You are on page 1of 27


The Spektator Magazine

Founder: Tom Wellings

Managing Editor: Chris Rickleton (

Staff writers: Dennis Keen (den-, Robert Marks (, Will Brown, Evan Harris, Patrick Barrow, Pavel Kropotkin Anthony Butts (anthonybutts@, Sergey Vysotsky

Guest Contributor: Holly Myers

Design: Aleka Claire

Advertising Manager: Irina Kasymova (email:

Want to contribute as a freelance writer? Please contact:

writer? Please contact: This Month News and Views 4 Islamic undercurrents and

This Month

News and Views


Islamic undercurrents and those dastardly WikiLeaks; it is a bad time to be an Ameri- can diplomat in Central Asia.

Villain of the Year


Spektator readers had the opportunity to elect their favourite bad guy in 2010, and they voted overwhelmingly in favour of…

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.

of late literary hero Chingiz Aitma- tov along the way. Focus Going for Gold Karakol-based journalist


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-

mining concern Kumtor.



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.

to find Central Asian falconry pin up Makpal Abdrazakova. The Guide Restaurants, Bars, Clubs All the

The Guide

Restaurants, Bars, Clubs

All the best bars and clubs in town.

City Map

Don’t get lost.

What’s On

The pick of the entertainment listings.




ON THE COVER: “A very Metro Christmas”: Clipart taken from (Aleka Claire)

Christmas”: Clipart taken from (Aleka Claire) The Spektator Magazine is available at locations throughout

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.

CAMP Ala-too, NCCR, The Bishkek Opera & Ballet Society. S p e k tator The
CAMP Ala-too, NCCR, The Bishkek Opera & Ballet Society. S p e k tator The


The Spektator is now online at


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- gyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, that are being slowly swallowed up in the city’s urban sprawl. The vil- lage, once a Soviet collective farm, has become gradually surrounded by so-called novostroiki, new constructions that feature mansions built by Bishkek’s better-off, as well as the more modest dwellings belonging to migrants from the prov- ince. Neighborhoods like Kök Jar reflect the so- cial dynamics of present-day Kyrgyzstan. Along

to keep a certain independence.” While homegrown and locally funded Islamic charities are a well-established phenomenon in Arab and other ‘classical’ Muslim societies, it is rather new in Kyrgyzstan. Together with the ap- pearance of Islamic banking and halal cafés over the last five years, they suggest that Islam’s influ- ence in Kyrgyz society is spreading. Ibraev, who studied at Al-Azhar on a Muftiate scholarship in 2000, was inspired by the Islamic foundations and charities that operate in many Muslim countries.

pends and other material support to some 200 students attending regular universities and other educational institutions in Osh and Bishkek. The organization has also published a dozen of reli- giously themed books and pamphlets. The foundation also offers grants to help believers undertake religious obligations, such as the Hajj pilgrimage, and it provides assist- ance for Kurban Ait, the annual feast of sacrifice. “Last year, we slaughtered some 250 animals and distributed the meat to poor families,” said Kara-


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- cals, was sponsored by a Kuwaiti association, was built about 10 years ago but stood unused for a while because of poor management and a lack of attendance by locals. For the past five years, it has served as the Abu Bakr Al-Sydyk madrassa. Inside, two dozen young men receive reli- gious instruction. “There is growing interest for

Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Later, Ibraev did doctoral research on the dynamics of Islam in Kyrgyzstan. “Despite the increasing interest in Islam and the growing numbers of mosques, it is still too much about rituals and traditions rather than social responsibility and everyday life”, Ibraev ex-

ers and leaders. He added that the Muftiate this year asked the foundation to help organize a pil- grimage to Mecca for 50 individuals out of Kyr- gyzstan’s overall quota of 4,500. “It’s the first time they do this,” Kojayarov said. After the riots that ravaged southern Kyr- gyzstan in June, volunteers and supporters of

Islam in the country, also in the capital,” Ustad Kurban, the madrassa’s director, explained as he showed off the spartan, yet well-maintained premises. “This is why we train future cadres. The courses take three years and the curriculum is ap- proved by the Muftiate [A state-sanctioned reli- gious agency]. We only admit students from the ninth class, after they attended regular school. In the afternoon, when the regular schools are fin- ished, people from the neighborhood can come and attend courses about Islam, or they can use the mosque at prayer times too.” All of the madrassa’s students are boarders. Most students and staffers come from southern

welcome here, regardless of ethnicity. But there is

plained. “That is why we set up the foundation. It’s not always easy. We have to fight Parts of the political elite and the intelligentsia in this country are still afraid of religion and do not want to be associated with it. Sometimes they try to discredit us.” Adep Bashati has some 40 core personnel, some of whom work in other professional spheres besides their engagement with the foundation. It also relies on hundreds of volunteers, many of them entrepreneurs, teachers and students. As is the case with many Islamic charities, education is Adep Bashati’s focal point. Besides its madrassas

Adep Bashati operated a bakery that provided bread for about three weeks to families displaced by the violence. Victims also received financial aid. “After the riots, there was an urgent need for humanitarian aid, but of course it is no long-term option,” Ibraev continued. “The economy, which was always multi-ethnic here in Osh, has suffered a lot with the riots,”Ibraev noted. “In the current nationalist climate it won’t be easy to restore this. But we have to try. We are a multi-ethnic association, so are our supporters and Islam in not bound to ethnicity. If we do small- scale social work, it can maybe set an example.

Kyrgyz teachers’ protest spreads north

regions of Kyrgyzstan, a few are from Talas Prov- 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 are Kyrgyz,” Kurban explained. “Of course, all are

Hundreds of school teachers in northern regions of Kyrgyzstan are rallying for higher pay and other demands following striking teachers in the

bayeva. The protestors say local authorities should also end the practice of rationing potable water


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- ing madrassas, or go abroad.” The madrassa at Kök Jar is one of three on the outskirts of Bishkek run by Adep Bashati, a Kyrgyzstan-based foundation that is involved into a wide range of social and charitable activi- ties. Adep Bashati (meaning “source of morality” in English) was founded in 2003 by a group of Kyrgyz graduates of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The organization now has representatives and volunteers in all of Kyrgyzstan’s provinces. According to a study on Islamic social organi- zations by the Social Research Centre in Bishkek, Adep Bashati receives most of its funding via contributions from sympathetic Muslims and lo- cal businessmen. That stands in contrast to local non-governmental organizations that work to foster civil society, many of which are depend- ent on international donors. “Some people think that we’re awash with funds from Turkey or Arab countries, but that is not so,” contended Mars Ibraev, one of Adep Bashati’s founders who gave an interview at the foundation’s office on the out- skirts of Osh. “In fact, we do not work on foreign funding. We think that it is up to the Muslims of

Educators in the district of Jeti-Oguz in the northeastern Issyk-Kul province announced they would begin protest action on Monday, the Bishkek-based news agency reported. Besides calling for higher pay, the Issyk-Kul teachers want a revision in the way they are paid and a 50 percent discount on utility bills. The educators vow to begin a month-long strike if educational authorities do not meet their demands, they said. In neighboring Naryn province, around 200 school teachers and their supporters took to the main square of Naryn city Friday to demand higher wages and cheaper electricity in solidar- ity with their southern colleagues who have been on strike since early December. The teachers, who are paid from $30 to $40 a month, want their salaries increased to $200 to $250 a month. The Kyrgyz Ministry of Finance has said the government does not have the budget to meet the rising claims that are spreading nationwide. The Naryn protestors have other claims besides pay and electricity on their statement

The list also calls for the government to come clean with details on the deals it is making with foreign investors. “The statement speaks about border lands and areas where foreign companies work (Aksai and Arpa). Protesters demand not to sell them,” cited one of the coordinators of the protest action, Erkin Asanaliev, as saying on Friday. Asanaliev, who heads the Naryn Mission Coa- lition for Democracy and Civil Society, charges lo- cal officials of stealing $808,000 of public funds. More than 500 people signed the protest let- ter, he said. Last week in the southern province of Ozgon, around 500 secondary school teachers picketed local government offices for increased pay and lower utility bills. Some 150 of their colleagues in neighboring Bazar-Korgon district are participating in a strike that began there at the turn of this month. Kyrgyzstan ranked last in the Program for In- ternational Student Assessment (PISA) education survey that ranks school systems internationally, it was announced on Friday.

December 2010 The Spektator

This Month


Unverified WikiLeak recalls a “dominant” Maxim Bakiev


BISHKEK, December 10 (

The report quoted the then director of the

The Russian Ambassador

Litzenberger noted that the Russian ambas-

The reliability of the Rooski Reporter WikiLe-

Russian news blog Rooski Reporter published two secret documents attributed to the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, offering descriptions of Maxim Bakiev, son of former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev. However, the accuracy of the data has not yet been confirmed. From these documents it is understood that Maxim Bakiev was one of the originators of the idea to maintain the Manas airbase and rename it the “Transit Centre”. Bakiev and Charge d’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, Lee Litzen- berger, reportedly discussed the base on the evening of July 13, 2009. Maxim Bakiev, who was not engaged in any

Party at Issyk-Kul

State Agency of Physical Culture and Sports, Al- exander Voinov, who said that he, in addition to other senior officials, governors and MPs, had attended the event, because it was “required” of them. “Voinov said that leading businessmen were “invited” to buy tickets to the event for between 10 and 15 thousand dollars to finance the open- ing. Voinov said that government officials and businessmen refused to come on principle, but that their work and business interests would subsequently be threatened,” read Litzenberger’s report. The U.S. diplomat noted in the document

sador was not surprised by this news, but that he [Vlasov] “virulently” expressed the desire to know “all the details about the money” mentioned by the deputy. At the end of the document the U.S. diplo- mat concluded that, based on what he had seen, “the dominant role of Maxim Bakiev in the Kyrgyz economy,” was confirmed beyond doubt. Litzen- berger noted that this causes discontent among business leaders and officials who believe “that [his] excesses in the end, will harm the family and the country,”

aks “is not confirmed”

public office at the time, organized the air base’s preservation via some “American Friends,” whose names and titles were not disclosed in the docu- ment. “Maxim said that he agreed on the basis of the new arrangement (“the name changes, the operation stays”) with U.S. “friends” in Washing- ton, before the arrival of the American negotiat- ing team in April,” read the report which Litzen- berger supposedly sent to Washington after a meeting with Bakiev Jr. “At one point, when the American side resist- ed the Kyrgyz proposal to replace all references to “military personnel” and instead use the term “security personnel” Maxim called “friends” in

that although “Many businessmen seem to crave to curry favor with Maxim,” they “made hypocriti- cal comments” following his departure. “In what country do we live if we all, including poor Igor [Chudinov] have to wag our tail before his son just to stay in business?” one of them was quoted as saying. The document stated that Maxim Bakiev was watched by eight bodyguards at the party, and added an explanation for such security measures. “Voinov said that Maxim is greatly in need of enhanced protection, given that he took over the businesses of many people in the country,” wrote Litzenberger.

In an interview with the Russian service of the BBC, the Editor-in-Chief of Rooski Reporter claimed that his “publication receives documents from a journalist, working with Wikileaks.” However, according to the BBC, Rooski Re- porter is not among the resources that are noted as official partners of WikiLeaks, all of whom have access to at least part of the data archives. In the article, the BBC notes that a guarantee of the documents’ validity and their belonging to the WikiLeaks archive is currently unavailable. “However, it is not yet possible to reliably verify all the materials,” says the BBC. Meanwhile, several Pakistani newspapers

Washington to resolve the problem,” the report continues. The parties also discussed the possibility of opening an additional training camp for the U.S. military, despite the fact that Maxim Bakiev ac- knowledged that Russia “is very unhappy” in this regard. “He said that the Russians were terribly angry and tried to punish Kyrgyzstan, but they were in a quandary, referring to [President Dmitri]

The report also highlights the presence on that evening of Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Valentin Vlasov, and noted his addressing the issue of the U.S. airbase Manas with one of the parliamentary deputies, also a guest at the event. “We received orders directly from the Ameri- can president. Everything will be as it was [Manas will stay open], but you should know that it’s all about money,” are Vlasov’s comments to the MP, as stated in the document.

admitted that they published false dispatches, claiming they belonged to U.S. embassies, in which diplomats spoke about an alleged split in the Indian Army and support in India for “groups of religious fanatics.” The BBC points out that this could be the handiwork of Pakistani intelligence. Whatever the forgery’s source, the admission marks the first detection of false dispatches since the beginning of the publication of American diplomats’ secret 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- ior of the son of the president as “quiet,” but “a lit- tle spoiled,” and provided an unflattering physical account of Bakiev Jr., noting that he was “a little overweight” and “balding,” with a taste for expen- sive Scotch whisky. “[At intervals] Maxim would stop talking, and wait for outsiders to clear the room,” said the re- port of their private conversation.

An independent Kyrgyz commission charged with investigating the causes of the deadly ri- ots that ripped through the Osh and Jalalabad provinces in June released its findings on Mon- day and blamed ethnic Uzbeks for the unrest. “The local conflict took place in the south of Kyrgyzstan that was initiated by ethnic Uz- beks, the news agency quoted Kyr- gyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun as announc- ing on Monday.

labad oblasts into the autonomous region of Uzbekistan. They were linked to Uzbek citi- zens, rich Uzbek people that oppose [Uzbek President Islam] Karimov. They wanted to overthrow Karimov and put their own person instead of him and govern entire Uzbekistan with Osh and Jalalabad oblasts in it.” Akun said the commission completed its work two months ago and will soon present its findings formally to the interim President Roza

In another document, also published on the Rooski Reporter web site, there are details of an event on June 20, 2009, held in celebration of the opening of the hotel Vityaz. Vityaz was a luxury hotel owned by Maxim Bakiev. On the evening, according to Litzenberger “some 200 other guests were invited,” including the U.S Charge D’Affairs.

“They started this conflict, financed and in- stigated common Uzbek farmers to go against Kyrgyzs,” he said. He said the ethnic Uzbek population had very clear goals in instigating the unrest. “The goal of agent provocateurs was to create autonomy and make Uzbek the official

Otunbayeva. An international commission headed by Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen is also in the midst of investigating the causes of the ethnic riots. The commission began its work in late September and is expected to publish its re- port in late February 2011.

December 2010 The Spektator


This Month





6 This Month Villain o f the Year CHRIS RICKLETON The results of our ‘Villain of


The results of our ‘Villain of the Year’ vote are in, Maxim Bakiev claiming victory in

T HE EVIL GENIUS of privatization po-Kirgizski, erstwhile ‘Prince of Kyr-

of baddy. In lieu of these and other qualities,

gone to the effort of compiling a mini-bio of Baks junior paints the opposite picture of a sen-

He drank, but only little by little. He had a taste


landslide that even his dad would have

gyzstan’ and an alleged accomplice in

sitive and refined young man, the fulcrum of a

been proud of. Taking this opportunity to get merry and sentimental, we would like

to extend festive greetings to all our read- ers, and our sincere hope that 2011 will be

the Zionist conspiracy to take over the world, Maxim Bakiev is a special breed

you, readers of the Spektator, voted resound- ingly to elect him as Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Villain of the

tight-knit group of friends who graduated from the same Business Administration class at the Kyrgyz-Russian-Slavic University, going on to hit up Bishkek’s evening hot spots together, the indispensible core of a broader ‘elite’ entourage.

happier, healthier, less turbulent year for Kyrgyzstan than 2010. Cheers!


Year’ for 2010, a year from which a whole cast of scoundrels emerged as potential competition. Beating off claims to the top spot from Osh

Comparing him to the hell raising, heavy- drinking Aidar Akaev, son of Kyrgyzstan’s first president Askar, the blogger notes that Maxim


strongman Melis Myrzakmatov (2nd place), and making his father Kurmanbek (3rd place) seem relatively benign, ‘Max Baks’ topped a ten man

“Never showed disrespect to nightclub staff

for fine things; expensive drinks, Swiss watches,


list that also included his uncle, an Uzbek drug

Chivas Regal [cigarettes]




lord, and personal acquaintances of the readers who voted. We have it on good information that the former president’s son is a fan of the Spekta- tor (we distributed the magazine in many of the bars owned), and would therefore like to offer him our heartfelt congratulations on receiving this prize. Max, if you’re reading this in your Lon- don pent house, know that it’s official: You really are a son-of-a-bitch. Not that we intend to slur Tatyana Bakieva, the put upon former first lady of Kyrgyzstan. To the contrary, in the aftermath of the events of April 7, media sources speculated that Mama Bakieva had actually held pleading sessions with her husband, in a futile attempt to rein in their progeny’s increasingly megalomaniac am- bitions. However, as discovered by Josef Stalin’s mother, her dying regret that her son didn’t join the priesthood, a real villain never listens to his

If the account disappoints in its failure to de- tect the key psychological deficiencies present in all super-villains, then at least it notes a start- ing point for young Bakiev’s career in woman- izing. Max’s mixed Russian-Kyrgyz parentage left him with an unusual face that both national groups have been quick to disown, still, there were clearly a sufficient number of women who found his buggish, slanty blue eyes and accumu- lating personality difficult to resist. Long before his daddy ascended, almost by chance, to the presidential hot seat, Maxim had already carved out a niche for himself as a local playboy with all the right connections. When the 2005 Tulip Rev- olution allowed his family access to the impov- erished country’s coffers he went international, bedding beauties from Russia, Turkey, Israel and the Baltic states, lavishing them with expensive jewellery in sweet parting.

Above Kurmanbek Bakiev’s son was always


A Prince and his Princedom


more comfortable taking money than giving it away (archive)

“He never missed a skirt”

In our tenth issue we made the statement that

Right Maxim Bakiev enjoyed only the briefest of stints as an official ‘investment tsar’ for the government, but certainly made the most of it (archive)

Although little is known of Maxim’s childhood, we can only assume that one of his classmates repeatedly stole his lunch money in order to turn him into such an avaricious and power hungry jerk. Nevertheless, a blogger who has

“the Bakievs wanted fifty per cent of anything with a pulse.” This was, of course, no exaggera- tion, and the list of Maxim’s former assets in Kyrgyzstan is mind-boggling. Take about half of the listings in ‘The Guide’ (p 22) for starters.

December 2010 The Spektator

This Month

This Month 7 This, however, was only the soft underbelly of the Bakiev corporate empire, the

This, however, was only the soft underbelly of the Bakiev corporate empire, the meat and bones of which was in “stealth wealth” – stakes in local tel-

of their shared holding group MGN after a war- 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

you’re still unsure about where fact stops and

fuel contracts at the US base ‘Manas’, an offshore interest in English football club Blackpool F.C, lo- cal banks and, naturally, the state budget. Add to this nauseous array of riches holding companies accused of laundering money for the Italian Mafia

ness trip in the US during the first week of April, Maxim was supposedly called by an aide and ad- vised not to return to Kyrgyzstan, as the political situation in the country was “shaky”.

His post-revolutionary phase

When rebels unfurled banners outside the White

fiction starts in relation to Maxim Bakiev, the now infamous ‘WikiLeaks’ concerning the former presi- dent’s son are essential reading. Though some leaks have yet to be tested for authenticity, Maxim consistently emerges from them as incredibly“dec-

Indeed, the ‘Prince of Kyrgyzstan’ even

and a hand in the bullion smuggling business in Russia, and it becomes clear why Max, alleged to have enjoyed playing cards “with a deck of pure gold” bears comparison to some of fictional spy James Bond’s most celebrated nemeses. Dodgy

House the day after violent clashes between government officials and protesters in Talas, Maxim, more so than his father, was the target.

adent”, “over-confident” and prone to appropriat- ing things that don’t technically belong to him.

showed up on his British counterpart’s radar, when HRH Andrew Duke of York came to Bishkek

Russian accent when speaking English?: Check.

The Kyrgyz people had long harboured the sus-


part of a diplomatic mission to the region. Ac-

A quick read of Niccole Machiavelli’s infa- mous political treatise ‘Il Principe’ will tell you that any prince should reserve a certain amount of dis- dain for his subjects. In the immediate aftermath of the events of April 7, Bakiev junior was asked by one journalist: “Maxim, what is waiting for you back in Kyrgyzstan?”Mindful of the importance of positive PR at such a delicate moment in his fam-

picion that due to the contempt with which they treated the common folk, the Bakievs could not possibly be native Kyrgyz. Whilst Bakiev Sr. was repeatedly denounced as a Dungan, his ren- egade son was more loudly barracked as a ‘Dirty Jew’, their apparent genetic disconnect of minor importance to the growing lynch mob in central Bishkek.

cording to a cable attributed to Tatiana Gfoeller, US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Prince Andrew took up the subject of Maxim Bakiev “with gusto,” when Western businessmen began complaining about the president’s son demanding “his cut” from various enterprises. More recent tidbits have suggested that the best leaks are yet to come. One that surfaced in

ily’s reign, Max quipped “5 million sheep!” If the

Max, as if conducting a master class in vil-


Russian publication shows Maxim in his ele-

comment was intended as a self-portrayal in the ‘good shepherd’mould, then it certainly failed, in- stead reinforcing the ‘big bad wolf’ depiction that was already common currency in Kyrgyzstan. Almost six months before the coup in which he was jettisoned from power, Kurmanbek Bakiev

lainy, was rather far away when it all kicked off. Regardless, this didn’t stop him plotting a path back to power with Uncle Janysh in a phone call which somehow found its way onto the inter- net. “We need to find 500 bastards,” opined Max at one point during the call. “Yes, 500 bastards,” agreed Janysh approvingly. In the same week of

ment, the centre of attention at the opening of his hotel in Issyk-Kul. The crowd at the gathering were far from enamoured with Bakiev Jr., many of them having been squeezed for $10-15,000 as a “contribution” to the opening. The author of the cable, embassy attaché Lee Litzenberger, notes:

“Maxim mingled among the guests with his of-

less, at least one other person was. Then Chairman


high spirits that he stripped off and leapt into the

AsiaUniversalBank, Mikhail Nadal, was in such

appointed his son Maxim as head of the newly created Central Agency for Development Invest- ment and Innovation (CADII). This ominously-ti- tled institution soon assumed all the appetites of its new chief, and Max proved admirably innova-

May 2010, the regional administration buildings in Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken were seized by a group of, well, about 500 bastards. Maxim Bakiev, for his part, strenuously denies any involvement in the turmoil that afflicted Kyr-

ficial wife Aijana (he is well known to have an- other girlfriend) on one side and Prime Minister Igor Chudinov on the other. Neither Aijana nor 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

lion of a $300 million dollar ‘soft’ loan from Russia in a private bank account. Still, there were signs that the wheels were falling off the clan juggernaut. In March 2010, Maxim’s main business partner, Latvian American Yevgeny Gurevich, resigned as Director-General

“events in his homeland with horror”. However, whether or not this is true – and all good baddies lie – the Spektator supports its readers’ choice of him as ‘Villain of the Year’, because at minimum he stole a frightening amount of loot, and most

freezing lake outside for a midnight dip. With all those wealthy, powerful people that Maxim made miserable, there was always going to be one per- son he made truly happy.

crucially, he got away with it scot free.

December 2010 The Spektator


Out & About




From sweaty boxing gyms to rust-bucket Soviet planes, Will Brown has experienced his fair share of Bishkek’s ‘gnarly’ side. Next up on the list is a needle-sharp glance at the capital’s tattoo scene, only this time, he’s taking a back seat.

tattoo scene, only this time, he’s taking a back seat. WILL BROWN A FEW WEEKS AGO


A FEW WEEKS AGO I was talking with an Italian friend of mine about tattoos. She told me that she was interested in getting something small on her foot, but that she didn’t know how to go

about getting it done, or whether she should even

entertain the idea in a country such as Kyrgyzstan.

I found the proposition extremely interesting be-

cause Bishkek - for reasons of health and hygiene

doesn’t particularly stand out as the safest place to get a tattoo. As someone already inked up, I was intrigued, and decided to turn the proposition into

a challenge. I began tracking down information on the tattoo scene in the Kyrgyz capital.

I started by asking around to see if there

were any tattoo parlours in the city. Many peo- ple I spoke with told me that there is a place in the city “somewhere on some street,” but no one

from Moscow. When I asked about his studio he told me that he either rented out salons like the one we were meeting in, or brought his kit to cli- ents’ houses. I talked to Nikita about the design my friend wanted, and asked him how he pitched his prices. We then decided to have him over to our apartment on Saturday to ink her up. Originally I had the impression that Russians were the only ones who got tattoos here however,

after five minutes of talking to Nikita about his business I was surprised to find out that the major- ity of his clientele were actually Kyrgyz women. Al- though very few Kyrgyz get body tattoos, there is

a solid market here for tattoo makeup or “Tatuazh”. Other than creating products of his own ar- tistic expertise, Nikita also finds himself playing ‘touch up’ - applying corrections to other artists’ work. I listened disturbed as he told me about


knew exactly where. Eventually, it was suggested that I look on the Diesel Forum ( for in- formation. Because very few businesses here in

an artist in the city who sometimes works while drunk, leading to disastrous results; scars and blurred images. For Nikita, quality is a mantra. He


Kyrgyzstan actually have their own websites, they post their services and locations on the forum.


dles and inks, all to get the highest quality results.

constantly on the hunt for the best quality nee-



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 were a serious obstacle in the search. Getting

it has a good open space with a large bed. He showed her the design she had asked for and ap-


over these teething troubles I have found it to be an incredible resource.

plied it to her foot. He then drew over a few areas with a special pen and readied his kit. I turned on



quickly came across a twenty-three-year-

some music and a few minutes later his needle

Above Nikita works his own special brand of magic (photo Will Brown)

old Russian artist named Nikita who was answer- ing questions, offering advice and posting his

was vigilantly buzzing away, perforating the soft of my friend’s ankle as she got “tatted” on the bed.

Nikita’s Vizitka

artwork for those that were interested. I looked up his contact information and called him. We agreed to meet on Wednesday at a hair salon called ‘Vash Stil’: Your Style.

The whole process from setting up shop to closing down lasted about two and a half hours, but when the tattoo was finished it looked amazing, comparing positively with most I had seen done

Artistic Tattoo and Permanent Makeup Tel.: 0-555-674-108 Email:

When we met up, I asked him about the ba- sics: How he handled body substance isolation, where he did his work, and how long he had been working for. He explained to me the impor-

back home. It seems that most tattoos here are inked in this fly-by manner; of the few actual tattoo artists here, most of them are freelancers like Nikita. To be sure, if you’re a foreigner in Bishkek and

Художественное тату и перманентный макияж (татуаж) сот.: 0-555-674-108 Nikita.

tance of new needles, gloves, clean hands, and a clean work environment. Some of the precau- tions regarding safety had been taken on board during a tattoo certification course he took a few years ago, but he began his trade earlier still, as a

you’re looking for a tattoo, Nik is your guy. He may be a little busy though, since many more of our friends have been lining up to get work done with him. His biggest hope is that he can open 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


Out & About



10 Out & About Bookish Bishkek HOLLY MYERS Holly Myers , a doctoral student at the


Holly Myers, a doctoral student at the Uni- versity of Virginia, is writing her dissertation on contemporary literature in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. More so than that of its


T WOULD BE INACCURATE to call Chingiz Aitmatov a dissident writer. In fact, authori- ties in Moscow often celebrated his literary achievements as proof that the Soviet im- pact on indigenous populations in the non-

Years (1980), tells the story of an elderly Kazakh man trying to bury his dead friend according to traditional Muslim customs – a contemporary sto- ryline that blends folklore with a surprising science fiction subplot. Though it was acclaimed by Soviet

larger neighbour, Kyrgyzstan’s book market is feeling the strains of post-Soviet transi- tion and linguistic division. Nevertheless, thanks to several leading lights in the local literature community, help is at hand.

Russian republics had been a rousing success. Writing in both Russian and Kyrgyz, Aitmatov won more than forty state prizes over the course of his literary career, which spanned from the lit- erary ‘thaw’ of the post-Stalin years, through the long drag of the Brezhnev years and into over a decade-and-a-half of Kyrgyz independence. Given the union-wide acclaim with which his work was received, Aitmatov’s writing, like that of other Soviet-era authors, is vulnerable to accusations of being mere Communist Party mouthpiece. This is a common point of contention in the study of So- viet literature, as many scholars automatically con- demn works that fell in step with party dictates as being compromised or contrived. Speaking in an interview in 2005, Kyrgyzstan’s literary champion had this to say in response to a question about ‘lip service to the censor’:

critics, its ambiguous themes – common features of Aitmatov’s writing – allowed for multiple read- ings. An extra chapter, which Aitmatov said had been cut by Soviet censors because it depicted the interrogation, torture and death of a man arrested during Stalin’s rule, was published in 1990. The chapter may have had personal significance. While Aitmatov’s father, Torokul, was one of the first Kyr- gyz communists and a regional party secretary, he was arrested in 1937 and liquidated on charges of bourgeois nationalism. His body was found during the excavation of a mass grave at Chon Tash, the re- sult of a massacre during the height of Stalin’s‘Great Purge’ (see Secrets of the Dead; issue 8 of the Spekta- tor). The briefest glance at this chapter dismisses any notion that Aitmatov’s authorial intentions were to tow the party line. Aitmatov’s first successful work, Jamilya, was

Above Tales about hard-working ants in Kyr- gyzstan have gone bilingual, but not in the way you might have expected (Holly Myers)

“In every age and under every regime, and espe- cially at times of totalitarianism in which art is sub- jected to constant censorship, there is a possibility of damage to the artist’s freedom, to his possibility of be- ing frank and true to himself and to his feelings. But in every era and under every regime, it is always the same question with regard to the individual’s moral level. Adaptation is the human being’s constant compan- ion in the world, yet we must not forget that sincerity and honesty are morality at its highest level. We must

Though perhaps lacking the dissident creden-

published for the first time in 1958, in both Rus- sian and Kyrgyz. Lacking the political edge of his later works, this beautifully-written novella was nonetheless a critical first step in gaining recogni- tion for Kyrgyz literature. The eponymous heroine, high-spirited, sharp-tongued and beautiful, strug- gles against the confines of her small village life and an unsatisfying marriage. Her new husband, a soldier in the war, mentions Jamilya only briefly at the conclusion of his letters from the front;“and give regards to my wife.” In this, what the French writer

Above Right Raritet bookstores – the capital’s market leader, are open from 9-6pm Monday to Friday, 9-5pm on Saturdays and 9-3pm on Sundays (Holly Myers)

Next Page Chingiz Aitmatov, peerless in con- temporary Central Asian literature, died on June 10, 2008 (archive)

ensure that they will continue to exist and to operate in our world, despite the forces that are acting against them and trying to suppress them.”

tials of a Solzhenitsyn-type, Aitmatov was certainly no Soviet stooge. His 1973 play The Ascent of Mt. Fuji openly muses on the moral compromises necessi- tated by harsh suppression of dissent under Stalin. His first novel, The Day Lasts Longer Than a Hundred

Louis Aragon has famously called the world’s most beautiful love story, readers witness Jamilya’s awak- ening sense of self and subsequent transformation via her love of Daniyar, a recently demobilized and wounded Kyrgyz-Kazakh youth, whose mastery of song evokes the traditional art of akins. Aitmatov was a national author from the very outset, a fact which becomes apparent with his heavy use of Kyrgyz folklore in almost every-

December 2010 The Spektator

Out & About

Out & About 11 thing he wrote. In Jamilya , for example, there are constraining the

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 Legend of the Bird Donebai plays a central role in The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, and

“It is impossible to say that at this time it is a bet- ter era only because there is freedom and the censor

Kyrgyzstan in 2008, and has been translated into several different languages. Talip Ibraimov’s first book won the International Library Contest’s “Rus-


not capering around you. This is not sufficient. Os-

the plot of The White Steamship revolves around ancient Kyrgyz myths and folktales, including the Mother-Olenikha legend. He paved the way for the development of a modern national literature in the small Soviet republic, creating works that

tensibly, we have overcome this difficulty, but in the meantime new difficulties have arisen, which are sometimes even more complex. For example, the market economy that dictates everything. This today

sian Prize” in 2007, while Eva Alli’s 2009 novel The Wild Asian Orchard is a bestseller in Bishkek. Ilimkhan Lailiyeva, local author of several Rus- sian-language novels, believes her own opinion about the future of Kyrgyzstan’s literature to be sit-


the great tyrant, and it is more difficult to win your

were distinctly Kyrgyz, stories that drew on Kyr-

place as a writer and maintain it.”

uated somewhere between that of Koichuyev and

gyz traditions and dealt with the issues of Soviet Kirghizia in the twentieth century, while also mak- ing comment on themes central to the greater human condition; love, duty and suffering. That he accomplished this while staying, for the most part, within the confines of Soviet Realism, is no tar on his achievement. Instead, it should serve as a reminder of his unique ability to create works of

Vyacheslav Shapovalov, poet laureate of Kyr- gyzstan, a man in his sixties who veritably bristles with energy, has a particularly pessimistic view of his country’s current literary trajectory. In an arti- cle written in 2001, he made a dramatic conclu- sion about the “dreary future” for literature in Kyr- gyzstan, an opinion that he still professes today:

Shapovalov. She disagrees that Russian-language literature in Kyrgyzstan does not exist, though she admits that today’s market presents a challenge to would-be professional writers and that what she calls the “boom” of new literature in Kyrgyzstan is more often written in Kyrgyz than Russian. For her own part, she hopes to make her work available to readers outside of her own country.

beauty in the face of ideological adversity.

“In the lack of interest and any, let’s say, civilian

but its quick and gray death shows, first, that culture

A Shrinking Market Cut in Two

A New Type of Censorship

Aitmatov, like many others, celebrated the new freedom that writers have found since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a wide array of previously taboo subjects and styles came to the fore over- night. Forensic crime and welfare essays, religious and mystical treatises, stories of erotic nature and prose with conspicuous social commentary have

self-sacrifice in relation to today’s national literary heritage…in the stagnant condition of overly politi- cized and absent opportunities for publishing litera- ture (both Kyrgyz and Russian-language literature), I see a dreary future. In any case, Russian-language literature in Kyrgyzstan today does not actually exist,

can easily suffocate - it is necessary only to deprive it

The linguistic factor reveals itself as increasingly important, since many fear that the country’s traditional Kyrgyz-Russian bilingualism is begin- ning to polarize, dividing an already small reading population into two smaller groups predicated on language. It seems that few authors, or readers, have the ability or desire to function at a high level

become increasingly common in Kyrgyzstan, rep-


air - and, secondly, that monoculture is also not

in both Kyrgyz and Russian. Koichyev worries that,

resenting new avenues of exploration for post-


viable organism. I think Kyrgyz literature will go

Soviet writers as well as the ever-expanding tastes of readers. Broadening opportunities for a more direct expression of self and uncensored research have also led to the rise of memoirs and biographi- cal literature. Indicative in this respect is the series ‘The Life of Remarkable People in Kyrgyzstan’, pub- lished by the editorial board of the journal Literary Kyrgyzstan, and Kulbyubyu Bekturganova’s series ‘Daughters of the Kyrgyz Land’, the third book of which was published in Bishkek this year. However, like many others, Aimatov was keen to point to a fresh force in the brave new world of post-independence literature, equally capable of

through a painful state of hopelessness and dying before it will be revived - but this will be in other gen- erations, in a different history, with another moral experience.”

Bakhtiyar Koichuyev, chair of the Department of Literary History and Theory at the Kyrgyz-Rus- sian Slavic University in Bishkek, remains optimistic about today’s situation, going so far as to proclaim it unparalleled in the literary history of Kyrgyzstan. For evidence of this, he points to the collected works of Shapovalov, Svetlana Suslova, Aleksander Nikitenko and his own recently published titles. Kazat Akmatov’s novel Arhat won international

from the point of view of Russian-language litera- ture, this number is becoming even smaller:

“Geopolitical, historical, and cultural processes have significantly narrowed the scope of literature’s operation and impact on the public consciousness. This applies particularly to the literature written in Russian. Changes in the ethnic composition of the republic, the deteriorating degree of Russian profi- ciency, particularly in rural areas, has inevitably led to the loss of potential readers of Russian-language literature in Kyrgyzstan.”

These two groups of authors and read- ers, writing and reading in two different lan- guages, are often completely isolated,

December 2010 The Spektator


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





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



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



Literature and Culture Working Together

may take books home after signing up for a club card, which also gives you a 10% discount on food and drink. The club card is free on your birthday.

functioning independently with extremely lim- ited knowledge of the other’s efforts. This seg- regation of tongues is vividly demonstrated by the predominance of two literary journals in Kyr- gyzstan. Russian-language writers have their own

Viktor Kadyrov, General Director of Raritet book- stores and publishing house, and the prolific author of nearly fifty works, has a firm grasp of the con- nection between national literature and national


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


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 classic and contemporary literature (in Russian) to

connections to the deeper cultural and political disconnect in a country that is, in many ways, di-

orated like the inside of a yurt, with traditional Kyr- gyz musical instruments, clothing, and decorations

books on sports, psychology, beauty, housekeep- ing, and medicine. In the main room, there is an


hanging on the walls. There, sitting at a small round 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


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 Shapovalov, Suslova, and Nikitenko are available

The sign on the door reads: “We welcome you to the Tea House. Relax with aromatic tea, immersed


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 available for sale in Bishkek, as well as an excellent range in both the country’s official languages. Several books from Moscow intended for Rus- sian-speakers studying English, but given that there is some commentary and a glossary in Rus- sian, they may be of interest to English speakers

studying Russian as well.

Kyrgyzstan” ( This impressive internet resource may be displayed in either Rus- sian or Kyrgyz. Founded in 2008 by Oleg Bond- arenko, it is designed to support contemporary authors of Kyrgyzstan. The project’s mission statement begins:

welcomes any guests who are interested in learn- ing more about Kyrgyz culture, and that she regu- larly hosts groups of local school children, as well as tourists. Incredibly, this is all provided byezplatno, and even impromptu visits are enthusiastically ac- commodated. Kadyrov has also converted one of the book- store’s rooms into a museum devoted to historical


“Kyrgyzstan is a rich country. Rich in talented people, writers and artists, musicians and filmmak- ers, who, alas, are often forced these days to work

Kyrgyz artifacts, donated from a private collection, in the belief that a people should know and pre-


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,

Inside the main hall of the post office, a yurt stands

considered contemporary national literature.”

and Uzbek ceremonial jewelery, or krasno-rechka that date back to the ninth century, as well as Rus-


the corner: This is the “Silva”Centre. Around the

Noting that it is becoming increasingly diffi-

yurt are tables and stands of books, with more titles inside the yurt. There is Russian and Kyrgyz- language literature for adults and children, as well

cult to publish “the usual way,” this project pub- lishes works on its site free of charge, with the voluntary participation of authors, in the hopes

sian samovars, waffle-makers, and spinning wheels with roots dating back to the early Russian settle- ments in nineteenth century Central Asia.

as a decent selection of Kyrgyz and Russian text- books, grammar books, and dictionaries, includ- ing a Kyrgyz-Mongolian dictionary.

In a temporary Bishkek Book Fair, local publish- ing houses are selling new books on the small square by Ala-Too Movie Theater, from 11:00am to 3:00pm, every Saturday through December.

of reaching a wider audience base. Arguably, this site – with its sizeable bank of author biographies and contact information, as well as thousands of freely-available stories, novels, verse, and literary criticism – could be considered definitive proof of the concerted efforts aiming to protect and sup- port the development of Kyrgyzstan’s national literature and culture.

Raritet published an award-winning book de- tailing this growing collection, providing informa- tion about the artifacts, and high-quality colour photographs of the various items in the museum. It is available in both English (600 som) and Russian (480 som). The hours of the museum-room are the same as those of the bookstore, and, like the chaika- na down the hall, admission and a guided tour are given to visitors free of charge.

December 2010 The Spektator



Going for Gold
for Gold


This month, Karakol-based journalist Sergey Vysotsky looks at some of the key facts relating to Canadian-Kyrgyz gold mining operation Kumtor, a provid-

H IGH UP in the permafrost zone in the eastern part of the Tien Shan mountain range, the gold ore mill ‘Kumtor’ rep- resents one of the highest processing units of its kind in the world. Buried at

which would subsequently assume responsibility for the entire production cycle from start to finish. Thanks to massive investment in the project - over $452 million in start-up - the facility was built at breakneck speed, albeit only by the standards

er of work to almost 2,500 locals in the Issyk-Kul region.

altitudes of over 4,000 meters, the precious metal it extracts is of critical importance to Kyrgyzstan, a country whose only other natural resource of note is water. Situated in the country’s eastern Issyk Kul re- gion, around 350 km from Bishkek, the Kumtor Operating Company (KOC) took its name from the local Kumtor river, upstream from which Soviet- era geologists stumbled on large gold deposits. Despite the fact that geological surveys of the area had been undertaken since 1920, the field itself was only discovered later in 1978. By 1991, when the Soviet Union was on the cusp of collapse, it was es- timated that the field contained 716 tons of gold, of which 316.5 tons lent themselves to open pit min- ing methods.

of high altitude mining. Construction of the mine began in 1994 and reached completion in 1997. Today, the Kumtor gold field ranks as one of the largest geologically certified deposits of the metal in the world, 514 tons of which are thought to be extractable. For the national government in Bishkek, results were pleasing. As part of a country where five-year plans routinely failed to meet unreasonable tar- gets, they were happy enough to now be part of a project which was exceeding expectations. In its first year of operation KOC oversaw the production of 15.6 tonnes of gold, against the 12.8 tonnes planned. In 1998, 20 tons of gold were moulded against the 17.5 tons stipulated in annual projections, while the same year saw the operation

Above Mining operation Kumtor glows under a setting sun (all photos Sergey Vysotsky)

The General Directorate of Precious Metals and Diamonds had already conducted a feasibility study aimed at high-altitude extraction by 1989. Nevertheless, a ruling by the Council of Ministers deemed proposals for a project too expensive. The increasingly capital-strapped union simply couldn’t come up with the approximately 995 million Soviet roubles ($1.46 billion at the time) required to turn the dream into a reality. Upon independence three years later, the open door policy advanced by the republic under First President Askar Akaev allowed for fresh western investment in the development of national mineral deposits. After careful consideration of bids from several investors, the government of the Kyrgyz Re- public gave preference to an offer tabled by Canadi-

cross the ‘one million ounces’ threshold. Neverthe- less, as Kumtor assumed an increasingly important role in the local and national economy, concerns were aired as to how to increase the longevity of such a mutually profitable venture. In 2009, due to the results of further exploration, the life of the Kumtor mine was revised and ex- tended until 2019. Under the auspices of President Robert Vander, on board at the operating company since February 2010, KOC has directed a record $196.7 million to upgrade equipment, expand the quarrying area and construct new underground stations. Such investment is aimed at increasing the long term prospects for the development of the mine. In 2004, the Kumtor Gold project was restruc-

Above Right Karimzhan Khasanov with his painting “The Spirit of Kumtor”

an outfit Cameco. On December 4, 1992 in Toronto, Cameco and parastatal Kirgizaltyn signed a general agreement on the draft Kumtor Gold, creating KOC,

tured, and the Kyrgyz government became the second largest shareholder in the project after 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

now amounts to between $85 and 100 million. Cameco, whose head quarters are in Toronto, Can- ada, own 15.66% of Centerra Gold Inc, an outfit with regional experience. In addition to the site at Kum- tor, Centerra Gold is involved in exploration projects in Mongolia and Russian province Tuva. In 2007, the government in Bishkek once again increased their share in the Centerra Gold franchise, and in 2009, the Kyrgyz parliament simplified the tax regime for the operation. Gross revenues are subject to a 14% tax, one per cent of which goes to a fund for the de- velopment of the Issyk- Kul region. In addition to employing roughly 2,500 people, 95% of whom are citizens of the republic, Kum- tor also makes voluntary contributions to schools and healthcare facilities in the area. Gradually, the number of foreign experts at the plant is beginning to dwindle, as they are slowly replaced by locals that have come up through the ranks. With its impressive manpower, the production capacity of the plant is now estimated to be as much as 16,000 tonnes of ore per day, a figure even Soviet miner Alexei Sta- khanov would have been proud of. Techniques at the plant are cutting edge yet con- ventional, following the standard practices of open pit mining. Ore is delivered to the onsite crushing facility and then ground down by an ISA mill, a new innovation in processing which allows for ultra-fine grinding. The ground ore is subjected to gold recov- ery technology, employing a carbonizing solution, and the near-finished product – cast gold ingots or ‘Dore bullion’ - is then sent for further refining. If you have a large wodge of cash that you don’t know what to do with, shares in Kumtor parent Centerra Gold are available for purchase on the To- ronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol CG. Earlier this calendar year, local workers held a pro- test threatening to strike if wages weren’t increased. The dispute was quickly resolved and wages at the

Through the Eyes of an Artist

While Kumtor generally enjoys popular sup- port among its host community, not everyone is thrilled about the joint venture’s existence and its apparent impact on local ecology. When the plant first began being constructed, ‘legends’ suddenly sprouted in the villages surrounding the plant, each of them supposedly centuries old. According to one of them, there is a ridge in the mountains of Issyk-Kul, an ancient “bull”, which took its place on the mountain face after death, bearing the gold deposit on its back as a sacred duty. The bull is not to be disturbed on pain of death – if tampered with, he will cause irreparable harm to the humanity in his local neighbourhood. Based on this and other similar legends, Kyr- gyzstani contemporary artist Karimzhan Khasanov made a series of paintings devoted to this subject. The series is on the theme of “Ecology through the eyes of an artist” reflecting his pain and anxiety regarding the harmful activities of man against nature. The painting “Argali” represents the spirit of argali, an indigenous Central Asian mountain sheep, who looks down from the skies in weak- ness and horror as he observes man’s attempts to destroy his descendents. Another picture invokes Kumtor specifically. It is of a burning mountain flower, which stands firmly against the Canadian mining interest’s boot, as it endeavours to stamp through the mountains. In the background, more snow cov- ered switchbacks rise up, displaying the indomi- table spirit of nature itself. The third in the series carries a more po- etic message: Yellow poppies and white daisies sprout on the side of a mountain; symbols of

slopes and flashing like stars to the sun, reflect the hardiness of nature, and the ability of beauti- ful creations to take root in hostile climates. In a fourth, Khasanov’s rage comes to the fore once more as he depicts “the most terrible animal of this world” - a man pointing the barrel of his shotgun at all that is in front of him, includ- ing a snow leopard, destroying harmony and di- versity in the natural world. Perhaps the central piece in this series of paintings is a work of art titled“The Spirit of Kum- tor,” painted back in 2005. The picture has been lodged in a decorative frame made of wood and has pride of place in Khasanov’s living room. At the foreground of the painting is a bulb-headed old man, whose face reflects the wisdom of the ancients. The work as a whole reflects the artist’s broader concerns about the destruction of the mountain ranges and the depletion of mineral resources. At the hands of profiteers, toxic tears ooze down off the mountain face, while rows of gold bullion emerge out of the body of the an- cient, who stares out in muted sadness. On the steep rocky slopes of the mountain, meanwhile, snow leopards look down in despair at the chaos below, while the artist’s favourite breed of sheep look imploringly towards the old face for guidance. Through his creativity, Karimzhan Khasanov attempts to reach out to human consciousness and explain the destruction caused to natural harmony by man’s activities. The series concludes with “The Lonely Grave of a Nomad.” In Khasanov’s view, man is also non-renewable. Leaving devasta- tion behind him as he goes into another world, an earthen burial mound speaks of the tragic nature

plant were raised.

love, life and the eternity of beauty in the world. The flowers, steadfastly growing on the bare

of human life and its carnage, pitted, once more, against the stoic eternity of the mountains.

December 2010 The Spektator



Romance on the Steppe
Romance on the


The Spektator’s very own eagle fanatic Dennis Keen wanted a life-sized stock- ing filler this festive season. In search of an adventure and the affections of the region’s only female falconer, he took an

W E WERE BARRELING across the heart of Eurasia in a hunk of blue Soviet steel, riding tracks through barren steppe. Our destination was Karaganda, a city so remote

Walking from train car to train car, I passed deaf girls selling pens and large men in un- dershirts standing in line to get boiling water for their tea. Pastoral landscapes flashed on the windowpanes as shepherds pushed their

overnight train to the back of beyond

and unappealing that it was the butt of jokes throughout the USSR. It was known for gulags and coal mines, but we were going for some- thing much more appealing. I had read about a

flocks up hills. In between cars I watched the track blur by beneath my feet, and took a pic- ture with my camera. A roving train cop took it as an act of espionage and asked me a thou-


female eagle hunter who lived in a village just outside the town, the only woman berkutchi in the whole of Kazakhstan. Her name was Mak- pal Abdrazakova. When my Kyrgyz teacher learned I liked eagle hunters, she brought in

sand questions, bemused. I showed him some pictures of eagles and got away with a finger wag. As the sun was setting, we had a com- munal meal with our coupe mates. Bowls of



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



fur hat, strong with an eagle on her arm. I had

had a Tupperware of kholodets, or pork jelly. It

Above The ‘hunk of blue Soviet steel’ that brought Dennis one ‘steppe’ closer to Makpal (all photos Dennis Keen)

to find her. She was hundreds of miles away, but I could use a train trip. Our coupe mates were sleeping in the bunks below. Talgat was a Kazakh businessman who had shaken our hands, taken his pants off, and immediately laid down to nap. Pavel was one of those too-Russian Russians, with a manly moustache and an army tattoo. He was reading a science fiction book and talking to Talgat, who was asleep and certainly not listen-

looked as appetizing as it sounds, but with a dash of ogonyok, a kind of spicy tomato elixir, it transformed into something edible. There were a couple of small dead fish in the newspa- per, which a conscious-again Talgat set about deboning. This was a culture of sharing. I cut up a little cake and passed a piece to Talgat, he took a candy and put it in my hand. We were strangers, but there was none of the enforced distance that people put between themselves

Above Right Makpal Abdrazakova, the only female eagle hunter in Kazakhstan, and pos- sibly, the world

ing. Abay and I lay on our stomachs and gazed out the window, watching the mountains of Almaty recede into the horizon. The click-click of the tracks and Talgat’s snores mixed with the

in the West. We were crammed together in a corner of a train and we might as well be kind to one another. The night was spent playing Gin Rummy,

Next Page Translator Abay watches the steppe blur out of the train window

calls of ice cream ladies in the hallway. I found train life strangely serene. I could stay on here for days, I thought.

cards passed from bed to bed. We kept the door of the coupe open to scout for a cute young Kazakh lady who kept passing our way. Every

December 2010 The Spektator


Focus 19 time she smiled at us and we smiled back, Abay and I would conspire

time she smiled at us and we smiled back, Abay and I would conspire like schoolgirls; “Let’s ask her if she wants to play cards!” At the next stop she left, holding hands with her boyfriend. It was warm on the train and even warmer where I slept; up top where the heat had no- where else to flee. I nodded off a few times, un- satisfied. At one stop, Pavel came in with a fish two feet long, bright pink and freshly flayed. He smiled and pushed my nose into its stink. To

settled into our seats, sleep beckoning us back into darkness. I woke up, sweating. The heat was blasting and my coat was still on. The bus was new and tv-equipped, and my busmates craned their necks to watch a bad Russian crime drama showing at the front of our moving cinema. I tried to tune out the gunshots and fall back into slumber. Soon, though, Abay nudged my shoulder and picked up his bags. We had ar-

younger than I expected. I didn’t recognize her without the Kazakh costume she donned in the photos I had seen. Now they were both dressed in classy black, ready to impress their new visitors. They showed us outside, where we all piled into a car and drove through the cold to her house, two blocks away. Inside, it was warm. There was a big oven in the kitchen that sent its heat through the wall to the living room where we sat. Makpal’s fa-

the timeless sound of clacking tracks I fell back into a delirious sleep, punctured by shouts and calls from stops in the night. Karaganda lay ahead, pulling us forward, ever forward. We woke to darkness. Winter in these northern latitudes makes the morning sun shy, so we ate our breakfast under fluorescent lights. Our coupe mates would ride this train further into the day – for us it was time to de-

‘Outside, there was not much to greet us. The town square was coated in mud. Men stood hud- dled on its periphery, staring into the fog that shrouded the steppe’

ther Murat brought us a block of photo albums to occupy our time as they cooked a meal to welcome us to their country. They were like your average family photos, group shots in front of landmarks, but half of them had eagles in them, perched like rotating family members. In one, there was not only an eagle but an owl, eyes big and alert. Murat said that they caught the bird just for its feathers, which it shed in

part. Karaganda had snuck up outside our win- dow, and was calling us into its streets. The city smelled of industry and the cars were all coated in dirt. We needed a bus to Aksu-Ayuly, a small village where Central Asia’s only woman eagle hunter resided. As if seven- teen hours on the train were not enough, we now had to spend two more driving back the way we had come. Abay found us some tick- ets and got us our bus, and we stood in line in the cold. A woman was leaning out a win- dow, announcing her hot pastries to every last passerby. Her calls sounded like a lullaby to my tired ears, “samsa, samsa,” over and over. The sunlight still young, we filed onto the bus and

rived. Outside, there was not much to greet us. The town square was coated in mud. Men stood huddled on its periphery, staring into the fog that shrouded the steppe. We called Makpal and waited in a small cafeteria. There was a mural of yurts on the wall, all billowing smoke, all promising accommodation more wholesome than the stone buildings and sta- bles that had replaced them in this lifeless vil- lage. Two young women came through the door and looked at us doubtfully. It was Makpal and her sister-in-law, Saltanat. Makpal was done up in makeup and braids and looked lovely,

large numbers at a special time every year. Ka- zakhs before him had told me these feathers were sacred. Some say it is because you can read Koranic script in their markings. Soon lunch was served. We quickly de- voured our meat and potatoes, staples of steppe cuisine. When we had washed it all down with at least four bowls of tea, I pitched some questions to Makpal and Abay inter- preted. Wondrously, Abay would offer my questions in Kyrgyz and Makpal would answer in Kazakh. These two tongues were siblings, made cousins by Soviet language policy in the early years of Central Asia’s incorporation into the union.

December 2010 The Spektator



20 Focus Most of the time, Makpal answered only a few words and Saltanat stepped in

Most of the time, Makpal answered only a few words and Saltanat stepped in to speak for her shy sister. I started by telling her how impressed I was with what she was doing. Ka- zakh society was conservative and segregated, yet Makpal’s passion for this tradition defied all its time-honoured boundaries. Here was a woman in the manliest of sports, all blood and beasts and horseback hunts. She was a symbol of a new Kazakh woman, I suggested, one who could do anything. She just blushed: “Yeah, maybe.” It was hard to get much more out of her, so in a break of silence they suggested we go

for miles didn’t swing around and head our way. Her eagle was proud, though, and too full of food to cooperate. Only after coming close did the bird oblige, jumping up to Makpal’s waiting wrist with a flap of its wings. The icy wind had frozen us all to discom- fort, so we sped back to the warmth of the house. Makpal’s mom had started making be- shparmak, the national dish of noodles and mutton. On the kitchen table she rolled out dough, spreading it thin in giant circles. These she would slice into squares and we’d then eat them with our hands. For a while, we interviewed Murat. With

‘We were strangers, but there

all the attention on his daughter he seemed

complacency. Soon, we too were complacently stuffed. The beshparmak was served and devoured without abandon. The meat was tender and tasty, and the noodles were easy to handle in the customary forkless fashion. I had two bowls of fatty broth for dessert. There were two other guests, recent immigrants from the Kazakh di- aspora in western Mongolia. I told them I had been to Bayan-Olgii and they were pleased. We had feasted with our legs folded on the ground, and now pillows were brought out to further relax the well-fed. One Mongolian Ka- zakh rested his head on the legs of the other,

hunter in the heart of Eurasia.

outside and take some photos. We wandered out onto steppe. Makpal came out in her finest falconry-ware, a traditional Kazakh robe and a fur hat. She looked stunning. I paid her compli- ments, but they never sound quite as sincere in translation. With an eagle on her arm, I just about fainted. The beautiful girl and the beau- tiful bird had been partners for ten years. I was jealous. Makpal petted her eagle gently and maneuvered her into the jeep, which we rode through the streets to the edge of town. We got out atop a scenic hill, the wind even colder at a height, chilling our bones. Makpal handed the bird to her father and walked along the ridge, and then called out. The eagle flew to her but veered away, landing in the grass. Makpal stayed ever calm, gently calling “Kel! Kel!” like a song. It was the bird’s signal to come to her master. Sit- ting stubbornly in the weeds, the eagle shook it’s wings but went nowhere. Makpal persisted, singing “Kel, Kel” into the wind. The call was so

was none of the enforced dis- tance that people put between themselves in the West. We were crammed together in a corner of a train and we might as well be kind to one another’

a little left-out, but it was he who had taught her all she knew. He told us about all the com- plexities of the tradition he had brought Mak- pal up with; how to properly feed an eagle, for instance. The meat must be weighed exactly, not with a scale but with a cupped palm, and washed of all its blood. A bloody meal will ex-

and they picked their teeth in satisfaction. We stayed up late playing a local card game, a Karaganda favorite called “Byelka”, or “Squirrel.” Abay and Saltanat were playing matchmakers, so while they paired up, Makpal was partnered with me. She sat across from me, smiling, often our eyes meeting for the briefest of moments. I adapt poorly to new card games, and every time I sighed with frustration, Mak- pal giggled. Abay and I had been joking all week about how she was the woman of my dreams, a beautiful girl with a bird who I would sweep off her feet. Now, I felt strangely con- nected to her, even though we hadn’t shared a word in the same language. I had seen her pic- ture in a Kyrgyz class magazine clipping, and I had ventured out to find her in the middle of nowhere. The strangeness of it all jumbled my common sense, and I thought of staying here forever, learning Kazakh, living with my beauti- 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

December 2010 The Spektator



Bishkek life




There’s a fine line between ‘bar’ and ‘restaurant’ in Bishkek. Places more suitable for drinking sessions are marked with a star *

Price Guide (main course and a garnish) $ - Expect change from 150 som $$ - A little over 250 should do the trick $$$ - Expect to pay in the region of 350 $$$$ - A crisp 500 (or more) needed in this joint


Cowboy* (Toktogul/Orozbekova) Bishkek’s all-American restaurant-cum-dance club has now gone a little more up-market, but wild nights are still to be had. Dig in to a kilo of chicken wings and then hit the dance floor. $$$

Hollywood*(Druzhba/Sovietskaya) As you would probably guess, decorated with movie posters, photos of cinema icons and a bunch of American kitsch. Hollywood is popu- lar with a younger crowd and is usually packed from mid-evening onwards. A fun place for a few drinks before heading off to the clubs. $$

New York Pizza (177, Kievskaya) Decorated with pictures of the Big Apple and serving a fine selection of steaks and other American-themed dishes, NYP is sure to get New Yorkers thinking of home. For home delivery ring (0312) 909909. $$$

Obama (Erkindik/Toktogul)

The owners claim that the inspiration for the title came from the first letters in each of their sur- names - pull the other one guys, the bloke is all over the walls. The pizza, like the presidency, has certainly been over-hyped, but the chicken plat- ter and the cheese burgers are a treat. Big por- tions. $$$

Chuchuara Hoga (117, Chui)

With this Chinese restaurant, a little out of the way and rarely visited by tourists, you really feel you are getting the real deal. Request a хого (your own personal Chinese boiling-pot) and randomly select

a variety of unusual Chinese delicacies to throw in.

Beware, the‘spicy’sauce, although delicious, may leave delicate stomachs in some distress several hours later - consider the ‘not-spicy’ sauce as a suit- able alternative $$

Frunze (Chui/Pravda) Free semechki is one of many reasons to check out this lively hangout, rammed with Chinese at lunch and dinner time. The menu is encyclopediac in terms of scope, but if you’re feeling bewildered, just point to something tasty-looking on a neigh- bouring table like we did. $$

Peking Duck I & II (Soviet/Druzhba & Chui/Tog. Mol.) Huge portions to feed even the biggest of glut- tons and an English language menu that provides plenty of amusing translations. $$

Shaolin (Zhibek Zholu/Prospect Mir) This tidy looking restaurant sticks out for its sheer range of oriental dishes and its large, round tables that make it ideal for extended gatherings. $$


Hui Min (Relocated to the Hotel Dostuk)

A former favourite, we have been told that Hui Min

has now relocated to the Hotel Dostuk. Apparently the menu has been revamped and the prices in- creased. The Spektator will be checking it out soon. We hope they still serve the special Dungan tea, as it’s rather good.


Mimino (27, Kievskaya) Mimino is nice, cosy and serves up bowl-fulls of steam- ing, hearty Georgian fare with pomegranate seeds a-plenty. We recommend the kjadjapuri, khinkali and

anything that’s served in a pot. Watch out for Uncle Joe

at the door. $$$$


12 Chimneys (TeplIkluchy village) 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 surroundings. Hotel accommodation also available. Head south on Almatinskaya and keep going. $$$$

Bacardi* (Togolok Moldo 17/1) Elite lounge bar affair with separate rooms for din- ing, dancing and whiling the night away smoking hukkah pipes. Urban grooves played at a reason- able volume and a full menu that includes a range

of tasty platters. $$$$

Barcode* (Toktogul/Sovietskaya, inside ‘Moto’)

A hip, clean interior, fast wi-fi and an affordable

business lunch have made Barcode something of a hotspot since it opened in early 2010. The place comes to life at night when 3 DJs compete for your

affections with an array of banging tunes. $$

Blonder Pub* (Pravda/Kulatova) Blonder Pub is the new brewery-restaurant to try out. Cavernous yet cosy inside, there’s decent blues every night, live Premiership Football, Eurogrub and a good selection of ales. In regard to the latter we recommend ‘Irish Red’. $$$$

Buddha Bar (Sovietskaya/Akhunbayeva) Buddha bar offers a taste of the East inside a tastefully constructed zen log cabin. The sushi is excellent, and for those on a budget, the stir-fry noodle dishes make an excellent lunch. Recommended! $$$$

Captain Nemo’s (14, Togolok Moldo) Small nautically themed restaurant with a selection of evocatively named dishes including‘Fish from the ship’s boy’ and ‘Tongue from the boatswain’s wife’. Cosy wooden interior and porthole style windows create an underwater log cabin experience. Spirits, cocktails and a good business lunch. $$$

Ceska* (115, Alamatinskaya) Cousin to Blonder Pub, this Bros Co. ‘theme bar’ is worth checking out for its fantastic tiramisu cake alone. Every third beer is free but don’t get too ex- cited - they come in 0.4l glasses. $$$


Landau (Manas/Gorky) Fancy something a little different? If you can tol- erate the arthritic service, Landau isn’t a bad spot for a pork steak or some other Armenian culinary goodies. Also, treat yourself to some decent Arme- nian conjac whilst your here, you’ll never go near Bishkek conjac again. Ever. $$$


Steinbrau* (5, Gerzena) Don your beer drinking trousers and head down to Bishkek’s take on a Bavarian-style beer hall. They brew their own stuff - such a relief from the insipid bilge that’s normally sold as lager. Compliment your pint with a plate of German sausage with sauerkraut. $$$


Coffee House (9, Manas & Togolok Moldo/Ryskulova) Treat yourself to some of the finest coffee and cakes Bishkek has to offer at the imaginatively named ‘Coffee House’, a cosy boutique café with a European flavour. Curl up and read a book, or just drop in for a caffeine hit and a chocolate fix. $$$

Cosmo Bar* (Sovietska/Moskovskaya) Board the sweet smelling elevator, ascend to the top-floor Cosmo Bar and splash the cash with your


fellow free-spending cosmonauts. Elegant interior, plush sofas, fancy drinks and pretty waitresses.

Huzzah! $$$$ Crostini (191, Abdrahmanova) Situated inside the Hyatt, this is a joint to be re- served for a business lunch or marriage proposal only. Chef Taner Erdemir serves up mouth-water- ing international cusine, but at a price. $$$$$

Ak-Bata (108, Ibraimova) This place must serve up pretty authentic dishes as it’s always full of Chinese playing mah-jong and waving their chopsticks about. Smoky and stuffy, but in a nice way. $

Karavan (Almatinkskoya/Chui) Excellent little stolvya (canteen) full of the timeless regional favourites. Being han Uighur restaurant its gero lagman or lagman pa Uighurski particularly stand out. No smoking, sit, eat and leave. $

December 2010 The Spektator

Bars, Restaurants & Clubs


Dillinger* (Gorky/Tynystanova) Glamorous VIP complex including a restaurant, bar and casino. A decedantly decorated and perculiarly endearing homage to the notorious bank robber - we’re sure he would appreciate it. $$$$

Fatboy’s* (Chui/Tynystanova) Civilized, friendly cafe bang in the middle of town and

a popular ex-pat meeting point. Sensible spot for con-

versation, but if you’re alone there’s a mini-library to pe- ruse (although literary classics are thin on the ground). Check out the American pancakes for breakfast, top marks. $$$

Four Seasons (116a, Tynystanova) One of the poshest places to eat out in Bishkek. El- egant, yet modern interior and polite service. Great place to splash out on a special occasion or just for the hell of it. $$$$

Foyer (27, Erkindik ) Foyer is an excellent place to enjoy an evening cock- tail or check your inbox with a cup of coffee. Free Wi-Fi, good deserts and blues on Tuesdays. $$$

Griffon (Microregion 7)

A cosy log-cabin affair with a large meat-roasting

central fireplace. On one disturbing occasion the waiting staff were about as plesant as a bunch of chavs, but hopefully that was a passing phase. $$$

Jam* (179, Toktogula) An underground oasis of cool. Jam is a cafe with a full menu, kalians (shisha pipes) and a lounge bar atmosphere, open till 3am . $$$$

Jumanji (Behind the circus) It’s strange. This place is decorated with fake jungle foliage and is based on a crap kids’ film yet still sort of works. You also get to roll a pair of Jumanji dice before you order for the chance to win a special se- cret prize - we like this. $$$

Live Bar* (Kulatova/Pravda) Twenty-four hour sports bar with live music at weekends. Plenty of leather couches provide the ideal place to sip cocktails whilst watching the Champions league at three in the morning. $$$$

Lounge Bar* (338a, Frunze) One of our favourite places to drink in the Summer- time, when we can afford it. Outdoor balcony-cum- terrace high above the street with slouch-couches and fine views of the circus - which you can some- times smell in hot weather. Nice. $$$

Metro* (133, Chui) In the impressive location of a former theatre, Metro remains the première drinking hole for ex-pats. A high ceiling, a long bar and friendly staff compli- ment a good Tex-Mex menu and a wide selection of drinks. Metro is one of the best bets for catch- ing sporting events on TV, although thanks to the hideously late kickoff times for Champions League football matches, don’t count on the staff waiting up unless it’s a big one. $$$

Navigator (103, Moskovskaya) A pricy, but pleasant place to while away an after- noon. Sit in the bar area over a beer or lounge in the airy non-smoking conservatory. Attentive service and a refreshing selection of salads, a good place for a light, healthy lunch when fat and grease are getting you down. $$$$

Stary Edgar’s* (15, Panfilova)

The concrete monstrosity of the Russian Theatre con- ceals one of Bishkek’s finest attempts at a cosy base- ment bar. Friendly staff, a decent menu and a collection

of old bits and bobs decorating the walls make Edgar’s

an attractive alternative to the city’s mainstream cafés.

A blues band plays most nights and a pianist adds a ro-

mantic ambience on some Sunday evenings. $$$

U Mazaya (Behind ‘Zaks’ on Sovietskaya) Possibly Central Asia’s only rabbit themed restaurant. Descend into this underground warren and tuck in. Also check out the fairy-light adorned flagship sister- rabbit-restaurant in Asenbai micro region. $$$

Vavilon (Microregion 7) Finely presented dishes, reasonably priced beer (60 som) genuinely friendly and attentive service and live music from 8-ish on most evenings. Definitely worth the trek out to the suburbs ( tell your taxi driver to turn left at the yuzhniy vorota and head towards Asenbai for about 1.5km) $$$

Vis-a-Vis (26, Logvinenko) Look for the yellow awning between Kiev and Chui. This place is a new honey pot for ex pats. Steak is always advisable when eating at an appendix to a butcher’s, and the sirloin here is exceptional. Also, en- joy English breakfasts, chips that aren’t cold and local dark ale Chuiski on tap. Recommended! $$$


The Host (Sovietskaya, opposite the Hyatt) A varied and interesting menu including fine Indian food make this place a real treat. On midweek days there are also several excellent business lunch deals offering a soup, salad, main course and dessert for 250-350 som. A real stand out and a Spektator fa- vourite! $$$$


Adriatico (219, Chui) Reportedly suffering following the departure of its Italian chef, Walter, although we have been told that the soup is still excellent. $$$$

Bella Italia (Kievskaya/K.Akiev) Adriatico’s former Italian chef, Walter, has moved homes and is now serving a practically identical range of dishes at this spot just behind October cinema. Enjoy the best pizza in town, gnocci and other typi- cal Italian numbers, tasty business lunches from 200 soms. $$$$

Cyclone (136, Chui) Smart Italian restaurant with plush interior, efficient, polite serving staff and a warm atmosphere to al- leviate Bishkek’s winter chills. Pasta dishes stand out among a menu of traditional Italian favourites. $$$

Dolce Vita (116a, Akhunbaeva) Cosy Italian restaurant with smiling waitresses serv- ing excellent pizza. Also serves salads and European cuisine. Small terrace outside for summertime din- ing. $$


Aoyama (93, Toktogula) Elegant sushi joint frequented by serious looking suited-types concluding their latest dodgy deals. The food’s excellent though - if you can scrape to- gether enough soms. $$$$

Watari (Shevchenko, Frunze)

A small Japanese-owned restaurant that serves su-

shi as well as dishes with a more indian flavour. The refined atmosphere makes it ideal for a business meeting or just a sophisticated night out $$$


Petel (52, Zhykeeva Pudovkin) Operating in the back room of a Korean family’s house, this is Korean style home-cooking at its most personal. Closed on Sunday. Ring: 0543 922539 $$

Santa Maria (217, Chui) Plush Korean restaurant offering Eastern favourites, including exciting Korean barbecues where you get to cook your own dinner, plus an extensive Euro- pean menu. $$$


Beirut (Shevchenko/Frunze) Now in a new location, Beirut continues to serve en- ticing Lebanese goodies including falaffle, humus, and tasty little meat pie things. $$$


Moldova Restaurant (Kievskaya/Turusbekova)

If it’s been a while since you last went out for a

Moldovan, this wooden paneled, sturdy-tabled ea- tery may be the answer to your prayers. Also, the Moldovan Embassy is next door should you care to learn more about the world’s favourite budget- wine exporting country. $$$

Regional/Central Asian

Arabica* (Mederova/Tynastanova) This formerly sophisticated laid back shisha pipe) bar has moved to a new location and, by the looks

of the bath in the toilets, may still be under devel-

opment. Three floors, VIP rooms, kaliyans aplenty. $$$




Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and

December 2010 The Spektator


Bars, Restaurants & Clubs

Arzu-II (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge) Twenty-four hour joint that’s a godsend for those who get cravings for lagman or manti at four in the morning. Sometimes smoking isn’t allowed, sometimes it is, however the food and prices are constantly pretty good. Comfy booth style seats to dig yourself into after a heavy night. $$

Arzu-I (Togolok Moldo, next to the stadium) Offers a hearty selection of Kyrgyz and European dishes and a homely atmosphere. There’s also a great outdoor terrace and national favorouit Arpa on draught. $$

Derevyashka* (Ryskulova, behind Dvorets Sporta) Atmospheric drinking cabin that serves a range of Central Asian and Russian cuisine, as well as an impressive array of pivo. Well worth it on football nights, when the locals are rather rowdy. $

Faiza (Jibek Jolu/Prospect Mira) Possibly the best place to munch traditional grub in town. Their fried pelmeni and manti are so good that they have often run out by supper-time. Save an appetite and go early. $$

Forel (Vorentsovka village) Twenty minutes outside of Bishkek, Forel is a fish- based ‘relaxation centre’ set amongst babbling streams and offering fine veiws of the mountains. Fish your own trout out of a pool and have it deep fat fried for your pleasure. Only salads, bread, tea and juice are sold on site but you are welcome to bring any booze or garnish you desire, it’s also possible to rent a BBQ. To get there take a taxi to Vorentsovka village and, if your taxi driver doesn’t know the exact location, ask a friendly villager. Trout is 800som/kilo $$$

Jalalabad (Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya) Basically the cheapest food (that won’t give you gut rot) in the centre of town. While it should stand out for its fresh lagman, Jalalabad is sometimes over- looked. Probably at its best in summer, when the shashlyk masters flanking the entrance offer their creations straight to guests sitting at Eastern-style tables – cross your legs and see how long you can last before cramp sets in. $

Advertise with the Spektator

Rates from 2000 som per page.



Zaporyzhia (9, Prospect Mira) Recently opened, Zaporyzhia is a cossack fla- voured restauraunt in a varnish-scented log cab- in. Hearty rustic dishes and a homely atmosphere. The medovukha is recommended! $$$


Ajar (On Erkindik between Moskovskaya, Toktogula) Technically an ‘Azerbaijanian’, but don’t let this fact ruin the best value kebabs in town. The menu is limited and if your Russian is too, just say ‘kebab’ and something cheap and tasty will arrive. $

Carlson (166, Sovietskaya)

A good outdoor terrace and some hearty food, but

the Karaoke style crooners who provide evening

entertainment are an acquired taste. $$

Huzur (Kievskaya/Togoluk Moldo,) Convivial proprietor Ali claims to have Steven Ger- rard’s 2005 Champion’s League winning Liverpool shirt. If you don’t believe that, belive in free lipyosh- ka and good, affordable Turkish cuisine. $$

Konak (Sovietskaya/Gorkova) This Turkish joint used to be ‘Restaurant Camelot’ hence the incongruous suits of armour in the back room, and the rather crappy castle facade. However, the food is often great, the salads are large and fresh, and the staff are always pleasant. Recommended! (And now open 24 hours a day) $$



There are some Bishkek old-hands who say that things aren’t what they used to be when it comes to nightlife in Bishkek. They talk of legendary nights of carnage, vomit, and debauchery - delights that con- temporary Bishkek struggles to offer.

Not so, we say. Take your pick from the list below and we’re sure there’s still enough carnage, vomit and debauchery in town to keep everyone happy.


Heaven (Frunze/Pravda - in the Hotel Dostuk) As Heaven is found inside a hotel it is surprisingly unseedy. In fact it stands out for being a bastion of

the well-dressed (if one is generous). Turn up in tatty jeans and a t-shirt and you may feel a little out of place; then again, you may not give a shit. Tables by the dancefloor cost 1000 som but include drinks up

to this value. (Entrance charge 200-400 som)

Fire & Ice (Tynystanova/Erkindik)

A slightly grittier version of Golden Bull. Again, for-

Apple (28, Manas) Fat, old, lecherous foreigners not welcome, this place is for a younger cooler crowd. Multiple bars, large dance floor, friendly atmosphere. Thursday usually a big night. (Entrance charge 100-300 som)

Arbat (9, Karl Marks) Tel. 512094; 512087 Smart ‘elite’ club popular with a slightly older crowd. Strip bar and restaurant in same building. (Entrance charge 200/350 som midweek, 350/450 som Fri/Sat. Strip bar 700 som)

City Club (85/1, Zhukeyeva-Pudovkina) Tel. 511513; 510581 So exclusive it makes the Spektator crowd feel like cheap scum bags, City Club is one of the posh- est clubs in town. Get past the ‘face control’ (ugly people beware) and spend your evening with gang- ster types, lecherous diplomats, Kazakh business- men and a posse of young rich kids who all seem to have studied in London. (Entrance charge: girls 200/ boys 300, Fri/Sat girls 300/boys 500

Golden Bull (Chui/Togolok Moldo) Tel. 620131 A Bishkek institution. Full of ex-pats and tourists liter- ally every night of the week. Long bar, friendly staff, cheapish beer, everyone’s happy. (Entrance charge [girls/boys] free/400 midweek, 150/400 Fri/Sat. ‘For- eigners’ free.)

Retro Metro (24, Mira)

Bright, happy, 80’s kitsch bar, the DJ spins his rec- ords from inside the front of a VW camper van. One

of the most popular places for post-2am partying.

(Entrance charge: 200/300 som midweek, 350/450 som Fri/Sat. Reserve for 200 som)

Live Music

Promzona (16, Cholpon-Atinskaya) Promzona’s far-flung location sadly means a taxi ride or a long walk home are in order at the end of a night. Nevertheless, this trendy live music venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an exten- sive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring, strangely, a wind tunnel fan, make this one of the best nights out in Bishkek. Tuesday is Jazz night. Rock or blues bands normally play at the week- ends. (Music charge 200-350 som)

Tequila Blues (Turesbekova/Engels)

A possible misnomer, the tequila is just fine but

the blues is non-existent. Russian studenty types

mosh away the nights to Rock bands in an at- mospheric underground bunker. (Music charge 150 som)

Pirogoff-Vodkin (Kievskaya/Togolok Moldo) Classy restaurant with a turn of the 20th century

Khutoryanka (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge)

eigners can often get in for free. Popular throughout the week. (Entrance ‘foreigners’ free)

Sweet Sixties (Molodaya Gvardia/Kievskaya)

Zeppelin (43, Chui)

Live music also common at Stary Edgar’s, Beatles

atmosphere serving Russian specialities. Have your tea in a giant samovar. $$$

Unassuming, to put it mildly, on the outside, this place is a revelation on the inside. Delicious food,

Gvozd (Western side of the Philharmonia) Foreigners for free, urban grooves and acceptable

prices at the bar. ‘Gvozd’ means ‘nail’ in Russian, but you’ve probably got a better chance at the Golden Bull. Its almost like the crowd from Pharaoh have mi-

Live cover bands most nights. Full menu, popular with a younger crowd. $$

Zeppelin is in the same vein as the old Tequila Blues but not quite so spit and sawdust. On the nights we’ve visited, there’s been a line up of young

reasonable service, Ukrainian brass band music

grated. (Entrance ‘foreigners’


on the cd player. We love it! $$$

Platinum (East side of the Philharmonia)

rock or punk bands strutting their stuff, heavier beats seem to go down best with the young Rus-

Taras Bulba (Near the Yuzhniy Vorota on Sovietskaya) Like all the Ukrainian restaurants we’ve tried in Bishkek, Taras Bulba serves great food. We liked the potato pancakes with caviar, the delicious soups and fresh salads. $$$

Take a seat at the snazzy 360 degree bar and do battle with some of Kyrgyzstan’s most convivial ‘elite’ for gold-digging temptresses. (Entrance charge 400-500 som)

sian crowd. Full restaurant menu. (Entrance charge 100-150 som)

Bar, Foyer and Blonder Pub (see ‘restaurants’)

December 2010 The Spektator



Molodaya Gvardia

Molodaya Gvardia

Jibek Jolu







Manas ave.



Manas ave.

Manas ave.




T. Abdymomunov






Togolok Moldo


Michael Frunze










Lva Tolstogo








Michael Frunze












A. Usenbaeva

Toktogula Moskov

Lva Tolstogo

















6 11



















December 2010 The Spektator


What’s On

Metro Festive Calendar

24th December Christmas Eve Shindig Let the good times roll at your favourite ex-pat drinking hole, the Metro. A great opportunity to see Christmas in with the people you love, rather than your grandparents.

25th December Christmas Lunch + and an Evening of Rock Order turkey and all the rest with lashings of beer before going home, bloated, and returning in the evening to watch four of Bishkek’s hottest live acts. Pay on the door.

31st December Down and Dirty New Year’s Knees up Simply the social event of the season - live music and a retro disco to bop into the night, bang in the place where everybody knows your name (even if you can’t remember theirs). There’s no sugar-coating this - it gets wild.

Vis a Vis Festive Calendar

24th, 25th December Weinachten, Christmas We hear Christmas eve is the big one for Ger- mans, but regardless of your nationality, David Hutton and his team are ready to whip up two days worth of prawn cocktail/ham and pineap- ple salads, a choice of roasts (turkey, pork or beef ) with stuffing, and a choice of puddings (cheesecake, profiteroles, fruit salad). A glass of champagne or wine is also thrown in for a bargain price of 980 soms per head. Normal menu also available.

31st December New Year’s Eve bash Hot stews, cold cuts, salads, deserts, cham- pagne and party poppers, a stone’s throw from the White House where the city’s best firework display will be in full flow. 1,250 soms per head. Reservation essential, call David Hutton on (0775) 582369

New Year Evenings

23rd-30th December Groove away at Dillinger (Soviet/Gorkova) The lights are low and the dance floor is open. Get on down to Dillinger club for a series of am- bient evenings to warm you up for New Year.

TUK Dates for 2011

2nd-5th January Snowshoes trip in Issyk Kul region Cross country and snowshoes trip in the Ak- Sayy gorge area. Visit local sights. Cost per head for a group of 17 people is 3950 soms. Price includes consultation, accommodation, food, cross country ski instructor and equip- ment!

January 9th Trekking in Ala Archa gorge. One day trip to the Ala Archa gorge. Hike to the Ak Say waterfall and visit the International Memorial to Kyrgyz Alpinists. Walk in the pano- rama of Peak Korona. The trip covers different levels of intensity, and is suitable for most be- ginners. Overall distance: 12km.

January 15th Alpine skiing at Too-Ashuy ski base. Transport and organization fees including con- sultation and guide are as follows:

For a group of 7 tourists - 600 som (base fare),

570 som (TUK members)

Equipment hire rates not included.

January 16th Alpine ski at the Orlovka ski base. Transport and organization fares including consultation and guide are:

For a group of 7 tourists 450 som (base fare),

430 som (TUK);

January 16th One day trek in the Alamedin gorge. Walk in the panorama of the Black Finger and Aman-Too peaks. Hike to a local waterfall and picnic in the open air. Visit a local spring. Suit- able for all ages and abilities. Distance: 12 km. Same day return to Bishkek.

January 23rd Snowshoes trek in the Takir Tor gorge One day trek around the Takir Tor gorge. Hike to a marine lake. Suitable for all ages and abili- ties. Distance: 18km

January 29th Alpine ski at the Orlovka ski base. Transport and organization fares including consultation and guide are:

For a group of 7 tourists - 450 som (base fare),

430 som (TUK)

Entertainment Directory

The Puppet Theatre Sovietskaya/Michurina Performances on Sundays at 11:00am.

Russian Drama Theatre Tynystanova, 122 (Situated in Oak Park) Tel.: 662032, 621571 Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-18:00 Tickets 30-100 som Local and international plays in Russian.

The Conservatory Jantosheva, 115 Tel: 479542 Concerts by students and professors.

Kyrgyz State Philharmonic Chui Prospect, 253 Tel: 212262, 212235 Hours: 17:00-19:00 in summer Tickets: 70-100 som (sometimes much more for special performances) There are two concert halls featuring classical, traditional Kyrgyz, and pop concerts and a variety of shows.

Opera Ballet Theatre Sovietskaya/Abdymununova Tel: 66 15 48 Hours: 17:00-19:00 Tickets: 150-600 som Tickets for performances sell out very quickly and it is necessary to book a seat in advance.

Live updates

For all the Bishkek opera, ballet and concert listings, check our frequently updated What’s On listings at:

Spektral Travel

Truly shagged out from New Year’s exertions, you might want to just lie on the couch and watch classic Soviet films repeated ten times a day over the festive period. Then again, that might blow. We recommend the first date on the TUK calendar (left) or a jaunt to Altyn Arashan where you can combine skiing and hot spring dipping in the same day. Contact Yak Tours (03922) 56901 for details.

Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, Chui av. 4A, Office A4 Tel.: +996 (312)

Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan

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

av. 4A, Office A4 Tel.: +996 (312) 90 61 15, 90 61 39 e-mail:, website:
av. 4A, Office A4 Tel.: +996 (312) 90 61 15, 90 61 39 e-mail:, website:

Map: Location guide


Beta Stores Supermarket


New York Pizza


Stary Edgars



Tequila Blues






TSUM Department Store


Metro Bar (American Pub)




National Museum






Coffee House (II)






Zaporyzhian Nights




Sky Bar




Coffe House (I)


Santa Maria






2x2 Bar






VEFA shopping Centre

December 2010 The Spektator