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S p e k tator №20 October 2011 Your monthly guide to what’s happening in


№20 October 2011

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

Bishkek on a Budget Plus: Social Work on the Silk Road Live, Breathe, Eat Football
Social Work on the
Silk Road
Live, Breathe, Eat
Sweet Home
Kievskaya 71 Tel.: +996 (312) 976 777 Air Tickets, Education Abroad, Work and Travel,
Kievskaya 71
Tel.: +996 (312) 976 777
Air Tickets, Education Abroad, Work and Travel, Public Speaking,
Training for television
Ticket Agency
Sovietskaya 19,
(Mederova crossing)
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan


The Spektator Magazine

Founder: Tom Wellings

Managing Editor: Chris Rickleton (

Staff writers: Alex Ward, Robert Marks, Thomas Olsen, Dennis Keen (keenonkyrgyzstan@thespektator., Palmer Keen, Holly Myers, Evan Harris, Nigel Browne, Adeline Bell (, Patrick Barrow, Pavel Kropotkin, Alice Janvrin, Sergey Vysotsky

Guest Contributor: Christine Tappan

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 In this issue’s

This Month

News and Views


In this issue’s round-up we take a look at the challenges facing Kyrgyzstan’s largest walnut forest and hop on the campaign trails of Kyrgyzstan’s would-be-leaders.

“Iron Felix” Fed to the Wolves


Ahead of the presidential vote, we consider the case of forgotten former PM Felix Kulov and the decision to strengthen parliament.

Out & About

Kick Off!


We have knocked together a guide to the best places to play, watch and endure foot- ball in the wonderful city of Bishkek.

Bishkek on a Budget


Have you just blown into Kyrgyzstan and found out it isn’t as cheap as people said? The Spektator’s Thomas Olsen takes you on a tour of the city’s best bargains.

Olsen takes you on a tour of the city’s best bargains. Letter to the Editor Sweet

Letter to the Editor

Sweet Home Novostroika


Recently we invited our readers to play their part in a new feature giving folks the chance to write in and complain/enthuse about issues that mattered to them. But if we receive bizarre, semi-explicit life stories then we will publish those too.


Social Work on the Silk Road


In Kyrgyzstan, social workers get short shrift. By harnessing the power of educa- tion, Christine Tappan and faculty at the Bishkek Humanities University are aiming to change and empower the profession.

University are aiming to change and empower the profession. 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 ceramic Carmen or a gamburger - dif- ficult choices for the budget visitor to Kyrgyzstan.

- dif- ficult choices for the budget visitor to Kyrgyzstan. The Spektator Magazine is available at

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

Kyrgyzstan: Unique Ecosystem Facing Survival Threat


ARSLANBOB, October 14, (EurasiaNet) - Under Soviet forestry regulations, if a goat wandered into the walnut grove, standard practice was to shoot it. “Goats will eat anything,” says Hayat Tarikov, raising his arms into shooting posture. Tarikov used to work as a forest ranger in Ars- lanbob, at a time when the walnut forest was protected and its usage regulated under Soviet central planning. Now, he says, Kyrgyzstan’s government is not doing enough to ensure the survival of this unique bioregion. Arslanbob is home to the largest natural- growth walnut forest in the world. It’s a haven of biodiversity on the mountainous rim of the Ferghana Valley, a place where endangered ani- mals and valuable forest products flourish. Tarikov resigned his post over a decade ago, due to his opposition to Kyrgyz state manage- ment policies following the Soviet collapse in 1991. “You know how our government works,” he said, exhibiting cynicism that is widely prev- alent among people in southern Kyrgyzstan. “Now they have the [upcoming presidential] election. They do nothing else.” Tarikov is now the Arslanbob coordinator for Community Based Tourism, a network of sustainable tourism operators that organize homestays and horseback riding for visitors interested in village life. He still relies on the forest’s unique charm and scenic beauty for his livelihood, but is concerned about its future. The main threat to the 50,000-hectare for- est comes from the unrestricted grazing of livestock. The animals’ grazing habits not only threaten new growth, but also increase the risk of tree-destroying landslides originating in the bare hills above the forest. The effects are clearly visible. Lines like topographic contours stamped by countless hooves ring the hillsides that buffer Arslanbob from its trademark tower- ing backdrop, the 14,500-foot Babash-Ata peak. In places these trails have simply collapsed, revealing sheer gouges in the earth, exposing rocks and tree roots. The overgrazing of livestock is symptomatic of a deeper issue. Despite living in the midst of

a world-renowned natural ecosystem, villagers

invest in livestock because they feel that is their

safest economic option. Arslanbob’s forest is not only exceptional for its walnuts, it also supports a variety of flora and fauna unique to the region. Forest ecosys- tems only account for about 4 percent of the land cover in Kyrgyzstan. Among them are fruit trees, whose fruit now tends to go unpicked. “The fruit is free! Mountain apples, cher- ries … but we need help,” says Marat Ashurov,

a ranger for the National Forest Service who is

responsible for over 4,000 hectares of the for- est. Ashurov laments the loss of a factory that used to turn Arslanbob’s fruit into marketable puree and juice. The factory closed years ago,

a victim of the region’s general economic insta-

bility and trade restrictions on the border with Uzbekistan down in the valley below. Without

a reliable market for processed goods, no one

has stepped in with the capital to reopen the processing plant. The economic breakdown has left locals to fend for themselves, encouraging actions that threaten the future of what is their most market- able asset. Even in a place like Arslanbob, with

its array of natural resources readily available, there is simply, according to Tarikov, “nothing to invest in. So people take their money and invest in livestock.” Tarikov points to a cow, stationed in a cramped corner of his yard: “Livestock – it

is our bank.”

October is the month when many families in Arslanbob leave their homes to harvest pri- vate plots in the forest. The whole family is in- volved: One person climbs a tree and shakes its branches while others scramble below to col-

lect the falling nuts. This year the harvest is bad. It suffered from a hailstorm in the spring, which damaged buds and disrupted pollination. If Kyrgyzstan has a tourist trail, then Arslan- bob’s forest is a firm fixture. But like nuts, tour- ists are not a reliable source of income. Num- bers have dropped sharply since political and ethnic violence in the spring 2010. Even if it no longer can guarantee their live- lihoods, the forest remains a source of pride for the people in Arslanbob. The local council has lobbied the government for greater protection. But Tarikov is skeptical. “They will do nothing,” he says, “because it was not their idea.”

Editor’s Note: Michael Igoe is a freelance re- porter specializing in environmental issues in Central Asia.

On the Campaign Trail

Atambayev greasing election campaign with US motor oil?

BISHKEK, Oct 1 (EurasiaNet) - Red and blue are primary colors. So it could just be a coinci- dence. But in the heated battle for Kyrgyzstan’s presidency, one website is pointing out that Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev’s new

logo bears a striking resemblance to motor oil!

Bloggers in Kyrgyzstan have been sniggering

at the comparison since the campaign began

last week. In Atambayev’s logo, the letter ‘A’ in his name looks very much like the Valvoline ‘V’

flipped upside down. In 2009, when he ran against then-Pres- ident Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Atambayev was teased for using a logo that looked suspiciously like that of a very popular American candidate – namely, Barack Obama.

Suvanaliev campaign advert insults the Chinese


BISHKEK, Oct 6 (Spektator) - Presidential can- didate Omurbek Suvanaliev has risked Bei- jing’s ire in a bizarre campaign ad appearing

to propagate sinophobia.

The clip features a discussion between two shepherds in Naryn, a province Su- vanaliev was once governor of, about China’s

plans to build a railway through the area. One

of the shepherds suggests that this will de-

stroy the glaciers in the Zhetim-Too mountain

range leading to “the end of the world”.

The question is then posed: “Who will kill these wolves?” At this point a young boy, pos- sibly a son of one of the shepherds, mounts

a horse and yells “General Suvanaliev”. Su-

vanaliev runs on a law and order platform and goes by the moniker “Commissar Katani”.

Madumarov campaign billboards burned

BISHKEK, Oct 10 (Gezitter) - Ex-National Secu- rity Council Chairman Adihan Madumarov has complained to the Central Election Commis- sion following what seems to have been a sys- tematic targeting of his campaign materials. Giant billboards bearing Madumarov’s im- age were damaged in the northern towns of Naryn, Tokmok, Balykchi and Kant. In many cases a head-sized hole was burned into the banner causing Madumarov to lose face in the most literal sense. Local Kyrgyz language newspaper Fabula has speculated that the man behind the sabo- tage is Madumarov himself. “He says: ‘Look what they do to us, champions of justice’ and thereby raises his ratings,” the paper suggest- ed on October 7. Madumarov’s billboards in the south have not been affected.

Big hitter Nariman Tyuleev tweets his withdrawal

BISHKEK, Oct 11( - Former Mayor of Bishkek, Nariman Tyuleev created history by being the first presidential candidate to with- draw his bid for office via the social network- ing site Twitter. “Friends, so little time left ahead of the elections, and not having the right to cam- paign to the fullest, I have decided to with- draw my candidacy,” Tyuleev tweeted. His “not having a right” was a reference to the Central Election Commission’s decision to bar his application due to supposedly falsified signatures on his statement of support. Presi- dential hopefuls were required to pass a lan- guage exam and show they had support from at least 30,000 people to run for office.

October 2011 The Spektator


This Month

Ahead of Presidential Vote, “Iron Felix” Fed to the Wolves


BISHKEK, October 20 (Spektator) - It was with over- tones of both irony and apprehension that the local

press noted the very public fall from grace of Felix Ku- lov, Kyrgyzstan’s one-time Prime Minister last month. Part of a select gaggle of domestic politicians known to the world beyond Kyrgyzstan’s borders, Kulov was stripped of his right to head the Ar-Namys party in parliament when a majority of the faction’s MPs put their signatures to a motion of no confidence in his leadership on September 13. Their mutiny will be all the more galling for“Iron Felix”, since he single-handedly founded Ar-Namys on a law and order platform over twelve years ago. But in Kyrgyzstan’s brave new parliamentary world, alliances and loyalties shift at frightening speeds and ditherers are dumped unsentimentally onto the po- litical scrapheap. Having ridden into lives as lawmak- ers on his back, Kulov’s colleagues rapidly arrived at the conclusion that their chief had become more of

a liability than an asset. They may well have been right. As a Kyrgyz who struggles to communicate effectively in the state language, Kulov’s continued prominence in the post-Osh events nationalist legislative climate always seemed somewhat unexplained. Moreover, there were signs that the man who was once half of an ill-fated‘tandem’with Kurmanbek Bakiev had lost his political hunger. As eighty-three names entered the October 30 presidential ballot, there was one which was conspicuously absent: Felix Kulov. The conspirators’defence that the retired Major- General used them as much as they used him is not as disingenuous as it sounds, either. It is uncertain, for instance, whether or not Kulov - a secular, Rus- sified northerner - would have succeeded in taking Ar-Namys into parliament without the help of Tur- sunbai Bakir uulu, a pious, conservative southerner, Akylbek Japarov, a former finance minister, and Tokon Mamitov, a nationalist from Balykchi. In fact, the Ar-Namys collective, which quickly splintered into two camps – one that wanted to at- tach itself to Kyrgyzstan’s ruling coalition and one that wanted to remain in opposition – exists to add weight to the assertion of Austrian academic Joseph Schumpeter that “a party is not, as classical doctrine would have us believe, a group of men who intend to promote public welfare upon some principle on which they are all agreed, but rather a group whose members propose to act in concert in the competi- tive struggle for political power.” Still, the haste with which the group imploded once the struggle for power had achieved its ulti- mate aim - entry into parliament - hardly bodes well for the future of Kyrgyz democracy.

Frankenstein rising?

In the plot unleashed by the authors of the coun- try’s new parliamentary-style constitution, the 120-strong national legislature has now emerged unchallenged as the main protagonist. But many Kyrgyzstan-watchers are still undecided on whether

it is a hero or a villain. While international figures such as Hillary Clinton and Ban-Ki-Moon were quick to applaud Bishkek’s “bold attempt” to tame presidential power, nay-sayers emerged in the form of post-Soviet lead- ers like Dmitri Medvedev and Nursultan Nazarbayev, who contended the country simply “wasn’t ready”

who contended the country simply “wasn’t ready” Above An Ar-Namys campaign banner during last year’s

Above An Ar-Namys campaign banner during last year’s parliamentary elections (Bernd Hrdy)

for the division of responsibilities that accompany the decentralization of power. Whether that was a cynical effort to justify their own autocracy or a neu- tral observation is questionable, but for the moment the balance of evidence rests with the doubters. Ar-Namys are just the most obvious example of

a separatist malaise that affects nearly all of the par- liament’s five factions to a greater or lesser extent. The nationalist Ata-Jurt party is reportedly divided into loyalists of house speaker Akhmatbek Keldibe- kov and their official presidential nomination Kam- chibek Tashiev. Respublika, created by billionaire Omurbek Bobanov just prior to last October’s parlia- mentary vote, has likewise failed to show evidence of togetherness since it entered parliament. Contention, of course, is the very stuff of poli- tics, and in many parliamentary systems cultures of ‘back-benching’ see rebel MPs refusing to tow ‘party lines’ whenever they or their constituents are firmly opposed to them. In doing so, leaders get a healthy reminder that even when empowered by majorities, they are not infallible. But Kyrgyzstan is different for two reasons. Firstly, two revolutions and several rashes of ethnic violence suggest the country needs less contention, not more. Secondly, none of the five parties have of- fered anything for their deputies to tow or not tow

- the concept of a line simply does not exist. When Lithuanian political researchers turn up at our office, asking our opinion on Kyrgyzstan’s new parliamentary system (this happened once!) they get a two word answer: Jyldyzkan Joldosheva. On the political scene in one way or another since the downfall of first President Askar Akaev, Joldosheva’s dubious presence has never been so keenly felt as now. As head of the legislature’s media committee, she makes a habit of bullying report- ers and journalists who aren’t saying the things she wants them to. When acting as a member of the Osh events commission she broke from the pack, single- handedly creating her own more virulently national- istic and provocative chronicle of the 2010 tragedy. A nodding dog in Bakiev’s rubber stamp fourth convocation, Joldosheva has grown into a rabid one in the fifth, unburdened by the restraints imposed by a dominant exectuive branch. And, while not

all MPs in the house are capable of doing as much damage to the public as she is, the laws the body has passed in the last year or so would suggest that the majority of Kyrgyzstan’s newly empowered assem- bly is less than fully freedom-loving.

Where art thou, Manas?

Is there a just, charismatic individual out there, strong enough to bring the squabbling parliament to heel but democratically-minded enough to avoid the individual and family abuses of power seen under Akaev and Bakiev? That is the question that many Kyrgyzstanis are asking themselves ahead of the presidential vote on October 30. Among the current crop of would-be-heads-of- state, few inspire any sort of confidence. Of those with a realistic chance of winning there is the race favourite, northerner Almas Atambayev, a moder- ately liberal but grossly ineffective premier to date, Adihan Madumarov, an eloquent southern national- ist whose speeches evoke Adolf Hitler circa 1935, but who is widely reviled for his close ties to the Bakievs and last but not least Tashiev, the Vice President of the Kyrgyz Boxing Federation, another right-winger from the old regime with a special talent for mobiliz- ing angry mobs. It is difficult to imagine anyone from this trio bringing cohesion and unity to the country. All of them will rely heavily on their home regions for votes, while other candidates that might have tran- scended tribal divisions have withdrawn from the race. A week from the election, analysts are already talking up southern Kyrgyzstan’s potential reaction to the possible prospect of being dominated by a northern prime minister-president combination* for the next half decade or so. Conversely, if one of Tashiev or Madumarov pulls off an upset, then an al- mighty attempt to overturn the constitution and re- store the presidency to its former spleandour could well be the outcome. After the revolution; riots, rallies, recount re- quests, rancour and recriminations, but no peace.

*If the nation chooses Atambayev, then parliament must agree a new prime minister, and southern MPs account for less than fifty per-cent of the legislature.

October 2011 The Spektator


Out & About

Out & About



Uncorrupted by the influx of foreign money and talent, football in Kyrgyzstan is played the way it should be – with a lot of heart and an arsenal of rude language. This month the Spektator looks back fondly on some of its favourite soccer memories and offers ad- vice on how best to experience the beauti- ful game in the environs of Bishkek.

Above A young ‘patriot’ waves the Kyrgyz flag at a qualifier between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (Kirsten Styers,

Right Games of football in Bishkek usually cost between 100-150 soms per head. But if you are playing on a potato field, its free (archive)

Last page Derevyashka is the best place to watch Messi & co. do their stuff (archive)

best place to watch Messi & co. do their stuff (archive) CHRIS RICKLETON T HE NOTION


T HE NOTION THAT DESPITE our physical shortcomings, lack of skill and advancing years, the best footballer in the world lay in each of us was difficult to dispel. Some- times a crushing defeat or an encounter

with a superior opponent would act to briefly squash the idea, but every Monday night at seven‘o’

clock in the dimly lit, poorly-heated environs of the physical culture institute on Akhunbayeva street, the illusion reinvented itself with a blinding force, too powerful to resist with logic. Take Volodya. By day, he was an overweight documents courier and the father of two children. But at nightfall he would transform himself into the dark angel of amateur indoor soccer, a foul- mouthed thug with a deceptively graceful first touch and a venomous strike off either foot. Volodya had little time for any of us and he would let us know regularly, unleashing volleys of abuse for every pass that didn’t reach him, every non-tackle that led to the opposition scoring. His personal nemesis was Pasha, a goalkeeper who, in

a nod to the tradition of nutty custodians includ-

ing Manchester United’s Peter Schmeichal and the Colombian inventor of the “scorpion kick”, Rene Hi- guita, was a little bit eccentric. Pasha was Volodya’s polar opposite in many ways; a younger, slimmer, womanizing krasavchik, always quick with an anecdote or an articulate, homespun philosophy. If he had concentrated on football instead of girls, Pasha might have been keeping goal for a team in the upper reaches of the

Kyrgyz futzal association. As it was, he was still ca- pable of pulling off a stunning reaction save, usually

at Volodya’s expense.

“B***ard, c**t,” growled Volodya as Pasha palmed his shot, taken from centre field, over the bar.

The dank, musty surroundings of the physical culture institute were never going to be conducive to friendly games of football. Our matches there always had a certain nervous tension, an inherent edginess, played out as they were to the monoto- nous thrum of joggers circling the running track, and boxers raining down thuds on punch bags.

These men, after all, weren’t rich.Tartars, Kyrgyz, Russians, Turks, they were taxi-drivers, plumbers, and small-time traders, people for whom a spike in the price of bread made life a cruel burden. Often I imagined them catching a lonely bus back to their wives, justifying shelling out 100 soms on a weekly game of football when they had mouths to feed at home. But in reality, justifications were made on the pitch. Against a grim economic background, the ball was like a ham joint tossed to a pack of hungry dogs, and arguments about fouls often tipped over into violence. Looking back, if there was anything at all dif- ferent about that particular Monday night, then it was something in Volodya himself. He was even more driven, more foul-tempered and obnoxious than usual. Beads of sweat swam on the surface of his fleshy face as he paced the park, and his habitual grumbling had descended into a growl. Defending a corner he pinched me in the back, yelling out “c*** foreigner” as he towered above me to win the header, charging onto the resultant clear- ance to hammer a shot into the roof of the net from 25 metres out. I had to admit, it was a fabulous goal. “Your mother, Pasha, you fanny,” he yelled men- acingly at his adversary, as he was mobbed by his peers in celebration. But Pasha was not to be out- done. Minutes later, a free kick found Volodya un- marked in the box, but his powerfully struck shot clipped his rival’s trailing leg and span over the crossbar. “You’re s****ing me, c***!” Volodya spat, half admiringly. And so it continued. Volodya would bend a strike from distance, Pasha would tip it round the goalpost and the fat man would swear manically before launching another assault on his enemy’s goal. For the rest of us it was like being relegated to the status of spectators at a two-man circus, as the dancing elephant took on the acrobat, play after play after play. Volodya would steal one more goal that eve- ning, but his frustration was building, with his team- mates, with Pasha’s athleticism, with his own limita- tions. In one tussle for possession, his elbow caught

October 2011 The Spektator

Out & About

Out & About 9 another player, Ermek, on the throat. “If you don’t want to get

another player, Ermek, on the throat.

“If you don’t want to get some, get out of my

face,” he threatened his opponent. He struggled on, and even as his thirty-six year- old legs began to flag, he was propelled by his ap- petite to dominate, by some kind of primeval rage that burned inside his thick body. With his team

down 5-3, he effectively gave up passing, releasing the ball only when he was certain it would be given back to him. “Run you b***ards, run!” he exhorted them. But he was no longer part of any specific collec- tive. He was alone in the world, railing against some cosmic force that had blighted him since the day of his birth. But waging such a war is always futile, and in the end it was an inanimate object that called time on Volodya’s soccer career. Running on adrenaline, he rode two challenges in midfield getting in behind the opposing defence. The only thing standing between him and a consolatory, pride-restoring hat-trick

was the onrushing Pa- sha.

The thug could have squared a pass to his team mate, who keeping pace with him, would have surely slotted into

the abandoned goal, but he didn’t. Instead he did something incred- ible. Pirouetting with an incongruent elegance, Volodya used a sleight of foot to dink the ball over Pasha, before hurdling the goalkeeper’s felled body and racing round to finish the move off.

A goal like that would have been worthy of

Diego Maradona himself. But it is in the tragicomic laws of amateur indoor football not to allow such things, and instead of the textbook finish, Volodya executed a Tom & Jerry climax, losing his footing,

stumbling over the ball rather than onto it, and col- liding awkwardly with the metal frame of the goal.

It was a haunting shriek, not of a man, but of a

crazed animal. Time stood still as the tyrant of the

physical culture institute clasped both hands over his knee, writhing in agony, while tears of finality ran like rapids down his cheeks. A stretcher was called and Volodya, bereft of his fearsome aura, was load- ed pitifully into a converted minibus heading for the republican hospital. My acquaintances from the old Monday night game tell me that Volodya’s kneecap hasn’t healed, that it won’t heal, and that when he makes his rounds as a courier he does so with a painful hobble and a terrifying grimace. Without his powers of coercion Monday night football vanished from existence, its twisted soul fatally wounded, leaving a power vacuum that couldn’t be filled. Living in Bishkek, it wasn’t difficult to find a new game. Football here is second only to horse- wrestling in the popular sports stakes and every- one seems to know someone that has a booking, whether indoor or outdoor, somewhere in the city. I joined friendlier games with a German international organization, and the univer-

sity where I work. But I still miss the Physical Culture Institute - the dingy desolation of the place, the ag- gression in the challenges, the verbal abuse from Volodya and the like. Playing with people

you actually get on with, to a certain extent, takes the edge out of the exercise. The legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly had an oft-quoted quip which Volodya would probably have agreed with wholeheartedly: “Football is not a game of life or death – it is much more than that.”

‘Usually by this time he has had an unseemly row with a woman too young to be his wife, but that only serves to add to the atmosphere’

Where to watch it

The sky is black, the occasion spine-tingling. Groups of rotund, middle-aged baikes are banging down empty beer glasses and ordering more, hollering profanities into the midnight air. We are witnessing Barcelona totally outplay Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final on a giant pull-down

screen at Dervyashka restaurant, a wooden drinking cabin located on the north side of the Dvorets

drinking cabin located on the north side of the Dvorets Spektator Vocab Check No.57# Essential Phrases
drinking cabin located on the north side of the Dvorets Spektator Vocab Check No.57# Essential Phrases

Spektator Vocab Check


Essential Phrases in street football:

Domoi (go home) Get back and defend, you unfit lumps. Cherez Dom (through the house) Pass the ball back to the goalkeeper, you’re not good enough to take it forward on your own. Suka (b****) Oh no, I missed that shot, I wish I had scored it. Garit/garish (it burns, you are burning) Pass the ball for heaven’s sake. S’ udarom, s’passom, s’padkatom (shoot/pass/ tackle) Navyes (hang it up – in the air) Russian’s answer to ‘on my head, son.’ Zhostche igrai (play harder) What are you mess- ing around for? Kick their legs! Vorota pusta (the goal is empty) Take a shot, their keeper’s gone walkabout. Or alternatively, get back and defend, our keeper’s gone walkabout. Ugol/shtrafnoi/penalti (corner, free kick, pen- alty) You have been accused of doing something wrong. Be abusive and belligerent or your team- mates will be abusive and belligerent to you. Kyrgyz – Shashpa, Russian - Ne taropis (Don’t hurry) The guy who is trying to tackle you is even worse than you are, so don’t sweat. “Shashpa” is particularly addictive and can be repeated up to a thousand times in a single game of football. Krasavchik (handsome man) A slightly homo- erotic way of saying you are good at football or that you scored a good goal. Pizdyets (fanny) Usually heard when your team has let in a soft goal. Pashol ti! (**** off) Try and avoid saying this, it is taken more seriously than the equivalent in Eng- lish, and often leads to a direct invitation to fight. Kuda ti mne paslal?! (where did you send me?!) This is the usual response to pashol tiNa Hoy (to the ****) If this was your reply, there is now no escape. Your game of football is over and you must now defend your life and honour in a one-on-one brawl to the finish.

October 2011 The Spektator


Out & About

10 Out & About Where to Play You have your boots and your shin pads, nine

Where to Play

You have your boots and your shin pads, nine or more chums and some enthusiasm, but where can you go to make a game of football happen? The Spektator gives you a run down:

Footballistan (Gorkova/Tynystanova, near Dill- inger) A brilliantly named complex consisting of three outdoor fields and serviceable changing rooms, the pitches here have a netted roof that of- fers some protection from the elements and even rudimentary floodlights. People play from 7 am to 2 am in summer, and to a lesser extent in the win- ter. Call Bakit (0550-960960) or just turf up. The Physical Culture Institute (Sovietskaya/Ak- hunbayeva) Volodya’s old stamping ground is a stone’s throw from Buddha Bar on Akhunbayeva. The pitch is big and at 1,000 soms per/hour, fairly cheap, but the insulation is so poor that it almost defeats the object of playing indoors in the colder months. This location also offers boxing classes and climbing sessions, while jogging around the track is free. Dvorets Sporta (Frunze/Togoluk Moldo) The sports palace is where most of the country’s sports showpieces are held, so the place is always in good nick. The downside of that is that occasionally you will lose your weekly game when there is nowhere

else to host the finals of the under-sixteen national basketball, wrestling or volleyball tournament. If your team has supporters there are seats for spec- tators, the showers work and the plywood surface makes it one of the fanciest locations for an indoor game. Tel: 0312 625174 MFP (Moskovskaya/Usubayeva/Shopokova) Just off Moskovskaya and between two intersecting streets the outdoor Mini-Futbol-Polye is well-hid- den enough so as not to be too over-booked. Tel:


DGSSO (Gorkova, near Tash-Rabat) Last time we checked, games at this indoor venue cost 1600 soms per/hour and an upstairs viewing balcony still hosted a giant poster quoting Kurmanbek Bakiev on the importance of sport for youth. But that was in January, so it may no longer be there. Make sure you bring your own ball if you play at this spot – their spares are rubbish.

Sporta complex on Togolok Moldo and Frunze. Watching football requires a completely dif- ferent skill-set to playing football. Usually the best football watchers are barrel-chested, big-lunged sorts whose vocal endurance enables them to yell at a referee or a television screen for a full 90 min- utes without once losing their voice, the very same types you skip round with relative ease on the field. Rumours abound that Derevyashka is owned by high-ups in the Ministry of the Interior and certainly, the faces that dominate the tables on football nights bear a stark similarity to the smug, uncaring officialdom that likes to catch you down a back street on a day when you’ve left your pass- port at home. But on a night like tonight they are in generous spirits, and it is not uncommon that one will drift randomly towards your table, order a carafe of vod- ka and make a sentimental toast to international friendship and eternal peace between the peoples of the world. Usually by this time he has had an un- seemly row with a woman too young to be his wife, but that only serves to add to the atmosphere. Also adding to the atmosphere is a 2,000 som wager we’ve put on Barcelona to beat Manchester United by two clear goals, a bet that will see us re- coup our shashlik outlay and then some if it comes good. The early signs though, are worrying, Man- chester United look revved up and spend the first five minutes attacking the Barcelona goal. After a while though, sheer class takes over, and Barcelona’s well-drilled passing machine winds itself up, eventually leading to a well-taken goal in the 27th minute. The fact that Manchester United equalize less than ten minutes later does little to dampen our anticipation, if anything we’re glad, since if the Catalans win by more than the two goal margin, we lose our money. The second half sees Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest player of his generation, effortlessly take control of the game, scoring with a powerful shot in the 58th minute. After David Villa added a third in the 69th minute, our contingent spent the rest of the remaining twenty minutes sitting on our hands, hoping that the floodgates wouldn’t open and that Barcelona would just kindly leave the score well alone. When the game finally ended 3-1, we celebrated with even less decorum than the drink-

3-1, we celebrated with even less decorum than the drink- sodden baike s on the table
3-1, we celebrated with even less decorum than the drink- sodden baike s on the table

sodden baikes on the table next to us.

Seeing it at the stadium

The third type of football that a visitor to the Kyrgyz Republic can experience takes place on sporadical- ly-determined Saturdays at the Spartak stadium, a stone’s throw from Derevyashka and the Dvorets Sporta. Whether or not you will find the games that take place here enjoyable might depend on your pseudo-masochistic streak, but given that it is usu- ally free entry, we say you would be foolish to turn down the opportunity to see the cream of Kyrgyz- stan’s footballing crop in action. Whether it is Sher, a team that belongs to an eponymous local sausage factory, or the mighty Dor- doi Dynamo, the teams in the local league are unlike-

ly to offer up as much excitement as Barcelona versus

Manchester United. On the right occasion, however, with the capital’s soccer enthusiasts in full force

and washing back mouthfuls of sesame seeds with mouthfuls of the supermarket favourite ‘Our Beer’, going to watch a domestic fixture can still represent

a decent afternoon out; less exciting than a sponta-

neous jaunt to Ala-Archa we would venture, but in-

finitely better than a visit to the national art gallery. International matches are also worth a watch. We have witnessed the national side defeat Oman 2-0 and get beaten by virtually everyone else, from

a narrow 1-0 loss against Iran’s under-23s, to a 5-0

annihilation in a politically charged tie against Uz- bekistan. Like anything in the former Soviet Union, prog- ress on the football field comes down to funding, and since Moscow’s withdrawal, that has been in short supply. Nevertheless, if you wish to get infor- mation on (and maybe make a contribution to) the local football scene, the chaps at the Kyrgyz Foot- ball Federation are always amicable, particularly press secretary Kemel Tokabaev (kemel.tokabaev@ site,, is probably the best

place to get information on game dates and times, although these are sometimes subject to – quite literally - last minute changes, thus it always does to ring ahead. For fans of both football and other sports, the Russian language newspaper provides a good overview of how the country’s athletes are doing in everything from swimming to

tennis through shot putting.

are doing in everything from swimming to tennis through shot putting. October 2011 The Spektator

October 2011 The Spektator


Out & About

12 Out & About Bishkek on a Budget Amid all the talk of global financial melt-





Amid all the talk of global financial melt- down, public spending cuts and general belt-tightening, we thought it was about time someone produced some guidelines for ‘roughing it’ in the post-Soviet metropo- lis of Bishkek. Step up then, the galoshes- sporting, samsi-scoffing food and culture correspondent of the capital’s most cash- strapped newspaper, Thomas Olsen.

Above Giant steel containers at the Dordoi mar- ket (Tomas Olson)

Above right Is this you wearing camouflages, braying on the window of the gamburger kiosk? You poor, broke, hungry soul (Dennis Keen)

Opposite Page Trinkets, clothes and cutlery at the hand-me-downs market on Karl Marx street, next to the Orto Sai bazaar. Sellers are typically pensioners who lost their savings after the col- lapse of the Soviet Union (archive)

savings after the col- lapse of the Soviet Union (archive) THOMAS OLSEN Y OU FIND YOURSELF


Y OU FIND YOURSELF aimlessly walking down Prospekt Chui, killing time and hoping in vain that maybe you can find something new to eat and still have some change for the crowded marshrut-

ka. The blue one hundred som note is your daily reference point, the crisp, green one thousand som version must last you for the week, and

you’ve never even seen the rumoured five thou- sand som bill – it has a mythical quality, like Santa Claus, or Manas. With the 22 som reheated samsi having lost most of its appeal during the early days and the festering shwarma and gamburger stands only promising digestive system meltdown, eating some nan – sometimes bland but always safe - seems the best option. But beware; even these simple roundels of bread can leave you short- changed, particularly if you buy from the unscru- pulous, mustachioed women at the Ak-Emir ba- zaar (Moscow/Shopokova). Being a backpacker, student, or vagrant in Bishkek has its own special challenges. Perhaps you live in a small dormitory or hostel with noth- ing to cook with bar a kettle, thus forcing you to rely on the endless array of cafes and restaurants to give you sustenance for the day. Or perhaps you live in a small apartment with what could pass as a kitchen. At any rate, if you have a house,

a proper kitchen, and a job that pays you enough

to live like a dignified human being than you can stop reading right now. For those who have cho- sen to read past the last sentence, suck up these tips for living a cost-effective life as a marginal in a post-Soviet capital, and thank your stars that the Spektator is free….

Street grub and stolovayas

If your life vaguely resembles the above, then

your diet is likely to make you a candidate for a starring role in the Central Asian remake of Su-

persize Me. That is because the cheapest food is nearly always the unhealthiest. With “Euro cui- sine” well beyond your means, the cheap national dishes ranging from around 50 to 120 som are where you are at, and that in turn means that a trip to the stolovaya or canteen is one of the high- lights of your week. These places are where people that don’t re- ally own a business go for a business lunch, they are where low-ranking bureaucrats in the Min- istry of Agriculture eat to forget, they are where you can find everything from chicken legs to goulash and plov, then have it ladled out onto a plate and micro-waved right in front of your eyes. Indeed, the fare served up at the stolovayas often compares negatively with school lunches, but by this point in your financial desperation you prob- ably won’t care.

Despite my love/hate relationship with these institutions it is probably worth listing a few that stand out for their greasy excellence. DamDan on Frunze, directly behind the American University

is always bustly at lunch and complements the

usual Central Asian favourites with some original broths and stews. Ashkana (this means stolovaya

in Kyrgyz so note the address) on Toktogul and Tynastanova also does the trick. Plov for 60 som, box ticked. As mentioned, ordering food you don’t have to sit down for may have the counter-productive

effect of forcing you into a squatting position for the rest of the evening, but if you are feeling the urge, why not start in the shallow end with a veg- gie treat? Beta Stores cooks up fresh baked po- tato samsi at lunch and at 25 som, you can take two without worrying too much about the con- sequences. If however, like me, you just can’t resist pro- tein, the best street meat is probably found on the south west side of Ala-Too square. There, at

a nameless shop just beyond the Concord res-

October 2011 The Spektator

Out & About

Out & About 13 taurant you can wash down the most delicious chicken gamburgers (confused cousins

taurant you can wash down the most delicious chicken gamburgers (confused cousins of Ameri- can burgers) in town with a glass of pomegranate juice. For 75 som you get the juice, the gamburg- er, and the cooking talents of Bishkek’s second best Syrian cook.

Home improvements

Perhaps you have moved up in the world and you are fortunate enough to have got yourself

a kitchen. I envy you. But that doesn’t necessar-

ily mean you have anything to fill it with. Luckily for you there are plenty of places to dodge “Turk- ish prices” for good silverware and other basics. Along many of the streets of Bishkek there are old people with blankets spread out in front of

them selling wonky forks, blunt knives, slightly discolored glasses and other kitchen utensils that hopefully don’t contain lead. Then there are the books – Don Quixote, The House of Fools, Hero of our Time, James Herriot

and the Bhagavad Gita, many of them beautifully bound, tastefully embroidered and reasonably priced. And all of them in Russian. Never mind though, even if this particular blanket has yield- ed nothing to brighten up your home, you can rest assured that there are a thousand potential bargains and disappointments awaiting you on any given Saturday or Sunday at the hand-me- downs bazaar which runs adjacent to Orto Sai market in the Asenbai suburb of Bishkek. Here the slogan of choice is‘Made in the Sovi- et Union’ and the range of goods on sale is some- thing to be marveled at. Whether a bone china depiction of Carmen to jazz up your mantelpiece (have you got one?), a Brezhnev-era army jacket,

a Khrushchev-era television set or a Stalin-era

sewing machine, there aren’t many things you can’t dig up here. Also, given that the sellers are

mostly pensioners still suffering from the after- shock of the union’s collapse, you can treasure

the after- shock of the union’s collapse, you can treasure your bargain and enjoy that warm,
the after- shock of the union’s collapse, you can treasure your bargain and enjoy that warm,
the after- shock of the union’s collapse, you can treasure your bargain and enjoy that warm,

your bargain and enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling of being charitable all at the same time. And the warm socks that I found there are probably better than wearing nothing with the rubber Russian galoshes that you can purchase at this bazaar and others. Costing almost two days’ worth of cash (170 som) galoshes are the only affordable footwear that isn’t a sandal, and can double as dress shoes for the next time you sit in a classy establishment, slowly sipping min- eral water while your richer acquaintances knock back cocktails. What to do in winter? Wear more socks of course! Then, for the snobbier vagabond who likes to wear clothes that other people didn’t die in (tut), there is always the infamous Dordoi market. Situated a two-hour tramp from the capital (we burned our trolleybus money on socks), Dordoi’s choked aisles of endless goods will certainly of- fer up something in your price range. However, if major brands are your bag you may have to settle for Calvin Klain underwear, Nuke baseball caps and other misspelled Chinese knockoffs rather than the real thing – it’s the cost of doing busi- ness.

Lifestyle choices

For most being broke doesn’t mean life has to revolve around cheap food and desperation, it also means going out, well walking out (that taxi money can go towards a couple of beers, and without a gym membership you need all the free exercise you can get) in the hope that your friends will pick up the bulk of the bill. As drinking establishments go there are few better than Derevyashka. As alluded to in the guide Derevyashka’s crowning achievement is its beer selection. Tap beers like Zhivoe, Arpa and Chuyskoye are all under 60 som for a half leader. The place is always packed with locals and even when you find you have drained your budget and

run out of credit, the atmosphere is free. Striking up a conversation with locals is also a great way to pass the time before going back to your finan- cially destitute life. But what about clubbing? Sure, drinking is nice but sometimes you need to dance. Cover charges in Bishkek can range from 200-600 som on a good day, leaving you playing catch up for the rest of the month! Happily there are places with minimal and sometimes no cover. Fab bar has recently had no cover charge and a live band for the beginning of the night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This deal lasts until the end of October, but according to the management, may be extended into November. Located on Frunze not far from the circus this small hip joint has 70 som Zhivoe and some of the best Long Island Ice Tea in the city. Barcode (Sovi- etskaya/Toktogul) is also a new favorite amongst students in Bishkek, with free cover after one a.m. Drinks, however, are extortionate, so load up on cheap booze beforehand. The life of a financially destitute foreigner can be rough anywhere. Bishkek is the one city in Kyrgyzstan with any real concentrated wealth, but non-wealthy people live here as well. My advice is to do as locals do. Distinguish between bazaars for the middle class and the ones you need to be shopping at. Buy your milk in plastic bags instead of cardboard cartons. Cadge off the hospitable shamelessly, never turn your nose up at third-hand cardigans and if you’re rocking the galoshes, rock them with pride. Remember, you might be broke, but in this former Soviet city the search for the deal is

just as much fun as actually finding it.

for the deal is just as much fun as actually finding it. researcher and writer living


and writer living in Bishkek. His blog can be found at







October 2011 The Spektator

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Letter to the Editor




When we ‘tweeted’ a request for letters from our long-suffering readership, we never for a moment anticipated that anyone would respond. Imagine our surprise, then, when this wee absurdity turned up unannounced in our inbox. Make of it what you will


I ’M AN ALABAMA MAN, a good ol’ boy, a creature that knows too well the taste of a fine glass of bourbon on a starry summer’s night, the chorus of coyotes in the prairie, the soothing creak of my pop’s rocking chair

on the porch his grandfather built. We’re not possum-eaters and never were, that’s just Union

stereotypes. But we do own a red pickup with the confederate flag splashed across the bonnet, and it does some miles, or used to at any rate.

I came to Kyrgyzstan back in 2009, bored of

logging and looking for love. I’d been chopping shit down since I was fifteen. Time to plant some- thin’, I told myself. Her name was Gulsara, and she was working

in a lagman joint,‘bout two blocks west of the Osh bazaar. Type of joint that makes you feel like you’re back in ‘bama; no pretensions, just big meaty por- tions and gratuitous lashings of grease. Wipe your hands on your jeans and leave. As I got up to pay the tab I caught a message on the back of the receipt: “Call to me, Gulsara.” Shy lil’ thing had scuttled off into the kitchen be- fore I had a chance to make introductions. I left a kindly tip and an old business card I had kept for posterity: Theodore Mote, Director of Operations, Mote & Sons Lumber co.

I didn’t call her but I went back to that same

cafe a fair few times that week. I never had to wor- ry about missing Gulsara’s shifts because she was always there, gigglin’ ‘bout something god awful funny with her gold teeth friend and her cousin. Now I don’t know much Rooski and her Eng- lish wasn’t the best back then, but we would get along like a house on fire for the half-hour it took me to finish my Gan-Fan with a side of cold fries. I noticed she had tattooed-on eye make-up, most probably to save on cosmetics, and I admired her for that. One time she came up to me and sat her- self down at my table. When I asked her where she was coming from, she said “Kadamjai”. Well I looked up that place and saw it was in the lower half of Kyrgyzstan, so I told her she was a‘southern belle’, like my sister, Darlene, and she gave me a

belle’, like my sister, Darlene, and she gave me a Above Ted’s back yard? (archive) smile

Above Ted’s back yard? (archive)

smile to warm a man right through. The next day

we went out dating. We found a bar to play billiards. Not just the two of us of course, cause we needed a translator

to translate. That was why her sister tagged along

and through her I got to know Gulsara better.

I’d thought Gulsara closer to my own age but

in fact she was younger, already twice divorced

with three kids, the oldest of whom was nine. I asked her what had gone wrong in her life and

she said that you just couldn’t find the men in Ka- damjai - that they only wanted to drink and ride horses, and that she had left there for that same reason. I told her that I came from a part of the world where the men only wanted to drink and ride horses too, but she said that in Kadamjai, it

‘She said that you just couldn’t find the men in Kadamjai - that they only wanted to drink and ride horses, and that she had left there for that same reason’

was something different.

We had some drinks. I think Gulsara and her

sister were impressed with my cue skills. You see, I’ve had my own table since I was a boy. The rules change, depending on what country you go to, but the angles mostly stay the same. Later that night I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, walking down Soviet street with a girl on each arm. I thought we were heading for

a goodbye taxi, but at one point, Gulsara had

gotten other ideas. She yanked me by my arm, led

me down an alley and pinned me up against the wall. We started kissing like two teenagers. Her sister the translator tapped me on the

shoulder and told me sweetly: “Mr Ted, she wants

to get hot and heavy with you.” I thanked her and

told her I’d handle things from there. When we got back to my apartment we start- ed making out on my sofa, too full of passion and liquor to find the bed. I undid her blouse and slid

right down her, quick as a hungry rattler. But even in the heat of it all I remembered what my mother had always taught me: “You wanna do anything with a girl you better ask her permission first, Ted.” So I did, with the only Rooski I knew: “Mojino?” That night Theodore Moat found his form again and Gulsara found a new place too. I’m guessing the guys in Kadamjai don’t go down a whole lot, cause she looked at me with wide eyes like I’d just gone and done something wonder- ful. It became something like the language of our love. Next morning we eloped, and on August 15, 2009, we took our vows at the state registry. We don’t even have a photo to remember the day by, but my girl looked mighty pretty alright. Now I’m no city slicker and neither is Gulsara. We like a stretch of scrub and the open sky, so we decided to set up on a patch of land about twen- ty-five kilometres north of Bishkek, and build us a house from scratch. The toilet isn’t much to look at and I’d be ly- ing if I told you the electricity never failed, but day by day we’re getting to where we want to be. Gulsara’s two sons and daughter live with us darn happy, and we hope that one day there’ll be more to add to the brood. In the meantime, we got a porch like the one back home, a pickup (minus the flag, unfor- tunately) and the start of a plum tree in the allot- ment out back. At the moment my house is work enough, and what with some of the hell-raisers in the neighbourhood I’d be scared straight to leave it alone for too long. But I’m hoping that one day I’ll find a trade here, learn the language and get to know the local culture a little better. As for me and Gulsara, we’re still going mighty strong. Her English is improving and the kids are catching onto a few words, too. Those critters keep us darn busy during the school holidays, the mornings and the evenings, but the nights are always ours. I turned my back on Elmore County, Alabama two years and three months ago, but I’m still taking the road South, for as long as my lil’

lady allows me.

still taking the road South, for as long as my lil’ lady allows me. October 2011

October 2011 The Spektator





on the



Social workers the world over are a put upon lot. But in Kyrgyzstan, where in- frastructural collapse has collided with an extremely challenging socio-cultural context, their job is nigh on impossible. Christine Tappan, an academic and pro- fessional with over twenty years experi- ence in the sphere arrived in the country to help raise the profession’s profile.

Above A new generation of Kyrgyzstani social workers (all photos Christine Tappan)

Next Page (left to right) Christine Tappan has embraced Kyrgyzstan; Author with an aban- doned baby at an orphanage; Author with faculty at the Bishkek Humanities University

Final Page (left to right) The front cover of a student social work handbook; Both studying and practicing social work can be very tiring

Both studying and practicing social work can be very tiring CHRISTINE TAPPAN M Y INTRODUCTION to


M Y INTRODUCTION to social work on the Silk Road started two years ago with a ceremonial toast of Bishkek Cognac and a slice of ap- ple. While not much of a drinker, as

I partook of the cognac and fruit, a real and metaphorical warmth swept over me as I imagined the vision we had all just committed to: developing a more competent and confident generation of social workers in Kyrgyzstan. That toast set a plan in motion to train and educate so- cial workers in the“land of the Tien Shan”, to move beyond theory toward cutting-edge technical skills for assessing and working among children and families with desperate needs. These social workers would have more skills and knowledge than their predecessors for dealing with the in- creasing challenges facing Kyrgyz society, and the burnout that ends so many careers after just a year or two in the field. Social work is a profession built on hope. Hope for change, hope for a better life for abused and neglected children, the poor, the sick, the disabled and the elderly. The sobering reality is that in spite of the values of freedom, justice, so- cial responsibility and human dignity that drive it, the profession often remains unrecognized and underappreciated, even pitied. Because of this, social workers world-wide face an uphill battle, striving to educate and retain a workforce that grapples with compassion fatigue while barely squeaking out a livable wage. An entry-level social worker in Bishkek makes about $150 a month; in a village, half that salary is common. Even in the western world, the aver- age pay for a social worker with a graduate de- gree is significantly less than others with a similar education. Most social workers will confess that making money is not what motivates them. Help- ing to change the lives of others, to see children and families prosper – or just receiving a smile or word of thanks is enough to keep them going. As

Erkayim, a social work student at Bishkek Human- ities University (BHU) said, “I want to be useful for society.” His peer Nestyn added, “I just want to be able to help people with special needs solve their problems.” As the world economy grows increasingly complex, so do the needs of vulnerable children and families. The ever-expanding knowledge and technical skills a social worker must have to effectively support individuals in need is a global issue, however, in a budding democracy such as Kyrgyzstan it is even more critical. And so I have come to know this country, many of its towns and villages, and a group of dreamers who believe as I do that a framework of child and family support is essential to every commu- nity in the world - and where this does not exist, it must be built. Social work was founded as a profession in Kyrgyzstan in 1994. Many amazing individuals did “social work” prior to this time, but once the profession was legally recognized they began to formally build the path towards a structured and credible educational system. Several universities in Kyrgyzstan educate about 400 social workers per year. The limit to this endeavor is that much of the curriculum in the typical five-year under- graduate program is theoretical in nature, with- out the means to experience the work firsthand. To achieve proficiency in critical techni- cal skills - including assessment, investigation, interviewing, case planning and community development - training and education must be both didactic and practical in nature. Social work takes place in high-stress, com- plex environments, in homes, hospitals, or on the streets. Workers are often independently respon- sible for assessing and addressing multi-faceted safety, health and well-being needs of children, their parents and the communities where they live. The ultimate goal is to address issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, men-

October 2011 The Spektator


Focus 19 tal illness, child abuse and neglect, all while en- hancing family functioning, and improving

tal illness, child abuse and neglect, all while en- hancing family functioning, and improving child safety and family independence. Stamina and di- plomacy are among the most important tools in the social worker’s professional kit. Due to training gaps, low pay and emotional stress, social workers, particularly those who work with high-risk families where abuse or neglect has occurred, face high burnout rates and alarming professional turnover. Research shows that this di- lemma hits close to home around the globe. The negative impact on families is felt in many heart- wrenching scenarios, such as more children being placed in foster care or orphanages. Recognizing these issues, the Kyrgyz Asso- ciation of Social Workers and department lead- ership and faculty at BHU in partnership with governmental and non-governmental organi- zations in Kyrgyzstan, began discussions more than four years ago to develop a social work specialization focused on children and families. After researching international program alter- natives, BHU determined that a consultative partnership with a child protection specialist in the United States who had experience develop- ing and working with competency based train- ing and educational programs for social work- ers would be the best option. That was where I came in. I was brought into this project in 2009 by one of the original group of dreamers, Ruby Johnston from the NGO International Learning and Development Center (ILDC Kyrgyzstan). She, along with Vera Usenovna, President of As- sociation of Social Workers of Kyrgyz Republic and Erick Orozaliev, Dean of Faculty of Social Work and Psychology at BHU had been vision- ing and planning the project for some time. The barriers to the dream were many, including ex- pert time for consultation on curriculum devel- opment, teaching approaches, course materials and practicum design. Access to technology

course materials and practicum design. Access to technology that would support the use of slides and

that would support the use of slides and video “models” for social work students to follow was nonexistent. Approval by governmental minis- tries to authorize the specialization was another hurdle. Through persistence and united vision, the dreamers cleared many of these barriers. The final step was finding what they came to call an “on the ground champion” to bring the project to fruition. Ruby and I met in the United States while she was conducting training for my state child welfare agency. She knew my passion for teach- ing and my belief that teachers - and the way they teach - can inspire and build confidence in young, developing social workers, coaching them

‘I see commitment, possibilities and desire in the eyes of all the dreamers who have been a part of this project. It’s a practical magic’

through the technical skills required to be effec- tive. As one student from BHU shared with me, “The faculty at BHU inspires us. They tell us that we are the generation to change our society.” But the faculty will tell you that despite their admi- rable efforts they don’t possess all of the knowl- edge and tools needed. Many have never been social workers in the field. They understand the theory behind the practice, but don’t have teach- ing skills or resources necessary to help their students learn. For example, there are few or no current social work textbooks to give students. So they teach mostly through lecture. When a text- book is available, it must be shared among 20, 30 or 40 students, or photocopies can be made for 2 soms per page – which adds up quickly. There’s no access to technology. Faculty considers itself lucky if there’s a chalkboard in the classroom. And so I applied for the Fulbright Special-

the classroom. And so I applied for the Fulbright Special- ist Program as a Child Protection

ist Program as a Child Protection Specialist. BHU asked me to replicate a highly successful program model used throughout the United

States and Canada to prepare social work pro- fessionals for employment in the child welfare field at the University level. The specific focus is

a specialization for working with at-risk families

and maltreated children. Upon graduation, stu- dents are prepared to immediately assume job responsibilities in child welfare organizations, NGOs, without requiring extensive training and preparation. The curriculum is an adaptation of the Core Curriculum for Child Welfare Casework- ers, developed and published by Institute for Human Services (IHS), used throughout North America in both in-service training and univer- sity education settings. It has been translated into Russian and adopted by child welfare or- ganizations in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The four-volume “Field Guide to Child Welfare,” circa 1998, is an internationally recognized practice

resource. This social work bible-of-sorts au- thored by Judith S. Rycus and Ronald C. Hughes, Child Welfare League of America, serves as an essential companion to the Core Curriculum. The Field Guides have also been translated into Russian, and are being shared in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania with much success. My role was to help the university learn how best to teach the teachers, and most impor- tantly to do this within Kyrgyzstan’s educational and cultural contexts. I had a lot of learning to do myself. Maps and guidebooks were helpful in fixing my global bearings. But for me the dream truly came alive when I came to this country to meet at length with faculty, students, NGOs partners and the Kyrgyz Association of social workers. Students and teachers helped me craft

a program that would truly meet their learn-

ing needs and professional goals. Together we determined that a one-year specialized course

series with supervised work out in the real

course series with supervised work out in the real w w w . t h e

October 2011 The Spektator



20 Focus Rays of Hope What drove the young people of the Bishkek Humanities University to

Rays of Hope

What drove the young people of the Bishkek Humanities University to aspire to this noble and sometimes thankless profession? When asked how they would be living their lives in a Kyrgyz- stan that valued and supported the specializa- tion, this is how they answered:

“I would be thinking about the family I have been working with for the year and how they are doing. I’d be checking on their progress, seeing that they are doing better because of how I have built trust with them and showed them new ways to be a family”(Elnura, 21, born in Batken); “I would feel comfortable and confident about the family I am working with and would feel I can work with them and help them because I have the skills. As a social worker I hope for this the most” (Alima, 20, Bishkek); “We [the students] wouldn’t be strangers to the NGOs - we would be the type of specialists they want and need to help children and families” (Er- zhan, 21, Naryn)

Christine Tappan, MSW, CAGS, is driven by the power of education and its ability to strength- en families and communities in every culture throughout the world. She earned her Masters Degree in Social Work at the University of Michi- gan and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Special Education & Leadership at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. She arrived in Kyrgyzstan via a BHU application for a Fulbright Program Specialist to the Council for International Exchange of Scholars supported by the U.S. Em- bassy in Kyrgyzstan. Christine and husband Bill have two sons, Joshua and Jordan. Christine and her sister Cyndi Boschard Perkins, columnist and editor, are in the process of collecting a series of stories about social workers and their experiences in Kyrgyzstan which will be published in their up- coming book, “Social Work on the Silk Road.” She can be contacted via

Silk Road.” She can be contacted via . world best fit the needs of all.

world best fit the needs of all. Many students studying social work at BHU, pronounced in Russian “B’gu”, have made life choices with serious consequences. One of the 20 third-year students selected for the new Children and Families specialization in social work says that her family was very concerned when she chose this profession, because there is a general perception that “social workers are servants.” “We have to prove how valuable our job is,” says this young woman, who like her peers has entered the profession because of a central belief that family is the foundation and the purpose of life. “The difficult social situations in the country bother me a lot. I want to take my part in chang- ing it,” says Nurgul. These fledgling do-gooders told me that they wanted to be part of something that might help to change their country in a way that make lives better for all families. Several expressed a desire to maintain the unique culture of Kyrgyzstan while encouraging open and honest societal dialogue about real problems in Kyrgyz society: alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence and mental illness. And they saw the specialization at BHU, “as

a way to increase the prestige of the social work profession.” These students, and students to come, are ready to check out of the “pity party” that plagues the social work profession and claim respect for the work they do. When asked whether child abuse occurs in Kyrgyzstan, all the students I spoke with agree that it does and that few are open and willing to discuss why it occurs. It’s a universal travesty deeply felt here. One female social work student from Osh in

a sharing session admitted that the custom of bride stealing keeps her from visiting her village. “I am afraid if I go home, I will never come back.” This student and others who spoke to me on condition of anonymity said that this Kyrgyz tra- dition can be harmful to young girls and women, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and children

and women, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and children who then are at high risk of abuse.
and women, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and children who then are at high risk of abuse.

who then are at high risk of abuse. Child labour is another problem students expressed great concern about, even though they recognize that many parents must make their children work to bring enough money into the family for food and shelter. “Parents don’t feel good about this though”, one student shared, “they feel inadequate as a parent, have low self-esteem, and so they drink alcohol and sometimes beat or neglect their chil- dren.” In one planning conversation with students, I asked the miracle question: If you woke up one year from now, and the children and families so- cial work specialization was happening success- fully, what would you be doing? Their responses made me all the more grate- ful to be a part of this project (see grey box). These students believe social work could add value to Kyrgyz society both in terms of reducing the costs of social problems and as working, edu- cated professional contributing economically. I have been asked more times than I can count why I want to come to Kyrgyzstan to work with social work students and faculty. My response is always the same: I see hope in Kyrgyzstan. I see commitment, possibilities and desire in the eyes of all the other dreamers who have been a part of this project. It’s a practical magic. As one student stated quite simply on the first

day of class, “The difficult social situations in the country bother me a lot. I want to take my part in changing it – and this specialization can help me to do that.” That’s the spirit that has brought me to love Kyrgyzstan and the many social workers who will help to power the energy for change. The project remains in need of funds to sup- port teaching materials, such as textbooks, a lap- top computer and an LCD projector. Donations would be greatly appreciated and can be made through a U.S. and Canadian tax deductible non- profit organization at the following address:

October 2011 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


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. $$$

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. $$$

Mexican Canteena (Chui 158, near Beta Stores) At its best in the summer as sombrero classics ser- enade pedestrians down Chui and a mixed crowd sits on the porch washing down tacos with strong marguirita. Burritos and fajitas are mouth-watering here, and long-haired gringo types will be glad to have their beer served with a lemon, not a straw. $$$

Smokie’s (Donetskaya/Jukeeva Pudovkina) Bishkek’s first and only traditional American barbecue restaurant serves pit-smoked spicy beef brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, lamb legs and chicken quarters. Well worth the trek out to Or- to-Sai market in the cooler half of the city. Enjoy

a range of cocktails and spirits, too. $$$


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. $$$


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. $

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.


Alabama Cafe (Sovietskaya, opposite fitzpribori) With the demise of Mimimo, Alabama is currently the Spektator’s favourite place to load up on tzizitski, khajapuri (three types of), some truly delicious khinkali (think fresher, tastier manti) and other sensibly- priced Georgian treats. Competitive steaks,too. $$


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. $$$

Vienna (Moscow/Soviet) Actually an Austrian, but subsumed into our German section in the name of Anschluss. Vena is a cracking lit- tle place to people-watch over some great European dishes and a glass of fine Austrian wine. If you didn’t know Austria had fine wines, you can check into the adjoining shop to begin your viticultural education. Vienna is spelled ВЕНА in Russian. Free Wi-Fi. $$$


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 ‘Datski Schnaffer’. $$$$

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. $$$

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

City Movie Bar (By Ala Too Square on Kievskaya) Movie’s outdoor patio is well positioned to peo- ple-watch on Bishkek’s equivalent of the Champs- Elysees. Order veal in a puff-pastry casing with- creamy mushroom sauce - you won’t regret it. $$$

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! $$$$

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

October 2011 The Spektator

Bars, Restaurants & Clubs


Fatboy’s* (Chui/Tynystanova) Civilized, friendly cafe bang in the middle of town and a popular ex-pat meeting point. Sensible spot for conversation, but if you’re alone there’s a mini- library to peruse (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 cocktail 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.

Minibuses 195 and 110 take you right past it as you

head out to the mountains. $$$

GlavPivTrest* (Asenbai region, next to City Club) We watched a band called Liquid Cactus play here and admired the old Soviet paraphenalia hanging on the walls. Lenin makes an appearance outside the bogs and you can get Spektator favourite Ven- skoye on tap. Good beer snacks and the burgers aren’t bad either. Nice for a ‘theme’ night out. $$$

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. $$$

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. $$$

Pinta Pub* (133, Chui) Brought to you by the same folks that own the best draught beer shops in the city, Pinta Pub is a bright green signed lighthouse for the Spektator on a hot day. With a host of well-kept ales on tap, food-wise we recommend complementing a nice ‘Greek’ salad with any of the dishes from the pork page on the menu, all of which are excellent. Recommended! $$$

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)

This place is a free wi-fi 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! $$$$

Indian Village (Vefa Centre, Sovietskaya/Gorkova) It’s on the third floor (if you count ground floor as the first). A cheaper version of The Host, if you can bear the fake-fontaine, soul sucking environs of this Turkish-built mall. The vegetable biryani is good for days when you are feeling off meat, while the milky chai tea is authentic, if a little sweet. $$


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



Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and
Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and

Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and

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 cin- ema. Enjoy the best pizza in town, gnocci and other typical 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. $$$$

Fusion (Vefa Centre, Sovietskaya/Gorkova) Takeout is free on orders over 450 soms (0312 510 707). Teriaki chicken, Miso soup, sushi rolls and pork in ginger sauce are all well worth a phone call. $$$


Kyung Bok Kung (30, Chui), Vostok 5) Family-run and extremely popular among a small circle of ex-pats, who begged us not to put it in here for fear of ruining ‘the secret’ - sorry guys, the game is up. $$$

Chong Gi Won (115, Chui), Vostok 5 Across the street from Kyung Bok Kung, our resident Korean tells us this place isn’t bad either. $$$


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. $$$

L’Azzurro (105, Ibraimova) This is a delight, albeit a pricy one. If the plan is to stick to Levantine treats then L’Azzurro has the full range, but we recommend dabbling in the fish as well. The grilled trout, in particular, is a winner. A good place to take large parties. $$$$

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. $$$

opment. Three floors, VIP rooms, kaliyans aplenty. $$$ w w w . t h e s

October 2011 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 -1 is on Togolok Moldo, next to the stadium $$

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

Faiza I (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. Slightly more upmarket sister restauraunt on Mederova/Tynastanova. $

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 $$$

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

Jalalabad (Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya) Basically the cheapest food (that won’t give you gut rot) in the centre of town. Probably at its best in sum- mer, when the shashlyk masters flanking the entrance offer their creations straight to guests sitting at East- ern-style tables – cross your legs and see how long before cramp sets in. $

Sauporo (Kok-Jar Village)

A veritable Kyrgyz disneyland. Manas greets you at a

dung-scented entrance, old men catch their supper

in a lake and waitresses in national dress bring out

things like beshbarmak po-Talaski. Not kosher. $$$$

Tubeiteika (Moskovskaya/Turusbekova) Hard to spell but great to eat at. The menu is well beyond the traditional Central Asian scope, with nods to China, Japan and Europe, too. We liked the Chinese chicken, the sushi and the shashlyk. $$$


Pirogoff-Vodkin (Kievskaya/Isanova) Classy restaurant with a turn of the 20th century atmosphere serving Russian specialities. Have your tea in a giant samovar. $$$

Khutoryanka (Bokonbaeva/Isanova) Unassuming, to put it mildly, on the outside, this place is a revelation on the inside. Delicious food, reasonable service, Ukrainian brass band music on the cd player. We love it! $$$

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. $$$

Zaporyzhia (9, Prospect Mira)

Zaporyzhia is a cossack flavoured restauraunt in

a varnish-scented log cabin. Hearty rustic dishes and a homely atmosphere. The medovukha is rec- ommended! $$$


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 lepyosh- ka and good, affordable Turkish cuisine. $$

Ojak (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’. $

Tunel (Sovietskaya/Gorkova) What came after Konak. Any reports welcome!

Usta (Opposite the main mosque, Moscow street) Probably the best of the lot. $$

Yusa (Logvinenko/Bokonbayeva) The lavash is outstanding here, as are the range of sauces that compliment a wide array of vegetable and meat dishes. We recommend their assorti kebab, which unlike other variations on the dish, won’t leave you glued to the toilet seat the next 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-

eigners can often get in for free. Popular throughout

the week. (Entrance ‘foreigners’ free)

GQ (Next to the Sports Palace) Tucked away between Togolok Moldo and Isanova and Frunze and Chui, not far from Coffee House. The DJs here spin some experimental stuff that differs from the usual dross. A favourite of students from the American University. (Entrance charge 400-500 som)

Platinum (East side of the Philharmonia) Take a seat at the snazzy 360 degree bar and do

battle with some of Kyrgyzstan’s most convivial

‘elite’ for gold-digging temptresses

‘special nights’ advertized on a billboard near you. (Entrance charge 400-500 som)

Look out 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)

Esco-bar (Gorkova, 200 m East of Tash Rabat) Named after the infamous Colombian cocaine baron, staff are unlikely to bash a line out for you on arrival. What you will get is decent tunes most nights in a ‘pre-party’ spot brought to you by the creators of the Vefa centre’s Veranda. $$$

Sweet Sixties (Molodaya Gvardia/Kievskaya) Live cover bands most nights. Full menu, popular with a younger crowd. $$

Zeppelin (43, Chui) 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 rock or punk bands strutting their stuff, heavier beats seem to go down best with the young Rus- sian crowd. Full restaurant menu. (Entrance charge 100-150 som)

Live music also common at Stary Edgar’s, Beatles Bar, Foyer and Blonder Pub (see ‘restaurants’)

October 2011 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







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October 2011 The Spektator


What’s On

October Dates

October 21 Ballet Trance Mix at GQ Night Club

If you were thinking these two genres were

mutually exclusive and incompatible, you are probably right. Still, nice to know that the

good people of GQ are having a go at combin- ing them. Call 0551 444411 for more details. (Chui 219)

October 22 Scheherezade at the Opera Ballet Theatre Famous Opera by Rimsky-Korsokov Begins at 17.00 pm, tickets should be booked at least a day in advance. The national ballet troupe peform a popular ballet which made its debut in Moscow in 1910. Tel: 66 15 48

Until October 29 Magical Story Table Art Exhibition at the State Gallery US artists JD Beltran and Scott Minneman par- ticipate in this exhibition in which young local artists have produced images representing the story of Kyrgyzstan and its peoples. Photogra- phy and audio exhibitions also feature.

Until October 30 Personal Exhibition of Asanali Beishenova Art Exhibition at the State Gallery

A famous local artist displays his lifetime’s ar-

tistic achievements. Looks yurtish and vaguely

patriotic, but then what do we know?

Into November

November 5 Guy Fawkes’ Night Drinks A celebration of 20 Spektators Everyone welcome, free drinks up to 500 som for our selfless team of writers, designers, board members, spin doctors, etc, etc. Everyone else pays cash. Facebook notification to follow.

Until November 20 Exotic Extreme Wild Animals at the Circus The team that brought you the midget circus are back with another politically incorrect show to have animal rights activists tearing their fur out. The billing promises a black panther in ad- dition to leopards. Entrance for kids under 4 is free. (Frunze/Sovietskaya)

TUK Dates for November

November 5-7 Tour of Issyk-Kul including festival Departure from Bishkek at 06:30. Festival starts at 11:00, it includes national competitions and hunts;:

“burkut saluu” (hunt with the eagle), “taigan saluu” (hunt with greyhound), “jamby atuu” (shooting by bow and arrow), and “at chabysh” (horse race). After 16:00, transfer to Karakol, supper, overnight stay in the guest house. (First lunch isn’t included). Day 2: After breakfast, transfer to the Ak-Suu gorge, visiting the local arboretum (territory is 1,5 hectares). Picnic, transfer to Semenovka village. Day 3: Departure to Grigorevskoe gorge, trek along 1st lake, lunch and transfer back to Bishkek. The cost of transport, nourishment, living and or- ganizing expenses is 3200 som per person for a group of 15. (For TUK members - 3000 som)

November 6 Hiking in the Kel-tor gorge Departure from Bishkek at 7:30 to Kel-Tor gorge

(90 km. from Bishkek). The total length of distance

is 16 km, picnic at the Kel-Tor lake (2725 m.).

Conditions of participation:

Medium difficulty trek. Kids from 12 years old are

allowed to take part in trip, but with parents only. The organization and transport cost per person for

a group of 16 is 360 som (for our members - 280 som)

November 7 The canyons of Boom Gorge One day trek along canyons of Boom gorge (Red bridge). Picnic in open air, non categorical trip from light to medium intensity. Transport and or- ganization costs per person (including consulta- tion and guide) for a group of 12-14 is about 380 som (for our members – 330 som).

November 12 Ken-Tor Gorge trek Day-long trek to the Ken-Tor gorge (up to the mo- raine). Open air lunch. Transfer back to Transport and organization costs per person (in- cluding consultation and guide) for a group of 12- 14 is about 280 som (for our members – 240 som).

For later dates please contact TUK directly.

Groups meet the Thursday before the weekend of departure. Call (0312) 906 115 or email us at trek@ Web site: http://www.trek-kyrgyzstan. com

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

We are short of inspiration for this month’s Spektral. With the onset of November, it could be about to get nippy, but then not cold enough to ski yet. We recently headed south and enjoyed the warmer climes, but this may or may not be a good idea post-presidential vote. How about Batken? Still warm, but too remote to be a political trouble spot, full of apricots and, er, other things.

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

October 2011 The Spektator