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ContentsThe Spektator Magazine

Going for Gold
Karakol-based journalist Sergey Vysot-
sky digs into his veritable trove of local
knowledge and expertise to give Spekta-
tor readers the word on Kyrgyzstan’s

largest international joint venture, gold-

Founder: Tom Wellings mining concern Kumtor.

Managing Editor: Chris Rickleton Romance on the Steppe
( Eagle-mad Dennis Keen missions to a
village beyond the bleak Kazakh town of
Karaganda to find Central Asian falconry
pin up Makpal Abdrazakova.
Staff writers: Dennis Keen (den-, Robert
Marks (,
Will Brown, Evan Harris,
Patrick Barrow, Pavel Kropotkin This Month
Anthony Butts (anthonybutts@, Sergey Vysotsky News and Views
Islamic undercurrents and those dastardly
WikiLeaks; it is a bad time to be an Ameri-
can diplomat in Central Asia.
Guest Contributor: Holly Myers

Design: Aleka Claire

Villain of the Year
Spektator readers had the opportunity to
elect their favourite bad guy in 2010, and
they voted overwhelmingly in favour of…
Advertising Manager: Irina Kasymova
(email: Out & About
Getting Ink Done
Tattoo, or not tattoo?:That is the question.
Will Brown answers in the affirmative.

Bookish Bishkek
Holly Myers takes a look at contemporary
literature in Kyrgyzstan, considering the
legacy of late literary hero Chingiz Aitma-
tov along the way.

The Guide
Restaurants, Bars, Clubs
All the best bars and clubs in town.
City Map
Don’t get lost.
Want to contribute as a freelance
writer? Please contact:
What’s On
The pick of the entertainment listings.
ON THE COVER: “A very Metro Christmas”: Clipart taken
from (Aleka Claire)
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-

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 Spektator is now online at
4 This Month
Fledgling Islamic Charity Reflects Growing Role for Religion

BISHKEK, December 8 ( Kyrgyzstan to show initiative and we would like and courses on Islam, it provides monthly sti-
Kök Jar is one of several settlements around Kyr- to keep a certain independence.” pends and other material support to some 200
gyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, that are being slowly While homegrown and locally funded Islamic students attending regular universities and other
swallowed up in the city’s urban sprawl. The vil- charities are a well-established phenomenon in educational institutions in Osh and Bishkek. The
lage, once a Soviet collective farm, has become Arab and other ‘classical’ Muslim societies, it is organization has also published a dozen of reli-
gradually surrounded by so-called novostroiki, rather new in Kyrgyzstan. Together with the ap- giously themed books and pamphlets.
new constructions that feature mansions built by pearance of Islamic banking and halal cafés over The foundation also offers grants to help
Bishkek’s better-off, as well as the more modest the last five years, they suggest that Islam’s influ- believers undertake religious obligations, such
dwellings belonging to migrants from the prov- ence in Kyrgyz society is spreading. Ibraev, who as the Hajj pilgrimage, and it provides assist-
ince. studied at Al-Azhar on a Muftiate scholarship in ance for Kurban Ait, the annual feast of sacrifice.
Neighborhoods like Kök Jar reflect the so- 2000, was inspired by the Islamic foundations and “Last year, we slaughtered some 250 animals and
cial dynamics of present-day Kyrgyzstan. Along charities that operate in many Muslim countries. distributed the meat to poor families,” said Kara-
a dusty access road stands a two-floor mosque One such charity supported Ibraev’s personal zak Kojayarov, another of Adep Bashati’s found-
complex. The building, which, according to lo- Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Later, Ibraev did ers and leaders. He added that the Muftiate this
cals, was sponsored by a Kuwaiti association, was doctoral research on the dynamics of Islam in year asked the foundation to help organize a pil-
built about 10 years ago but stood unused for a Kyrgyzstan. grimage to Mecca for 50 individuals out of Kyr-
while because of poor management and a lack of “Despite the increasing interest in Islam and gyzstan’s overall quota of 4,500. “It’s the first time
attendance by locals. For the past five years, it has the growing numbers of mosques, it is still too they do this,” Kojayarov said.
served as the Abu Bakr Al-Sydyk madrassa. much about rituals and traditions rather than After the riots that ravaged southern Kyr-
Inside, two dozen young men receive reli- social responsibility and everyday life”, Ibraev ex- gyzstan in June, volunteers and supporters of
gious instruction. “There is growing interest for plained. “That is why we set up the foundation. Adep Bashati operated a bakery that provided
Islam in the country, also in the capital,” Ustad It’s not always easy. We have to fight prejudice. ... bread for about three weeks to families displaced
Kurban, the madrassa’s director, explained as Parts of the political elite and the intelligentsia in by the violence. Victims also received financial
he showed off the spartan, yet well-maintained this country are still afraid of religion and do not aid. “After the riots, there was an urgent need for
premises. “This is why we train future cadres. The want to be associated with it. Sometimes they try humanitarian aid, but of course it is no long-term
courses take three years and the curriculum is ap- to discredit us.” option,” Ibraev continued.
proved by the Muftiate [A state-sanctioned reli- Adep Bashati has some 40 core personnel, “The economy, which was always multi-ethnic
gious agency]. We only admit students from the some of whom work in other professional spheres here in Osh, has suffered a lot with the riots,” Ibraev
ninth class, after they attended regular school. In besides their engagement with the foundation. It noted. “In the current nationalist climate it won’t
the afternoon, when the regular schools are fin- also relies on hundreds of volunteers, many of be easy to restore this. But we have to try. We are
ished, people from the neighborhood can come them entrepreneurs, teachers and students. As is a multi-ethnic association, so are our supporters
and attend courses about Islam, or they can use the case with many Islamic charities, education is and Islam in not bound to ethnicity. If we do small-
the mosque at prayer times too.” Adep Bashati’s focal point. Besides its madrassas scale social work, it can maybe set an example.
All of the madrassa’s students are boarders.
Most students and staffers come from southern
regions of Kyrgyzstan, a few are from Talas Prov-
Kyrgyz teachers’ protest spreads north
ince. The languages of instruction are Kyrgyz and December 13 ( of demands, addressed to President Roza Otun-
Arabic. “All of our students here at the moment Hundreds of school teachers in northern regions bayeva.
are Kyrgyz,” Kurban explained. “Of course, all are of Kyrgyzstan are rallying for higher pay and The protestors say local authorities should
welcome here, regardless of ethnicity. But there is other demands following striking teachers in the also end the practice of rationing potable water
a strong need for Islamic training among Kyrgyz. south of the country. supplies and reduce the prices of foods.
Non-Kyrgyz tend to go to the few Russian-speak- Educators in the district of Jeti-Oguz in the The list also calls for the government to come
ing madrassas, or go abroad.” northeastern Issyk-Kul province announced clean with details on the deals it is making with
The madrassa at Kök Jar is one of three on they would begin protest action on Monday, the foreign investors.
the outskirts of Bishkek run by Adep Bashati, a Bishkek-based news agency reported. “The statement speaks about border lands
Kyrgyzstan-based foundation that is involved Besides calling for higher pay, the Issyk-Kul and areas where foreign companies work (Aksai
into a wide range of social and charitable activi- teachers want a revision in the way they are paid and Arpa). Protesters demand not to sell them,”
ties. Adep Bashati (meaning “source of morality” and a 50 percent discount on utility bills. cited one of the coordinators of the protest
in English) was founded in 2003 by a group of The educators vow to begin a month-long action, Erkin Asanaliev, as saying on Friday.
Kyrgyz graduates of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. strike if educational authorities do not meet Asanaliev, who heads the Naryn Mission Coa-
The organization now has representatives and their demands, they said. lition for Democracy and Civil Society, charges lo-
volunteers in all of Kyrgyzstan’s provinces. In neighboring Naryn province, around 200 cal officials of stealing $808,000 of public funds.
According to a study on Islamic social organi- school teachers and their supporters took to More than 500 people signed the protest let-
zations by the Social Research Centre in Bishkek, the main square of Naryn city Friday to demand ter, he said.
Adep Bashati receives most of its funding via higher wages and cheaper electricity in solidar- Last week in the southern province of Ozgon,
contributions from sympathetic Muslims and lo- ity with their southern colleagues who have around 500 secondary school teachers picketed
cal businessmen. That stands in contrast to local been on strike since early December. local government offices for increased pay and
non-governmental organizations that work to The teachers, who are paid from $30 to $40 lower utility bills.
foster civil society, many of which are depend- a month, want their salaries increased to $200 to Some 150 of their colleagues in neighboring
ent on international donors. “Some people think $250 a month. Bazar-Korgon district are participating in a strike
that we’re awash with funds from Turkey or Arab The Kyrgyz Ministry of Finance has said the that began there at the turn of this month.
countries, but that is not so,” contended Mars government does not have the budget to meet Kyrgyzstan ranked last in the Program for In-
Ibraev, one of Adep Bashati’s founders who gave the rising claims that are spreading nationwide. ternational Student Assessment (PISA) education
an interview at the foundation’s office on the out- The Naryn protestors have other claims survey that ranks school systems internationally,
skirts of Osh. “In fact, we do not work on foreign besides pay and electricity on their statement it was announced on Friday.
funding. We think that it is up to the Muslims of

December 2010 The Spektator

This Month 5
Unverified WikiLeak recalls a “dominant” Maxim Bakiev

BISHKEK, December 10 ( The report quoted the then director of the Litzenberger noted that the Russian ambas-
Russian news blog Rooski Reporter published State Agency of Physical Culture and Sports, Al- sador was not surprised by this news, but that he
two secret documents attributed to the U.S. exander Voinov, who said that he, in addition to [Vlasov] “virulently” expressed the desire to know
Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, offering descriptions of other senior officials, governors and MPs, had “all the details about the money” mentioned by
Maxim Bakiev, son of former Kyrgyz President attended the event, because it was “required” of the deputy.
Kurmanbek Bakiev. However, the accuracy of the them. At the end of the document the U.S. diplo-
data has not yet been confirmed. “Voinov said that leading businessmen were mat concluded that, based on what he had seen,
From these documents it is understood that “invited” to buy tickets to the event for between “the dominant role of Maxim Bakiev in the Kyrgyz
Maxim Bakiev was one of the originators of the 10 and 15 thousand dollars to finance the open- economy,” was confirmed beyond doubt. Litzen-
idea to maintain the Manas airbase and rename it ing. Voinov said that government officials and berger noted that this causes discontent among
the “Transit Centre”. Bakiev and Charge d’Affaires businessmen refused to come on principle, but business leaders and officials who believe “that
for the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, Lee Litzen- that their work and business interests would [his] excesses in the end, will harm the family and
berger, reportedly discussed the base on the subsequently be threatened,” read Litzenberger’s the country,”
evening of July 13, 2009. report.
The U.S. diplomat noted in the document The reliability of the Rooski Reporter WikiLe-
Maxim Bakiev, who was not engaged in any aks “is not confirmed”
public office at the time, organized the air base’s that although “Many businessmen seem to crave
preservation via some “American Friends,” whose to curry favor with Maxim,” they “made hypocriti- In an interview with the Russian service of the
names and titles were not disclosed in the docu- cal comments” following his departure. BBC, the Editor-in-Chief of Rooski Reporter
ment. “In what country do we live if we all, including claimed that his “publication receives documents
“Maxim said that he agreed on the basis of poor Igor [Chudinov] have to wag our tail before from a journalist, working with Wikileaks.”
the new arrangement (“the name changes, the his son just to stay in business?” one of them was However, according to the BBC, Rooski Re-
operation stays”) with U.S. “friends” in Washing- quoted as saying. porter is not among the resources that are noted
ton, before the arrival of the American negotiat- The document stated that Maxim Bakiev was as official partners of WikiLeaks, all of whom have
ing team in April,” read the report which Litzen- watched by eight bodyguards at the party, and access to at least part of the data archives.
berger supposedly sent to Washington after a added an explanation for such security measures. In the article, the BBC notes that a guarantee
meeting with Bakiev Jr. “Voinov said that Maxim is greatly in need of of the documents’ validity and their belonging to
“At one point, when the American side resist- enhanced protection, given that he took over the the WikiLeaks archive is currently unavailable.
ed the Kyrgyz proposal to replace all references businesses of many people in the country,” wrote “However, it is not yet possible to reliably
to “military personnel” and instead use the term Litzenberger. verify all the materials,” says the BBC.
“security personnel” Maxim called “friends” in Meanwhile, several Pakistani newspapers
The Russian Ambassador admitted that they published false dispatches,
Washington to resolve the problem,” the report
The report also highlights the presence on that claiming they belonged to U.S. embassies, in
evening of Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan which diplomats spoke about an alleged split in
The parties also discussed the possibility of
Valentin Vlasov, and noted his addressing the the Indian Army and support in India for “groups
opening an additional training camp for the U.S.
issue of the U.S. airbase Manas with one of the of religious fanatics.”
military, despite the fact that Maxim Bakiev ac-
parliamentary deputies, also a guest at the event. The BBC points out that this could be the
knowledged that Russia “is very unhappy” in this
“We received orders directly from the Ameri- handiwork of Pakistani intelligence. Whatever
can president. Everything will be as it was [Manas the forgery’s source, the admission marks the first
“He said that the Russians were terribly angry
will stay open], but you should know that it’s all detection of false dispatches since the beginning
and tried to punish Kyrgyzstan, but they were
about money,” are Vlasov’s comments to the MP, of the publication of American diplomats’ secret
in a quandary, referring to [President Dmitri]
as stated in the document. correspondence.
Medvedev’s statement that the future of the
Manas base was a personal decision for Kyr-
gyzstan,” the report stated.
Litzenberger also offered a fairly detailed Kyrgyz commission blames ethnic Uzbeks for June riots
description of Maxim, who later went on to head
the Central Agency for Development, Investment December 13 ( language. They wanted to turn Osh and Jala-
and Innovation (CADII). He described the behav- An independent Kyrgyz commission charged labad oblasts into the autonomous region of
ior of the son of the president as “quiet,” but “a lit- with investigating the causes of the deadly ri- Uzbekistan. They were linked to Uzbek citi-
tle spoiled,” and provided an unflattering physical ots that ripped through the Osh and Jalalabad zens, rich Uzbek people that oppose [Uzbek
account of Bakiev Jr., noting that he was “a little provinces in June released its findings on Mon- President Islam] Karimov. They wanted to
overweight” and “balding,” with a taste for expen- overthrow Karimov and put their own person
day and blamed ethnic Uzbeks for the unrest.
sive Scotch whisky. instead of him and govern entire Uzbekistan
“The local conflict took place in the south
“[At intervals] Maxim would stop talking, and with Osh and Jalalabad oblasts in it.”
of Kyrgyzstan that was initiated by ethnic Uz-
wait for outsiders to clear the room,” said the re- Akun said the commission completed its
beks, the news agency quoted Kyr-
port of their private conversation. work two months ago and will soon present its
gyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun as announc-
Party at Issyk-Kul ing on Monday. findings formally to the interim President Roza
In another document, also published on the “They started this conflict, financed and in- Otunbayeva.
Rooski Reporter web site, there are details of an stigated common Uzbek farmers to go against An international commission headed by
event on June 20, 2009, held in celebration of the Kyrgyzs,” he said. Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen is also in the
opening of the hotel Vityaz. Vityaz was a luxury He said the ethnic Uzbek population had midst of investigating the causes of the ethnic
hotel owned by Maxim Bakiev. very clear goals in instigating the unrest. riots. The commission began its work in late
On the evening, according to Litzenberger “The goal of agent provocateurs was to September and is expected to publish its re-
“some 200 other guests were invited,” including create autonomy and make Uzbek the official port in late February 2011.
the U.S Charge D’Affairs. December 2010 The Spektator

6 This Month


The results of our ‘Villain of the Year’ vote HE EVIL GENIUS of privatization gone to the effort of compiling a mini-bio of
are in, Maxim Bakiev claiming victory in po-Kirgizski, erstwhile ‘Prince of Kyr- Baks junior paints the opposite picture of a sen-
gyzstan’ and an alleged accomplice in sitive and refined young man, the fulcrum of a
a landslide that even his dad would have
the Zionist conspiracy to take over the tight-knit group of friends who graduated from
been proud of. Taking this opportunity to world, Maxim Bakiev is a special breed the same Business Administration class at the
get merry and sentimental, we would like of baddy. In lieu of these and other qualities, Kyrgyz-Russian-Slavic University, going on to
to extend festive greetings to all our read-
you, readers of the Spektator, voted resound- hit up Bishkek’s evening hot spots together, the
ingly to elect him as Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Villain of the
ers, and our sincere hope that 2011 will be indispensible core of a broader ‘elite’ entourage.
Year’ for 2010, a year from which a whole cast of Comparing him to the hell raising, heavy-
a happier, healthier, less turbulent year for
scoundrels emerged as potential competition. drinking Aidar Akaev, son of Kyrgyzstan’s first
Kyrgyzstan than 2010. Cheers! Beating off claims to the top spot from Osh president Askar, the blogger notes that Maxim
strongman Melis Myrzakmatov (2nd place), and “Never showed disrespect to nightclub staff...
making his father Kurmanbek (3rd place) seem He drank, but only little by little. He had a taste
relatively benign, ‘Max Baks’ topped a ten man for fine things; expensive drinks, Swiss watches,
list that also included his uncle, an Uzbek drug Chivas Regal [cigarettes]...and women.”
lord, and personal acquaintances of the readers If the account disappoints in its failure to de-
who voted. We have it on good information that tect the key psychological deficiencies present
the former president’s son is a fan of the Spekta- in all super-villains, then at least it notes a start-
tor (we distributed the magazine in many of the ing point for young Bakiev’s career in woman-
bars owned), and would therefore like to offer izing. Max’s mixed Russian-Kyrgyz parentage
him our heartfelt congratulations on receiving left him with an unusual face that both national
this prize. Max, if you’re reading this in your Lon- groups have been quick to disown, still, there
don pent house, know that it’s official: You really were clearly a sufficient number of women who
are a son-of-a-bitch. found his buggish, slanty blue eyes and accumu-
Not that we intend to slur Tatyana Bakieva, lating personality difficult to resist. Long before
the put upon former first lady of Kyrgyzstan. To his daddy ascended, almost by chance, to the
the contrary, in the aftermath of the events of presidential hot seat, Maxim had already carved
April 7, media sources speculated that Mama out a niche for himself as a local playboy with all
Bakieva had actually held pleading sessions the right connections. When the 2005 Tulip Rev-
with her husband, in a futile attempt to rein in olution allowed his family access to the impov-
their progeny’s increasingly megalomaniac am- erished country’s coffers he went international,
bitions. However, as discovered by Josef Stalin’s bedding beauties from Russia, Turkey, Israel and
mother, her dying regret that her son didn’t join the Baltic states, lavishing them with expensive
the priesthood, a real villain never listens to his jewellery in sweet parting.
Above Kurmanbek Bakiev’s son was always parents.
more comfortable taking money than giving A Prince and his Princedom
it away (archive) “He never missed a skirt” In our tenth issue we made the statement that
Although little is known of Maxim’s childhood, “the Bakievs wanted fifty per cent of anything
Right Maxim Bakiev enjoyed only the briefest we can only assume that one of his classmates with a pulse.” This was, of course, no exaggera-
of stints as an official ‘investment tsar’ for the repeatedly stole his lunch money in order to tion, and the list of Maxim’s former assets in
government, but certainly made the most of it turn him into such an avaricious and power Kyrgyzstan is mind-boggling. Take about half
(archive) hungry jerk. Nevertheless, a blogger who has of the listings in ‘The Guide’ (p 22) for starters.

December 2010 The Spektator

This Month 7

This, however, was only the soft underbelly of the of their shared holding group MGN after a war-
Bakiev corporate empire, the meat and bones of
which was in “stealth wealth” – stakes in local tel-
rant was issued for his arrest in connection with
over $2.7 billion worth of fraud. While on a busi- Wicked Leaks
ecommunications operators, back payments for ness trip in the US during the first week of April, If you’re still unsure about where fact stops and
fuel contracts at the US base ‘Manas’, an offshore Maxim was supposedly called by an aide and ad- fiction starts in relation to Maxim Bakiev, the now
interest in English football club Blackpool F.C, lo- vised not to return to Kyrgyzstan, as the political infamous ‘WikiLeaks’ concerning the former presi-
cal banks and, naturally, the state budget. Add to situation in the country was “shaky”. dent’s son are essential reading. Though some
this nauseous array of riches holding companies leaks have yet to be tested for authenticity, Maxim
accused of laundering money for the Italian Mafia His post-revolutionary phase consistently emerges from them as incredibly “dec-
and a hand in the bullion smuggling business in When rebels unfurled banners outside the White adent”, “over-confident” and prone to appropriat-
Russia, and it becomes clear why Max, alleged to House the day after violent clashes between ing things that don’t technically belong to him.
have enjoyed playing cards “with a deck of pure government officials and protesters in Talas, Indeed, the ‘Prince of Kyrgyzstan’ even
gold” bears comparison to some of fictional spy Maxim, more so than his father, was the target. showed up on his British counterpart’s radar,
James Bond’s most celebrated nemeses. Dodgy The Kyrgyz people had long harboured the sus- when HRH Andrew Duke of York came to Bishkek
Russian accent when speaking English?: Check. picion that due to the contempt with which they as part of a diplomatic mission to the region. Ac-
A quick read of Niccole Machiavelli’s infa- treated the common folk, the Bakievs could not cording to a cable attributed to Tatiana Gfoeller,
mous political treatise ‘Il Principe’ will tell you that possibly be native Kyrgyz. Whilst Bakiev Sr. was US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Prince Andrew
any prince should reserve a certain amount of dis- repeatedly denounced as a Dungan, his ren- took up the subject of Maxim Bakiev “with gusto,”
dain for his subjects. In the immediate aftermath egade son was more loudly barracked as a ‘Dirty when Western businessmen began complaining
of the events of April 7, Bakiev junior was asked Jew’, their apparent genetic disconnect of minor about the president’s son demanding “his cut”
by one journalist: “Maxim, what is waiting for you importance to the growing lynch mob in central from various enterprises.
back in Kyrgyzstan?” Mindful of the importance of Bishkek. More recent tidbits have suggested that the
positive PR at such a delicate moment in his fam- Max, as if conducting a master class in vil- best leaks are yet to come. One that surfaced in
ily’s reign, Max quipped “5 million sheep!” If the lainy, was rather far away when it all kicked off. a Russian publication shows Maxim in his ele-
comment was intended as a self-portrayal in the Regardless, this didn’t stop him plotting a path ment, the centre of attention at the opening of
‘good shepherd’ mould, then it certainly failed, in- back to power with Uncle Janysh in a phone call his hotel in Issyk-Kul. The crowd at the gathering
stead reinforcing the ‘big bad wolf’ depiction that which somehow found its way onto the inter- were far from enamoured with Bakiev Jr., many of
was already common currency in Kyrgyzstan. net. “We need to find 500 bastards,” opined Max them having been squeezed for $10-15,000 as a
Almost six months before the coup in which at one point during the call. “Yes, 500 bastards,” “contribution” to the opening. The author of the
he was jettisoned from power, Kurmanbek Bakiev agreed Janysh approvingly. In the same week of cable, embassy attaché Lee Litzenberger, notes:
appointed his son Maxim as head of the newly May 2010, the regional administration buildings “Maxim mingled among the guests with his of-
created Central Agency for Development Invest- in Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken were seized by a ficial wife Aijana (he is well known to have an-
ment and Innovation (CADII). This ominously-ti- group of, well, about 500 bastards. other girlfriend) on one side and Prime Minister
tled institution soon assumed all the appetites of Maxim Bakiev, for his part, strenuously denies Igor Chudinov on the other. Neither Aijana nor
its new chief, and Max proved admirably innova- any involvement in the turmoil that afflicted Kyr- Chudinov looked happy to be there.” Neverthe-
tive in his investments, allegedly placing $30 mil- gyzstan after April 7, and has said that he views less, at least one other person was. Then Chairman
lion of a $300 million dollar ‘soft’ loan from Russia “events in his homeland with horror”. However, of AsiaUniversalBank, Mikhail Nadal, was in such
in a private bank account. whether or not this is true – and all good baddies high spirits that he stripped off and leapt into the
Still, there were signs that the wheels were lie – the Spektator supports its readers’ choice of freezing lake outside for a midnight dip. With all
falling off the clan juggernaut. In March 2010, him as ‘Villain of the Year’, because at minimum those wealthy, powerful people that Maxim made
Maxim’s main business partner, Latvian American he stole a frightening amount of loot, and most miserable, there was always going to be one per-
Yevgeny Gurevich, resigned as Director-General crucially, he got away with it scot free. son he made truly happy. December 2010 The Spektator

8 Out & About


From sweaty boxing gyms to rust-bucket FEW WEEKS AGO I was talking with from Moscow. When I asked about his studio he
Soviet planes, Will Brown has experienced an Italian friend of mine about tattoos. told me that he either rented out salons like the
She told me that she was interested in one we were meeting in, or brought his kit to cli-
his fair share of Bishkek’s ‘gnarly’ side. Next
getting something small on her foot, ents’ houses. I talked to Nikita about the design
up on the list is a needle-sharp glance at but that she didn’t know how to go my friend wanted, and asked him how he pitched
the capital’s tattoo scene, only this time, he’s about getting it done, or whether she should even his prices. We then decided to have him over to
taking a back seat. entertain the idea in a country such as Kyrgyzstan. our apartment on Saturday to ink her up.
I found the proposition extremely interesting be- Originally I had the impression that Russians
cause Bishkek - for reasons of health and hygiene were the only ones who got tattoos here however,
doesn’t particularly stand out as the safest place to after five minutes of talking to Nikita about his
get a tattoo. As someone already inked up, I was business I was surprised to find out that the major-
intrigued, and decided to turn the proposition into ity of his clientele were actually Kyrgyz women. Al-
a challenge. I began tracking down information on though very few Kyrgyz get body tattoos, there is
the tattoo scene in the Kyrgyz capital. a solid market here for tattoo makeup or “Tatuazh”.
I started by asking around to see if there Other than creating products of his own ar-
were any tattoo parlours in the city. Many peo- tistic expertise, Nikita also finds himself playing
ple I spoke with told me that there is a place in ‘touch up’ - applying corrections to other artists’
the city “somewhere on some street,” but no one work. I listened disturbed as he told me about
knew exactly where. Eventually, it was suggested an artist in the city who sometimes works while
that I look on the Diesel Forum ( for in- drunk, leading to disastrous results; scars and
formation. Because very few businesses here in blurred images. For Nikita, quality is a mantra. He
Kyrgyzstan actually have their own websites, they is constantly on the hunt for the best quality nee-
post their services and locations on the forum. dles and inks, all to get the highest quality results.
I had looked on the website a while ago when I That Saturday Nikita came over around 5:30
started looking for places and information about pm to start his work. He set up in my room since
skydiving, but my nascent Russian typing skills it has a good open space with a large bed. He
were a serious obstacle in the search. Getting showed her the design she had asked for and ap-
over these teething troubles I have found it to be plied it to her foot. He then drew over a few areas
an incredible resource. with a special pen and readied his kit. I turned on
I quickly came across a twenty-three-year- some music and a few minutes later his needle
old Russian artist named Nikita who was answer- was vigilantly buzzing away, perforating the soft
Above Nikita works his own special brand of
ing questions, offering advice and posting his of my friend’s ankle as she got “tatted” on the bed.
magic (photo Will Brown)
artwork for those that were interested. I looked The whole process from setting up shop to
up his contact information and called him. We closing down lasted about two and a half hours, but
agreed to meet on Wednesday at a hair salon when the tattoo was finished it looked amazing,
Nikita’s Vizitka called ‘Vash Stil’: Your Style.
When we met up, I asked him about the ba-
comparing positively with most I had seen done
back home. It seems that most tattoos here are
Artistic Tattoo and Permanent Makeup sics: How he handled body substance isolation, inked in this fly-by manner; of the few actual tattoo
Tel.: 0-555-674-108 where he did his work, and how long he had artists here, most of them are freelancers like Nikita.
Email: been working for. He explained to me the impor- To be sure, if you’re a foreigner in Bishkek and
tance of new needles, gloves, clean hands, and you’re looking for a tattoo, Nik is your guy. He
Художественное тату и перманентный a clean work environment. Some of the precau- may be a little busy though, since many more of
макияж (татуаж) tions regarding safety had been taken on board our friends have been lining up to get work done
сот.: 0-555-674-108 Nikita. during a tattoo certification course he took a few with him. His biggest hope is that he can open years ago, but he began his trade earlier still, as a his own shop sometime next year, and finally do
sixteen-year-old under the tutelage of a woman what he loves all the time.
December 2010 The Spektator
10 Out & About


Holly Myers, a doctoral student at the Uni- T WOULD BE INACCURATE to call Chingiz Years (1980), tells the story of an elderly Kazakh
versity of Virginia, is writing her dissertation Aitmatov a dissident writer. In fact, authori- man trying to bury his dead friend according to
ties in Moscow often celebrated his literary traditional Muslim customs – a contemporary sto-
on contemporary literature in Kyrgyzstan
achievements as proof that the Soviet im- ryline that blends folklore with a surprising science
and Kazakhstan. More so than that of its pact on indigenous populations in the non- fiction subplot. Though it was acclaimed by Soviet
larger neighbour, Kyrgyzstan’s book market Russian republics had been a rousing success. critics, its ambiguous themes – common features
is feeling the strains of post-Soviet transi- Writing in both Russian and Kyrgyz, Aitmatov of Aitmatov’s writing – allowed for multiple read-
tion and linguistic division. Nevertheless, won more than forty state prizes over the course ings. An extra chapter, which Aitmatov said had
thanks to several leading lights in the local of his literary career, which spanned from the lit- been cut by Soviet censors because it depicted the
erary ‘thaw’ of the post-Stalin years, through the interrogation, torture and death of a man arrested
literature community, help is at hand. long drag of the Brezhnev years and into over a during Stalin’s rule, was published in 1990. The
decade-and-a-half of Kyrgyz independence. Given chapter may have had personal significance. While
the union-wide acclaim with which his work was Aitmatov’s father, Torokul, was one of the first Kyr-
received, Aitmatov’s writing, like that of other gyz communists and a regional party secretary, he
Soviet-era authors, is vulnerable to accusations of was arrested in 1937 and liquidated on charges of
being mere Communist Party mouthpiece. This is bourgeois nationalism. His body was found during
a common point of contention in the study of So- the excavation of a mass grave at Chon Tash, the re-
viet literature, as many scholars automatically con- sult of a massacre during the height of Stalin’s ‘Great
demn works that fell in step with party dictates as Purge’ (see Secrets of the Dead; issue 8 of the Spekta-
being compromised or contrived. Speaking in an tor). The briefest glance at this chapter dismisses any
interview in 2005, Kyrgyzstan’s literary champion notion that Aitmatov’s authorial intentions were to
had this to say in response to a question about ‘lip tow the party line.
service to the censor’: Aitmatov’s first successful work, Jamilya, was
published for the first time in 1958, in both Rus-
“In every age and under every regime, and espe-
sian and Kyrgyz. Lacking the political edge of his
cially at times of totalitarianism in which art is sub-
later works, this beautifully-written novella was
jected to constant censorship, there is a possibility of
nonetheless a critical first step in gaining recogni-
damage to the artist’s freedom, to his possibility of be-
tion for Kyrgyz literature. The eponymous heroine,
ing frank and true to himself and to his feelings. But in
high-spirited, sharp-tongued and beautiful, strug-
every era and under every regime, it is always the same
gles against the confines of her small village life
question with regard to the individual’s moral level.
and an unsatisfying marriage. Her new husband, a
Above Tales about hard-working ants in Kyr- Adaptation is the human being’s constant compan-
soldier in the war, mentions Jamilya only briefly at
gyzstan have gone bilingual, but not in the ion in the world, yet we must not forget that sincerity
the conclusion of his letters from the front; “and give
way you might have expected (Holly Myers) and honesty are morality at its highest level. We must
regards to my wife.” In this, what the French writer
ensure that they will continue to exist and to operate
Louis Aragon has famously called the world’s most
Above Right Raritet bookstores – the capital’s in our world, despite the forces that are acting against
beautiful love story, readers witness Jamilya’s awak-
market leader, are open from 9-6pm Monday them and trying to suppress them.”
ening sense of self and subsequent transformation
to Friday, 9-5pm on Saturdays and 9-3pm on Though perhaps lacking the dissident creden- via her love of Daniyar, a recently demobilized and
Sundays (Holly Myers) tials of a Solzhenitsyn-type, Aitmatov was certainly wounded Kyrgyz-Kazakh youth, whose mastery of
no Soviet stooge. His 1973 play The Ascent of Mt. Fuji song evokes the traditional art of akins.
Next Page Chingiz Aitmatov, peerless in con- openly muses on the moral compromises necessi- Aitmatov was a national author from the
temporary Central Asian literature, died on tated by harsh suppression of dissent under Stalin. very outset, a fact which becomes apparent with
June 10, 2008 (archive) His first novel, The Day Lasts Longer Than a Hundred his heavy use of Kyrgyz folklore in almost every-

December 2010 The Spektator

Out & About 11

thing he wrote. In Jamilya, for example, there are constraining the freedom and creativity of writers: recognition in 2007, the Toktogul State Prize of
references to the legendary figure of Manas. The Kyrgyzstan in 2008, and has been translated into
“It is impossible to say that at this time it is a bet-
Legend of the Bird Donebai plays a central role several different languages. Talip Ibraimov’s first
ter era only because there is freedom and the censor
in The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, and book won the International Library Contest’s “Rus-
is not capering around you. This is not sufficient. Os-
the plot of The White Steamship revolves around sian Prize” in 2007, while Eva Alli’s 2009 novel The
tensibly, we have overcome this difficulty, but in the
ancient Kyrgyz myths and folktales, including the Wild Asian Orchard is a bestseller in Bishkek.
meantime new difficulties have arisen, which are
Mother-Olenikha legend. He paved the way for Ilimkhan Lailiyeva, local author of several Rus-
sometimes even more complex. For example, the
the development of a modern national literature sian-language novels, believes her own opinion
market economy that dictates everything. This today
in the small Soviet republic, creating works that about the future of Kyrgyzstan’s literature to be sit-
is the great tyrant, and it is more difficult to win your
were distinctly Kyrgyz, stories that drew on Kyr- uated somewhere between that of Koichuyev and
place as a writer and maintain it.”
gyz traditions and dealt with the issues of Soviet Shapovalov. She disagrees that Russian-language
Kirghizia in the twentieth century, while also mak- Vyacheslav Shapovalov, poet laureate of Kyr- literature in Kyrgyzstan does not exist, though she
ing comment on themes central to the greater gyzstan, a man in his sixties who veritably bristles admits that today’s market presents a challenge to
human condition; love, duty and suffering. That with energy, has a particularly pessimistic view of would-be professional writers and that what she
he accomplished this while staying, for the most his country’s current literary trajectory. In an arti- calls the “boom” of new literature in Kyrgyzstan is
part, within the confines of Soviet Realism, is no cle written in 2001, he made a dramatic conclu- more often written in Kyrgyz than Russian. For her
tar on his achievement. Instead, it should serve as sion about the “dreary future” for literature in Kyr- own part, she hopes to make her work available to
a reminder of his unique ability to create works of gyzstan, an opinion that he still professes today: readers outside of her own country.
beauty in the face of ideological adversity.
“In the lack of interest and any, let’s say, civilian A Shrinking Market Cut in Two
A New Type of Censorship self-sacrifice in relation to today’s national literary
The linguistic factor reveals itself as increasingly
Aitmatov, like many others, celebrated the new heritage…in the stagnant condition of overly politi-
important, since many fear that the country’s
freedom that writers have found since the collapse cized and absent opportunities for publishing litera-
traditional Kyrgyz-Russian bilingualism is begin-
of the Soviet Union, as a wide array of previously ture (both Kyrgyz and Russian-language literature),
ning to polarize, dividing an already small reading
taboo subjects and styles came to the fore over- I see a dreary future. In any case, Russian-language
population into two smaller groups predicated on
night. Forensic crime and welfare essays, religious literature in Kyrgyzstan today does not actually exist,
language. It seems that few authors, or readers,
and mystical treatises, stories of erotic nature and but its quick and gray death shows, first, that culture
have the ability or desire to function at a high level
prose with conspicuous social commentary have can easily suffocate - it is necessary only to deprive it
in both Kyrgyz and Russian. Koichyev worries that,
become increasingly common in Kyrgyzstan, rep- of air - and, secondly, that monoculture is also not
from the point of view of Russian-language litera-
resenting new avenues of exploration for post- a viable organism. I think Kyrgyz literature will go
ture, this number is becoming even smaller:
Soviet writers as well as the ever-expanding tastes through a painful state of hopelessness and dying
of readers. Broadening opportunities for a more before it will be revived - but this will be in other gen- “Geopolitical, historical, and cultural processes
direct expression of self and uncensored research erations, in a different history, with another moral have significantly narrowed the scope of literature’s
have also led to the rise of memoirs and biographi- experience.” operation and impact on the public consciousness.
cal literature. Indicative in this respect is the series Bakhtiyar Koichuyev, chair of the Department This applies particularly to the literature written in
‘The Life of Remarkable People in Kyrgyzstan’, pub- of Literary History and Theory at the Kyrgyz-Rus- Russian. Changes in the ethnic composition of the
lished by the editorial board of the journal Literary sian Slavic University in Bishkek, remains optimistic republic, the deteriorating degree of Russian profi-
Kyrgyzstan, and Kulbyubyu Bekturganova’s series about today’s situation, going so far as to proclaim ciency, particularly in rural areas, has inevitably led
‘Daughters of the Kyrgyz Land’, the third book of it unparalleled in the literary history of Kyrgyzstan. to the loss of potential readers of Russian-language
which was published in Bishkek this year. For evidence of this, he points to the collected literature in Kyrgyzstan.”
However, like many others, Aimatov was keen works of Shapovalov, Svetlana Suslova, Aleksander These two groups of authors and read-
to point to a fresh force in the brave new world of Nikitenko and his own recently published titles. ers, writing and reading in two different lan-
post-independence literature, equally capable of Kazat Akmatov’s novel Arhat won international guages, are often completely isolated, December 2010 The Spektator

12 Out & About
and Books
Despite an apparent shortfall in demand, there
are still a number of choice locations for the
Bishkek-based bookworm to ogle titles, ranging
from musty libraries to hip ‘libra-cafes’.
Nuska Bookstore
56 Erkindik
M-F 9am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm
Opened in 1988, this is the only state-owned
Kyrgyz-language bookstore in all of Kyrgyzstan.
Readers from as far away as China make trips to
this bookstore, says the manager, in order to stock
up on Kyrgyz-language books. Librarians also
frequent the store, searching for books to add
to their collections. Nuska is state subsidized, so
books are sold at lower prices than elsewhere.
Cafe Biblioteka
50 Akhunbaeva, tel: 51-52-53.
In this trendy two-room cafe-bar, you can find
European and Kyrgyz cuisine, espresso, tea, wine,
beer, free Wi-Fi and books. An entire wall of book-
cases holds both classic and contemporary litera-
ture, which customers peruse at their leisure. You functioning independently with extremely lim- Literature and Culture Working Together
may take books home after signing up for a club ited knowledge of the other’s efforts. This seg-
card, which also gives you a 10% discount on food Viktor Kadyrov, General Director of Raritet book-
regation of tongues is vividly demonstrated by stores and publishing house, and the prolific author
and drink. The club card is free on your birthday. the predominance of two literary journals in Kyr- of nearly fifty works, has a firm grasp of the con-
“Odissej” Bookstore gyzstan. Russian-language writers have their own nection between national literature and national
40 Manas (just below Kievskaya) literary journal, Literary Kyrgyzstan, and Kyrgyz- culture. About a year and a half ago, he opened a
M-F 9am-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm language writers have theirs, The New Ala-Too. chaikana, or tea house in Raritet’s main shop on 78
In seven rooms you can find everything from text- This schism in Kyrgyzstan’s literature has obvious Pushkin street. One of the store’s inner rooms is dec-
books and dictionaries to Russian and Western connections to the deeper cultural and political orated like the inside of a yurt, with traditional Kyr-
classic and contemporary literature (in Russian) to disconnect in a country that is, in many ways, di- gyz musical instruments, clothing, and decorations
books on sports, psychology, beauty, housekeep- vided. hanging on the walls. There, sitting at a small round
ing, and medicine. In the main room, there is an table, Saltanat, the head consultant at the Raritet Tea
excellent selection of beautiful art books, next to Internet to the Rescue? House, will proudly serve you tea and cookies while
a large tank of colorful fish. Several of Ibraimov’s award-winning short sto- explaining the ins and outs of traditional Kyrgyz life.
ries, Alli’s complete novel, as well as works by The sign on the door reads: “We welcome you
“Raritet” Bookstores Shapovalov, Suslova, and Nikitenko are available to the Tea House. Relax with aromatic tea, immersed
78 Pushkin and 271 Chui Prospekt free of charge on the website “New Literature of in national color.” Saltanat says that the Tea House
The best selection of English-language books Kyrgyzstan” ( This impressive welcomes any guests who are interested in learn-
available for sale in Bishkek, as well as an excellent internet resource may be displayed in either Rus- ing more about Kyrgyz culture, and that she regu-
range in both the country’s official languages. sian or Kyrgyz. Founded in 2008 by Oleg Bond- larly hosts groups of local school children, as well as
Several books from Moscow intended for Rus- arenko, it is designed to support contemporary tourists. Incredibly, this is all provided byezplatno,
sian-speakers studying English, but given that authors of Kyrgyzstan. The project’s mission and even impromptu visits are enthusiastically ac-
there is some commentary and a glossary in Rus- statement begins: commodated.
sian, they may be of interest to English speakers Kadyrov has also converted one of the book-
studying Russian as well. “Kyrgyzstan is a rich country. Rich in talented store’s rooms into a museum devoted to historical
people, writers and artists, musicians and filmmak- Kyrgyz artifacts, donated from a private collection,
The “Silva” Centre ers, who, alas, are often forced these days to work in the belief that a people should know and pre-
96 Chui Prospekt without any support. The project’s object is to help serve their own history. There are ancient stone
M-Sat 7am-8pm, Sun 8am-7pm at least some of those who write, whose works are tools from Issyk-Kul and traditional Kyrgyz, Kazakh,
considered contemporary national literature.” and Uzbek ceremonial jewelery, or krasno-rechka
Inside the main hall of the post office, a yurt stands
that date back to the ninth century, as well as Rus-
in the corner: This is the “Silva” Centre. Around the Noting that it is becoming increasingly diffi-
sian samovars, waffle-makers, and spinning wheels
yurt are tables and stands of books, with more cult to publish “the usual way,” this project pub-
with roots dating back to the early Russian settle-
titles inside the yurt. There is Russian and Kyrgyz- lishes works on its site free of charge, with the
ments in nineteenth century Central Asia.
language literature for adults and children, as well voluntary participation of authors, in the hopes Raritet published an award-winning book de-
as a decent selection of Kyrgyz and Russian text- of reaching a wider audience base. Arguably, this tailing this growing collection, providing informa-
books, grammar books, and dictionaries, includ- site – with its sizeable bank of author biographies tion about the artifacts, and high-quality colour
ing a Kyrgyz-Mongolian dictionary. and contact information, as well as thousands of photographs of the various items in the museum.
freely-available stories, novels, verse, and literary It is available in both English (600 som) and Russian
In a temporary Bishkek Book Fair, local publish- criticism – could be considered definitive proof of (480 som). The hours of the museum-room are the
ing houses are selling new books on the small the concerted efforts aiming to protect and sup- same as those of the bookstore, and, like the chaika-
square by Ala-Too Movie Theater, from 11:00am port the development of Kyrgyzstan’s national na down the hall, admission and a guided tour are
to 3:00pm, every Saturday through December. literature and culture. given to visitors free of charge.

December 2010 The Spektator

16 Focus

Going for
This month, Karakol-based journalist IGH UP in the permafrost zone in the which would subsequently assume responsibility
Sergey Vysotsky looks at some of the eastern part of the Tien Shan mountain for the entire production cycle from start to finish.
key facts relating to Canadian-Kyrgyz range, the gold ore mill ‘Kumtor’ rep- Thanks to massive investment in the project -
gold mining operation Kumtor, a provid- resents one of the highest processing over $452 million in start-up - the facility was built
er of work to almost 2,500 locals in the units of its kind in the world. Buried at at breakneck speed, albeit only by the standards
Issyk-Kul region. altitudes of over 4,000 meters, the precious metal of high altitude mining. Construction of the mine
it extracts is of critical importance to Kyrgyzstan, a began in 1994 and reached completion in 1997.
country whose only other natural resource of note Today, the Kumtor gold field ranks as one of the
is water. largest geologically certified deposits of the metal
Situated in the country’s eastern Issyk Kul re- in the world, 514 tons of which are thought to be
gion, around 350 km from Bishkek, the Kumtor extractable.
Operating Company (KOC) took its name from the For the national government in Bishkek, results
local Kumtor river, upstream from which Soviet- were pleasing. As part of a country where five-year
era geologists stumbled on large gold deposits. plans routinely failed to meet unreasonable tar-
Despite the fact that geological surveys of the area gets, they were happy enough to now be part of a
had been undertaken since 1920, the field itself was project which was exceeding expectations.
only discovered later in 1978. By 1991, when the In its first year of operation KOC oversaw the
Soviet Union was on the cusp of collapse, it was es- production of 15.6 tonnes of gold, against the
timated that the field contained 716 tons of gold, of 12.8 tonnes planned. In 1998, 20 tons of gold were
which 316.5 tons lent themselves to open pit min- moulded against the 17.5 tons stipulated in annual
ing methods. projections, while the same year saw the operation
The General Directorate of Precious Metals cross the ‘one million ounces’ threshold. Neverthe-
and Diamonds had already conducted a feasibility less, as Kumtor assumed an increasingly important
study aimed at high-altitude extraction by 1989. role in the local and national economy, concerns
Nevertheless, a ruling by the Council of Ministers were aired as to how to increase the longevity of
deemed proposals for a project too expensive. The such a mutually profitable venture.
increasingly capital-strapped union simply couldn’t In 2009, due to the results of further exploration,
come up with the approximately 995 million Soviet the life of the Kumtor mine was revised and ex-
roubles ($1.46 billion at the time) required to turn tended until 2019. Under the auspices of President
the dream into a reality. Robert Vander, on board at the operating company
Upon independence three years later, the open since February 2010, KOC has directed a record
door policy advanced by the republic under First $196.7 million to upgrade equipment, expand the
President Askar Akaev allowed for fresh western quarrying area and construct new underground
investment in the development of national mineral stations. Such investment is aimed at increasing
deposits. After careful consideration of bids from the long term prospects for the development of the
Above Mining operation Kumtor glows under several investors, the government of the Kyrgyz Re- mine.
a setting sun (all photos Sergey Vysotsky) public gave preference to an offer tabled by Canadi- In 2004, the Kumtor Gold project was restruc-
an outfit Cameco. On December 4, 1992 in Toronto, tured, and the Kyrgyz government became the
Above Right Karimzhan Khasanov with his Cameco and parastatal Kirgizaltyn signed a general second largest shareholder in the project after
painting “The Spirit of Kumtor” agreement on the draft Kumtor Gold, creating KOC, Cameco. The government’s share in the project

December 2010 The Spektator

Focus 17

now amounts to between $85 and 100 million.

Cameco, whose head quarters are in Toronto, Can-
Through the Eyes of an Artist
ada, own 15.66% of Centerra Gold Inc, an outfit with While Kumtor generally enjoys popular sup- slopes and flashing like stars to the sun, reflect
regional experience. In addition to the site at Kum- port among its host community, not everyone the hardiness of nature, and the ability of beauti-
tor, Centerra Gold is involved in exploration projects is thrilled about the joint venture’s existence and ful creations to take root in hostile climates.
in Mongolia and Russian province Tuva. In 2007, the its apparent impact on local ecology. When the In a fourth, Khasanov’s rage comes to the
government in Bishkek once again increased their plant first began being constructed, ‘legends’ fore once more as he depicts “the most terrible
share in the Centerra Gold franchise, and in 2009, suddenly sprouted in the villages surrounding animal of this world” - a man pointing the barrel
the Kyrgyz parliament simplified the tax regime for the plant, each of them supposedly centuries old. of his shotgun at all that is in front of him, includ-
the operation. Gross revenues are subject to a 14% According to one of them, there is a ridge in ing a snow leopard, destroying harmony and di-
tax, one per cent of which goes to a fund for the de- the mountains of Issyk-Kul, an ancient “bull”, which versity in the natural world.
velopment of the Issyk- Kul region. took its place on the mountain face after death, Perhaps the central piece in this series of
In addition to employing roughly 2,500 people, bearing the gold deposit on its back as a sacred paintings is a work of art titled “The Spirit of Kum-
95% of whom are citizens of the republic, Kum- duty. The bull is not to be disturbed on pain of tor,” painted back in 2005. The picture has been
tor also makes voluntary contributions to schools death – if tampered with, he will cause irreparable lodged in a decorative frame made of wood and
and healthcare facilities in the area. Gradually, the harm to the humanity in his local neighbourhood. has pride of place in Khasanov’s living room. At
number of foreign experts at the plant is beginning Based on this and other similar legends, Kyr- the foreground of the painting is a bulb-headed
to dwindle, as they are slowly replaced by locals that gyzstani contemporary artist Karimzhan Khasanov old man, whose face reflects the wisdom of the
have come up through the ranks. With its impressive made a series of paintings devoted to this subject. ancients. The work as a whole reflects the artist’s
manpower, the production capacity of the plant is The series is on the theme of “Ecology broader concerns about the destruction of the
now estimated to be as much as 16,000 tonnes of through the eyes of an artist” reflecting his pain mountain ranges and the depletion of mineral
ore per day, a figure even Soviet miner Alexei Sta- and anxiety regarding the harmful activities of resources. At the hands of profiteers, toxic tears
khanov would have been proud of. man against nature. ooze down off the mountain face, while rows of
Techniques at the plant are cutting edge yet con- The painting “Argali” represents the spirit of gold bullion emerge out of the body of the an-
ventional, following the standard practices of open argali, an indigenous Central Asian mountain cient, who stares out in muted sadness.
pit mining. Ore is delivered to the onsite crushing sheep, who looks down from the skies in weak- On the steep rocky slopes of the mountain,
facility and then ground down by an ISA mill, a new ness and horror as he observes man’s attempts meanwhile, snow leopards look down in despair
innovation in processing which allows for ultra-fine to destroy his descendents. at the chaos below, while the artist’s favourite
grinding. The ground ore is subjected to gold recov- Another picture invokes Kumtor specifically. breed of sheep look imploringly towards the old
ery technology, employing a carbonizing solution, It is of a burning mountain flower, which stands face for guidance.
and the near-finished product – cast gold ingots or firmly against the Canadian mining interest’s Through his creativity, Karimzhan Khasanov
‘Dore bullion’ - is then sent for further refining. boot, as it endeavours to stamp through the attempts to reach out to human consciousness
If you have a large wodge of cash that you don’t mountains. In the background, more snow cov- and explain the destruction caused to natural
know what to do with, shares in Kumtor parent ered switchbacks rise up, displaying the indomi- harmony by man’s activities. The series concludes
Centerra Gold are available for purchase on the To- table spirit of nature itself. with “The Lonely Grave of a Nomad.” In Khasanov’s
ronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol CG. The third in the series carries a more po- view, man is also non-renewable. Leaving devasta-
Earlier this calendar year, local workers held a pro- etic message: Yellow poppies and white daisies tion behind him as he goes into another world, an
test threatening to strike if wages weren’t increased. sprout on the side of a mountain; symbols of earthen burial mound speaks of the tragic nature
The dispute was quickly resolved and wages at the love, life and the eternity of beauty in the world. of human life and its carnage, pitted, once more,
plant were raised. The flowers, steadfastly growing on the bare against the stoic eternity of the mountains. December 2010 The Spektator

18 Focus

Romance on the Steppe

The Spektator’s very own eagle fanatic E WERE BARRELING across the Walking from train car to train car, I passed
Dennis Keen wanted a life-sized stock- heart of Eurasia in a hunk of blue deaf girls selling pens and large men in un-
ing filler this festive season. In search of Soviet steel, riding tracks through dershirts standing in line to get boiling water
an adventure and the affections of the barren steppe. Our destination for their tea. Pastoral landscapes flashed on
region’s only female falconer, he took an was Karaganda, a city so remote the windowpanes as shepherds pushed their
overnight train to the back of beyond.... and unappealing that it was the butt of jokes flocks up hills. In between cars I watched the
throughout the USSR. It was known for gulags track blur by beneath my feet, and took a pic-
and coal mines, but we were going for some- ture with my camera. A roving train cop took it
thing much more appealing. I had read about a as an act of espionage and asked me a thou-
female eagle hunter who lived in a village just sand questions, bemused. I showed him some
outside the town, the only woman berkutchi in pictures of eagles and got away with a finger
the whole of Kazakhstan. Her name was Mak- wag.
pal Abdrazakova. When my Kyrgyz teacher As the sun was setting, we had a com-
learned I liked eagle hunters, she brought in munal meal with our coupe mates. Bowls of
a clipping of Makpal and I learned how to say tea were borrowed from the train attendants
“beautiful girl.” She was stunning in braids and and apples were sliced up for sharing. Pavel
a fur hat, strong with an eagle on her arm. I had had a Tupperware of kholodets, or pork jelly. It
to find her. She was hundreds of miles away, looked as appetizing as it sounds, but with a
but I could use a train trip. dash of ogonyok, a kind of spicy tomato elixir,
Our coupe mates were sleeping in the it transformed into something edible. There
bunks below. Talgat was a Kazakh businessman were a couple of small dead fish in the newspa-
who had shaken our hands, taken his pants per, which a conscious-again Talgat set about
off, and immediately laid down to nap. Pavel deboning. This was a culture of sharing. I cut
was one of those too-Russian Russians, with a up a little cake and passed a piece to Talgat, he
Above The ‘hunk of blue Soviet steel’ that manly moustache and an army tattoo. He was took a candy and put it in my hand. We were
brought Dennis one ‘steppe’ closer to Makpal reading a science fiction book and talking to strangers, but there was none of the enforced
(all photos Dennis Keen) Talgat, who was asleep and certainly not listen- distance that people put between themselves
ing. Abay and I lay on our stomachs and gazed in the West. We were crammed together in a
Above Right Makpal Abdrazakova, the only out the window, watching the mountains of corner of a train and we might as well be kind
female eagle hunter in Kazakhstan, and pos- Almaty recede into the horizon. The click-click to one another.
sibly, the world of the tracks and Talgat’s snores mixed with the The night was spent playing Gin Rummy,
calls of ice cream ladies in the hallway. I found cards passed from bed to bed. We kept the door
Next Page Translator Abay watches the steppe train life strangely serene. I could stay on here of the coupe open to scout for a cute young
blur out of the train window for days, I thought. Kazakh lady who kept passing our way. Every

December 2010 The Spektator

Focus 19

time she smiled at us and we smiled back, Abay settled into our seats, sleep beckoning us back younger than I expected. I didn’t recognize
and I would conspire like schoolgirls; “Let’s ask into darkness. her without the Kazakh costume she donned
her if she wants to play cards!” At the next stop I woke up, sweating. The heat was blasting in the photos I had seen. Now they were both
she left, holding hands with her boyfriend. and my coat was still on. The bus was new and dressed in classy black, ready to impress their
It was warm on the train and even warmer tv-equipped, and my busmates craned their new visitors. They showed us outside, where
where I slept; up top where the heat had no- necks to watch a bad Russian crime drama we all piled into a car and drove through the
where else to flee. I nodded off a few times, un- showing at the front of our moving cinema. cold to her house, two blocks away.
satisfied. At one stop, Pavel came in with a fish I tried to tune out the gunshots and fall back Inside, it was warm. There was a big oven in
two feet long, bright pink and freshly flayed. into slumber. Soon, though, Abay nudged my the kitchen that sent its heat through the wall
He smiled and pushed my nose into its stink. To shoulder and picked up his bags. We had ar- to the living room where we sat. Makpal’s fa-
the timeless sound of clacking tracks I fell back ther Murat brought us a block of photo albums
into a delirious sleep, punctured by shouts and to occupy our time as they cooked a meal to
calls from stops in the night. Karaganda lay
‘Outside, there was not much welcome us to their country. They were like
ahead, pulling us forward, ever forward. to greet us. The town square was your average family photos, group shots in
We woke to darkness. Winter in these front of landmarks, but half of them had eagles
northern latitudes makes the morning sun
coated in mud. Men stood hud- in them, perched like rotating family members.
shy, so we ate our breakfast under fluorescent dled on its periphery, staring into In one, there was not only an eagle but an owl,
lights. Our coupe mates would ride this train eyes big and alert. Murat said that they caught
further into the day – for us it was time to de-
the fog that shrouded the steppe’ the bird just for its feathers, which it shed in
part. Karaganda had snuck up outside our win- large numbers at a special time every year. Ka-
dow, and was calling us into its streets. rived. Outside, there was not much to greet zakhs before him had told me these feathers
The city smelled of industry and the cars us. The town square was coated in mud. Men were sacred. Some say it is because you can
were all coated in dirt. We needed a bus to stood huddled on its periphery, staring into read Koranic script in their markings.
Aksu-Ayuly, a small village where Central Asia’s the fog that shrouded the steppe. We called Soon lunch was served. We quickly de-
only woman eagle hunter resided. As if seven- Makpal and waited in a small cafeteria. There voured our meat and potatoes, staples of
teen hours on the train were not enough, we was a mural of yurts on the wall, all billowing steppe cuisine. When we had washed it all
now had to spend two more driving back the smoke, all promising accommodation more down with at least four bowls of tea, I pitched
way we had come. Abay found us some tick- wholesome than the stone buildings and sta- some questions to Makpal and Abay inter-
ets and got us our bus, and we stood in line bles that had replaced them in this lifeless vil- preted. Wondrously, Abay would offer my
in the cold. A woman was leaning out a win- lage. questions in Kyrgyz and Makpal would answer
dow, announcing her hot pastries to every last Two young women came through the door in Kazakh. These two tongues were siblings,
passerby. Her calls sounded like a lullaby to my and looked at us doubtfully. It was Makpal and made cousins by Soviet language policy in the
tired ears, “samsa, samsa,” over and over. The her sister-in-law, Saltanat. Makpal was done early years of Central Asia’s incorporation into
sunlight still young, we filed onto the bus and up in makeup and braids and looked lovely, the union. December 2010 The Spektator

20 Focus

Most of the time, Makpal answered only for miles didn’t swing around and head our way. complacency.
a few words and Saltanat stepped in to speak Her eagle was proud, though, and too full of Soon, we too were complacently stuffed.
for her shy sister. I started by telling her how food to cooperate. Only after coming close did The beshparmak was served and devoured
impressed I was with what she was doing. Ka- the bird oblige, jumping up to Makpal’s waiting without abandon. The meat was tender and
zakh society was conservative and segregated, wrist with a flap of its wings. tasty, and the noodles were easy to handle in
yet Makpal’s passion for this tradition defied The icy wind had frozen us all to discom- the customary forkless fashion. I had two bowls
all its time-honoured boundaries. Here was a fort, so we sped back to the warmth of the of fatty broth for dessert. There were two other
woman in the manliest of sports, all blood and house. Makpal’s mom had started making be- guests, recent immigrants from the Kazakh di-
beasts and horseback hunts. She was a symbol shparmak, the national dish of noodles and aspora in western Mongolia. I told them I had
of a new Kazakh woman, I suggested, one who mutton. On the kitchen table she rolled out been to Bayan-Olgii and they were pleased.
could do anything. She just blushed: “Yeah, dough, spreading it thin in giant circles. These We had feasted with our legs folded on the
maybe.” she would slice into squares and we’d then eat ground, and now pillows were brought out to
It was hard to get much more out of her, them with our hands. further relax the well-fed. One Mongolian Ka-
so in a break of silence they suggested we go For a while, we interviewed Murat. With zakh rested his head on the legs of the other,
outside and take some photos. We wandered and they picked their teeth in satisfaction.
out onto steppe. Makpal came out in her finest ‘We were strangers, but there We stayed up late playing a local card
falconry-ware, a traditional Kazakh robe and a game, a Karaganda favorite called “Byelka”,
fur hat. She looked stunning. I paid her compli- was none of the enforced dis- or “Squirrel.” Abay and Saltanat were playing
ments, but they never sound quite as sincere tance that people put between matchmakers, so while they paired up, Makpal
in translation. With an eagle on her arm, I just was partnered with me. She sat across from me,
about fainted. The beautiful girl and the beau- themselves in the West. We were smiling, often our eyes meeting for the briefest
tiful bird had been partners for ten years. I was crammed together in a corner of a of moments. I adapt poorly to new card games,
jealous. Makpal petted her eagle gently and and every time I sighed with frustration, Mak-
maneuvered her into the jeep, which we rode train and we might as well be kind pal giggled. Abay and I had been joking all
through the streets to the edge of town. We got to one another’ week about how she was the woman of my
out atop a scenic hill, the wind even colder at a dreams, a beautiful girl with a bird who I would
height, chilling our bones. Makpal handed the sweep off her feet. Now, I felt strangely con-
bird to her father and walked along the ridge, all the attention on his daughter he seemed nected to her, even though we hadn’t shared a
and then called out. The eagle flew to her but a little left-out, but it was he who had taught word in the same language. I had seen her pic-
veered away, landing in the grass. Makpal stayed her all she knew. He told us about all the com- ture in a Kyrgyz class magazine clipping, and I
ever calm, gently calling “Kel! Kel!” like a song. It plexities of the tradition he had brought Mak- had ventured out to find her in the middle of
was the bird’s signal to come to her master. Sit- pal up with; how to properly feed an eagle, for nowhere. The strangeness of it all jumbled my
ting stubbornly in the weeds, the eagle shook instance. The meat must be weighed exactly, common sense, and I thought of staying here
it’s wings but went nowhere. Makpal persisted, not with a scale but with a cupped palm, and forever, learning Kazakh, living with my beauti-
singing “Kel, Kel” into the wind. The call was so washed of all its blood. A bloody meal will ex- ful bride and her eagle, giving my heart to a
alluring that it was a surprise that every eagle cite the bird, and too much meat will stuff it to hunter in the heart of Eurasia.

December 2010 The Spektator


Bishkek life
Chuchuara Hoga (117, Chui) International
With this Chinese restaurant, a little out of the way
and and rarely visited by tourists, you really feel you 12 Chimneys (TeplIkluchy village)

restaurants are getting the real deal. Request a хого (your own
personal Chinese boiling-pot) and randomly select
Wooden cabin located by a rushing stream thirty min-
utes out of town. The overpriced food is more than
compensated for by the chilled atmosphere and wild
There’s a fine line between ‘bar’ and ‘restaurant’ in a variety of unusual Chinese delicacies to throw in.
surroundings. Hotel accommodation also available.
Bishkek. Places more suitable for drinking sessions Beware, the ‘spicy’ sauce, although delicious, may
leave delicate stomachs in some distress several Head south on Almatinskaya and keep going. $$$$
are marked with a star *
hours later - consider the ‘not-spicy’ sauce as a suit-
Price Guide (main course and a garnish) able alternative $$ Bacardi* (Togolok Moldo 17/1)
$ - Expect change from 150 som Elite lounge bar affair with separate rooms for din-
$$ - A little over 250 should do the trick Frunze ing, dancing and whiling the night away smoking
$$$ - Expect to pay in the region of 350 (Chui/Pravda) hukkah pipes. Urban grooves played at a reason-
$$$$ - A crisp 500 (or more) needed in this joint Free semechki is one of many reasons to check out able volume and a full menu that includes a range
this lively hangout, rammed with Chinese at lunch of tasty platters. $$$$
American and dinner time. The menu is encyclopediac in
terms of scope, but if you’re feeling bewildered, Barcode* (Toktogul/Sovietskaya, inside ‘Moto’)
Cowboy* (Toktogul/Orozbekova) just point to something tasty-looking on a neigh- A hip, clean interior, fast wi-fi and an affordable
Bishkek’s all-American restaurant-cum-dance bouring table like we did. $$ business lunch have made Barcode something of
club has now gone a little more up-market, but a hotspot since it opened in early 2010. The place
Peking Duck I & II comes to life at night when 3 DJs compete for your
wild nights are still to be had. Dig in to a kilo of
(Soviet/Druzhba & Chui/Tog. Mol.) affections with an array of banging tunes. $$
chicken wings and then hit the dance floor. $$$
Huge portions to feed even the biggest of glut-
tons and an English language menu that provides Blonder Pub* (Pravda/Kulatova)
plenty of amusing translations. $$ Blonder Pub is the new brewery-restaurant to try
As you would probably guess, decorated with
out. Cavernous yet cosy inside, there’s decent blues
movie posters, photos of cinema icons and a Shaolin (Zhibek Zholu/Prospect Mir)
every night, live Premiership Football, Eurogrub
bunch of American kitsch. Hollywood is popu- This tidy looking restaurant sticks out for its sheer
and a good selection of ales. In regard to the latter
lar with a younger crowd and is usually packed range of oriental dishes and its large, round tables
we recommend ‘Irish Red’. $$$$
from mid-evening onwards. A fun place for a few that make it ideal for extended gatherings. $$
drinks before heading off to the clubs. $$ Buddha Bar (Sovietskaya/Akhunbayeva)
New York Pizza (177, Kievskaya)
Dungan Buddha bar offers a taste of the East inside a tastefully
constructed zen log cabin. The sushi is excellent, and
Decorated with pictures of the Big Apple and Hui Min (Relocated to the Hotel Dostuk) for those on a budget, the stir-fry noodle dishes make
serving a fine selection of steaks and other A former favourite, we have been told that Hui Min an excellent lunch. Recommended! $$$$
American-themed dishes, NYP is sure to get New has now relocated to the Hotel Dostuk. Apparently
Yorkers thinking of home. For home delivery the menu has been revamped and the prices in- Captain Nemo’s (14, Togolok Moldo)
ring (0312) 909909. $$$ creased. The Spektator will be checking it out soon. Small nautically themed restaurant with a selection
We hope they still serve the special Dungan tea, as of evocatively named dishes including ‘Fish from the
Obama (Erkindik/Toktogul) ship’s boy’ and ‘Tongue from the boatswain’s wife’.
The owners claim that the inspiration for the title it’s rather good. Cosy wooden interior and porthole style windows
came from the first letters in each of their sur- create an underwater log cabin experience. Spirits,
names - pull the other one guys, the bloke is all Georgian cocktails and a good business lunch. $$$
over the walls. The pizza, like the presidency, has Mimino (27, Kievskaya)
Ceska* (115, Alamatinskaya)
certainly been over-hyped, but the chicken plat- Mimino is nice, cosy and serves up bowl-fulls of steam-
Cousin to Blonder Pub, this Bros Co. ‘theme bar’ is
ter and the cheese burgers are a treat. Big por- ing, hearty Georgian fare with pomegranate seeds
a-plenty. We recommend the kjadjapuri, khinkali and worth checking out for its fantastic tiramisu cake
tions. $$$ alone. Every third beer is free but don’t get too ex-
anything that’s served in a pot. Watch out for Uncle Joe
at the door. $$$$ cited - they come in 0.4l glasses. $$$
Armenian German Coffee House (9, Manas & Togolok Moldo/Ryskulova)
Treat yourself to some of the finest coffee and
Landau (Manas/Gorky) cakes Bishkek has to offer at the imaginatively
Fancy something a little different? If you can tol- Steinbrau* (5, Gerzena)
named ‘Coffee House’, a cosy boutique café with a
erate the arthritic service, Landau isn’t a bad spot Don your beer drinking trousers and head down
European flavour. Curl up and read a book, or just
for a pork steak or some other Armenian culinary to Bishkek’s take on a Bavarian-style beer hall. They
drop in for a caffeine hit and a chocolate fix. $$$
goodies. Also, treat yourself to some decent Arme- brew their own stuff - such a relief from the insipid
nian conjac whilst your here, you’ll never go near bilge that’s normally sold as lager. Compliment your Cosmo Bar* (Sovietska/Moskovskaya)
Bishkek conjac again. Ever. $$$ pint with a plate of German sausage with sauerkraut. Board the sweet smelling elevator, ascend to the
$$$ top-floor Cosmo Bar and splash the cash with your
fellow free-spending cosmonauts. Elegant interior,
Chinese Uighur plush sofas, fancy drinks and pretty waitresses.
Huzzah! $$$$
Ak-Bata (108, Ibraimova) Karavan (Almatinkskoya/Chui) Crostini (191, Abdrahmanova)
This place must serve up pretty authentic dishes Excellent little stolvya (canteen) full of the timeless Situated inside the Hyatt, this is a joint to be re-
as it’s always full of Chinese playing mah-jong and regional favourites. Being han Uighur restaurant its served for a business lunch or marriage proposal
waving their chopsticks about. Smoky and stuffy, gero lagman or lagman pa Uighurski particularly stand only. Chef Taner Erdemir serves up mouth-water-
but in a nice way. $ out. No smoking, sit, eat and leave. $ ing international cusine, but at a price. $$$$$

December 2010 The Spektator

Bars, Restaurants & Clubs 23
Dillinger* (Gorky/Tynystanova) Navigator (103, Moskovskaya) Cyclone (136, Chui)
Glamorous VIP complex including a restaurant, bar A pricy, but pleasant place to while away an after- Smart Italian restaurant with plush interior, efficient,
and casino. A decedantly decorated and perculiarly noon. Sit in the bar area over a beer or lounge in the polite serving staff and a warm atmosphere to al-
endearing homage to the notorious bank robber - airy non-smoking conservatory. Attentive service leviate Bishkek’s winter chills. Pasta dishes stand out
we’re sure he would appreciate it. $$$$ among a menu of traditional Italian favourites. $$$
and a refreshing selection of salads, a good place
Fatboy’s* (Chui/Tynystanova) for a light, healthy lunch when fat and grease are Dolce Vita (116a, Akhunbaeva)
Civilized, friendly cafe bang in the middle of town and getting you down. $$$$ Cosy Italian restaurant with smiling waitresses serv-
a popular ex-pat meeting point. Sensible spot for con- ing excellent pizza. Also serves salads and European
versation, but if you’re alone there’s a mini-library to pe- Stary Edgar’s* (15, Panfilova) cuisine. Small terrace outside for summertime din-
ruse (although literary classics are thin on the ground). The concrete monstrosity of the Russian Theatre con- ing. $$
Check out the American pancakes for breakfast, top ceals one of Bishkek’s finest attempts at a cosy base-
marks. $$$ ment bar. Friendly staff, a decent menu and a collection Japanese
of old bits and bobs decorating the walls make Edgar’s
Four Seasons (116a, Tynystanova) an attractive alternative to the city’s mainstream cafés.
One of the poshest places to eat out in Bishkek. El- A blues band plays most nights and a pianist adds a ro- Aoyama (93, Toktogula)
egant, yet modern interior and polite service. Great Elegant sushi joint frequented by serious looking
mantic ambience on some Sunday evenings. $$$ suited-types concluding their latest dodgy deals.
place to splash out on a special occasion or just for
the hell of it. $$$$ The food’s excellent though - if you can scrape to-
U Mazaya (Behind ‘Zaks’ on Sovietskaya) gether enough soms. $$$$
Foyer (27, Erkindik ) Possibly Central Asia’s only rabbit themed restaurant.
Watari (Shevchenko, Frunze)
Foyer is an excellent place to enjoy an evening cock- Descend into this underground warren and tuck in. A small Japanese-owned restaurant that serves su-
tail or check your inbox with a cup of coffee. Free Also check out the fairy-light adorned flagship sister- shi as well as dishes with a more indian flavour. The
Wi-Fi, good deserts and blues on Tuesdays. $$$ rabbit-restaurant in Asenbai micro region. $$$
refined atmosphere makes it ideal for a business
meeting or just a sophisticated night out $$$
Griffon (Microregion 7) Vavilon (Microregion 7)
A cosy log-cabin affair with a large meat-roasting Finely presented dishes, reasonably priced beer (60
central fireplace. On one disturbing occasion the som) genuinely friendly and attentive service and live Korean
waiting staff were about as plesant as a bunch of music from 8-ish on most evenings. Definitely worth
chavs, but hopefully that was a passing phase. $$$ Petel (52, Zhykeeva Pudovkin)
the trek out to the suburbs ( tell your taxi driver to turn
Operating in the back room of a Korean family’s
left at the yuzhniy vorota and head towards Asenbai house, this is Korean style home-cooking at its most
Jam* (179, Toktogula)
An underground oasis of cool. Jam is a cafe with a for about 1.5km) $$$ personal. Closed on Sunday. Ring: 0543 922539 $$
full menu, kalians (shisha pipes) and a lounge bar Vis-a-Vis (26, Logvinenko)
atmosphere, open till 3am . $$$$ Look for the yellow awning between Kiev and Chui. Santa Maria (217, Chui)
This place is a new honey pot for ex pats. Steak is Plush Korean restaurant offering Eastern favourites,
Jumanji (Behind the circus) including exciting Korean barbecues where you get
always advisable when eating at an appendix to a
It’s strange. This place is decorated with fake jungle to cook your own dinner, plus an extensive Euro-
foliage and is based on a crap kids’ film yet still sort butcher’s, and the sirloin here is exceptional. Also, en-
pean menu. $$$
of works. You also get to roll a pair of Jumanji dice joy English breakfasts, chips that aren’t cold and local
before you order for the chance to win a special se- dark ale Chuiski on tap. Recommended! $$$
cret prize - we like this. $$$

Live Bar* (Kulatova/Pravda)

Indian Beirut (Shevchenko/Frunze)
Now in a new location, Beirut continues to serve en-
Twenty-four hour sports bar with live music at The Host (Sovietskaya, opposite the Hyatt) ticing Lebanese goodies including falaffle, humus,
weekends. Plenty of leather couches provide the A varied and interesting menu including fine Indian and tasty little meat pie things. $$$
ideal place to sip cocktails whilst watching the food make this place a real treat. On midweek days
Champions league at three in the morning. $$$$ there are also several excellent business lunch deals
offering a soup, salad, main course and dessert for Moldovan
Lounge Bar* (338a, Frunze) 250-350 som. A real stand out and a Spektator fa-
One of our favourite places to drink in the Summer- vourite! $$$$ Moldova Restaurant (Kievskaya/Turusbekova)
time, when we can afford it. Outdoor balcony-cum- If it’s been a while since you last went out for a
terrace high above the street with slouch-couches Italian Moldovan, this wooden paneled, sturdy-tabled ea-
and fine views of the circus - which you can some- tery may be the answer to your prayers. Also, the
times smell in hot weather. Nice. $$$ Adriatico (219, Chui) Moldovan Embassy is next door should you care
Reportedly suffering following the departure of to learn more about the world’s favourite budget-
Metro* (133, Chui) its Italian chef, Walter, although we have been told wine exporting country. $$$
In the impressive location of a former theatre, Metro that the soup is still excellent. $$$$
remains the première drinking hole for ex-pats. A Regional/Central Asian
high ceiling, a long bar and friendly staff compli- Bella Italia (Kievskaya/K.Akiev)
ment a good Tex-Mex menu and a wide selection Adriatico’s former Italian chef, Walter, has moved Arabica* (Mederova/Tynastanova)
of drinks. Metro is one of the best bets for catch- homes and is now serving a practically identical range This formerly sophisticated laid back shisha pipe)
ing sporting events on TV, although thanks to the of dishes at this spot just behind October cinema. bar has moved to a new location and, by the looks
hideously late kickoff times for Champions League Enjoy the best pizza in town, gnocci and other typi- of the bath in the toilets, may still be under devel-
football matches, don’t count on the staff waiting up cal Italian numbers, tasty business lunches from 200 opment. Three floors, VIP rooms, kaliyans aplenty.
unless it’s a big one. $$$ soms. $$$$ $$$

Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and December 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)
or garnish you desire, it’s also possible to rent a BBQ.
To get there take a taxi to Vorentsovka village and, if Night

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
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
Diskoklubs venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an exten-
sive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring,
Advertise with 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.
the Spektator unseedy. In fact it stands out for being a bastion of Rock or blues bands normally play at the week-
Rates from 2000 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
Email: place; then again, you may not give a shit. Tables by Tequila Blues (Turesbekova/Engels) the dancefloor cost 1000 som but include drinks up A possible misnomer, the tequila is just fine but
to this value. (Entrance charge 200-400 som) the blues is non-existent. Russian studenty types
mosh away the nights to Rock bands in an at-
Fire & Ice (Tynystanova/Erkindik) mospheric underground bunker. (Music charge
Russian/Ukrainian A slightly grittier version of Golden Bull. Again, for- 150 som)
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. $$
Gvozd (Western side of the Philharmonia)
tea in a giant samovar. $$$
Foreigners for free, urban grooves and acceptable
Zeppelin (43, Chui)
Khutoryanka (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge) prices at the bar. ‘Gvozd’ means ‘nail’ in Russian, but
Zeppelin is in the same vein as the old Tequila
Unassuming, to put it mildly, on the outside, this you’ve probably got a better chance at the Golden
Blues but not quite so spit and sawdust. On the
place is a revelation on the inside. Delicious food, Bull. Its almost like the crowd from Pharaoh have mi-
nights we’ve visited, there’s been a line up of young
reasonable service, Ukrainian brass band music grated. (Entrance ‘foreigners’ free)
rock or punk bands strutting their stuff, heavier
on the cd player. We love it! $$$
Platinum (East side of the Philharmonia) beats seem to go down best with the young Rus-
Taras Bulba (Near the Yuzhniy Vorota on Sovietskaya) 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 (Entrance charge 100-150 som)
Bishkek, Taras Bulba serves great food. We liked the battle with some of Kyrgyzstan’s most convivial
potato pancakes with caviar, the delicious soups ‘elite’ for gold-digging temptresses. (Entrance Live music also common at Stary Edgar’s, Beatles
and fresh salads. $$$ charge 400-500 som) Bar, Foyer and Blonder Pub (see ‘restaurants’)

December 2010 The Spektator

Map 25
vardia a Gvardia
Mol o d aya G Moloday

Jo lu

Lva Tolstogo

1 2 13
23 ve.
Manas a
Manas a4 5


Manas a



6 11

T. Abdymom
Isanova 8 Koenkozo
Isanova 7
12 Dvorets
9 10

unov stadium
Togolok M

Michael Frunze

k Jo

k o 14



Lva Tolstog

Orozbeko a


18 a
17 Erkind



19 21
l Frunze

a ova
Fatianov Tynystan

Tynystan 20 AYA



SOVETSK aeva 24
A. Usenb






va December 2010 The Spektator

26 What’s On
Metro Festive Calendar TUK Dates for 2011 Entertainment Directory
24th December 2nd-5th January The Puppet Theatre
Christmas Eve Shindig Snowshoes trip in Issyk Kul region Sovietskaya/Michurina
Let the good times roll at your favourite ex-pat Cross country and snowshoes trip in the Ak- Performances on Sundays at 11:00am.
drinking hole, the Metro. A great opportunity Sayy gorge area. Visit local sights. Cost per
to see Christmas in with the people you love, head for a group of 17 people is 3950 soms. Russian Drama Theatre
rather than your grandparents. Price includes consultation, accommodation, Tynystanova, 122 (Situated in Oak Park)
food, cross country ski instructor and equip- Tel.: 662032, 621571
25th December ment! Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-18:00
Christmas Lunch + and an Evening of Rock Tickets 30-100 som
Order turkey and all the rest with lashings of January 9th Local and international plays in Russian.
beer before going home, bloated, and returning Trekking in Ala Archa gorge.
in the evening to watch four of Bishkek’s hottest One day trip to the Ala Archa gorge. Hike to The Conservatory
live acts. Pay on the door. the Ak Say waterfall and visit the International Jantosheva, 115
Memorial to Kyrgyz Alpinists. Walk in the pano- Tel: 479542
31st December rama of Peak Korona. The trip covers different Concerts by students and professors.
Down and Dirty New Year’s Knees up levels of intensity, and is suitable for most be-
Simply the social event of the season - live music ginners. Overall distance: 12km. Kyrgyz State Philharmonic
and a retro disco to bop into the night, bang in
Chui Prospect, 253
the place where everybody knows your name January 15th
Tel: 212262, 212235
(even if you can’t remember theirs). There’s no Alpine skiing at Too-Ashuy ski base.
sugar-coating this - it gets wild. Hours: 17:00-19:00 in summer
Transport and organization fees including con-
Tickets: 70-100 som (sometimes much more for
sultation and guide are as follows:
Vis a Vis Festive Calendar For a group of 7 tourists - 600 som (base fare), special performances)
570 som (TUK members) There are two concert halls featuring classical,
24th, 25th December Equipment hire rates not included. traditional Kyrgyz, and pop concerts and a variety
Weinachten, Christmas of shows.
We hear Christmas eve is the big one for Ger- January 16th
mans, but regardless of your nationality, David Alpine ski at the Orlovka ski base. Opera Ballet Theatre
Hutton and his team are ready to whip up two Transport and organization fares including Sovietskaya/Abdymununova
days worth of prawn cocktail/ham and pineap- consultation and guide are: Tel: 66 15 48
ple salads, a choice of roasts (turkey, pork or For a group of 7 tourists 450 som (base fare), Hours: 17:00-19:00
beef ) with stuffing, and a choice of puddings 430 som (TUK); Tickets: 150-600 som
(cheesecake, profiteroles, fruit salad). A glass Tickets for performances sell out very quickly and
of champagne or wine is also thrown in for a January 16th it is necessary to book a seat in advance.
bargain price of 980 soms per head. Normal One day trek in the Alamedin gorge.
menu also available. Walk in the panorama of the Black Finger and
Aman-Too peaks. Hike to a local waterfall and
31st December picnic in the open air. Visit a local spring. Suit- Live updates
New Year’s Eve bash able for all ages and abilities. Distance: 12 km.
Hot stews, cold cuts, salads, deserts, cham- Same day return to Bishkek. For all the Bishkek opera, ballet and concert listings,
pagne and party poppers, a stone’s throw from check our frequently updated What’s On listings at:
the White House where the city’s best firework January 23rd
display will be in full flow. 1,250 soms per Snowshoes trek in the Takir Tor gorge
head. Reservation essential, call David Hutton One day trek around the Takir Tor gorge. Hike
on (0775) 582369 to a marine lake. Suitable for all ages and abili- Spektral Travel
ties. Distance: 18km
New Year Evenings Truly shagged out from New Year’s exertions, you might
January 29th want to just lie on the couch and watch classic Soviet
23rd-30th December Alpine ski at the Orlovka ski base. films repeated ten times a day over the festive period.
Groove away at Dillinger (Soviet/Gorkova) Transport and organization fares including Then again, that might blow. We recommend the first
The lights are low and the dance floor is open. consultation and guide are: date on the TUK calendar (left) or a jaunt to Altyn Arashan
Get on down to Dillinger club for a series of am- For a group of 7 tourists - 450 som (base fare), where you can combine skiing and hot spring dipping in
the same day. Contact Yak Tours (03922) 56901 for details.
bient evenings to warm you up for New Year. 430 som (TUK)

Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, Chui av. 4A, Office A4
Tel.: +996 (312) 90 61 15, 90 61 39

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

December 2010 The Spektator