You are on page 1of 28

Spektator

№20 October 2011
Your monthly guide to what’s happening in and around Bishkek


T
H
E
Restaurant Guide Tourist Map What’s On
Budget
Bishkek
on
a
Plus:
Social Work on the
Silk Road
Live, Breathe, Eat
Football
Sweet Home
Novostroika
Kievskaya 71
Tel.: +996 (312) 976 777
www.movie.kg
Ticket Agency
Sovietskaya 19,
(Mederova crossing)
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
720005
Tel.:
Mobile:
Fax:
Air Tickets, Education Abroad, Work and Travel, Public Speaking,
Training for television
Contents
This Month
Out & About

T
H
E
Spektator
The Spektator is now online at www.thespektator.co.uk
.co.uk
Restaurants, Bars, Clubs
All the best bars and clubs in town.
City Map
Don’t get lost.
25
26
22
4
What’s On
The pick of the entertainment listings.
The Guide
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.
Letter to the Editor
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.
8
16
18
TheSpektator Magazineis availableat 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.
ON THE COVER: A ceramic Carmen or a gamburger - dif-
ficult choices for the budget visitor to Kyrgyzstan.
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.
The Spektator Magazine
Founder: Tom Wellings
Managing Editor: Chris Rickleton
(editor@thespektator.co.uk)
Staff writers: Alex Ward, Robert
Marks, Thomas Olsen, Dennis Keen
(keenonkyrgyzstan@thespektator.
co.uk), Palmer Keen, Holly Myers,
Evan Harris, Nigel Browne, Adeline
Bell (Adelinebell@thespektator.co.uk),
Patrick Barrow, Pavel Kropotkin, Alice
Janvrin, Sergey Vysotsky
Guest Contributor: Christine Tappan
Design: Aleka Claire
Advertising Manager: Irina Kasymova
(email: advertise@thespektator.co.uk)

www.thespektator.co.uk
Want to contribute as a freelance
writer? Please contact:
editor@thespektator.co.uk
“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.
6
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.
Focus
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.
12
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
4 This Month
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
Kyrgyzstan: Unique Ecosystem Facing Survival Threat
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-
MICHAEL IGOE
Atambayev greasing election
campaign with US motor oil?
Suvanaliev campaign advert
insults the Chinese
Madumarov campaign
billboards burned
Big hitter Nariman Tyuleev
tweets his withdrawal
On the Campaign Trail
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... Valvoline
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.
BISHKEK, Oct 11(Kloop.info) - 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.
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”.
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.
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.
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
6 This Month
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”
Ahead of Presidential Vote, “Iron Felix” Fed to the Wolves
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.
Above An Ar-Namys campaign banner during last year’s parliamentary elections (Bernd Hrdy)
CHRIS RICKLETON
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
8
Out & About
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
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.
CHRIS RICKLETON
T
Off!
Above A young ‘patriot’ waves the Kyrgyz flag at
a qualifier between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
(Kirsten Styers, www.ivorypomegranate.com)
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)
Out & About
Kick
www.thespektator.co.uk October 2011 The Spektator
9
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.”
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

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 ti…
Na 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.
Spektator Vocab Check
‘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’
No.57#
Out & About
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
10 Out & About
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@
ffkr.kg).Their site, www.ffkr.kg, 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 Sport.kg newspaper
provides a good overview of how the country’s
athletes are doing in everything from swimming to
tennis through shot putting.
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:
0555888411
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-
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
12 Out & About
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-
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.
THOMAS OLSEN
Y
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-
Bishkek
Budget
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)
on a
www.thespektator.co.uk October 2011 The Spektator
13
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.
Thomas Olsen is a visiting student, researcher
and writer living in Bishkek. His blog can be found
at www.frunzeisdead.wordpress.com.
Out & About
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
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
OUR QUALITY IS OUR REPUTATION -
all our animals are blood tested before slaughter
THE FINEST FRESH & COOKED MEATS IN BISHKEK
all our meat is prepared by a fully qualified, experienced British butcher
FULL RANGE OF WESTERN-STYLE STEAKS, BACON, SAUSAGES, HAMS etc.
freshly vacuum packed for your convenience
AUSSIE BUTCHER
OUR SHOP IS OPEN EVERY DAY!
26/a LOGVINENKO STREET, BISHKEK
(next to the VIS a VIS CAFÉ, BETWEEN CHUI – KIEVSKAYA STREETS)
Opening hours – 0730 - 2300 DAILY
Orders taken and delivered (free of charge in Bishkek)
For more details please contact
David Hutton Tel: 0775 58 23 69 mobile
Or email your order to: aussie_butcher@yahoo.com
Or call into the café
IT IS OUR PLEASURE TO SERVE YOU
VIS a VIS CAFÉ
26/a LOGVINENKO STREET, BISHKEK
(BETWEEN CHUI – KIEVSKAYA STREETS)
The best PUB GRUB in town: All food especially
breakfasts available 0730 – 2300 - 7 days a week
Our own FINE WESTERN-STYLE ORGANIC STEAKS & PORK
(choice of potatoes and vegetables included),
BACON, HAM, SAUSAGES (pure meat – natural skins),
ALL DAY BREAKFASTS – Full English
(probably the biggest & best in Bishkek), English, American, Continental
SCRAMBLED EGGS, OMELETTES,
FISH & CHIPS, NOWEGIAN SALMON, LOCAL TROUT
DAILY ROASTS - BEEF, PORK, LAMB, CHICKEN-
roast/boiled potatoes, 2 vegetables included
VERY REASONABLE PRICES
FREE Wi-Fi
BEST DARTBOARD IN BISHKEK
SATELLITE TV SPORT – ENGLISH COMMENTARIES
LIVE RUGBY/CRICKET/PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL
ENGLISH-SPEAKING WAITRESSES
ENGLISH – RUSSIAN LANGUAGE MENU
NO SERVICE CHARGE
EXCELLENT FRESHLY GROUND COFFEE –
LATTE, CAPUCCINO, AMERICANO
TASTY TEA –
BLACK, GREEN, HERBAL
GOOD WINES and BEERS
OUR QUALITY IS OUR REPUTATION -
all our animals are blood tested before slaughter
THE FINEST FRESH & COOKED MEATS IN BISHKEK
all our meat is prepared by a fully qualified, experienced British butcher
FULL RANGE OF WESTERN-STYLE STEAKS, BACON, SAUSAGES, HAMS etc.
freshly vacuum packed for your convenience
AUSSIE BUTCHER
OUR SHOP IS OPEN EVERY DAY!
26/a LOGVINENKO STREET, BISHKEK
(next to the VIS a VIS CAFÉ, BETWEEN CHUI – KIEVSKAYA STREETS)
Opening hours – 0730 - 2300 DAILY
Orders taken and delivered (free of charge in Bishkek)
For more details please contact
David Hutton Tel: 0775 58 23 69 mobile
Or email your order to: aussie_butcher@yahoo.com
Or call into the café
IT IS OUR PLEASURE TO SERVE YOU
VIS a VIS CAFÉ
26/a LOGVINENKO STREET, BISHKEK
(BETWEEN CHUI – KIEVSKAYA STREETS)
The best PUB GRUB in town: All food especially
breakfasts available 0730 – 2300 - 7 days a week
Our own FINE WESTERN-STYLE ORGANIC STEAKS & PORK
(choice of potatoes and vegetables included),
BACON, HAM, SAUSAGES (pure meat – natural skins),
ALL DAY BREAKFASTS – Full English
(probably the biggest & best in Bishkek), English, American, Continental
SCRAMBLED EGGS, OMELETTES,
FISH & CHIPS, NOWEGIAN SALMON, LOCAL TROUT
DAILY ROASTS - BEEF, PORK, LAMB, CHICKEN-
roast/boiled potatoes, 2 vegetables included
VERY REASONABLE PRICES
FREE Wi-Fi
BEST DARTBOARD IN BISHKEK
SATELLITE TV SPORT – ENGLISH COMMENTARIES
LIVE RUGBY/CRICKET/PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL
ENGLISH-SPEAKING WAITRESSES
ENGLISH – RUSSIAN LANGUAGE MENU
NO SERVICE CHARGE
EXCELLENT FRESHLY GROUND COFFEE –
LATTE, CAPUCCINO, AMERICANO
TASTY TEA –
BLACK, GREEN, HERBAL
GOOD WINES and BEERS
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
16 Letter to the Editor
’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
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
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
THEODORE MOAT
I
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...
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.
‘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’
Above Ted’s back yard? (archive)
Sweet
Novostroika
Home
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
18
Focus
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.
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-
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
M
CHRISTINE TAPPAN
on
Social
Work
the
Road
Silk
www.thespektator.co.uk October 2011 The Spektator
19
Focus
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
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
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-
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
‘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’
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
20
Focus
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
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:
http://www.lambinternational.org/donations.htm
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 TappanF@aol.com.
Rays of Hope
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
22
THE GUIDE
Bishkek life
Bars
Dungan
$ - Expect change from 150 som
$$ - A little over 250 should do the trick
$$$ - Expect to pay in the region of 350
$$$$ - A crisp 500 (or more) needed in this joint
Chinese
Ak-Bata (108, Ibraimova)
This place must serve up pretty authentic dishes
as it’s always full of Chinese playing mah-jong and
waving their chopsticks about. Smoky and stuffy,
but in a nice way. $
Hollywood*(Druzhba/Sovietskaya)
As you would probably guess, decorated with
movie posters, photos of cinema icons and a
bunch of American kitsch. Hollywood is popu-
lar with a younger crowd and is usually packed
from mid-evening onwards. A fun place for a few
drinks before heading off to the clubs. $$$
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. $$$
Landau (Manas/Gorky)
Fancy something a little different? If you can tol-
erate the arthritic service, Landau isn’t a bad spot
for a pork steak or some other Armenian culinary
goodies. Also, treat yourself to some decent Arme-
nian conjac whilst your here, you’ll never go near
Bishkek conjac again. Ever. $$$
restaurants
and
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.
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)
(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.
$$$
(Moscow/Soviet)
Actually an Austrian, but subsumed into our German
section in the name of Anschluss. Vena is a cracking lit-
tle place to people-watch over some great European
dishes and a glass of fine Austrian wine. If you didn’t
know Austria had fine wines, you can check into the
adjoining shop to begin your viticultural education.
Vienna is spelled ВЕНА in Russian. Free Wi-Fi. $$$
American/Mexican
Armenian
German
(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. $$$$
Bacardi* (Togolok Moldo 17/1)
Elite lounge bar affair with separate rooms for din-
ing, dancing and whiling the night away smoking
hukkah pipes. Urban grooves played at a reason-
able volume and a full menu that includes a range
of tasty platters. $$$$
Barcode* (Toktogul/Sovietskaya, inside ‘Moto’)
A hip, clean interior, fast wi-fi and an affordable
business lunch have made Barcode something of
a hotspot since it opened in early 2010. The place
comes to life at night when 3 DJs compete for your
affections with an array of banging tunes. $$
(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! $$$$
(Gorky/Tynystanova)
Glamorous VIP complex including a restaurant, bar
and casino. A decedantly decorated and perculiar-
ly endearing homage to the notorious bank robber
- we’re sure he would appreciate it. $$$$
International
Alabama Cafe (Sovietskaya, opposite fitzpribori)
With the demise of Mimimo, Alabama is currently
the Spektator’s favourite place to load up on tzizitski,
khajapuri (three types of), some truly delicious khinkali
(think fresher, tastier manti) and other sensibly-
priced Georgian treats. Competitive steaks,too. $$
Georgian
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. $$
Shaolin (Zhibek Zholu/Prospect Mir)
This tidy looking restaurant sticks out for its sheer
range of oriental dishes and its large, round tables
that make it ideal for extended gatherings. $$
www.thespektator.co.uk October 2011 The Spektator
23
(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. $$$
(Asenbai region, next to City Club)
We watched a band called Liquid Cactus play here
and admired the old Soviet paraphenalia hanging
on the walls. Lenin makes an appearance outside
the bogs and you can get Spektator favourite Ven-
skoye on tap. Good beer snacks and the burgers
aren’t bad either. Nice for a ‘theme’ night out. $$$
(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 . $$$$
Jumanji (Behind the circus)
It’s strange. This place is decorated with fake jungle
foliage and is based on a crap kids’ film yet still sort
of works. You also get to roll a pair of Jumanji dice
before you order for the chance to win a special se-
cret prize - we like this. $$$
(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. $$$$
(338a, Frunze)
One of our favourite places to drink in the Summer-
time, when we can afford it. Outdoor balcony-cum-
terrace high above the street with slouch-couches
and fine views of the circus - which you can some-
times smell in hot weather. Nice. $$$
(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
Bars, Restaurants & Clubs

T
H
E
Spektator
Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and thespektator.co.uk
.co.uk
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. $$
Cyclone (136, Chui)
Smart Italian restaurant with plush interior, efficient,
polite serving staff and a warm atmosphere to al-
leviate Bishkek’s winter chills. Pasta dishes stand out
among a menu of traditional Italian favourites. $$$
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. $$$$
Fusion (Vefa Centre, Sovietskaya/Gorkova)
Takeout is free on orders over 450 soms (0312 510
707). Teriaki chicken, Miso soup, sushi rolls and pork
in ginger sauce are all well worth a phone call. $$$
Japanese
Korean
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. $$$
Chong Gi Won (115, Chui), Vostok 5
Across the street from Kyung Bok Kung, our resident
Korean tells us this place isn’t bad either. $$$
(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.
$$$
Beirut (Shevchenko/Frunze)
Now in a new location, Beirut continues to serve en-
ticing Lebanese goodies including falaffle, humus,
and tasty little meat pie things. $$$
Lebanese
Regional/Central Asian
Adriatico (219, Chui)
Reportedly suffering following the departure of
its Italian chef, Walter, although we have been told
that the soup is still excellent. $$$$
Italian
L’Azzurro (105, Ibraimova)
This is a delight, albeit a pricy one. If the plan is to
stick to Levantine treats then L’Azzurro has the full
range, but we recommend dabbling in the fish as
well. The grilled trout, in particular, is a winner. A
good place to take large parties. $$$$
Indian
(Sovietskaya, opposite the Hyatt)
A varied and interesting menu including fine Indian
food make this place a real treat. On midweek days
there are also several excellent business lunch deals
offering a soup, salad, main course and dessert for
250-350 som. A real stand out and a Spektator fa-
vourite! $$$$
(Vefa Centre, Sovietskaya/Gorkova)
It’s on the third floor (if you count ground floor as
the first). A cheaper version of The Host, if you can
bear the fake-fontaine, soul sucking environs of this
Turkish-built mall. The vegetable biryani is good for
days when you are feeling off meat, while the milky
chai tea is authentic, if a little sweet. $$
getting you down. $$$$
(15, Panfilova)
The concrete monstrosity of the Russian Theatre con-
ceals one of Bishkek’s finest attempts at a cosy base-
ment bar. Friendly staff, a decent menu and a collection
of old bits and bobs decorating the walls make Edgar’s
an attractive alternative to the city’s mainstream cafés.
A blues band plays most nights and a pianist adds a ro-
mantic ambience on some Sunday evenings. $$$
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! $$$
U Mazaya (Behind ‘Zaks’ on Sovietskaya)
Possibly Central Asia’s only rabbit themed restaurant.
Descend into this underground warren and tuck in.
Also check out the fairy-light adorned flagship sister-
rabbit-restaurant in Asenbai micro region. $$$
(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) $$$
(26, Logvinenko)
This place is a free wi-fi honey pot for ex pats. Steak
is always advisable when eating at an appendix to a
butcher’s, and the sirloin here is exceptional. Also, en-
joy English breakfasts, chips that aren’t cold and local
dark ale Chuiski on tap. Recommended! $$$
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. $$$$
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
24
Bars, Restaurants & Clubs
Clubs
There are some Bishkek old-hands who say that
things aren’t what they used to be when it comes to
nightlife in Bishkek. They talk of legendary nights of
carnage, vomit, and debauchery - delights that con-
temporary Bishkek struggles to offer.
Not so, we say. Take your pick from the list below and
we’re sure there’s still enough carnage, vomit and
debauchery in town to keep everyone happy.
Promzona (16, Cholpon-Atinskaya)
www.promzona.kg
Promzona’s far-flung location sadly means a taxi
ride or a long walk home are in order at the end
of a night. Nevertheless, this trendy live music
venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an exten-
sive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring,
strangely, a wind tunnel fan, make this one of the
best nights out in Bishkek. Tuesday is Jazz night.
Rock or blues bands normally play at the week-
ends. (Music charge 200-350 som)
Esco-bar (Gorkova, 200 m East of Tash Rabat)
Named after the infamous Colombian cocaine
baron, staff are unlikely to bash a line out for you
on arrival. What you will get is decent tunes most
nights in a ‘pre-party’ spot brought to you by the
creators of the Vefa centre’s Veranda. $$$
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)
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)
www.retrometro.kg
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)
Night
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. $$$
(Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge)
Twenty-four hour joint that’s a godsend for those
who get cravings for lagman or manti at four in
the morning. Sometimes smoking isn’t allowed,
sometimes it is, however the food and prices are
constantly pretty good. Comfy booth style seats to
dig yourself into after a heavy night. Arzu -1 is on
Togolok Moldo, next to the stadium $$
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 $$$
(Almatinkskoya/Chui)
Excellent little stolyva (canteen) full of the timeless
regional favourites. Being an Uighur restaurant its gero
lagman or lagman pa Uighurski particularly stand out.
No smoking, sit, eat and leave. $
Jalalabad (Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya)
Basically the cheapest food (that won’t give you gut
rot) in the centre of town. Probably at its best in sum-
mer, when the shashlyk masters flanking the entrance
offer their creations straight to guests sitting at East-
ern-style tables – cross your legs and see how long
before cramp sets in. $
Sauporo (Kok-Jar Village)
A veritable Kyrgyz disneyland. Manas greets you at a
dung-scented entrance, old men catch their supper
in a lake and waitresses in national dress bring out
things like beshbarmak po-Talaski. Not kosher. $$$$
Tubeiteika (Moskovskaya/Turusbekova)
Hard to spell but great to eat at. The menu is well
beyond the traditional Central Asian scope, with nods
to China, Japan and Europe, too. We liked the Chinese
chicken, the sushi and the shashlyk. $$$
Live music also common at Stary Edgar’s, Beatles
Bar, Foyer and Blonder Pub (see ‘restaurants’)
Russian/Ukrainian
Diskoklubs
Live Music
Turkish
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.. Look out for
‘special nights’ advertized on a billboard near you.
(Entrance charge 400-500 som)
Sweet Sixties (Molodaya Gvardia/Kievskaya)
Live cover bands most nights. Full menu, popular
with a younger crowd. $$
Huzur (Kievskaya/Togoluk Moldo,)
Convivial proprietor Ali claims to have Steven Ger-
rard’s 2005 Champion’s League winning Liverpool
shirt. If you don’t believe that, belive in free lepyosh-
ka and good, affordable Turkish cuisine. $$
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’. $
(Sovietskaya/Gorkova)
What came after Konak. Any reports welcome!
Usta (Opposite the main mosque, Moscow street)
Probably the best of the lot. $$
Yusa (Logvinenko/Bokonbayeva)
The lavash is outstanding here, as are the range of
sauces that compliment a wide array of vegetable
and meat dishes. We recommend their assorti kebab,
which unlike other variations on the dish, won’t
leave you glued to the toilet seat the next day. $$
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)
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! $$$
www.thespektator.co.uk October 2011 The Spektator
25 Map

K
i
e
v
s
k
a
y
a
T
o
k
t
o
g
u
l
a
T
o
k
t
o
g
u
l
a
T
o
k
t
o
g
u
l
a
M
o
s
k
o
v
s
k
a
y
a
M
o
s
k
o
v
M
o
s
k
o
v
s
k
a
y
a
K
i
e
v
s
k
a
y
a
M
a
n
a
s a
v
e
.
M
a
n
a
s a
v
e
.
L
v
a

T
o
l
s
t
o
g
o
L
v
a

T
o
l
s
t
o
g
o
L
v
a

T
o
l
s
t
o
g
o
M
o
lo
d
a
y
a
G
v
a
rd
ia
J
i
b
e
k

J
o
l
u
J
i
b
e
k

J
o
J
u
m
a
b
e
k
Koenkozova

Isanova
T
.

A
b
d
y
m
o
m
u
n
o
v
E
n
g
e
l
s
a
R
y
s
k
u
l
o
v
a
M
i
c
h
a
e
l

F
r
u
n
z
e
S
p
a
r
t
a
k
s
t
a
d
i
u
m
M
i
c
h
a
e
l

F
r
u
n
z
e
A
b
d
y
m
o
m
u
n
o
v
a
B
a
e
t
o
v
a
J
u
m
a
b
e
k
Erkind
C
i
r
c
u
s
Tynystanova
Razzakova
Razzakova
Orozbekova
Orozbekova
B
o
k
o
n
b
a
e
v
a
y
a
b
l
o
g
u
T
B
o
k
o
n
b
Logvinenko
Isanova
Isanova
Tynystanova
A. Usenbaeva
Elebaeva
Fatianova
Shopokova
Shopokova
G
o
g
o
ly
a
G
o
g
o
ly
a O
g
o
n
b
a
e
v
a
To
g
o
lo
k
M
o
ld
o
E
rk
in
d
ik
S
O
V
E
T
S
K
A
YA
P
ra
v
d
a
P
ra
v
d
a
S
O
V
E
T
S
K
A
YA
S
O
V
E
T
S
K
A
YA
C
h
u
i
C
h
u
i
C
h
u
i
M
o
lo
d
a
y
a
G
v
a
rd
ia
M
a
n
a
s a
v
e
.
K
i
e
v
s
k
a
y
a
T
H
E

M
O
U
N
T
A
I
N
S
N
o
rth
Dvorets
Sporta
6
8
5
4
2
7
3
16
10 9
11
12
13
15
14
18
1
25
26
24
27
22
19
20
21
23
17
October 2011 The Spektator www.thespektator.co.uk
26
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?
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)
October Dates TUK Dates for November Entertainment Directory
Map: Location guide
1. Bella Italia
2. Metro Bar (American Pub)
3. Mexican Canteena
4. Zaporyzhian Nights
5. Coffe House (I)
6. Vis-a-Vis
21. Stary Edgars
22. TSUM Department Store
23. Jam
24. Mimino
25. Arabica
26. Blonder Pub
27. VEFA shopping Centre
14. New York Pizza
15. Pinta Pub
16. National Museum
17. Navigator
18. Sky Bar
19. Foyer
20. Fatboy’s
7. Beta Stores Supermarket
8. Derevyashka
9. Cyclone
10. Coffee House (II)
11. Adriatico
12. Santa Maria
13. Faiza
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.
For all the Bishkek opera, ballet and concert listings,
check our frequently updated What’s On listings at:
www.thespektator.co.uk
Live updates
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 Bishkek. .
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@
elcat.kg. Web site: http://www.trek-kyrgyzstan.
com
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.
Spektral Travel
What’s On
Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, Chui av. 4A, Office A4
Tel.: +996 (312) 90 61 15, 90 61 39
e-mail: trek@elcat.kg,
website: www.trek-kyrgyzstan.com, www.tuk.kg
Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan
Into November