complete, with
al object at its end obsessing the early American the option of going beyond the bowl, up to the
West before oilmen changed the game forever, falls’ icier source.
and black became the new gold. Back at the base, driver Boris was concerned.
What shakes you out of such a daydream is a The Nashe Pivo gang had moved onto vodka, and
fresh threat to your personal security - the sound had sabotaged their siblings’ sack race. Our car
of bloodcurdling shrieks coming from the moun- could be next, he suggested. Rolling back along
tains nearby. As your vehicle rolls closer to the the road out of Kumtor, Boris told us a few things
mighty Barskoon waterfall, the so-called ‘Bowl of about Kyrgyzstan’s foremost mineral extraction
Manas’, you realize with vague disappointment operation - a joint stock venture which is partly
and and a hint of relief, that this is not a pack of Canadian-owned. “They are the region’s biggest
Native Americans descending on you in a fury of employer,” he said. “Over 3,000 locals work in that
feathers and tomahawks, but groups of boister- operation - mostly full-time, too. You’ve probably
ous Kyrgyz teenagers loaded on Nashe Pivo beer, heard there are some environmental problems
who wish, in their own clumsy manner, to make there. Yes, its safer to swim in Tamga than in Bar-
your acquaintance. skoon.”
The romance of bygone cowboy flicks sharp- Aside from Kumtor and tourism, Issyk-Kul re-
ly forgotten, you find yourself surrounded by a gion offers few working opportunities for its resi-
new, unique kind of lawlessness. At the bottom dents. Much of the land immediately around the
of the incline leading up to the waterfall a large lake is uncultivated, and the fishing isn’t as good
Above Barskoon and Tamga’s cemetries family are celebrating around a camp fire. The as it used to be. “Up at Song-Kul [Naryn oblast],
would not look out of place in a John Wayne older generation is as drunk as its offspring in you can pull out all sorts of strange and exciting
movie set (all photos Chris Rickleton) the mountains, but a new crop of children - for fish,” Boris, a keen angler, continued. “But here, its
whom there may yet be hope - are innocently over-fished. They don’t breed like they once did
Right While this abstract monument to Yuri taking part in sack races, tug-of-wars and skip- - and what’s left is only good for kippering.” He
Gagarin in Barskoon is thoroughly destroyed, ping contests. Back by the road’s edge, yet more scratched his head at this conundrum as we glid-
many of the region’s other homages to the So- youths are crawling over a despoiled statue of ed alongside the lake’s sparkling sapphire eye,
viet cosmonaut remain in tact Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, while just behind through the featureless town of Barskoon and
them, inexplicably lifted onto an unmarked mar- onto Luba Dainichkina’s guesthouse in Tamga.

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
Out & About 11

Few homestays in the region are likely to rival an international organization based in Bishkek. our featured article by the Trekking Union of Kyr-
Luba’s for charm, homeliness and quality of cui- Many of his friends had left and his grasp of the gyzstan]. Past us a man and son tandem sidled by
sine. This final factor assumes major importance state language was rudimentary. I imagined him on a horse, saluting us stoically before trotting off
to the traveller making his way around the Issyk- a little lonely. But his solace was in swimming, into the dusky horizon. It was time to make tracks.
Kul region of Kyrgyzstan, since many will tell you which he did for two hours every day in the sum- On our way back to the village, Kyrgyz cemeteries
that the oblast’s one and only shortcoming is its mer, with briefer forays in the spring and autumn. with their distinctive graves baulked out from the
cooking. Here, however, we arrived to tasty pizza With Sasha storming ahead we wandered brows of barren hills. The landscape had regained
served with seasoned vegetables and left on a the wilderness in awe, tramping across fields of its ‘shootout at sundown’ feel, and no amount of
full stomach of deliciously tender beef stroganoff. spuds, over stiles and out into rusty meadows full under-age alcoholism could have taken it away.
A beautifully kept garden full of interesting statu- of giant rocks and patches of a crop called poline, A Tamga sunset can be spectacular, and is
ettes and blooming roses hosts a table-tennis ta- which smelled like lavender but wasn’t. Every- best viewed from any crest that overlooks the
ble for the semi-active, whilst those seeking full where there were ladybirds - four or five times lake itself. We followed its incandescent bob as
blown relaxation can enjoy a nap on the veranda, the size of their European counterparts - and we descended to the nearest beach to enjoy a
imitating Luba’s three friendly, sleepy canine transient lilac butterflies that fluttered across ourspot of wild swimming, finding the water much
companions who are invariably found dozing in path, then vanished into ether. warmer here than by Cholpon-Ata and elsewhere
the picturesque courtyard of their hozyaika. Folks along the northern shore. As we dried off, an old
who haven’t had their thirst for local handicrafts “Ambling across the landscape man, naked in a straw hat and full of vodka and
quenched in other parts of the country may
well wish to take advantage of the Dainichkins’
with a makeshift staff, he cut a re- bonhomie, greeted us. He said he was planning
to take his decrepit fishing boat and row it out
on-site shop, where an interesting range of felts, luctant Gandolf, bored of Tamga to the lake’s opposite side - where people were
ceramics and Soviet memorabilia can be found apparently more civilized. We wished him luck
at-cheaper-than-Bishkek rates. and dreaming of Moscow” and headed back to Luba’s place for a sumptu-
According to Luba, Tamga means ‘rock draw- ous homemade broth, sad at our last night in this
ing’ in an ancient language that long departed “Its just potatoes that grow here,” Sasha said, totally unfamiliar pocket of Kyrgyzstan.
from Issyk Kul’s environs, although those with a grinning. The omnipresence of this very Russian

Tamga Guesthouse
spattering of the native tongue may mistake the crop seemed to comfort him. But there were also
village as being inhospitable, since its name coin- orchards; apricot and apple trees bowed under
cides with the Kyrgyz command ‘go home’. the weight of ripening fruit. Against one of them
To help us in our quest for Tamga’s sacred a ladder had been propped up, then discarded. 700 soms usually covers bed and break-
stones we hired Sasha, a thirteen year-old Rus- Under another, a man lay sleeping, his day’s work fast for one person here,
sian boy whose services cost under 200 soms. half done. The guesthouse is situated on 3, Ozor-
Ambling across the landscape with a makeshift The stone itself was impressive, a large square naya st., Tamga village. Tel. (+996) 394
staff, he cut a reluctant Gandolf, bored of Tamga slab bearing a weathered Sanskrit script that may 625 333. Luba speaks English and can an-
and dreaming of Moscow, where he had relatives. have known the earliest years of the Great Silk swer further questions via tamgahouse@
When I asked him what percentage of Tamga’s Road itself. gmail.com.
population was ethnic Russian, he said: “About “It marked a border once,” Sasha claimed con- A place in the guesthouse can also be
three”. Yet a guidebook of mine produced in 2003 fidently. I knew the Tibetan empire had, at the booked at ‘Kyrgyzland’ on 237, Elebesov
had recorded it as being closer to fifteen. Amidst peak of its powers, conquered the mighty Pamir st., Bishkek. Marshrutka buses leaving
this apparent exodus, his family had stayed on, range, but had it slipped over the Tien Shan and from Bishkek’s vostochni vokzal marked
and I wondered why. His father, he told us, was nestled in the Barskoon Valley too? He wasn’t so ‘южный берег’ pass through the village
a geologist, who worked with both Kumtor and sure. [For more on Tamga’s Buddhist stones see itself.

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
12 Out & About

Up
in the
Air
P
ZEIN JAVED

For anyone that wishes to acquaint them- ARACHUTING IS FUN. It’s a manly Wi-Fi hotspot where we were fed and watered
selves with the laws of gravity, but can’t be thing, but women are allowed to do it at a reasonable price. After dinner, we headed
as well - to be honest, in Kyrgyzstan, to Promzona to kick back and listen to ‘Susha‘,
bothered waiting for an apple to fall on their
even if you‘ve got a dodgy ticker, a res- a pretty chanteuse popular in Bishkek’s under-
head, parachuting offers a perfect solution. piratory illness, a broken leg or extreme ground music scene. Leaving this post-industrial
Moreover, in health & safety-challenged vertigo, the legendary hospitality of the Kyrgyz hangout at 1am, we arrived at GVOZD (nail),
Kyrgyzstan, there is a near total lack of po- will nevertheless see you and all your deficien- a club attached to the Philharmonia spinning
tentially life-saving bureaucracy to spoil the cies pushed out of a World War II plane for a mod- funky grooves and providing a sense of calm be-
adrenaline rush. est 50 $ fee. This rather informal introduction to fore the storm. Yet time that night was like a snail
the hobby takes place most Saturday mornings that wouldn’t pass. Back home in Saturday‘s early
at the Kyrgyz military airbase near Kudaebergen hours, I found I couldn’t sleep.
market. Finally, dawn broke on our day of destiny.
A friend of mine put me in touch with the man Frantically, I searched for my passport, thinking
who ‘organizes’ jumps in Bishkek. Unlike many that I wouldn’t be allowed to jump without it (as
other people in positions of life or death author- it happened, they never asked). At 8 ‘o’ clock sharp
ity here, he was polite, friendly and welcoming, if we were at the gate of the airbase, where we were
a little entrepreneurial. His pricing scheme fluc- greeted by the officer in charge, and waited lem-
tuated from 40$(1500soms) to 100$(4400soms), ming-like for our transport to the site. Roughly 15
depending on the height from which we would people were set for the jump - 7 paying custom-
jump. We were told to be at the air base no later ers subsidizing the other 8 jumpers, all relatives of
than 8 am the following day. the organizers. At around half past nine we were
told that we didn’t have enough funds for the
“Americans are nuts”
jump and would have to wait until next Saturday.
That’s the most common statement you hear Like a trader’s trick at the bazaar, this was actually
when you talk to local folks about Yankee ex- a last- minute call to haggle. We upped our bid for
pats. Sometimes, the stereotype vindicates itself. a battle with gravity, and guess what?: the jump
Vicariously, I knew of one American who had went ahead.
hurled himself from a Soviet plane with his own
parachute, not far from Prednastrovie, paying no At least the parachute is “American”
more than $5 for the privilege. He acted as a kind At the base, we signed a contract around 10
Above Top Gun: our hero prepares to take of role model for my friend and I, an adrenaline pages long to certify that if something happened
to the skies and freefall out of a plane called junkie who spoke of Kyrgyzstan as a ‘land of op- we wouldn’t sue them or demand compensation.
‘Anton 2’ (all photos Zein Javed) portunity’; a lesser-known haven for the extreme Although cardiac and pulmonary diseases were
sports fanatic. briefly referenced there was no medical test or re-
Right Should you ever board a plane whose Friday night we partied like it was the last of quest for certificates. Then, the instructor started
pilot tells you “it can fly without an engine”? our lives. We started off at Barcode - a high speed to brief us about the parachute. It was an Ameri-

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
Out & About 13

can parachute, ‘Set-10‘, which, according to him, There was no announcement as they had ground you see the surface rushing towards you
was the safest in the world. It was a pleasure to no PA system on board, but there were red and like the ‘zoom‘ effect on a handy cam, then your
hear a former Soviet soldier praising the Ameri- green lights above the door. The red light signi- canopy flails around you as you finally touch terra
cans so highly. Next, he demonstrated how we fied that we were ready to fly, whilst the green firma.
would have to jump and control our parachute. light did not work, so the red blinked a second After the landing, I put my parachute into
Finally, he told us what we should do if our prima- time when we were at an appropriate height to the bag and helped a girl who had landed about
ry parachute failed to open. At this point I called jump. As the instructor opened the door, I felt an 100 meters away from me do the same. My friend
my mom and told her that I was about to eject intense heat all over my body. The first jumper, a helped another girl close to him. The local team
myself out of an aircraft known simply as ‘Anton professional, leapt at his barked command. seemed sluggish to help the female jumpers.
2’. Knowing my own natural cowardice, she was Losing my parachutist’s virginity was some-
immediately aware I had fallen under the influ- “Davai ti sledushi” (“Go on, you’re next!” ) thing I will remember forever. We did it without
ence of an “American”. I avoided the subsequent I stood in the doorway looking down, and saw a trainer attached to our backs, pulling the cord
lecture by turning my phone off. If all parachutes nothing as he pushed me out of the aircraft. for us. We did it without a static line. Personally,
failed to open, they would at least know where to Suddenly I was flying, or rather falling. For a I’m glad I did it in a country like Kyrgyzstan, rather
find my body. moment I thought only of the end - the game’s than some other country, where health and safe-
“Is this the plane we are going to jump from?” over. The rush of air at this speed is so noisy you ty regulations might have got in the way of the
I asked the instructor. can’t hear yourself yell, but you will. Then the whole hedonistic thrill of it. For fifty bucks I came
“Da,” he replied with a smile on his face. I was to truly understand the concept of gravity, and
parachute blooms. I felt stationary in the air now;
confronted by the same sort of craft that you see lived to tell the tale.
the plane fading away as barely visible stick fig-
riddled with bullets in World War Two documen-
ures made their own descents. This is something I
taries. Many of them, I learned, had been bombed
will never forget. I found the cords and started to
before having a chance to take off, when Hitler
steer the parachute. I took photos - of my friend,

Just Do It!
began his invasion of the Soviet Union.
of fields that slowly expanded in size as we drift-
“Ne perezhivai, on litaet dazhe bez motora”
(“Don’t worry, this one can fly even without an ed down towards the ground.
engine,” ) the pilot contributed; a fanciful claim
Happy Landings
that did little to put me at ease.
One other thing the former Soviet officer had in- For those who want, like Zein, to lose their
He gave us numbers and we were to jump from
formed us of was the need to position ourselves parachutist’s cherry in a former Soviet state
the plane in that order. I was second, and my friend
against the wind direction, so as to execute a safe with less-than-Soviet legal/health infrastruc-
was third. Inside, there were no seats and just two
landing. I never found out the direction of the ture, just call Mikhail (0555) 304559. Then
long benches on each side, where up to 10 people
wind - the lick your finger method stops working head down to Frunze Voennaya Avia Baza on
could sit. One of the instructors stood watchfully
at a certain degree of resistance - but seemed to Saturday morning to pull the cord.
by the door like a bus conductor. When the engine
enjoy the best landing anyhow. Other guys were Note: the views expressed herein are solely
started, it felt as though an earthquake had hit, and
I was reminded of the pilot‘s hopeful comment. But pulled by their parachutes for some distance. those of the author. The Spektator accepts no
takeoff was smoother than expected. When you are about a hundred meters from the liability for damaged limbs and/or death.

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
14 Focus

Whispers of History

T
V. PETROV, D. LUJANSIY, S. GLUHOVEROV, E. GORBACHEVA
Although sunbathing season is drawing to a OURISTS GOING TO LAKE ISSYK-KUL of Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz Association of Tour Op-
close, the Issyk Kul region of Kyrgyzstan has in search of its vivid sunlight, chill wa- erators and the Excursion Plus travel company to
a historical interest that keeps archaeologi- ters and hot sand are often unaware undertake a journey around the lake to see what
cal teams busy long after the dawn of au- that they are surrounded by the ghosts fragments of forgotten history we could discover
tumn. Last month, the Trekking Union of of long lost civilizations. Some such re- for ourselves.
minders of forgotten history are buried deep be- The trip turned out to be severe enough – we
Kyrgyzstan hiked, drove and dug their way
low the ground, others, including whole towns tackled long stretches of shoreline overgrown
around the lake’s perimeter, uncovering an- and cities, have been submerged by the fluctuat- with hardy bushes and rush, taking steep turns
tiquity at every turn…. ing water levels of the lake. But Issyk Kul is not along dirt tracks, rivers, ravines and rocky paths
a jealous guardian of its secrets, and a gener- heaped up with stones – we encountered all the
ous wave or the shifting of its sands can reward elements necessary for a true adventure. And,
even the most amateur of treasure hunters with of course, throughout the expedition, the over-
unique and intriguing artefacts. If you keep your whelming spirit of antiquity and mystery was
eyes open, it is not unusual for a stroll along the never far away.
lake shore to throw up whispers of the distant The first fragments of forgotten history which
past: a shard of pottery, the glint of sunlight on we encountered were carved stone paintings, or
an ancient blade, or even a macabre tangle of petroglyphs, left by the nomadic tribes who once
prehistoric human bones lying partly uncovered roamed the region. Next, we came across the re-
in the earth. mains of ancient cities and Sak kurgans, prehis-
The Issyk-Kul region was settled at least as toric graves constructed along both the northern
early as the 10th century BC, a fact proven by the and southern shores of Issyk Kul.
number of tools and prehistoric sites that pep- The medieval city of Toru-Aigyr, the remains
per the lake’s shore. Since then, a succession of of which we visited in awe, bears too great a
different tribes and peoples, constantly replac- similarity to its larger middle-ages counterpart
ing each other, left monuments to their own cul- Sikul to believe that they were not once one
ture behind them. This land at the water’s edge and the same settlement. Nature has divided
remembers the tribes of the Andronovs, Saks (a the city into two parts, and now on the shore,
branch of the Scythian people), Usuns, Turks, Ka- there seems to be the remains of several tells or
Above Skull and bones - possibly belonging rakhanids and many others – mysterious and ex- ‘tepes’ (a type of archaeological site in the form
to the ancient Saks of Issyk Kul (all photos otic names whose history few can claim to know of an earthen mound, created by the occupation
Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan) much about. and abandonment of cities over the course of
New monuments, ruins and artefacts are many centuries) and the ruins of a huge medieval
Above Right Tamga’s Buddhist stones offer a found and registered each year as a result of un- bathhouse which was dug out by archaeologists
good opportunity for a spot of mock medita- derwater scientific expeditions, and such discov- at the end of the 1940s. The second part of the
tion eries are not only of value to archaeologists but city has long been submerged by the lake, and
can be of great interest to the ordinary beach- it was this section that particularly interested us.
Bottom Right For historians, archaeologists skimmer as well. An amateur-archaeologist- We walked along the shore for several kilometres
and ceramic enthusiasts, untended sections enthusiast, Dmitry Lujanskiy from Chigu Open before we discovered hundreds of fragments of
of Issyk Kul’s shore throw up a range of de- Air Archaeology Museum, invited myself and a pots and dishes, and a great number of human
lights group of adventurers from the Trekking Union bones. Most likely we had come upon a medieval

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
Focus 15

necropolis that had been situated in the drowned around this site it is possible to find ceramics and in the predominantly Buddhist regions of South
section of the city. In respect of old customs we also building bricks that date from somewhere and Central Asia. The mantra is particularly sacred
carefully gathered the bones and reburied them. between the 8th and 12th centuries AD. If you are to followers of the Dalai Lama. It is believed that
Then we began the search for the city of fortunate enough, you may even manage to find the inscriptions in Tamga were engraved by Ti-
Chigu, one of the most famous of the Issyk-Kul coins, millstones or something even more valu- betans who inhabited the shore of Issyk- Kul dur-
‘Atlantises’. Chigu (recorded as Chiguchen in able. A villager from Darhan, Toktobai Mooliev, ing their supremacy in the southern and eastern
Chinese chronicles) used to be the captial of the found two decorated daggers, a cup with a spout Tien-Shan between the middle of the 8th and the
Usun state whose people migrated from eastern and the better half of a large bronze cauldron 12th centuries AD.
Central Asia. In the 2nd century BC, Usuns con- dating from the Sak period. These findings are Returning to Bishkek we stopped off at the
quered the Tien-Shan valleys, and their overlord thought to be the residue of a complex sacrificial village of Kyzyl-Tuu , famous for its yurt masters.
moved in on the former territory of the Saks in Is- rite, conducted on the shores of the lake over two The whole village is a giant yurt production zone,
syk-Kul, yet by the end of the 1st century AD their thousand years ago. and wherever one goes in the village, one finds
city had been submerged by the rising waters of oneself surrounded by the various components
the lake. “If you keep your eyes open, it is that make up a yurt. We were fortunate to meet
At the bottom of the bay near the village of the famous yurt master Doku baike, builder of the
Peschanoe, archaeologists have discovered the not unusual for a stroll along the largest yurt in Central Asia with a diameter of 15
remains of a separate ancient settlement know as lake shore to throw up a shard of metres. We were most impressed by his spirit and
Sarybulun (dating from the 1st millennium BC). his devotion to his work. He revealed to us the se-
Unfortunately, one would now need scuba div- pottery, the glint of sunlight on crets of the manufacturing process and showed
ing equipment to walk along its ancient streets, an ancient blade, or even a maca- us some of the technology that goes into these
but the southern shore of the bay reveals another durable nomad dwellings. Upon finishing con-
glut of ancient ceramics deposited by the waves. bre tangle of prehistoric human struction of a yurt with Doku’s help, we were able
At present, archaeologists are conducting an bones lying partly uncovered in to sit in its cosy felt confines, witnessing in turn
intensive investigation into this ancient city. The the emblems and smells of the most recent civili-
settlement would have been situated north of the earth” zation to settle the Issyk Kul region.
the modern-day village of Darhan, and is repre-
sented by a typically wild section of lake shore. A The last fragment of forgotten history on our
thick layer of sand stretches from the edge of the journey was at the village of Tamga, namely, four
shore to tangles of buckthorn and briar, springs stones of Buddhist pilgrims that stood at one
and wetlands. However, the wilderness of this se- kilometre intervals around the shore. The stone
cluded spot is deceptive: from time to time the nearest to the lake bears the name ‘Tamga- Tash’
waves release all sorts of ancient memories that (‘branded stone’). It is believed that this inscrip-
suggest a long-term period of sedentary inhabi- tion belonged to a hero from a forgotten national
tation. folklore, who had cleaved the stone into two
Among findings from the bottom of lake one with his sword and inscribed on it the amount of
can recognize everyday objects from the Sak and scalps he had taken from his enemies. Another
Usun cultures, but the majority of the relics are inscription represents the traditional Buddhist
tools and household items of the early medieval mantra “Om mani padme hum”.
period. By the lakeside a tortkul (type of ancient This mantra is often found inscribed on small
settlement) has been preserved, and in the area icons, prayer wheels, monastic clothes and beads

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
16 Focus

Nevermind
the
Ballots...
W
THE SPEKTATOR WITH TILEK AND SALTANAT
Having sized up the competition and OW, WHAT A year 2010 has been Yet in spite of this, and in spite of suffering
the cost of participation, the Spektator for Central Asia’s first female presi- defeat in a humiliatingly public standoff with
tried desperately hard to enter the 2010 dent, Rosa Otunbayeva. Coming Osh mayor Melis Myrzakmatov, the October
parliamentary scrum, only to be reject- to power on the back of a popular elections could yet prove a light at the end of
ed by the Central Election Commission uprising, that April 7 coup must the tunnel for the woman cruelly nicknamed
on citizenship grounds. Therefore, as have been like a déjà vu with added violence gvozdika (pink carnation). This English (speak-
compensation to our many thousands for Kyrgyzstan’s leading lady - she was, lest we ing) rose has, after all, long championed the
of constituents, we teamed up with lo- forget, one of the key figures in the ‘Tulip Revo- idea of Kyrgyzstan as a parliamentary democ-
cal stylists Tilek and Saltanat to tell you lution’ that brought her predecessor and sub- racy, and overseeing a smooth transition to this
who’s hot and who’s not this coming Oc- sequent rival Kurmanbek Bakiev to the White state of affairs would surely represent the high
tober. House in 2005. point of her jack-in-a-box domestic political ca-
It has hardly been smooth sailing since. In reer. But now to focus on the issue that really
the aftermath of those two nights of looting and matters: what should Otunbayeva wear on the
anarchy, Otunbayeva’s provisional government - big day?
a motley selection of some of Kyrgyzstan’s most
familiar faces - never gave the impression of be- Tilek: To be honest I liked Rosa’s ‘April look’
ing in control of the country proper. Struggling - the headscarf might have been borrowed
with illegal land grabs, recordings of telephone from Benazir Bhutto, but it gave her some
conversations between feuding colleagues and revolutionary kudos. Ever since then it’s been
a spate of assaults on government buildings in a descent into dowdiness - drab waistcoat and
the South, Otunbayeva must have been hop- undershirt combinations that lack imagination
ing the country could limp along until the long and puff out that figure. I’m not saying “go for
heralded referendum on June 27th, devised to the cleavage”, but our lady president has to sex
bring a modicum of legitimacy to the republic’s it up a bit. Even a few sharp suits like ex-British
new caretakers. prime minister Margaret Thatcher used to wear
Tragically, events in the town of her birth, would go a long way to instilling some cutting
Top Kyrgyzstan’s Jogorku Kenesh parliament Osh, cast a giant shadow over efforts to bring edge.
(H. Firouzeh) stability and due process to the country. Despite
her diplomatic skills, honed in the Soviet Un- Saltanat: The hair has to go! No wonder that
Left President Rosa Otunbayeva will remain in ion foreign ministry as well as under presidents nasty man down in Osh isn’t scared of her with
her post regardless of the outcome of the vote Askar Akaev and Bakiev, Otunbayeva could not that garish bowl cut. If you look at pictures of
(archive) persuade Russia to interfere and restore normal- Otunbayeva back in 2009, she touched up her
ity. In its report on the southern conflict, the hairdo with some tasteful auburn highlights.
Centre Omur Tekebayev in full song (archive)
International Crisis Group (ICG) named the pro- That said “modern”. This cut screams “mush-
visional government’s “loss of control over the room”. Generally I think her wardrobe comple-
Right Azimbek Beknazarov will be oversee-
South” as “the most concerning development” ments her maternal style, so we don’t need any
ing proceedings, whilst hoping that his party
since violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks changes there, but a trip to the hairdressers is
(BEK) make an impact without him (archive)
erupted in mid-June. definitely in order before such a historic date.

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
Focus 17

Game
Azimbek Beknazarov: The Enforcer Saltanat: Dark colours? He needs to be dressed

Rulesthe
of
It is safe to say that big ‘Bek has been enjoying in a ninja suit! What has it come to when this
the limelight recently. At the peak of his powers kolkhoznik makes our national laws? Smart jack-
and yet still largely powerless, he has decided to ets or no smart jackets, Azimbek Beknazarov is a
eschew participation in the parliamentary elec- pint-sized blot on our body politic. That whole
tions (his party will participate without him) in look is symbolic of the politics of corruption and
greed we are trying to get away from. As a femi- 29 parties registered to compete in this
order to cling to his unelected position in Otun-
nist I wouldn’t normally say this, but in his case I year’s parliamentary elections, doing bat-
bayeva’s caretaker government.
wholeheartedly recommend the burkha. tle over a total of 120 seats in the Jogorku
Whether pronouncing on Kazakh-owned Kenesh. As a requirement for entry into
resorts in Issyk Kul (he believes they should be the vote, each party was asked to submit
nationalized), befriending Osh strongman Myr- Omurbek Tekebayev - The Heavyweight lists of 120 candidates, at least a third of
zakmatov, or drawing up legislation to deny Kyr- Born into the powerful southern Ichilik clan in whom should be women.
gyzstan’s first president Askar Akaev of political Jalalabad region, 1958, Omurbek Tekebayev The lists indicate a kind of ranking sys-
immunity, Beknazarov has shamelessly used his tem and dictate the order in which MPs
certainly knows the ropes in terms of domestic
increased access to the media to indulge in na- will enter the parliament from their re-
party politics. His party Ata-Meken was formed
tionalist rhetoric and general demagoguery. spective parties. Thus, candidates halfway
way back in 1992, originally as an offshoot of
The Aksy-born sumo derives his limited down the list, even in the major parties,
Erkin Kyrgyzstan (Free Kyrgyzstan). Since then
base of support from the South, and is thus seen have only a marginal chance of securing
Tekebayev has held positions as both the dep-
as a sort of bridge between Bishkek and the seats. In smaller outfits, only the top five
uty speaker and speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh
country’s ‘other half’. A leaked telephone con- on this list have a realistic hope.
parliament, leaving the latter post in 2006 fol-
versation between him and Almas Atambayev Other rules include a general cap on
lowing a conflict with former president Kurman-
revealed Beknazarov as having more interest in seats - no party can win more than 65.
bek Bakiev. This has attracted criticism due to the fact
the appointment of bent customs officials than
Given the extent to which his rival set out that it negates proportional representa-
the running of the country. He is generally rec-
to destroy him, we can deduce that Tekebayev tion, and yet it has been put in place to
ognized as one of the Central Asian nation’s top
represented one of the greatest political threats prevent any one party from being able to
legislators, which under the circumstances is
to the last ruling family. En route to an economic control parliament without forming some
profoundly worrying.
conference in Warsaw in September, 2006, Polish sort of coalition.
Tilek: Beknazarov definitely gets bravery points customs officials found over half a kilo of heroin All parties must meet a threshold of
for putting that face out into the public as often as in Tekebayev’s luggage. A Polish court acquitted 5% of the overall vote, in addition to at
he does. The power moustache may curry favour him of charges and a parliamentary investigation least 0.5% of ballots cast in each of Kyr-
with those who are seeking a ‘Stalin’ character to later pointed to security chief Janyshbek Bakiev’s gyzstan’s seven regions and the munici-
bring iron order to the country, although Uncle collusion with a customs official at Manas airport. palities of Osh and Bishkek. Parliament
Joe was undoubtedly more handsome. Alimbek’s A second scandal dogged Omurbek in the form will thereafter approve a prime minis-
main strength lies in his choice of suits, which he of a mystery woman snapped snogging with ter and cabinet actually charged with
fills out majestically. Stick to dark colours with a his likeness in a limousine. Tekebayev insists running the country - a first in a region
neutral coloured tie and election day should pass that this was yet another podstava (framing) de- marked by strongmen presidents and
smoothly for the double-barrelled Bekster. signed by the Bakievs. rubber stamp representative bodies.

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
18 Focus

Speaking at a rally in Bishkek against in- perately trying to sit on. A former leader of the Saltanat: With his foppish hairdo and stylish
creased utility tariffs on March 17th, 2010, Teke- Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society in Kyr- frames I think Edil Baisalov possesses a sensi-
bayev said that if the government didn’t heed gyzstan, Baisalov was roundly criticized when he tive urban charm. For this reason, the Aikol El
the population’s demands for more democracy made the jump into politics. An ill-advised blog poster campaign featuring him in a kalpak was a
and cheaper heating, “the opposition should post featuring a scanned ballot ruined his Social disastrous piece of PR. This simply betrays Edil’s
take power into its own hands”. Less than a Democratic candidacy in 2007, but a recent spell complex - that he isn’t ‘traditional’ enough to
month later, he appeared to have made good as chief of staff to interim president Rosa Otun- win votes outside Bishkek - he comes off looking
on his threat. After April 7th , Tekebayev took up baeva has gone some way to restoring his cred- like a tourist in his own country. Baisalov should
the role of deputy chairman in the provisional ibility. He left the coalition government to form lose the wizard hat and play to his strengths if
government, overseeing amendments to the his own party, Aikol El. he wants to make an impact in October - slick
national constitution before departing on the hair, a trim suit and imported Italian shoes are
Baisalov has a reputation as a PR man - elo-
campaign trail. the order of the day.
quent, astute and comfortable in front of the
Tilek: Peaky hairline, heavy jaw line - a good cameras. But that doesn’t mean he lacks a tough
Temir Sariev: The Bird of Prey
presidential combination in any Central Asian streak. In February 2003, Baisalov was scheduled
to attend a Freedom House roundtable, but gov- In the humble opinion of the Spektator, Temir
country. Unfortunately for Tekebayev, the post
he is competing for this time round is that of ernment authorities hospitalized the activist. Sariev has the best named party of the bunch.
prime minister. Nevertheless, as Omurbek has Three years later, he survived an assassination Ak Shumkar translates from the Kyrgyz as ‘white
proved throughout his career, he is a man for all attempt with an iron bar outside the CDCSK’s falcon’, and Falconer-in-Chief Sariev should cer-
seasons - baseball cap and denim shirt in front headquarters, allegedly due to his campaigning tainly get the opportunity to spread his political
of his Ata-Meken rowdies, specs and suit for the the Bakiev administration to crack down on or- wings in the next convocation of the Jogorku
culture vultures. Expect him to be there or there- ganized crime. Kenesh. A former co-chair of the ‘For Reforms
abouts by the end of the count. Disregarding these setbacks, Edil Baisalov Movement’ that lobbied for a stronger parlia-
has laboured on, tirelessly pushing for domestic ment, Sariev also tagged along in the 2005 del-
Saltanat: (Alleged) sex, (planted) drugs and an reforms and a more powerful ’third sector’. Oc- egation that went to Moscow to persuade Askar
appreciation of the sounds of the komuz - O.T Akayev to resign from his office.
tober will provide the real test as to whether or
has a bad boy appeal that certainly registers Born in 1963 in the Sokoluk area of Chui re-
not he can make a splash in the domestic politi-
with the zhigits prone to looting supermarkets gion, Sariev will face stiff competition from oth-
cal scene.
and smashing up restaurants every five years. er northern leaders such as Almas Atambayev.
Still, if Tekebayev wants to wind up on top of Tilek: He’s a bit skinny, isn’t he? Clearly Baisalov Sariev was moreover tarnished when as acting
this vote, he might want to play down his wilder hasn’t figured that weight equates to power finance minister earlier this year, his phone con-
side. I’m going to advise a discrete three-piece and status in Central Asian politics. I would versations with Atambayev and other members
and a red tie - his party’s colour - for what might
say he has a few bowls of beshbarmak to get of the provisional government were bugged
just be a golden day in autumn for Ata-Meken. through before he can grapple with the likes of and released on the Internet.
Tekebayev or even Temir Sariev - the man looks Sariev is nothing if not active. In the months
Edil Baisalov: The Lightweight practically vegetarian. The glasses, while sure leading up to April’s political upheavals he led
Educated at the American University of Central to swing votes amongst the capital’s educated demonstrations against the tyranny and corrup-
Asia, Edil Baisalov represents ‘the new breed’ of middle class, are unlikely to win friends in the tion of the Bakievs and was driven away and ar-
Kyrgyz politicians that the old breed are des- regions. rested on the day UN Secretary General Ban-Kim

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
Focus 19
Far Left Edil Baisalov’s kalpak campaign is
a ‘disastrous piece of PR’ as far as Saltanat is
concerned (H. Firouzeh)

Left of Centre Almas Atambayev knows the
drill as far as elections are concerned (archive)

Centre Temir Sariev’s Ak-Shumkar are one of
several virgin parties hoping to gain seats in
the new parliament (archive)

Right of Centre Bobanov: out to prove he is
more than just ‘the other Omurbek’ (archive)

Fashion Fascists Bitchy trans-Atlantic stylists
Trinny and Susannah know nothing of the po-
litical situation in Kyrgyzstan (library image)

Moon visited Bishkek. Before going into politics ond most represented party after Bakiev’s Ak Jol. for Aidar Akayev, son of the first president of Kyr-
Sariev made his name in business. From 1995- Like his de facto political ally Otunbayeva, gyzstan, Babanov had already made a fortune
2000 he was general director of industrial firm Atambayev has been in and out of ministries before he made his political debut by joining the
Toton and he remains the owner of several cafes more times than a foreigner trying to renew ranks of the opposition Social Democratic Party
and discotheques in Bishkek. their visa. In free and fair voting conditions, this of Kyrgyzstan (SPDK).
veteran of Kyrgyz politics will surely be hoping Opportunity came calling in January 2009,
Tilek: “Need a result?: that means Sariev!” is a that this time will be his time. when former president Kurmanbek Bakiev in-
kind of dorky campaign slogan, but we get the vited Babanov to switch sides and take up the
idea - Ak-Shumkar mean business this October. Tilek: Man I’m bored of this guy - he’s older than post of first deputy prime minister, supposedly
Everyone knows that party leader Temir Sariev is the mountains, right? Aside from dressing up as as part of an initiative to bring fresh, reform-
a C.E.O type, and the fact that he’s doing nothing a chick, I don’t think Almas Atambayev can do minded youngsters into the highest reaches
to hide that is a good thing. Wear the Rolex, drive anything to surprise the electorate this Octo- of government. In joining the government and
the Beamer - this party could soon be soaring. ber - we know what he’s all about. He’s not a suit relinquishing his SPDK membership, Babanov
man generally, preferring shirt-and-tie tandems revealed his penchant for pragmatism, quipping
Saltanat: New party, new look and guess what? that give him a well-travelled ‘office look’. While
that “you can’t ride two horses at the same time”.
I like it. Temir is sharply dressed and sticks to his I’d love him to take some risks this campaign
chosen colour scheme of turquoise and white. season, I can’t see him altering his image much - Tilek: With his jacket-slung-over-the-shoulder
During his brief tenure as acting finance minis- there is too much at stake. look, ‘the other Omurbek’ has certainly been
ter Atambayev accused him of having certain the star of the 2010 parliamentary elections
‘predatory’ instincts, so I think Sariev and the Saltanat: I happen to think that Atambayev billboard campaign. Also, Babs is clearly mix-
falcon are a good fit. Nevertheless, Sariev and and Otubayeva would make a really cute prime ing with the right crowd - sportsmen and other
his people are a bit pasty and urbane to make minister-president combination. He has taken to
young, upwardly mobile sorts providing solid
headway beyond Toktogul,while their manifesto middle age really well and has finally developed
evidence that he is keeping better company
stance against populism reveals a fundamental that waistline that most men in this country re-
than he kept during his misspent youth. Never-
naivety regarding politics in this country. spect. I disagree with Tilek that his style is bor-
theless, I still look at him as one for 2015, rather
ing, rather it is symbolic of a man who is ready to
Almas Atambayev: The Old Hand than this time round. A few grey hairs would
get down to work on behalf of his country. True,
give him a sense of seniority, without overtly
Another old face, Chui-born Almas Atambayev his face isn’t as fresh as some of the other candi- damaging his appeal to the fairer sex.
and the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan dates, but I think it’s a face we can trust.
which he chairs have been active in Kyrgyz Saltanat: Wow, the Republican party are hot,
politics since independence, the height of his Omurbek Babanov: The Wild Card and up against what we are used to seeing in
personal power coming in 2007 when former Omurbek Babanov’s party ‘Republic’ was only the Jogorku Kenesh parliament, so is Babanov!
president Kurmanbek Bakiev appointed him as created in June 2010, but they haven’t wasted No-one knows a lot about this party - but given
prime minister. any time swallowing up billboard space in the the prevailing apathy towards other candidates,
The SDPK had made inroads in nearly all elec- capital as they seek to encroach on the political that could be their secret weapon. The light
tions since independence; in the heavily rigged territory of older, better-established units. Baba- blue/yellow/white colour scheme is quite taste-
2000 vote he finished third behind Omurbek nov himself is one of the youngest major candi- ful - a bold approach that stops short of being
Tekebayev and incumbent Askar Akayev, while in dates in these elections at just forty years of age. obnoxious. The future is bright, the future is Ba-
2005 the SPDK became the Jogorku Kenesh’s sec- A successful entrepreneur who managed assets banov!

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
20 Blog of the Month
Right: Even in distant Kyrgyzstan, porridge lov-
ers are being confronted by buckwheat short-
ages

The
Buckwheat
Blues
ANTOINE BLUA
MOSCOW, September 18 (RFE/RL) - Devastating According to some estimates, the buck- “If one opens a Soviet newspaper 50 years
fires and droughts are not the only consequenc- wheat crop in Russia -- the world’s top producer ago, one would find quite a number of articles ti-
es of the heat wave that hit much of the former -- may more than halve this year following an- tled ‘The Communist Party’s Care for Buckwheat,’
Soviet Union this summer. other poor harvest in 2009. As a result, the aver- ‘Those who Underestimate Buckwheat,’ ‘Buck-
Millions of people across the region are now age price for buckwheat jumped from 31 rubles wheat - a Valuable Source of Nutrients,’” he says.
hit by another misfortune: buckwheat short- ($1) per kilo in June to 47 rubles ($1.50) in late Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t related to
ages. August, according to official statistics. any grain, but is the fruit of a broadleaved plant.
The scarcity of buckwheat, a regional food The extreme weather has also affected the This little brown triangular kernel is believed
staple, has translated into rocketing prices. It has harvest in other countries in the region, particu-
also triggered a number of practices reminiscent to have originated in China.
larly Ukraine - the world’s third-largest buck- Sharipzhanov says it traveled to Eastern Eu-
of the past such as panic-buying, speculation, wheat producer - where areas growing buck-
and hoarding. rope along with Asian invaders
wheat have halved in recent years.
This grocery shopper in the Belarusian re- “It is believed that it was brought to Russia
Acknowledging the shortage’s potentially
gion of Hrodna complained to RFE/RL’s Belaru- and further to Eastern Europe by Mongol Tatar
destabilizing effect, officials in the region are
sian Service: “What can we, the little people, do invaders who first invaded China and knew
taking the issue seriously.
when we have leadership like this all around? what buckwheat was. In the Czech Republic for
They say they are working to alleviate the
Why should Belarusians have to suffer and pur- instance, it is called ‘pohanka’ -- which means pa-
buckwheat shortage but insist reserves will al-
chase [buckwheat] for high prices, when we gan or pagan’s food,” Sharipzhanov says.
grew enough and have plenty? Everything that low the countries to meet this year’s demand.
Some governments have introduced or are “When Mongol Tatars invaded Eastern Eu-
trickles down to us we have to buy for insane
considering introducing export bans or restric- rope centuries ago, they managed to survive
prices.”
tions. droughts, feeding their horses with buckwheat
Such a reaction is anything but trivial in
countries like Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus, where and eating it themselves.”
Folklore Food Buckwheat has since colonized the region’s
millions of people eat buckwheat every day.
Buckwheat is not necessarily as central to the re- cuisine but also its folklore and traditions such
Breakfast, Lunch, And Dinner gion’s diet as wheat, but it is considered more of as harvesting and pulling songs.
RFE/RL correspondent Merkhat Sharipzhanov a distinctly national food. Chalupa says that in Ukraine, buckwheat has
is among buckwheat enthusiasts who regu- Irena Chalupa, the director of RFE/RL’s become a euphemism for adultery.
Ukrainian Service, says “buckwheat is part of the “’To jump into buckwheat’ means to com-
larly consume the beloved staple as a cereal for
dietary fabric of Ukrainian life.” mit adultery. And I can think of a multitude of
breakfast, a side dish, stuffing, or pancakes.
“I particularly remember the [2005] Orange literary references to this. It’s something that
“We learnt about buckwheat when we were
Revolution, when people started camping out in
schoolchildren. It was my favorite porridge for Ukrainians often use as a phrase, as a manner of
the streets. Many people, Kyiv residents, brought
lunch at school. It was very cheap and also it was speech,” Chalupa says.
them food. It was winter and they would bring
very popular for households because it was so them boiled buckwheat, seasoned with salt and “Why buckwheat? I have absolutely no idea,
easy to cook,” Sharipzhanov said. pepper, perhaps butter or oil, sometimes with a because it doesn’t really grow that high -- five
“Of course, [I ate] buckwheat on a daily basis few mushrooms thrown in,” she says. feet, or 1.5 meter, would probably be the maxi-
when I was a soldier in the Soviet Army in 1981, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service Director Alexander mum. So it isn’t such a very high thing to grow
1982, and 1983. Among other porridges, buck- Lukashuk points out that Soviet dictator Joseph so you could hide in there and commit adultery.
wheat was the yummiest, the most nutritious, Stalin’s henchman, Vyacheslav Molotov, who But, I suppose if you’re committed to do it, you
and the most popular one among soldiers.” died at 96, adored buckwheat and considered it can find ways of doing it even in the lowest
In Russia, this summer’s record-high temper- a key to a long and healthy life. [crops].”
atures, compounded by a devastating drought Lukashuk says the Soviet regime extensively
and forest fires, has destroyed one-quarter of promoted buckwheat, which is valued for its nu- RFE/RL’s Ukrainian and Belarus services contrib-
the country’s crops and cut harvest forecasts. trients. uted to this report

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
25
THE GUIDE
22

Bishkek life
Bars
Chuchuara Hoga (117, Chui) International
and
With this Chinese restaurant, a little out of the way
and rarely visited by tourists, you really feel you 2x2* (Isanova/Chui)

restaurants are getting the real deal. Request a хого (your own
personal Chinese boiling-pot) and randomly select
Trendy drinking hole with a circular bar and friend-
ly staff. A good place for knocking back a few pre-
nightclub cocktails. Slouch into one of the comfy
There’s a fine line between ‘bar’ and ‘restaurant’ in a variety of unusual Chinese delicacies to throw in.
lounge seats and try to look cool. $$$
Bishkek. Places more suitable for drinking sessions Beware, the ‘spicy’ sauce, although delicious, may
are marked with a star * leave delicate stomachs in some distress several
hours later - consider the ‘not-spicy’ sauce as a suit- 12 Chimneys (TeplIkluchy village)
Price Guide (main course and a garnish) able alternative $$ Wooden cabin located by a rushing stream thirty min-
$ - Expect change from 150 som utes out of town. The overpriced food is more than
$$ - A little over 250 should do the trick Frunze compensated for by the chilled atmosphere and wild
$$$ - Expect to pay in the region of 350 (Chui/Pravda) surroundings. Hotel accommodation also available.
$$$$ - A crisp 500 (or more) needed in this joint Free semechki is one of many reasons to check out Head south on Almatinskaya and keep going. $$$$
this lively hangout, rammed with Chinese at lunch
American and dinner time. The menu is encyclopediac in
terms of scope, but if you’re feeling bewildered,
Bacardi (Togolok Moldo 17/1)
Elite lounge bar affair with separate rooms for din-
Cowboy* (Toktogul/Orozbekova) just point to something tasty-looking on a neigh- ing, dancing and whiling the night away smoking
Bishkek’s all-American restaurant-cum-dance club bouring table like we did. $$ hukkah pipes. Urban grooves played at a reason-
has now gone a little more up-market, but wild able volume and a full menu that includes a range
Peking Duck I & II
nights are still to be had. Dig in to a kilo of chicken of tasty platters. $$$$
(Soviet/Druzhba & Chui/Tog. Mol.)
wings and then hit the dance floor. $$$
Huge portions to feed even the biggest of glut- Blonder Pub (Pravda/Kulatova
tons and an English language menu that provides Blonder Pub is the new brewery-restaurant to try
Hollywood*(Druzhba/Sovietskaya)
plenty of amusing translations. $$ out. Cavernous yet cosy inside, there’s decent blues
As you would probably guess, decorated with
movie posters, photos of cinema icons and a bunch Shaolin (Zhibek Zholu/Prospect Mir) every night, live Premiership Football, Eurogrub
of American kitsch. Hollywood is popular with a This tidy looking restaurant sticks out for its sheer and a good selection of ales. In regard to the latter
younger crowd and is usually packed from mid- range of oriental dishes and its large, round tables we recommend ‘Datski Shnaffer’. $$$$
evening onwards. A fun place for a few drinks before that make it ideal for extended gatherings. $$ Buddha Bar (Sovietskaya/Akhunbayeva)
heading off to the clubs. $$ Buddha bar offers a taste of the East inside a tastefully
Metro* (133, Chui)
Dungan constructed zen log cabin. The sushi is excellent, and
In the impressive location of a former theatre, Metro for those on a budget, the stir-fry noodle dishes make
Hui Min (Relocated to the Hotel Dostuk)
remains the première drinking hole for ex-pats. A an excellent lunch. Recommended! $$$$
A former favourite, we have been told that Hui Min
high ceiling, a long bar and friendly staff compli- has now relocated to the Hotel Dostuk. Apparently Captain Nemo’s (14, Togolok Moldo)
ment a good Tex-Mex menu and a wide selection the menu has been revamped and the prices in- Small nautically themed restaurant with a selection
of drinks. Metro is one of the best bets for catch- creased. The Spektator will be checking it out soon. of evocatively named dishes including ‘Fish from the
ing sporting events on TV, although thanks to the We hope they still serve the special Dungan tea, as ship’s boy’ and ‘Tongue from the boatswain’s wife’.
hideously late kickoff times for Champions League it’s rather good. Cosy wooden interior and porthole style windows
football matches, don’t count on the staff waiting up create an underwater log cabin experience. Spirits,
unless it’s a big one. $$$
Georgian cocktails and a good business lunch. $$$
New York Pizza (177, Kievskaya) Mimino (27, Kievskaya) Ceska (Alatoo Square)
Decorated with pictures of the Big Apple and serv- Mimino is nice, cosy and serves up bowl-fulls of steam- Cousin to Blonder Pub, this Bros Co. ‘theme bar’ is
ing a fine selection of steaks and other American- ing, hearty Georgian fare with pomegranate seeds worth checking out for its fantastic tiramisu cake
themed dishes, NYP is sure to get New Yorkers think- a-plenty. We recommend the kjadjapuri, khinkali and alone. Every third beer is free but don’t get too ex-
ing of home. For home delivery ring (0312) 909909. anything that’s served in a pot. Watch out for Uncle Joe cited - they come in 0.4l glasses. $$$
$$$ at the door. $$$$
Coffee House (9, Manas & Togolok Moldo/Ryskulova)
Armenian German Treat yourself to some of the finest coffee and
cakes Bishkek has to offer at the imaginatively
Landau (Manas/Gorky) Steinbrau* (5, Gerzena) named ‘Coffee House’, a cosy boutique café with a
Fancy something a little different? If you can tol- Don your beer drinking trousers and head down European flavour. Curl up and read a book, or just
erate the arthritic service, Landau isn’t a bad spot to Bishkek’s take on a Bavarian-style beer hall. They drop in for a caffeine hit and a chocolate fix. $$$
for a pork steak or some other Armenian culinary brew their own stuff - such a relief from the insipid
goodies. Also, treat yourself to some decent Arme- bilge that’s normally sold as lager. Compliment your Cosmo Bar* (Sovietska/Moskovskaya)
nian conjac whilst your here, you’ll never go near pint with a plate of German sausage with sauerkraut. Board the sweet smelling elevator, ascend to the
Bishkek conjac again. Ever. $$$ $$$ top-floor Cosmo Bar and splash the cash with your
fellow free-spending cosmonauts. Elegant interior,
plush sofas, fancy drinks and pretty waitresses.
Chinese Uighur Huzzah! $$$$
Ak-Bata (108, Ibraimova) Karavan (Almatinkskoya/Chui) Crostini (191, Abdrahmanova)
This place must serve up pretty authentic dishes Excellent little stolvya (canteen) full of the timeless Situated inside the Hyatt, this is a joint to be re-
as it’s always full of Chinese playing mah-jong and regional favourites. Being an Uighur restaurant its gero served for a business lunch or marriage proposal
only. Chef Taner Erdemir serves up mouth-water-
waving their chopsticks about. Smoky and stuffy, lagman or lagman pa Uighurski particularly stand out.
ing international cusine, but at a price. $$$$$
but in a nice way. $ No smoking, sit, eat and leave. $

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
Bars, Restaurants & Clubs 23
Dillinger* (Gorky/Tynystanova) Lounge Bar* (338a, Frunze) Cyclone (136, Chui)
Glamorous VIP complex including a restaurant, bar One of our favourite places to drink in the Summer- Smart Italian restaurant with plush interior, efficient,
and casino. A decedantly decorated and perculiarly time, when we can afford it. Outdoor balcony-cum- polite serving staff and a warm atmosphere to al-
endearing homage to the notorious bank robber - terrace high above the street with slouch-couches leviate Bishkek’s winter chills. Pasta dishes stand out
we’re sure he would appreciate it. $$$$ and fine views of the circus - which you can some- among a menu of traditional Italian favourites. $$$
times smell in hot weather. Nice. $$$
Fatboy’s* (Chui/Tynystanova) Dolce Vita (116a, Akhunbaeva)
Civilized, friendly cafe bang in the middle of town and Navigator (103, Moskovskaya) Cosy Italian restaurant with smiling waitresses serv-
a popular ex-pat meeting point. Sensible spot for con- A pricy, but pleasant place to while away an after- ing excellent pizza. Also serves salads and European
versation, but if you’re alone there’s a mini-library to pe- noon. Sit in the bar area over a beer or lounge in the cuisine. Small terrace outside for summertime din-
ruse (although literary classics are thin on the ground). ing. $$
airy non-smoking conservatory. Attentive service
Check out the American pancakes for breakfast, top
and a refreshing selection of salads, a good place
marks. $$$
for a light, healthy lunch when fat and grease are Japanese
Four Seasons (116a, Tynystanova) getting you down. $$$$
One of the poshest places to eat out in Bishkek. El- Aoyama (93, Toktogula)
egant, yet modern interior and polite service. Great Stary Edgar’s* (15, Panfilova) Elegant sushi joint frequented by serious looking
place to splash out on a special occasion or just for The concrete monstrosity of the Russian Theatre con- suited-types concluding their latest dodgy deals.
the hell of it. $$$$ ceals one of Bishkek’s finest attempts at a cosy base- The food’s excellent though - if you can scrape to-
gether enough soms. $$$$
ment bar. Friendly staff, a decent menu and a collection
Foyer (27, Erkindik ) of old bits and bobs decorating the walls make Edgar’s Watari (Shevchenko, Frunze)
Run by a friendly young couple, Foyer is an excel- an attractive alternative to the city’s mainstream cafés. A small Japanese-owned restaurant that serves su-
lent place to enjoy an evening cocktail or check shi as well as dishes with a more indian flavour. The
A blues band plays most nights and a pianist adds a ro-
your inbox with a cup of coffee. Free Wi-Fi, good refined atmosphere makes it ideal for a business
mantic ambience on some Sunday evenings. $$$
deserts and live music on Wednesday and Saturday. meeting or just a sophisticated night out $$$
Recommended! $$$$
U Mazaya (Behind ‘Zaks’ on Sovietskaya)
Griffon (Microregion 7) Possibly Central Asia’s only rabbit themed restaurant. Korean
A cosy log-cabin affair with a large meat-roasting Descend into this underground warren and tuck in.
central fireplace. On one disturbing occasion the Also check out the fairy-light adorned flagship sister- Petel (52, Zhykeeva Pudovkin)
waiting staff were about as plesant as a bunch of rabbit-restaurant in Asenbai micro region. $$$ Operating in the back room of a Korean family’s
chavs, but hopefully that was a passing phase. $$$ house, this is Korean style home-cooking at its most
Vavilon (Microregion 7) personal. Closed on Sunday. Ring: 0543 922539 $$

Do you want to play Finely presented dishes, reasonably priced beer (60

Cricket?
som) genuinely friendly and attentive service and a Santa Maria (217, Chui)
music playlist that mixes up a bit of soul, jazz, swing Plush Korean restaurant offering Eastern favourites,
and classical tracks played at just the right volume. including exciting Korean barbecues where you get
Live music from 8-ish on most evenings. Definitely to cook your own dinner, plus an extensive Euro-
The Spektator is selling a pean menu. $$$
shorthandle secondhand cricket bat, worth the trek out to the suburbs ( tell your taxi driver
to turn left at the yuzhniy vorota and head towards
imported from England and used
Asenbai for about 1.5km) $$$
Lebanese
several times on the green fields of
Beirut (Shevchenko/Frunze)
Bishkek. 1700 som. Also, 2 tennis Indian Now in a new location, Beirut continues to serve en-
raquets available for 1000/1500 som. The Host (Sovietskaya, opposite the Hyatt) ticing Lebanese goodies including falaffle, humus,
A varied and interesting menu including fine Indian and tasty little meat pie things. $$$
Contact editor@thespektator.co.uk
food make this place a real treat. On midweek days
there are also several excellent business lunch deals
offering a soup, salad, main course and dessert for Moldovan
Jam* (179, Toktogula) 250-350 som. A real stand out and a Spektator fa-
An underground oasis of cool. Jam is a cafe with a vourite! $$$$ Moldova Restaurant (Kievskaya/Turusbekova)
full menu, kalians (shisha pipes) and a lounge bar If it’s been a while since you last went out for a
atmosphere, open till 3am . $$$$ Italian Moldovan, this wooden paneled, sturdy-tabled ea-
tery may be the answer to your prayers. Also, the
Jumanji (Behind the circus) Adriatico (219, Chui) Moldovan Embassy is next door should you care
It’s strange. This place is decorated with fake jungle Reportedly suffering following the departure of to learn more about the world’s favourite budget-
foliage and is based on a crap kids’ film yet still sort its Italian chef, Walter, although we have been told wine exporting country. $$$
of works. You also get to roll a pair of Jumanji dice that the soup is still excellent. $$$$
before you order for the chance to win a special se- Regional/Central Asian
cret prize - we like this. $$$ Bella Italia (Kievskaya/K.Akiev)
Adriatico’s former Italian chef, Walter, has moved Arabica* (Mederova/Tynastanova)
Live Bar* (Kulatova/Pravda) homes and is now serving a practically identical range This formerly sophisticated laid back shisha pipe)
Twenty-four hour sports bar with live music at of dishes at this spot just behind October cinema. bar has moved to a new location and, by the looks
weekends. Plenty of leather couches provide the Enjoy the best pizza in town, gnocci and other typi- of the bath in the toilets, may still be under devel-
ideal place to sip cocktails whilst watching the cal Italian numbers, tasty business lunches from 200 opment. Three floors, VIP rooms, kaliyans aplenty.
Champions league at three in the morning. $$$$ soms. $$$$ $$$

Spektator
THE

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Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and thespektator.co.uk

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
24 Bars, Restaurants & Clubs
Arzu-II (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge) Zaporyzhia (9, Prospect Mira) Apple (28, Manas)
Twenty-four hour joint that’s a godsend for those Recently opened, Zaporyzhia is a cossack fla- Fat, old, lecherous foreigners not welcome, this
who get cravings for lagman or manti at four in voured restauraunt in a varnish-scented log cab- place is for a younger cooler crowd. Multiple bars,
the morning. Sometimes smoking isn’t allowed, in. Hearty rustic dishes and a homely atmosphere. large dance floor, friendly atmosphere. Thursday
sometimes it is, however the food and prices are The medovukha is recommended! $$$ usually a big night. (Entrance charge 100-300 som)
constantly pretty good. Comfy booth style seats to
dig yourself into after a heavy night. $$ Turkish Arbat (9, Karl Marks)
Ajar (On Erkindik between Moskovskaya, Toktogula) Tel. 512094; 512087
Arzu-I (Togolok Moldo, next to the stadium) Smart ‘elite’ club popular with a slightly older
Offers a hearty selection of Kyrgyz and European Technically an ‘Azerbaijanian’, but don’t let this fact crowd. Strip bar and restaurant in same building.
dishes and a homely atmosphere. There’s also a ruin the best value kebabs in town. The menu is (Entrance charge 200/350 som midweek, 350/450
great outdoor terrace and national favorouit Arpa limited and if your Russian is too, just say ‘kebab’ and som Fri/Sat. Strip bar 700 som)
on draught. $$ something cheap and tasty will arrive. $
City Club (85/1, Zhukeyeva-Pudovkina)
Derevyashka* (Ryskulova, behind Dvorets Sporta) Carlson (166, Sovietskaya) Tel. 511513; 510581
Atmospheric drinking cabin that serves a range A good outdoor terrace and some hearty food, but So exclusive it makes the Spektator crowd feel like
of Central Asian and Russian cuisine, as well as an the Karaoke style crooners who provide evening cheap scum bags, City Club is one of the posh-
impressive array of pivo. Well worth it on football entertainment are an acquired taste. $$ est clubs in town. Get past the ‘face control’ (ugly
nights, when the locals are rather rowdy. $ people beware) and spend your evening with gang-
Huzur (Kievskaya/Togoluk Moldo,)
Faiza (Jibek Jolu/Prospect Mira) Convivial proprietor Ali claims to have Steven Ger- ster types, lecherous diplomats, Kazakh business-
Possibly the best place to munch traditional grub rard’s 2005 Champion’s League winning Liverpool men and a posse of young rich kids who all seem to
in town. Their fried pelmeni and manti are so good shirt. If you don’t believe that, belive in free lipyosh- have studied in London. (Entrance charge: girls 200/
that they have often run out by supper-time. Save ka and good, affordable Turkish cuisine. $$ boys 300, Fri/Sat girls 300/boys 500
an appetite and go early. $$ Golden Bull (Chui/Togolok Moldo)
Konak (Sovietskaya/Gorkova)
Forel (Vorentsovka village) This Turkish joint used to be ‘Restaurant Camelot’ Tel. 620131
Twenty minutes outside of Bishkek, Forel is a fish- hence the incongruous suits of armour in the back A Bishkek institution. Full of ex-pats and tourists liter-
based ‘relaxation centre’ set amongst babbling room, and the rather crappy castle facade. However, ally every night of the week. Long bar, friendly staff,
streams and offering fine veiws of the mountains. Fish the food is often great, the salads are large and fresh, cheapish beer, everyone’s happy. (Entrance charge
your own trout out of a pool and have it deep fat fried and the staff are always pleasant. Recommended! [girls/boys] free/400 midweek, 150/400 Fri/Sat. ‘For-
for your pleasure. Only salads, bread, tea and juice are (And now open 24 hours a day) $$ eigners’ free.)
sold on site but you are welcome to bring any booze
Retro Metro (24, Mira)
Night
or garnish you desire, it’s also possible to rent a BBQ.
www.retrometro.kg
To get there take a taxi to Vorentsovka village and, if

Clubs
Bright, happy, 80’s kitsch bar, the DJ spins his rec-
your taxi driver doesn’t know the exact location, ask a
ords from inside the front of a VW camper van. One
friendly villager. Trout is 800som/kilo $$$
of the most popular places for post-2am partying.
Jalalabad (Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya) (Entrance charge: 200/300 som midweek, 350/450
Basically the cheapest food (that won’t give you gut There are some Bishkek old-hands who say that som Fri/Sat. Reserve for 200 som)
rot) in the centre of town. While it should stand out things aren’t what they used to be when it comes to
for its fresh lagman, Jalalabad is sometimes over- nightlife in Bishkek. They talk of legendary nights of Live Music
looked. Probably at its best in summer, when the carnage, vomit, and debauchery - delights that con-
shashlyk masters flanking the entrance offer their temporary Bishkek struggles to offer. Promzona (16, Cholpon-Atinskaya)
creations straight to guests sitting at Eastern-style Not so, we say. Take your pick from the list below and www.promzona.kg
tables – cross your legs and see how long you can we’re sure there’s still enough carnage, vomit and Promzona’s far-flung location sadly means a taxi
last before cramp sets in. $ debauchery in town to keep everyone happy. ride or a long walk home are in order at the end
of a night. Nevertheless, this trendy live music
venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an exten-
Diskoklubs
Advertise with sive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring,

the Spektator
Heaven (Frunze/Pravda - in the Hotel Dostuk) strangely, a wind tunnel fan, make this one of the
As Heaven is found inside a hotel it is surprisingly best nights out in Bishkek. Tuesday is Jazz night.
unseedy. In fact it stands out for being a bastion of Rock or blues bands normally play at the week-
Rates from 1500 som per page. the well-dressed (if one is generous). Turn up in tatty ends. (Music charge 200-350 som)
jeans and a t-shirt and you may feel a little out of Tequila Blues (Turesbekova/Engels)
Email:
place; then again, you may not give a shit. Tables by A possible misnomer, the tequila is just fine but
advertise@thespektator.co.uk the dancefloor cost 1000 som but include drinks up the blues is non-existent. Russian studenty types
to this value. (Entrance charge 200-400 som) mosh away the nights to Rock bands in an at-
mospheric underground bunker. (Music charge
Russian/Ukrainian Fire & Ice (Tynystanova/Erkindik) 150 som)
A slightly grittier version of Golden Bull. Again, for-
Pirogoff-Vodkin (Kievskaya/Togolok Moldo) eigners can often get in for free. Popular throughout Sweet Sixties (Molodaya Gvardia/Kievskaya)
Classy restaurant with a turn of the 20th century the week. (Entrance ‘foreigners’ free) Live cover bands most nights. Full menu, popular
atmosphere serving Russian specialities. Have your with a younger crowd. $$
tea in a giant samovar. $$$ Pharoah (East side of the Philharmonic)
An underground lair packed with eyecatching nods Zeppelin (43, Chui)
Khutoryanka (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge)
to Ancient Egypt. Foreigners can sometimes negoti- Zeppelin is in the same vein as the old Tequila
Unassuming, to put it mildly, on the outside, this
ate cheaper or free entry, but be prepared for the big Blues but not quite so spit and sawdust. On the
place is a revelation on the inside. Delicious food,
sting inside - beer costs the best part of 200som. nights we’ve visited, there’s been a line up of young
reasonable service, Ukrainian brass band music
Charge ( 400-500 som) rock or punk bands strutting their stuff, heavier
on the cd player. We love it! $$$
beats seem to go down best with the young Rus-
Taras Bulba (Near the Yuzhniy Vorota on Sovietskaya) Platinum (East side of the Philharmonic) sian crowd. Full restaurant menu.
Like all the Ukrainian restaurants we’ve tried in Take a seat at the snazzy 360 degree bar and do bat- (Entrance charge 100-150 som)
Bishkek, Taras Bulba serves great food. We liked the tle with some of Kyrgyzstan’s most convivial ‘elite’ for
potato pancakes with caviar, the delicious soups gold-digging temptresses. (Entrance charge 400- Live music also common at Stary Edgar’s, Beatles
and fresh salads. $$$ 500 som) Bar, Foyer and Blonder Pub (see ‘restaurants’)

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
Map 25

www.thespektator.co.uk October 2010 The Spektator
26 What’s On
Parliamentary Elections Trekking Union Dates for July Entertainment Directory
Sunday, October 10th 9th October The Puppet Theatre
Polling stations near you Trip to Alamedin reservoir Sovietskaya/Michurina
Kyrgyzstan’s day of destiny. Show up in force One day trip to Alamedin reservoir. Hike to a wa- Performances on Sundays at 11:00am.
to cheer on your favourite Kyrgyz politicians, terfall and open air picnic. Same day return to
and, hopefully, by the end of a day, raise a toast Bishkek. Transportation cost: 200 soms for non Russian Drama Theatre
to a new era of stable democracy in the Kyrgyz TUK members/170 soms for members. Tynystanova, 122 (Situated in Oak Park)
Republic. Be forewarned: the authorities are ex- Tel.: 662032, 621571
tremely nervous. Wearing a balaclava in the vicin- 10th October Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-18:00
ity of polling stations is not advised. White water rafting in Chui/Issyk Kul region Tickets 30-100 som
Difficulty level 2-3 (not for complete beginners), A range of local and international plays in Rus-
Art Exhibition duration 2-2.5 hours, distance 20-25 miles. Group sian.
size 12 -16 people. Cost of rafting: 1400 soms per
Until October 15th person /10% discount for TUK members. Trans-
The Conservatory
Exhibition by painter Alexander Viktorov port cost for a group of 12-16 people: 350 soms
Jantosheva, 115
Taking place in the Olga Manuilova house-mu- per person/300 soms for TUK members.
Tel: 479542
seum, Viktorov’s collection of realist works is en-
16th October Concerts by students and professors.
titled “Autumn Blues”, focussing on the shapes
and colours of fall. Viktorov has sold works in Paintballing near Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Austria, Turkey, Germany and the U.S.A, as well Same day return to Bishkek. Cost of participation: Kyrgyz State Philharmonic
as the former U.S.S.R. Check 312.kg for more info. 360 soms per person with two teams of 9 peo- Chui Prospect, 253
ple. Cost of transport for a group of 16 or more Tel: 212262, 212235
Hours: 17:00-19:00 in summer
October Dates people: 120 soms per person/100 soms for TUK
Tickets: 70-100 som (sometimes much more for
members.
22nd October special performances)
The Last Rose of Summer 17th October There are two concert halls featuring classical,
18.00pm Trekking expedition to Sokuluk gorge. traditional Kyrgyz, and pop concerts and a variety
Classical music concert celebrating the begin- One-day hike to Sokuluk gorge. Visit a waterfall. of shows.
ning of the new season. This is expected to be Collect medicinal herbs (thyme, oregano, etc.
very popular. Call (0555) 769 073 to book tickets Mild to moderate intensity. Length of route: 8 km. Opera Ballet Theatre
in advance. Cost of transport plus guiding and consultation Sovietskaya/Abdymununova
Kyrgyz State Philharmonic costs for a group of 15 people: 250 soms per per- Tel: 66 15 48
Tel: 21 22 62 son/220 soms for TUK members. Hours: 17:00-19:00
Tickets: 150-600 som
30th October 23rd October Tickets for performances sell out very quickly and
Premiere of “Wedding in Malinovka” Hiking in Issyk-Ata region it is necessary to book a seat in advance.
Musical Comedy Hike along the river bank to the foot of Botwe
Famous Tashkent-born Vyacheslav Brodyanskiy mountain (4008m). Open air picnic. Visit a water-
will direct a version of this classic in honour of fall. Swim in a hot spring pool. Same day return Live updates
the Russian Drama Theatre’s 75th anniversary. to Bishkek. Cost of transport for a group of 12-13
Originally a love story set during the Russian people: 250som/ 200som for TUK members. For all the Bishkek opera, ballet and concert listings,
civil war, Brodyanskiy’s score will be modern check our frequently updated What’s On listings at:
and the storyline will “mirror present conflicts” . 24th October www.thespektator.co.uk
Russian Drama Theatre Berry campaign near Bishkek
Tel: 66 20 32 Hike in little Chun Kurchak. Walk around the
gorge, picking berries (barberry, rose hips, haw- Spektral Travel
31st October thorn etc.) Same day return to Bishkek. Cost of
Halloween Disco ` transportation plus guiding and consultation Last chance dashes to Issyk Kul may well be the safest and
These costume=discount affiars at apple are costs for a group of 15 people: 200 soms per per- most advisable option this autumn, with the water only
usually good fun. Don’t spare on the pre-party son/170 soms for TUK members. starting to cool down following a long hot summer. For
cognac, don your Azimbek Beknazarov face those with the guts to head southwards, Jalal-Abad prov-
mask and scare the hell out of your friends. Groups meet the Thursday before the weekend of ince’s very own walnut forest in Arslanbob is reportedly
Apple Night Club departure. Call (0312) 906 115 or email us at trek@ fantastic in the fall. Pack a decent camera, some Alexan-
Manas, 28 elcat.kg. Website: www.trek-kyrgyzstan.com der the Great trivia and write about it for the Spektator!

Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, Chui av. 4A, Office A4
Tel.: +996 (312) 90 61 15, 90 61 39
e-mail: trek@elcat.kg,
website: www.trek-kyrgyzstan.com, www.tuk.kg

Map: Location guide 7. Beta Stores Supermarket 14. New York Pizza 21. Stary Edgars
1. Tequila Blues 8. Derevyashka 15. Cowboy 22. TSUM Department Store
2. Metro Bar (American Pub) 9. Cyclone 16. National Museum 23. Jam
3. Watari 10. Coffee House (II) 17. Navigator 24. Mimino
4. Zaporyzhian Nights 11. Adriatico 18. Sky Bar 25. Arabica
5. Coffe House (I) 12. Santa Maria 19. Foyer 26. Konak
6. 2x2 Bar 13. Faiza 20. Fatboy’s 27. VEFA shopping Centre

October 2010 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk