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THE Spektator 40 som/сом

№3 Dec/Jan 2008/09

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

Ride the
Pamir Highway

Skiing guide to KG
Ratsek alpinist base gets a makeover
Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi: One of Asia’s
greatest bazaars
...and much more!

. .
Tourist Map What’s On Restaurant Guide
The NCCR North-South is one of twenty National Centres of Competence in Research implemented by
the Swiss National Science Foundation. Created in the understanding that development research and
cooperation are of primary concern to Switzerland, it currently comprises a network of about 400 re-
searchers worldwide.

The Central Asia partnership region comprises Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Work
in this region has been particularly challenging as the highly specialised and disciplinary research tradi-
tion inherited from the Soviet period did not support integrated approaches, methodologies and con-
cepts. Since its inception in 2001, efforts by the NCCR North-South and its local partners have had a
major impact on inter-institutional research collaboration within the region.

For further information please visit the following websites:;;

#36, Oshskaya Str., Bishkek
Kyrgyz Republic, 720035
tel. +996312 540573 / 542346

The Spektator Magazine
Editor & publisher: Tom Wellings
Staff writers: Alex Ward, Robert Marks,

Contents Andreas Hedfors, Chris Rickleton,

Isaac Rothschild, Anthony Butts,
Asel Orozalieva

Out & About

Davai Ski!
An introduction to the wonderful world of 4
Kyrgyz ski resorts. Also see our ski map on
page 27
Chinese pot-ocracy
Restaurant review from Chuchuara 6
Hoga, the Chinese hot pot hang out
Boomtown Ratsek
The Kyrgyz mountaineering base has 8
had a makeover. We take a look

This Month
News and Views 10
We talk to religious Norwegians and pro-
vide a wrap of the month’s news
Struggle for life 12
An essay on overcoming adversity and
Give AIDS a chance
December 1st was World AIDS day, what 14
was it all about?

COVER STORY: Ride the Pamir highway
Travelling along the roof of the world in
the company of a part time Kyrgyz pervert

Tour de Dordoi
One of Asia’s best markets,and it’s here in KG!
The Guide
Restaurants, Bars, Clubs
All the best bars and clubs in town
What’s On 26
The pick of the entertainment listings

Map 7
Relocated to make way for our sexy new
ski map on page 27
Weekend 28
Crosswords, Sudoku, and other things to
do over a coffee

COVER PHOTO (Ryan Erickson)

Unclaimed animal heads on the Pamir highway

The Spektator Magazine is available at locations throughout Bishkek, including: (Travel Agencies) Adventure Seller, Ak-Sai Travel, Carlson Wagonlit, Celestial Mountains, Eotour, 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.


See the whole picture with the Spektator and

4 Out & About
Right & far right The joys of Orlovka (all photos
Andreas Hefors)

Are you afflicted by a booze-induced Bishkek gut?

HERE AREN’T ANY SKIS left smaller than ready, anxious to guide us away from the chair
Need some bracing fresh air and some hearty ex-
size forty-two. People started coming and the noisy turning wheel. I project myself for-
ercise? The Spektator, in the company of all-round
here at 9 am today!” says the boy in the wards self-assuredly and with a cronk manage to
outdoors super-legend Mikhail Mikhailov, reveals
ski rental hut. After our two-hour long catch my right pole under the chair. With a slightly
all fifteen slalom sites within day-tour distance of
journey in a rickety minibus involving crooked pole and dented pride I slide down the
Bishkek. Although be warned, Skiing Kyrgyzstan
many vicissitudes of fortune - getting stuck in an piste to the lonely-looking plastic tables and sun
means you may lose something more than just
ice field, ploughing valiantly onwards with chained chairs at the bottom where biznezmeny and diplo-
your beer belly - like one of your limbs.
tires, being stopped at a road block - ski-rent boy mats enjoy 200 som shashlyk.
can go to hell if he thinks our day in the mountains During the day I make a handful of descents.
is going to be spoiled by a lack of fundamentally The snow is alright, and yes, it is a welcome change
necessary equipment . from the Bishkek urban stress to shoot away and
Navigating through the crowd of chattering splash a bit of powder this way and that. Given
new arrivals at Orlovka ski base we find a young the budget of the establishment, off-piste is not a
couple working at a food stall and not using their problem (come not to us for damages if you set off
gear today. After a brief chat with the base own- avalanches or impact a goat, though), and there
er, Volodya (a James Woods look-alike sporting a are even a few jumps. Many a privileged Westerner
cowboy hat), a pair of retro 80s skis are ours and will also have built up a skill at slalom that makes
we head off towards the ski lift ticket booth. Sec- for impressing some of the locals, but be wary, the
onds later, in a cloud of snow, a man crashes full Kyrgyz sbornaya komanda of snowboarders haunt
speed into the safety net metres away. “Prizemlit- these slopes before their international show-
sa!” (Landed!) the Russian exclaims in a heap of skis downs.
and expensive mountain apparel, his frost-ruddied Health and safety is not something that regis-
cheeks blossoming further. ters with the Kyrgyz machismo, nor is it much in
During our east bound minibus ride this morn- evidence at Orlovka ski base. I see only a handful
ing we passed no less than twelve ski centres, all of helmets all day and the flimsy security nets at
featuring at least one lift. As snow seemed sparse, the bottom of the slope and the low-tech bales
we decided the best bet would be to try Orlovka, a of hay lying behind the turning wheel of the ski-
former heavy-industry centre which today boasts lift grimly suggest what may lie in store for some
the country’s only snow cannons (expensive con- unsuspecting novice. “Chairs are safer than drag
traptions that even Karakol, Kyrgyzstan’s premiere lifts,“ says Mikhail Mikhailov, possibly sensing my
ski resort, doesn’t have). Here as in most centres, namby-pamby Western sensibilities had been
the lifts are short and there are only a few real somewhat alarmed. “Four years ago a Russian girl
slopes (although officially there are nine) . Despite got her hair stuck in one, and was scalped. She
this drawback Orlovka, as well as most of the other survived, but she doesn’t ski any more.” With that,
bases close to Bishkek, is pretty much always busy Mikhail skis off towards the shashlyk vendors.
at weekends. “We were in Kashka-Suu the last As my eyes follow the merry Orlovkans hurtling
weekend and the line to the lifts took thirty min- their way down the slope, with more than a few
utes!” offers one shades-clad man as we share the impressive tumbles, I begin to ponder that some-
chair ride up the mountain. thing more than a few schadenfreudian smirks may
We arrive at the top where two men stand be on offer. This chaotic human avalanche may

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Out & About 5

provide me opportunities to play the chivalrous was stolen in 2004,” Mikhail says. summer seasons, mostly from the Baltic coun-
hero - fetching skis, poles and hats, kneeling down Yet another of Mikhail’s favourite runs is found tries. They marvelled at our mountains! In winter
and fastening the bindings of helpless young lady- at Tö-Ashuu (Camel Pass). Opposite to Orlovka in us trainers went on week-long hikes for our own
skiiers! I feel I might be on to something and settle facilities as well as in direction from Bishkek it is pleasure.” As he recalls the past, today’s tour-par-
down to wait for an up-ended maiden. found on the road to Osh. Travellers should take ticipants come trudging back to our minibus with
Thirty minutes pass. Failing to see any suitable a right turn a few hundred meters after emerging a look of weary contentment. The time is past
damsels in distress I join Mikhail at the picnic ta- from the tunnel under the pass (3586 m). Heli ski- 5pm and the lifts are now closed.
bles for some meaty sustenance. “I always sug- ers and other small groups have been coming It has been quite a day. Mikhail, who is now star-
gest beginners wear helmets,” my companion says ing out the window of our minibus, looks rather
thoughtfully. “Nobody used to wear them, but over “Chairs are safer than drag lifts. wistful, possibly reminiscing his youth, or mulling
the last two seasons they’ve begun to do so. Three Four years ago a Russian girl got over the stolen ski lift from the Alarchinsky Glacier.
weeks ago here in Orlovka a snowboarder crashed I leave him to his thoughts and settle down for the
and hit his head. Without a helmet his skull would her hair stuck in one and was cold bumpy ride home.
have been all smashed up.” scalped. She survived, but she
In outdoorsy circles, the amiable 62-year-old, Find out More
with his fine repetuar of skiing horror stories, is doesn’t ski any more” See our ski-map on page 27 for a list of resorts near
legendary for his Sunday tours like the one I had Bishkek, and a guide to approximate prices.
joned today. He has been running them for dec- here for years, but only last season were a few
ades in both summer and winter. A pillar of the cabins and a restaurant building erected. A chair
Below Mikhail Mikhailov, man of action
outdoor community since the 1970s, he now sells and a cable car (!) are planned for 2009. As yet ski-
sports equipment and teaches tourism classes in ers are dependent on cars to get back up after the
the Financial Academy for a living, but on Sun- very easy slope downhill (good for beginners),
day mornings from the corner of Sovietskaya and but what the Camel Pass doesn’t have in sophisti-
Kievskaya, he brings groups of enthusiasts on free cation, it compensates for in breathtaking views
tours into the mountains, including a wealth of lo- of a cauldron-like valley fenced in to the south by
cal trivia and heartfelt friendliness. the Suusamyr-Too range.
Mikhailov’s tours are unique in a country where With fifteen bases near Bishkek plus Karakol, Kyr-
mountain sport is still reserved for the well-to-do. gyzstan has come a long way since the 90s. Up until
Those who don’t have their own wheels are at the then, there was only one lift in the country – at the
mercy of taxi drivers - who aren’t renowned for Young Slalom School in Chon-Tazh. In this Soviet
their charity. Marshrutka buses aren’t much more facility, only selected talented younglings were al-
helpful, going only to the closest resort - modest lowed access to the slopes. From 1975 until 1991,
Strelnikova. the tourism industry of the Kyrgyz Soviet Republic
Mikhailov begins his mountain treks in April, was run by a rather stuffy-sounding agency called
but his skiing trips continue year-round. Deep the Republican Council for Tourism and Excursions.
inside the Ala-Archa valley just south of Bishkek, At its head was, you guessed it, Mikhail Mikhailov.
one can ascend the Great Alarchinsky Glacier for When asked about his memories of those
some summer skiing fun. “The slope is seven kil- long-gone Soviet times he smiles with evident
ometers long. Walking up, we have time for two fondness for the old days. “We ran twelve bases
runs in a day. There used to be a lift there, but it accommodating half a million tourists in the December/January2008 The Spektator

6 Out & About

Top One tip we offer is to tell the waitress to ALEX WARD

go easy on the sauces as no one really needs

HINESE RESTAURANTS ARE NOT hard a photocopied menu and a pen for you to make
twelve tea-cup’s full, and at 20ish som a pop, to find in this part of the world, but if your dunking selections from a bewildering array of
they soon add up you’re bored of chowing down on your options: several varieties of fragrant mushrooms,
sodium filled favourites (while picking meats, exotic veg, fresh salad and spinach leaves,
out amusing menu mistranslations) and Dungan noodly delights, and other strange edi-
Top right Two female patrons demonstrate how like the sound of cooking up your own Eastern del- bles that taste great but that we would struggle
to dip like the pros icacies in a Chinese hot pot bucket, head on down to describe. If your Chinese and Russian is a bit
to Chuchuara Hoga. ropey you’re going to
The Spektator has once struggle at this point
again been out on the
“This ancient speciality sees you (there is no English
frontlines, risking gut rot, cook up your grub in a boiling caul- menu of course). We
sampling Bishkek’s finest recommend being
cuisine and delivering you
dron of roots, spices and broth with adventurous and
the results, neatly pack- tongue-tantalizing results” surrendering the or-
aged, served up with lash- dering perogative to
ings of wit sauce. one of the bi-polar
Alongside a regular waitresses who will
menu Chuchuara Hoga offers ‘hot pot’ (hoga in Rus- select a grand spread for your pleasure and save
sian) a sort of Chinese-style fondue and one of the you the bother. For three diners, the total bill for
‘steamboat stews’ of East Asia, that promise a hearty your meal should come to something between
communal eating experience to help fortify the bel- 300-400 som per head.
ly against the cold November rain. If you bring enough friends along you can take
Below Axle Rose, enigmatic front man of Brit- Essentially a heavy-duty and more nutritious a privileged seat at one of the back room round
ish heavy rockers ‘Gun’s and Roses’, has never version of the Pot Noodle Nice n’ Spicy, this ancient tables. From watching the locals, hot potting
visited Chuchuara Hoga speciality sees you cook up your grub in a boiling seems to lend itself to these big raucous gather-
cauldron of roots, spices and broth with tongue- ings of people who dip, dunk, and natter their way
tantalizing results. through the evening, bonding over their hot pot,
Said to have been easing Chinese people through and no doubt making a state of the table cloth in
icy winters for over a thousand years, the tradition the process with their drunken, wayward chop-
became popular across the whole of China under sticking. If you don’t have enough/any friends you
the Ching dynasty. While its exact origins are hard will be relegated to the rough and ready canteen
to pin down some say it is a product of the south slash bar in the draughty front room - but we’re
western Sichuan province, which is known for its sure you will enjoy your experience just the same.
spicy food, and it remains such a popular dining It’s true than C.H. is far from the fanciest joint in
choice that the most famous hot pot restaurants in paradise city, but it wins the endorsement of this
China have huge queues every night. particular reviewer for offering an atmosphere with
If you do opt for the hot pot, your first decision a little more flavour than most of its competitors and
will be the choice of seasoning for your pot - spicy, a dining experience that is something of an event,
not-so-spicy, or as we recommend, the 50:50 pot leaving a lasting impression on your memory, and,
divided down the middle. Expect to pay a base occasionally, your bowels. Enjoy!
price of around 200 som for both the pot rental Chuchuara Hoga is open every day and is found at Chui
and accompanying sauces – an integral part of 117, a fair way east of the Chui/Sovietskaya intersection.
the experience. The waitress will then bring you Look for the red Chinese lantern outside.

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Out & About 7
rd ia ya Gva rdia
a Gva Moloda


Lva Tolstogo

a n a s ave.

Manas a

a s ave.

M a n


T. Abdymom
Isanova Koenkozo

unov stadium
o ldo
Togolok M

Michael Frunze

k Jo

k o



Lva Tolstog

Orozbeko a





l Frunze

a ova
Fatianov Tynystan



SOVETSK aeva Shopoko
A. Usenb



g o



Gogo December/January2008 The Spektator

8 Out & About



Ratsek, everybody’s favourite Kyrgyz moun- OUNTAINEERS REJOICE! The days of could ultimately result in less money being made,
tain basecamp, received the Slovak-make- squalor at the Ratsek alpinist base are and less custom. Also, if the high prices are here to
over treatment last summer and is now at an end, and one is free to sleep tight stay it would be appreciated if the price informa-
without being woken up in the middle tion that is posted on the wall of the cabin could at
looking mighty posh. Alex Ward and Tom least be kept up to date - thus avoiding unobservant
of the night by a high-altitude rodent
wellings braved the November snow to gnawing at your face. tourists such as myself thinking they’ve been ripped
conduct a thorough recce, and found they Where once there was flapping plastic sheeting, off and causing aggro with the warden.
hardly had enough cash on them to stay now there are real windows; where once there was Moaning aside, the area around Ratsek is one
the night. a collapsed table and a mound of uneaten detritus, of the best climbing areas anywhere in the world,
now there are brand spanking new kitchen tents; offering a superb collection of peaks, glaciers,
and alas, where once one could bed down upon an one day climbs, and multi day walls and those on
insulating layer of filth for a free night’s sleep, now a budget shouldn’t be put off by the cost. Take
there is a whopping 500-1000 som charge for a berth your tent and pitch for free, cadge some tea-bags
in a sweet smelling, spick and span dorm-room. from the Russian alpinists, and make the most of
First thing’s first, the refurbishment, undertaken Ak Sai - still a small piece of heaven for any trekker
with support from SlovakAID, has winched Ratsek or mountaineer.
into the present century and equipped it with facili-
ties to be proud of - as, lets face it, conditions last Practical Information
year were getting rather grim. The base can now Ratsek cabin lies in the region of Ak Sai, part
accommodate up to thirty-five climbers in three of Ala-Archa national park, approximately 35km
dorm rooms and, outside of the winter season, of- from Bishkek. The cabin itself lies at 3300m. Alti-
fers a sauna and a bar. A full time warden lives in the tude sickness shouldn’t pose a problem, but if you
building and is on call twenty-four hours a day to are not used to sleeping at high altitude some ac-
greet new arrivals with a warming cup of tea and a climatising may be a sensible precaution.
mug of bile-flavoured shoro (a fortifying fermented
grain beverage), and answer any questions on the
climbing routes in the vicinity. All jolly nice. Travel to Ala-Archa National Park
The disappointment, however, is that yet again Getting to the park is a little trickier in winter
foreigners get milked for their foreign cash. 500 som than in other seasons if you don’t have you own
per night in a large dorm room is a hell of a price for a wheels. The easiest but most expensive way to
destitute climber like myself to fork out on a regular get to the park is to take a taxi. These days a taxi
Top left A tourist is awe-struck by the amphi- basis, and I certainly won’t be living it up in the small for up to 4 people costs approximately 700 som
theatre of peaks surrounding Ratsek. Moun- dorm, where a bed for the night will set you back a (that’s roughly $17, although it can cost a few
tains of note include Korona (4810m), Svobod- cool 1000. Kyrgyz however pay 150 (big dorm) or 300 dollars less or a fair few dollars more depending
naya Korea (4740m), Boks Peak (4240m) and som (small dorm) for the same facilities and services. on where in Bishkek you’re setting off from, your
Uchitel (4527m). (All photos by Tom Wellings) My experience from regular visits over the last two negotiating skills and the mood of the driver).
years suggests the majority of foreigners spending You need to tell the driver you want to go all the
Right The Ratsek cabin time at Ratsek are not the free-spending World Bank way to the “Alp Lager” Hotel (the modern hotel
types, but young backpackers working on a tight with the red roof ) and that you will pay the en-
Far Right Smart new signposts and dorm beds budget. Prices this high will price them, and frustrat- trance fees at the park gates. The trail to Ratsek
provide a safer route and a better nights sleep ingly, me, out of more lengthy stays at Ratsek and starts just outside the Hotel, a full 10km beyond

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Out & About 9

the park gates. The park entrance fee is 30 som to the left, just past the yurt. This will lead you up Camping
per adult and 80 som per vehicle. the first valley on the left after the hotel. Follow You can pitch your tent for free near the cabin.
The cheapest way to get to the park is to catch the blue and white trailmarkers up the well-worn
a marshrutka (minibus) for around 40-50 som. route for the 3.75km slog up to the cabin itself. Hikes and climbs from Ratsek
There are various numbers that go to the park. Although much macho boasting goes on about If you continue straight up the trail past Ratsek
The number 365 leaves from Osh Bazaar but you record-breakingly quick ascents, we recommend cabin, after about 100m there will be a big rock
can also catch it heading south at the bus stop on allowing 3-5 hours to complete the hike depend- that has memorial plates attached to it. From
the south-west corner of the Achumbeva – Mira ing on how fit you are and how much gear you’re this rock you can go left, this is the trail to Peak
crossroad, (not the one next to the supermarket). carrying - it’s steep up there! In winter the route Uchitel (Teacher) and in summer it offers a great
Check that the 365 is going all the way the park can be even more tiring, occasionally icy, and de- day’s hike (4527m, non-technical) and stunning
gates as some only go as far as Kashka-Soo Vil- mands hardy footwear. views of the region - in winter it is a more serious
lage. From the gates you’ll have to walk or hitch Equipment and advice is available from Limpopo undertaking. There is also a trail that goes a lit-
up to the trails so if you’ve got a heavy bag a taxi mountain sports shop on Isanova street, facing Beta tle past the rock then angles left. This trail goes
is probably the best option, especially in winter stores. A good map of the Ala-Archa region can be to the wall of Bachichike and the north wall of
when traffic is light and hitching therefore more bought for 140 som at Geoid map store (in the DHL Peak Korona. At the end of this trail, about three
difficult. building near Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya). hours past Ratsek, is a small metal hut that is in
Another option is to rent the Alpine Fund’s van. pretty good shape. Just after you start walking
If you’re in a big group or have a lot of gear then Ratsek cabin: Accommodation on the glacier keep looking left and you will see
the van might be just what you need. They can even The cabin is open all year round. To reserve a bed: the hut up on the hill.
throw in a couple of their interns to help you carry Email: For in depth descriptions of the tougher,
your gear up the hill ( Tel: (0)312 65 14 04 technical climbing routes try the Alpine fund’s
Cost of accommodation for Kyrgyz: website ( or the Kyr-
Accommodation in Ala-Archa Large rooms for 14-16 persons - 150 som per per- gyz Alpine Club site (
If you want to spend the night at the foot of the son per night (Kyrgyz Alpine mountaineering vet-
trail (2200m) to acclimatise you can take a room erans 45 years old and older with the 1st category Getting home
at the Alp Lager. The hotel is due to reopen in mid of mountaineering or higher - you know who you If, upon your return to the Alp Lager, you are without
December after a refurbishment. If you can pass are - sleep for free). 6-bed room - 300 som per per- a ride home, things may get expensive. Your best
yourself off as Kyrgyz, the room-rate is 40 USD per son per night. hope is to be picked up by a car of day-trippers re-
night; foreigners pay a ball-squeezing 80 USD Cost of accommodation for foreigners: turning to Bishkek, who, if they are the friendly sort,
(are they taking the piss?). There are also rooms Large rooms for 14-16 persons – 500 som per per- may even offer you a free lift back. Do not, however,
to be had in the small collection of budget hotels son per night. 6-bed room - 1000 som per person bank on this benevolence.
in front of the Alp Lager. Rates seem to be negoti- per night (5000 to rent the whole room). Many taxi companies will not send their cabs
able but you should be able to get a double room Accommodation in the frame-tents: out to the park, and any taxi driver that is lurk-
for 400-600 som per night. Alternatively, take your Kyrgyz citizens - 50 som per person per night. ing at the Alp Lager will delight in screwing you
tent and pitch somewhere quiet - but don’t forget Foreign citizens – 100 som per person per night. for all you’re worth. Expect to pay between 800
to take all your rubbish with you. Kyrgyz mountaineering veterans, mountain gui- and 1200 som for a ride home, depending on the
des, alpine instructors and climbers, and members road conditions and how desperate you look.
The Ratsek trail of the Kyrgyz Alpine sections have free accommo- Your final alternative is to hike the 10 km back to
At the Alp Lager Hotel, leave the tarmac road that dation in the frame-houses. Three of the tents are the gates of the park and take a marshrutka from
heads south and follow the trail signposted off reserved only for Kyrgyz mountaineers. the village, sadly schedules are erratic. December/January2008 The Spektator

10 This Month
Kyrgyz opposition parties
One-minute stage a get-together
This week the Spektator talked to Forum18, BISHKEK, Nov 29 (RFE/RL) - The main Kyrgyz op- that such political success for the son of an immigrant
an Oslo-based organisation that has been vo- position parties have held their joint gathering in is currently impossible in Kyrgyzstan’s corrupt system.
cal in its criticism of the law proposed by the Bishkek under the title People’s Grand Congress. Other leaders echoed Tekebaev’s sentiment,
Kyrgyz parliament to restrict the activities of The one-day congress, bringing together more warning against corruption and the sapping of
religions with less than 200 members. Sadly, than 1,200 delegates, was organized by opposition government resources by a few powerful people.
Forum 18 semed particularly reticent when parties including the Akyikat Uchun (For Justice) The congress ended with the adoption of a reso-
it came to discussing questions of inter-reli- Movement, Ata Meken (Fatherland) Socialist Party, lution urging President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s gov-
gious tolerance, the activities of missionaries, and the Ak Shumkar (White Falcon) Party. ernment to implement a package of development-
and whether Scientology was a real religion or On the eve of the convention, Alikbek Jeksh- oriented reforms with a deadline of March 31, 2009.
just a vehicle for Tom Cruise to act a bit wacky. enkulov, the leader of the For Justice movement The opposition parties also urged the Kyrgyz peo-
All questions by Tom Wellings. and a former foreign minister, told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz ple to unite in favor of the restoration of a constitu-
Service that the main agenda of the congress was tional basis for democracy and the rule of law, and
TW: In a nutshell, what are your views on the to evaluate the current political and economic situ- for strengthened human rights and freedoms.
state of religious freedom in the Central Asian ation in Kyrgyzstan and discuss new concepts for There were no representatives of the ruling par-
region? F18: The religious freedom situation is further development. ty at the congress. Nurlan Shakiev, a press secretary
getting worse across the whole of Central Asia. Addressing the delegates, Omurbek Tekebaev, the for President Bakiev, told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan already have dras- leader of Ata Meken and a former parliament speaker, that the Kyrgyz opposition has failed to credit the
tic controls on all religious activity, including of criticized growing corruption in Kyrgyzstan and the government for its achievements since the revolu-
Muslim, Christian and other religious commu- corresponding lack of trust in the government. He tion of March 2005.
nities. Believers often suffer violence from state welcomed the election of Barack Obama as the next The gathering was permitted by the Kyrgyz au-
officials, fines, obstructions to meeting for wor- U.S. president and praised Obama’s victory as evi- thorities after lengthy negotiations and earlier re-
ship. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are all dence of upward mobility in American society, saying jections of other proposed venues.
preparing new religion laws which will severely
restrict free religious practice. Kyrgyzstan and Ka-
zakhstan are both very close to adopting restric-
tive laws – and appear to be willing to defy their
Kyrgyzstan in Brief
own commitments as members of the OSCE.
U.S. seeking alternatives to Several radio stations and news-
Why do you believe religious freedom is such
an important issue? The right to freedom of Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan? papers in KG shut down
religion or belief touches on many other rights, BISHKEK, Dec 2 (The Spektator) - Yuri Pogrebn- BISHKEK, Dec 5 ( - Several radio stations
including freedom of speech and freedom of as- yak, a military expert well known in Kyrgyzstan, has and newspapers have stopped their activity in Kyr-
sembly. In a sense it is a litmus test of how much made comments suggesting the Americans may gyzstan, including the BBC.
other rights and freedoms are respected by gov- relocate their military airbase away from Manas. “The BBC is now trying to find out why its pro-
ernments. An integral part of many religions’ “The US is seeking alternatives to the Manas air- grams have been laid off,” the Corporation’s Busi-
activity is sharing one’s faith with others, a right base in Central Asia, because the Kyrgyz govern- ness Development Manager for Western Asia said.
clearly guaranteed in international human rights ment has not expressed a clear position over this The Russian BBC service started broadcasting
commitments that governments of the region issue,” he said when asked to comment on the pos- in Kyrgyzstan in 1994, while Kyrgyz language pro-
have committed themselves to. sible opening of the antiterrorist coalition reserve grams have been aired since 1996.
airbase in Almaty (Kazakhstan). Some time earlier long-time broadcaster Radio
Where do you think religious freedom should “The US does not want to lose their bridgehead Pyramid announced it would close on January 1,
stop? The right to freedom of religion or belief is in Central Asia. The air force always needs a reserve 2009. This followed Radio Azattyk, which allegedly
not absolute – it must be seen as part of a wider pic- base and America will support that country which was refused an “agreement prolongation” due to
ture, particularly the rights and freedoms of others. cooperates with them. “ credit delinquency.
No religious community, political party, trade union “From the side of our neighbors, having the Meanwhile, the Vecherniy Bishkek (Evening
or any such organisation has the right to harm its American base in Kazakhstan might be a tool for Bishkek) newspaper closed all its regional offices,
members or non-members. Religious communities strengthening their international authority,” he leaving reporters jobless. Another newspaper
are no different in this to other organisations. added. Russkaya Gazeta (Russian Newspaper) closed ear-
lier this year.
If no community has the right to harm it’s
members, what is your organisations position Religious freedom takes a hit in KG
on male/female circumcision - a religious act BISHKEK, Nov 6 (Forum18) - Kyrgyzstan's pro- Young Kyrgyz girl dies at the hajj
that results in actual phyisical harm, often to posed new Religion Law has been adopted unani- MECCA, Saudi Arabia, Dec 5 - A young girl from
children? No comment. mously by the country's parliament today (6 Novem- Kyrgyzstan died in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during the
ber), Forum 18 News Service has found. The Law will hajj today.
The proposed Kyrgyz law would prohibit reli- go to President Kurmanbek Bakiev around 15 No- Mambetasan-Hadji Ibraev, the chief of the Kyr-
gious groups of less than 200 members. Would vember, who then has at least a month to sign it or gyz group of hajj pilgrims in Mecca, told RFE/RL's
you not agree that it is prudent of the Kyrgyz return it to Parliament. The Law as passed states that Kyrgyz Service that the girl was making the holy
government to crack down on fringe religious 200 people will be needed to register a religious or- pilgrimage together with her parents.
movements that, in a country such as Kyr- ganisation, contrary to assurances that Deputy Zai- Neither the girl's age nor details of her death
gyzstan, have a destitute and somewhat cred- niddin Kurmanov, the main author of the Law, gave were given.
ulous population to prey upon? The number of a visiting delegation from the European Parliament. The parents of the deceased girl have agreed to
members a faith has makes no difference to their Deputies significantly harshened this part of the bury her in Mecca.
rights – all individuals and communities have the Law, by voting unanimously that the identity of all She is reportedly the fifth Kyrgyz citizen to be
same rights to freedom of religion or belief. 200 founders must now also be confirmed by local buried in Mecca after having died during the hajj.
Forum18 can be found online at: keneshes (elected local administrations).

December/January 2008 The Spektator

This Month 11
protests to bear
religious stamp

BISHKEK, Dec 4 (Eurasianet) - As opposition

parties around Kyrgyzstan gear up for prom-
ised demonstrations in mid-December, one new
party is using religion to cement its appeal. Two
prominent opposition leaders, Tursunbai Bakir
uulu of Free Kyrgyzstan and Nurlan Motuev of
the Kyrgyz Patriotic Party, recently announced
their unification as the Kyrgyzstan Muslim Un-
ion and promised nationwide protests through-
out the country in mid-December.
At a press conference announcing their party
on November 25, Bakir uulu and Motuev de-
scribed their support.
“We prayed with believers, then we talked
with them outside the mosque. Over six days
we visited three regions and met 80,000 peo-
ple,” Motuev said. Co-Chair Tursunbai Bakir uulu
claimed that 95 to 98 percent of the people they
met supported their plans.
The Kyrgyzstan Muslim Union plans to start Causing a scene Protests have dogged Kyrgyzstan over the last few years (Photo: Duncan Ferguson)
protest rallies on December 16 in Naryn and fin-
ish on December 24 in Bishkek, covering all seven Motuev is widely regarded as something of an consider themselves Muslim. It is inevitable and
of the country’s regional centers in eight days. oddball in Kyrgyz politics, known for outlandish natural that during a social-economical crisis,
Corruption and the misuse of resources are accusations. He is infamous for illegally seizing believers become politicized. Unfortunately,
at the center of the Muslim Union’s agenda. Re- a coalmine in 2005 and spending some time in the ruling Soviet elite lacks flexibility . . . It relies
ferring to the presidency of Kurmanbek Bakiev, prison a year later. [For details, see the Eurasia In- heavily on control and repression,” he said.
Motuev explained: “Corruption and other bad “We have been warning the Kyrgyz govern-
ment about possible religious protests since
things flourish in this power. These are rejected “The Kyrgyzstan Muslim Union 2005. We said that there were politicians who
by Islam and Sharia law.”
The Muslim Union will demand an end to al- plans to start protest rallies on De- were ready to use religious slogans in political
games. Now Tursunbai Bakir uulu and Nurlan
leged corruption in the president’s family, food cember 16 in Naryn and finish on Motuev are the first to legitimize Muslim politi-
price stabilization, a decrease in the price of coal
and electricity, and checks on how the president December 24 in Bishkek, covering cal discourse,” Malikov said.
The Kyrgyz Muslim Union emerges at a time
appoints officials. “If authorities do not follow all seven of the country’s regional of increased religious tension in the country’s
our demands, we will demand the resignation
of all government officials,” said Bakir uulu. centers in eight days“ South. In October, villagers in Osh region pro-
Already the group has faced obstacles. The tested when authorities did not allow them to
Kyrgyz constitution forbids political parties from hold festivities marking the end of Ramadan. On
organizing along religious lines. But the organi- sight archive]. This October he staged a protest November 28, 32 people were sentenced to be-
zation is making no attempt to hide their inten- against the presence of US troops at the Manas tween nine and 20 years for participating in dis-
tions. “We cannot be registered as a Muslim party Airbase outside of Bishkek. He burned a US flag orderly demonstrations. Authorities allege all are
and that’s why we have to register as a union,” and effigy of President George W. Bush in front of members of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir party.
Motuev said. “But you should consider the Kyr- a small crowd, claiming the Muslims of Kyrgyzstan Still, Kyrgyzstan’s official Muslim Spiritual
gyzstan Muslim Union a party.” would unite to push the US out of the country. Board does not believe that this is a major shift
Tursunbai Bakir uulu is already a well-known poli- Observers say Bakir uulu needed a northerner in the country’s religious dynamics.
tician. In his run for president in 2005, he positioned to bolster support for the alliance and spread its “Our society is not ready for Muslim leader-
himself as the only true Muslim on the ballot, win- appeal beyond his native South. ship,” Asan Saipov, the Board’s press secretary,
ning slightly less than four percent of the vote. He is As Islam spreads in Kyrgyzstan, the union’s told EurasiaNet. The public organization regu-
also quick to point out his sober credentials. political blend may have a cadre of likely follow- lates Muslim affairs, including mosque activities
“We represent a moderate Islam and are op- ers. “Allah will save our country,” a teenager from and organizing the yearly Hajj. “I am not sure that
posed to radicals,” he told EurasiaNet. the Chuy valley who gave his name as Nursultan Tursunbai Bakir uulu is a person who can lead
“Before joining with another politician, I said. The 16-year-old prays five times a day in his the Muslim community,” Saipov continued. “Of
thought of all politicians and realized there was village, where the majority of young people are course, some people who consider themselves
not a true Muslim among them,” Bakir uulu said. unemployed, including his two older brothers. Muslim may follow him. But they must know he
“First, I met Nurlan Motuev praying in the Cen- Kadyr Malikov, an expert on Islam at the Kyr- wants only power.”
tral Mosque. Then I saw him praying in the pris- gyz-Russian Slavonic University in Bishkek, de- But Bakir uulu remains resolute. “True Mus-
on. In a difficult time, he didn’t leave Allah and scribed the upswing in religious practice. lims will support us; that’s why we are full of op-
his faith. So my choice was with him.” “The process of Islamization [in Kyrgyzstan] timism,” he said.
Some observers were surprised at the choice. is very fast. Seventy percent of the population Arslan Mamatov is a psuedonym for a Kyrgyz journalist. December/January2008 The Spektator

12 This Month
for life
Have you ever heard the Kyrgyz proverb understand what life is like in small towns, the life of people can afford the best private clinics, but what
“Kunga kun, kanga kan”? It means some- the poor. I don’t believe our government when they about the others? Is it fair? We must work out new
state that the standard of life in Kyrgyzstan is rising. legislation for our health sector.
thing similar to “An eye for an eye and a
Maybe our officials don’t visit the poorest regions Next, corruption progresses to the kindergarten.
tooth for a tooth”. of our country. Of course, on the TV we see regular In my experience, if you want to place your child in
visits by our president and officials - to Naryn, Osh, a respectable kindergarten, what must you do? In
MEDINA AITBAEVA Talas. However, when people watch, they under- most cases you must pay. Parents want the best for
stand deeply that there is no difference between their child - good service and healthy food in the

Y GRANDFATHER, SYDYKALY, had a diffi- the present government and government from be- kindergarten. So we have to pay. In public kinder-
cult and unusual life. He was born in 1907 fore the revolution. These visits are a charade for the gartens there are forty or fifty children in one group.
to a poor family. When he was thirteen his public; the problems of needy people are never rec- It is inconceivable but it is true. Tutors receive 2000
mother died so he became the shepherd tified after such visits. or 3000 som salaries and there is no stimulation for
for a bai. A “bai” is a rich man with many My friend has been working in Moscow since them to work in this field. Imagine, you are a kinder-
sheep, horses and cows. The bai was called Tulkubai; last year. She tells me that life in Moscow is very garten teacher, you have fifty children in your group
he made my grandpa look after his goats. It was a real difficult, but there is no other way to earn money. and you have no assistant. You must do everything
fight for survival, a struggle for life. He didn’t have Why do young people leave Kyrgyzstan? The rea- yourself. You must teach the children, give them
enough food and often went hungry. But Sydykaly son is the economic crisis, the low salaries, and the breakfast, supper, dinner, wash fifty plates, fifty
was very strong, physically well-build and deft. high prices. My friend left her children of six, five glasses and fifty spoons three times a day. Then you
One day, for their amusement, Tulkubai’s as- must clean the room, wash the floor, and make fifty
sistants arranged a fight between Sydykaly and “it is a tragedy when a young beds. A kindergarten teacher looks after children
another teenager. My grandfather won the fight, from 8 till 6 o’clock, so as you can probably imagine,
breaking his opponent’s leg. Afterwards, the par- mother leaves her children in or- not every child receives careful care and attention.
ents of the injured boy went to my grandfather’s der to earn money, when a son Parents give the teacher money or presents. They
house and demanded compensation. My great- request: “Oh, please look after my child, cover him
grandfather had to give them all his flour, his cow leaves his old parents and doesn’t with a blanket, please watch how he eats.”. Yes, we
and three sheep - everything the family owned. know if he will ever return from see bribery in our kindergartens too. The teacher has
But, deciding this was not enough, the parent’s of to take money, she has no other option. The teacher
the injured boy decided to take further revenge. abroad” also has a family, she must also pay for medicine,
They made a plan in secret: to break my grandfa- food, and other services. The salary that she gets is
ther’s leg - “Kunga kun, Kanga kan”. and three years old with her mother and went to impossible to live on.
My grandpa was lucky, he had an uncle who Moscow. I have read one statement that “one per- Corruption now follows us to school. A school
had by good fortune found out about this plot. At son’s tragedy is a tragedy for all humanity”. I think it will reject children from low, poor families because
night Sydykaly’s was taken away from the village by is a tragedy when a young mother leaves her chil- they can’t pay. The administration of a school ar-
his uncle and made his escape to the capital. And dren in order to earn money, when a son leaves his ranges different entrance exams for six to seven
so it was that my grandfather arrived in Pishpek. old parents and doesn’t know if he will ever return year olds. The tests are tough for young kids. Par-
Pishpek was the original name of Bishkek. Here, from abroad. ents worry; they begin to look for a way to get their
my grandfather became the servant of a Jewish Kyrgyzstan is sinking further into bribery and child to pass the test and get a place at school.
man. Grandfather did all sorts of jobs for him - dif- corruption. Corruption is evident everywhere. In Here is a solution: find a mediator from this school,
ferent kinds of work in his house and outside. The my experience when my husband and I were ex- he can talk to the chiefs of the school, you give
Jewish man gave him good food and a place to pecting a baby we were faced with some extraor- money and this school accepts your child.
sleep. One day my grandfather became sick; ulcers dinary things. Firstly one must find an experienced Then comes entering university, the same sys-
appeared all over his body. The Jewish man be- doctor and ‘negotiate’ with him. If this isn’t done tem as at school. Pay and study. It’s like a circle that
came frightened when he saw Sydykaly covered in it’s very dangerous for you and your future baby. never ends. Is this the right way or not? Every per-
ulcers. He said, “I`m not going to be responsible for Every young woman tries to find a doctor before- son should think of this. First of all the system of our
the death of this Kyrgyz boy!” So he took the deci- hand and pay him. If you don’t do this, when the country should be changed. The policy of the coun-
sion to place him in a boarding school. time for childbirth comes, you will be not treated try has to be developed with good legislation draft-
Sydykaly was very happy because a new life had with care and professionalism. During my preg- ed by specialists and experts. The public and non-
begun for him. In boarding school he met Alukul Os- nancy, I saw so many unhappy women They didn’t governmental organizations should be involved in
monov who would one day become a famous poet have much money and were treated in a bad way. this task. Public officials need to work with the gen-
of beautiful and charming verse. The Kyrgyz people These women were insulted and ignored by their eral population to achieve results. People have to re-
are still proud of this gifted poet. My grandpa spent doctors. I felt such pity for them. member about life’s values, to respect each other, to
five years in boarding school and got an education. I suppose the most terrible thing is indifference, work together and help each other.
As a man, he worked in different fields but earned a it is a dangerous trait. Indifferent and pitiless doc- One tries to connect my grandfather’s world
reputation as a very wise, generous and courageous tors will not take care of you if you are unable to with the reality of today. In both cases, we can ob-
man. He helped people and he never gave up. He pay. Medicine in our country is build up in strange serve a struggle for life in different ways. The story
rose to the highest levels of work in our country, way, the Ministry of Health has drafted new laws about my grandpa is one person’s struggle for life.
and at one time was repressed and exiled to Siberia and programs for poor and needy people. But this The reality of modern Kyrgyzstan is the struggle of
for three years. Nevertheless, he overcame all ad- legislation doesn’t work in practice, and is ignored the whole nation. We all want a safe future, good
versity and obstacles, was later ‘rehabilitated’, and by everyone. People must pay or they will die in the education for our children, quality health care for
still managed to leave an important mark on the corridor of a hospital. There are a lot of cases when our families. People in our country want to live in
development of our country. patients need an urgent operation, but they are a peaceful and prosperous country. That is why we
Nowadays there are a lot of obstacles in Kyr- rejected by the administration of the hospital be- continue to live, to struggle, to survive. The way
gyzstan. In all spheres of our life there is adversity to cause they can’t pay. Is “Pay or die the slogan and will be difficult but the Chinese say “a journey of
be overcome. Nevertheless people refuse to give up, the reality of today’s medicine? Of course, if you are 1000 miles begins with a single step”. We hope we
they continue to struggle. I’m from Kochkor, I truly a rich person you will be served in the best way; rich will one day reach our destination.

December/January 2008 The Spektator

The Alpine Fund
About Us
Founded in 2000 by American climber Garth Willis, The Alpine Fund seeks to connect Kyrgyzstan’s two great-
est resources - its youth and its mountains. We are a small but very active organization. Our total budget is
currently $1500 per month, yet our dedicated team is able to provide education and mountains programs to
about 40 youth each week. (how it all began)

What we do
We currently offer four integrated programs that combine experiential education in the mountains with
more traditional lessons in the city.

Clouds at their Feet is the wilderness-education program that provides a weekly outing - hiking, trek-
king, climbing or camping. Participants learn new skills and important environmental lessons. Imagine the
change of perspective when an adolescent who has never left the concrete walls of the city has the oppor-
tunity to literally climb high above their perceived limitations and look down upon where they once were.

The Alpine Club is the tutoring program located at the Alpine Fund office in Bishkek where children receive
twice weekly assistance in learning English and weekly lessons in computer skills. The Alpine Fund office has
two computers accessible to its students.

Alpine Interns is an opportunity for young adults who have been involved in the previous two programs to
share what they have learned with younger students. By instructing and leading outings for younger stu-
dents the Alpine Interns build up their own skill-sets. Increased self-confidence and leadership abilities make
Alpine Interns more employable in the tourism field.

The Alpine Learning Center is a cabin near Bishkek that serves as the staging area and launching point for
Alpine Fund outings. Camping participants often camp outside the cabin, enjoy breakfast from the kitchen
and launch their own hiking ‘expeditions’ from this base camp. The primary reason for using this cabin is to
provide a safe shelter from the weather but children here are also able to learn independent living skills such
as preparing breakfast and maintaining good hygiene.

Help us out!
As we are a very small non-profit organization we always have to watch every dollar in our efforts to provide
high quality education and mountain experiences for our students. It is exactly this small nature, however,
that ensures every donation directly supports our students. Check out our website to learn how to make a
14 This Month


NE THOUSAND AND THIRTY ONE cases of dation politics instead of educating young peo-
HIV are officially registered in Kyrgyzstan, ple,” said Djumayeva.
according to statistics announced on In spite of the growing number of HIV cases
December 1st, World AIDS Day. in Kyrgyzstan, the press service of the Central
As part of World AIDS day, two events Asian AIDS Project (CAAP) released information
took place in Bishkek; both were organized by on December 1st starkly highlighting the lack
youth groups. Three organizations (‘Youth Power’, of interest regarding issues of HIV prevention
‘The Union of People Living with HIV’ and ‘ The among the mass media in Kyrgyzstan.
Congress of Women in Kyrgyzstan’) held “Youth Those conclusions were made based on the re-
against AIDS” action on Ala-Too Square in central sults of a contest that was held to find the best
Bishkek. According to coverage of the HIV/AIDS
organizers, the focus issue among journalists.
was on youth because
“Today we are sending a message CAAP -stated that there
in Kyrgyzstan the ma- that young people do care and are was “low involvement”
jority of HIV positive ready to stand up for the human amongst the mass me-
people are aged be- dia in the contest, espe-
tween fourteen and rights of HIV positive people” cially in the video and
thirty-four years old. radio commercial sec-
“A lack of awareness ex- tion, which had to be
ists in Kyrgyzstan. We are currently pursuing a mis- cancelled due to receiving no submissions.
sion of prevention and education,” said the chair of
The Congress of Women in Kyrgyzstan, explained. AIDS in KG: Background
Another WAD event was held two blocks away Kyrgyzstan was considered a country with
from Ala-Too on the ‘old square’ of Bishkek. More one of the lowest HIV prevalence levels in the
than fifty students gathered in front of the Ameri- world during the 1990s as only isolated single
can University of Central Asia (AUCA) to form a red instances were registered each year.
ribbon, the symbol of solidarity with HIV positive According to UNAIDS, the UN Joint HIV/AIDS
people and the global movement to stop AIDS. Program, HIV prevalence rose significantly be-
“All events during the two-week long HIV aware- tween 1999 and 2001, with the number of HIV
ness campaign at AUCA were organized to em- positive people topping 1000 in 2001.
power youth to take an active role in the HIV and Data published by UNAIDS are different from
human rights struggle. “Today we are sending the the official statistics within Kyrgyzstan. As a
message that young people do care and are ready rule, the UN Joint HIV/AIDS Program uses three
to stand up for the human rights of HIV positive indicators: highest, average and lowest prob-
people,” said Selbi Djumayeva, co-organizer of able number of HIV positive people.
AUCA action. On the basis of their calculations, in 2008 the
maximum number of people living with HIV is
“Intimidation” and lack of interest around 8000.
In turn, Djumayeva criticized a rival event on the
central square in which people chanted slogans Kloop.Kg Media Foundation is the non-profit
such as “AIDS: The plague of the 21st century” - youth-led journalism and new media project in
Above Young people help to raise awareness of scare tactics that are officially advised against by Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where all articles are writ-
HIV/AIDS in central Bishkek AIDS/HIV organisations. “They were using intimi- ten and edited by young people.

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Rural Development Fund
Local Solutions for Local Development

Rural Development Fund (RDF) is a not-for-profit nongovernmental organization founded in 2003 to con-
duct research, develop policy recommendations and implement activities in the field of rural development.
RDF’s Mission is to support locally appropriate initiatives to alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable devel-
opment in rural areas. RDF engages communities, policy-makers, and the donor community in order to find
solutions for development that meets local rural needs.

RDF’s Philosophy
Specific approaches for specific problems in specific places. RDF believes in the importance of local, na-
tional, and international context in achieving development objectives. We seek to tailor our research and
analysis to particular development objectives. We provide innovative ideas and approaches while drawing
on a combination of substantial experience in Kyrgyzstan and the region and technical expertise in a range
of areas such as natural resources management, local governance, social mobilization and inclusion, and
agricultural economics.
Integrity. We report realities as we see it, no matter how unpleasant it is. We take development issues seri-
ously and expect our partners to do the same.
Responsiveness. We maintain strong communication with our counterparts to ensure maximum effective-
ness. We honor our deadlines and never make a commitment that we cannot honor.
Partnership. RDF actively seeks cooperation with government agencies, community-based organizations,
academia, think tanks, and donor groups in order to maximize impact of its work and better fulfill its mis-
sion. RDF has a track record of implementing programs with the involvement of multiple projects and/or
donors on a collaborative basis.

Staff Resources
Full-time researchers and support staff (all bilingual in Kyrgyz and Russian and the majority fluent in English)
with extensive experience in rural development issues;
Pool of specialist associates in relevant spheres with work experience in the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Armenia, and other countries;
Regional network of enumerators and interviewers.
The Fund’s activities are governed by a Supervisory Board comprising national and international develop-
mental experts, academia, and representatives of civil and private sectors.

What could RDF do for you?

Provide analytical support on policy issues for rural development;
Provide qualitative and quantitative studies;
Conduct field research including rapid rural appraisals;
Advise on designing training and technical assistance programs for rural areas;
Manage rural development projects;
Perform monitoring and evaluation of projects.

RDF fulfils its mission though the generous support of international donors and national institutions and
16 Focus
Right Who are you calling a pervert? Sharshem
baike (left) poses with Akim. (All photos Ryan



Even before the ‘Great Game’ between Tsarist YEVOOSHKEEEEE!” SQUEALS Sharshem his broad repertoire of the ridiculous, meant that
Russia and Victorian Britain, the high Pamirs baike in high pitched Kyrgyz accent, we got real value added from our investment.
honking his horn as we pass a gaggle of Our trip had inauspicious beginnings. A Dutch
were synonymous with mystery and intrigue.
middle-aged ladies. They are in full tra- cyclist, the type that cycles from Amsterdam to
In recent years the incredible landscapes ditional dress, bodies laden with bas- Beijing “in time to catch the Olympics” accompa-
have been opened up to tourists, but even kets of bruised vegetables, slowly traipsing up the nied us for the first leg to Sary Tash, a town not
now the Pamiri highway remains well off the long incline our battered Russian jeep is hurtling far from Kyrgyzstan’s borders with China and
beaten track. The Spektator’s Chris Rickleton, down. Tajikistan. Jan was much more likeable than his
under the guidance of an over exuberant Kyr- “But baike, they’re not girls, they’re just old wom- state-of-the-art bicycle, a vicious monster which
en” my friend Rory interjects in his politest Russian. bounced around on the back seat, pedals attack-
gyz part-time pervert, negotiates the treach-
Girls are Sharshem’s favorite topic of conversa- ing testicles, the weighty frame making alternate
erous Pamiri highway from Sary Tash in Kyr- tion. He turns around to flash Rory a wicked smile. assaults on myself and Rory as we rumbled along
gyzstan to Khorog in Tajikistan, and discovers Making a suggestive gesture with his non-driving this pothole-laden path to paradise. Its owner
that one can never have enough toilet paper, hand he continues, “On this road there are many apologized for its behaviour from the relative
nor easily dictate the behaviour of a marmot. dyevooshkee. You can get ‘iki-iki‘ for only 20 soms!” comfort of the boot but we only received respite
So many of the things our enigmatic driver when one of our back tyres burst in a mountain
said were unreturnable and still more were un- hemmed, grassy plained wilderness, and we
repeatable, but his gradual transformation from ground to a halt somewhere between Osh and
Generic Central Asian Guy, via amateur photog- the middle of nowhere.
rapher, occasional pervert and marmot-taunting The July sunshine had slowly warmed our bot-
nomad, to the man that abandoned us half way tle of Davidoff Vodka and the stuff slipped down
through our adventure to get back to his wife and all the easier for it. Sharshem checked on the spare
kids was as much a part of our journey into the tyre, Jan agitated over his soon-to-expire visa and
Pamirs as the piercing peaks and celestial lakes Rory disappeared behind some shrubbery before
that flank this road-less-travelled. returning to say he’d ’rubbed himself on a rock’ as he
The skill and endurance required to navigate couldn’t find the toilet paper. I choked on a mouth-
the Pamir highway, coupled with the complete ful of firewater processing the image. A tentative
absence of public transport in the region means freewheel and a stop at the world’s most fortui-
that drivers are at a premium and travel is not tously located mechanics for a jack saw us back on
cheap. For a door to door jaunt from the back- track and before long we arrived in lofty Sary Tash.
packer filled Osh Guesthouse, to the Pamir Lodge Horse and traps and men in kalpaks were in abun-
in Khorog, you should first find three companions dance, the air here much colder and thinner than it
The Spektator recommends: (shared jeeps seat four comfortably) and then had been just a few kilometres back. We wrestled (the site for the META budget for just over $200 per person for the six or with the altitude and stared open mouthed at the
agency in Murgab, details of homestays, travel more days it may take to traverse the route. The mist ringed Peak Lenin, its mass rising defiantly out
services, etc) (very useful in- good Sharshem was nothing if not on the take, and of the Pamir huddle in the distance. This was where
formation on the region posted by Robert Mid- further into our journey we enjoyed the compan- Jan mounted his bike and sodded off to China, and
dleton) ionship of cheaper chauffeurs, but Sharshem, with the place where our journey began in earnest.

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Focus 17

‘A very (former) Soviet experience’ and his dejected band of Tajik truckers, the offi- say jakshee, meaning ‘good’ several more times.
So it was that two Englishman, an American we’d cial in the box had closed traffic along the road in Nevertheless we communicated mostly in Russian
picked up (Ryan) and Sharshem baike rolled up to a both directions until matters had been resolved which he spoke fluently, but with a grammatical
checkpoint roughly thirty kilometres from the Tajik to his liking. abandon to have Pushkin turning in his grave.
border. A long winded introduction to what became Negotiations with the checkpoint official’s The temperature was dropping. We togged up
a long winded joke as we wound up spending what wife proved even less fruitful. With a thick purple and resigned ourselves to a night in a jeep in the
must have been more than three hours there with cloth wrapped tightly around her face obfuscat- foothills of the Pamirs, offering the checkpoint
an assortment of unusual characters . ing all but her eyes, she was only marginally more man’s wife a seat (she still hadn’t been invited to
There was Tobias, a tall blonde German decked join her husband inside his cubicle), but she po-
out in The North Face‘s latest. He was the direc- litely refused our offer.
tor of some well meaning social programme in
“Akim put his hand on his heart. It must have been another hour before, with-
Tajikistan, but for now his Landrover was broken You just witnessed a very Soviet out prior warning, our captor got sociable and de-
down and he was bound for Osh to get it fixed. cided to reveal his face. When he did, it was a face
He had some sort of relationship with a group of
experience, he explained apolo- worth waiting for. Full set of gold teeth, cheeks
truck-driving Tajiks who were also on their way getically” made red by alcohol and mountain sunshine, an
to Osh, trying to flog 80 euros worth of sheep’s oversized skull cap sliding down his sweaty fore-
wool. The foreman of their crew was a man called head. And it was a face that Formen the Foreman
Formen, a joke that is possibly more humorous recognized only too well
at altitude. Finally there was Akim, an honoura- accessible than her hideaway husband. Formen “Telik?!” he cried in astonishment.
ble Kyrgyz chap on business with the local NGO returned from the slit in the door for the second “Formen! Kak dela Tajik?” The checkpoint man
META (a big noise in the Pamirs, check out their time with further confirmation of the stalemate. waddled across to embrace the man he’d been
homestays but avoid their steeply priced camel This was the state of play: our checkpoint man holding hostage for the entire afternoon with
treks), who completed the posse. was holding out for the 40% and had no dispo- much gusto. Some vaguely decipherable and
Everyone had a separate agenda but shared sition towards claustrophobia just as Formen the mostly racist banter between the two men fol-
an interest in unimpeded passage past the make- foreman had no inclination to pay the trumped lowed as Akim looked to the heavens in disbe-
shift wooden barrier that divided their group from up bribe. We went back to the jeep and used the lief and Sharshem smiled at us Buddha-like, om-
ours. The man-sized spanner in the works soon time that elapsed to get to know the baike a lit- niscient. We gradually came to terms with the
emerged in the form of an exceedingly unobliging tle better. Sharshem was Farsi for Wednesday we revelation that the best part of a day in our lives
checkpoint official. Holed up in a small wooden found out, the day on which he was born. had been taken up by Telik the checkpoint man’s
cubicle, half cut, this renegade official negotiated “Wednesday’s child is full of woe,” I teased, rather unfunny prank. The transformation from
with Formen for some time through a slit smaller quoting a corny English nursery rhyme. aggressive recluse to star of the show was never-
than a letterbox before the latter returned from “Jakshee!” he responded, unperturbed. theless complete, and having left his AK47 inside
the conference, shaking his head wearily. “You don’t seem so sad.” I said as a gesture of goodwill, he went about shaking
“He wants 40% of the total value of the wool!” “Men jakshee!” He responded, grinning ear to hands and generally revelling in the fact that he’d
he said, exasperated. “Its just not possible. Cor- ear. We discovered he had a wife and several chil- had us fooled all along.
ruption in this country! He’s not really an official. dren, living in Osh. His oldest boy was ten. When Akim put his hand on his heart. “You just wit-
He’s just a drunk with a gun trying to take 40%!” Sharshem found out that Rory spoke some Kyrgyz nessed a very Soviet experience” he explained
Not content with causing grief to just Formen and could play the Kyrgyz flute, he had cause to apologetically. December/January2008 The Spektator

18 Focus

Above Madiyan, with is rugged landscape and ‘The Black Lake and Beyond’ Anybody heading into the Pamirs should spend
gente stream There was still the small matter of packing eighty eu- a night in at Karakul lake (elevation 3914m). The
Far left The melancholy lake Kara-Kul ro’s worth of wool into a Landrover and loading the imaginatively named village on the shores of lake
Landrover onto the back of Formen’s truck. Eighty Kara-Kul is positively gothic. The lake itself is an awe-
euros of wool is a lot more than you might imagine some sight; an eerily still body of water encircled by
and Formen was an unforgiving boss. For reasons snow capped mountains and reeking of something
unknown to ourselves, Rory and I were assumed unwholesome. At dawn, the silence of the place is
“Madiyan is a veritable utopia into the workgang, Formen barking orders at us
from atop the truck platform. Sharshem, amused,
punctured by braying donkeys, barking dogs and
the cries of goats being milked by veiled women.
complete with yurts, hot springs took over two hundred photos with Rory’s camera. Rusty electricity pylons rising out of every residence
and a gentle stream that runs That it never occurred to us to tell Formen to bog
off and load the truck himself was more a measure
give the houses the appearance of beached boats
and further add to the spook. After scaring myself
through the valley” of the man’s aura than of our generosity. It proved a witless with thoughts of Edgar Allan Poe’s Descent
thankless task, since Formen never thanked us be- into the Maelstrom I aborted my mission to watch
fore he drove tentatively into the horizon, and our the sun rise, doubtful that it ever would, and leg-
solitary reward for a gruelling checkpoint experi- ged it back to my homestay. There are two home-
ence was a round of our own vodka with Telik. stays in Kara-kul and I can thoroughly recommend
“That’s a European measure!” He complained that of Saodat Kasymbekova. I think 300 soms each
when we poured him half a bowl’s worth. Telik the covered an evening meal (plov), a roll out mattress
checkpoint man - a top of the range jackass. to sleep on and breakfast the following day. There’s
Traversing the Kyzl-Art pass (Kyzyl meaning red in also a television and a karaoke machine which
Kyrgyz) can be pretty treacherous under the wrong seemed particularly surreal given the setting.
conditions, and heavy rain had turned the soft, clay
Below Rory gets the shot, but the marmot will track into a frothing swamp, our hero steering furi- Marmots, Murgab and Marco Polo
never be the same again ously through it as he persevered to get us to lake An early morning encounter with Karakul Lake
Kara-Kul before nightfall. It didn’t help matters that (or Dragon Lake as one ancient Chinese pilgrim
we’d picked up another passenger-an Austrian PhD called it) can break the spirit of the heartiest travel-
student conducting research through Tobias’ well ler. I therefore began the new day by draining the
meaning social foundation - as a by product of the remainder of the vodka we’d received from plach-
German’s land rover breaking down. Her research aya dyevooshka’s boyfriend, earning the contempt
was her only topic of conversation. That, and the lo- of Rory and Ryan when I accidentally dropped the
cation of the Chinese border which she explained last roll of toilet paper down the cess pit at Saodat’s
to us incorrectly three times before Sharshem, who place. It would not be until arrival in Murgab, the
made this journey at least once a week, eventu- administrative centre of the Pamirs, that we’d be
ally pointed it out to her. Many times more attrac- able to replenish either.
tive than Jan’s bike but just as painful to be in a car The journey there was long and mournful as
with, she was henceforth referred to by Sharshem a result of Sharshem’s announcement that he
as the plachaya dyevooshka (bad girl) and he called wouldn’t be driving us any further. His presence
her that so many times I’ve forgotten what her real had become synonymous with this very Kyr-
name actually was. When we finally reached Karakul gyz section of the highway and life without him
after a tiresome entry into Tajikistan, her boyfriend seemed unfathomable. Nevertheless he managed
thanked us for helping out and ensuring she didn’t to put smiles on our faces when Ryan made an in-
spend a night on the steppe. Sensing an oppor- nocuous remark that he’d love to get a photo of
tunity for extortion, we strongly advised him that a marmot, completely ubiquitous in the mountain
he should give us his best bottle of Vodka for the scrub landscape of the Pamirs but a rarity to our
inconvenience. He reluctantly agreed. It was awk- Western eyes. Two kilometres further down the
ward, but necessary, since we were running out. track and we were hot on the orange tail of one

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Focus 19

of the planet’s better looking rodents as it scaled the relatively privileged governess’s son couldn’t bike, the plachaya dyevooshka and the frightened
the adjacent hillside. When we were within reach, wait to be wait to be shot of the place. Marmot. They seemed so far behind us here. Rory
Sharshem pulled to a screeching stop and leapt out “I want to be a chauffeur” he said, pointing at the played the same two traditional Kyrgyz songs on
of the car, swooped for the nearest stone and start- steering wheel of our jeep, “and live in Minneapolis, the chopachor that he’d played twenty times a
ed hurling missiles at the frightened creature. Rory USA. Did I pronounce that right?” day for the previous fortnight, except this time to
and I joined in much more gingerly as Ryan posi- There are some places along the Pamir High- disbelieving applause and appreciation from our
tioned himself, waiting for the perfect shot. At one way that will give you the feeling of wanting to hosts. We took a much needed wash in the bath-
point in the chase, the marmot appeared to have stay forever. While Murgab probably won’t be house next to our yurt and ate more endangered
reached safety, and even paused to cast a glance one of them, Madiyan 35 km further down the sheep as Sharshem Baike threatened to de-beard
down at its nemesis, a wiry Kyrgyz in a waistcoat line certainly will be. Madiyan is a veritable uto- an Israeli traveller with an extremely sharp knife.
eyeballing it from the road below. This proved to be pia complete with yurts, hot springs and a gentle But perfection can’t last forever. A lazy morning
its undoing as Sharshem threw one last time with stream that runs through the valley. Over bowls of later we had a new driver, a new passenger and
all the strength of a steroid injected shot-putter, besh barmak derived from the endangered ‘Mar- fresh hangovers. Such are the peaks and troughs
dislodging a series of small rocks above where the co Polo’ sheep, we reminisced about Jan and his on a journey through the Pamirs.
marmot was catching its breath, and sending his

prey tumbling back down the hill to avoid the small


avalanche behind. Taking refuge in a tunnel under- Zhambyl

neath the road, the marmot found itself trapped by Bishkek
Ryan and his camera at one end and the rock wield-
ing Sharshem at the other. The next ten minutes
revealed our usually relaxed driver at his most ruth- Shymkent
less, bombarding the animal with relentless inten-
sity until he escaped out of the opposite end of the
tunnel and we got our photo. Tashkent
The ethereal Murgab could have been plucked Angren Namangan
right out of Return of the Jedi. It is in one of the
most arid sections of the range and its predomi-
nantly Kyrgyz inhabitants have become habituat- Qukon Osh
ed to frequent dust and sandstorms. We ate manti Farghona
there in a saloon-style cafe with swinging doors
and booths closed off by plastic curtains. There Sary-Tash
didn’t seem to be many alternatives. Murgab is a amarqand Kashi
necessary visit for any Pamir highway traveller (here
you must register your passport complete with Lake Karakol
Tajik visa and GBAO permit), but even if it wasn’t it
would be worth it for the novelty of seeing a bright
white statue of Lenin standing aloof in the centre hi Dushanbe Murghab
of a town he almost certainly never knew existed.
Registration is simple if you know Sharshem baike
(Sharshem baike knows the governess of Murgab)
but apparently a tad tedious otherwise. The Acted/
META operation has its headquarters here and they
should be happy to help.
I managed to find vodka and toilet roll on the
main high street, but everything else would have to 200km
wait until distant Khorog. The impoverished provin-
cial capital certainly lacked for something and even December/January2008 The Spektator

20 Focus
Right A vendor sells his wares in the Chinese
zone of Dordoi Bazaar.
Far Right Porters hauling goods from a ware-
house/delivery area to the retail section. Porters
usually make about 400-600 som a day (12-18
dollars) working a 12 hour day hauling very
heavy goods. On a very good of very hard work
as much as 1000 som can be made ($30).


Isaac Rothschild visits Kyrgyzstan’s great- HERE IS A SMALL BAZAAR opposite and bazaar-veterans, Urusbek and Asambek, and
est marketplace, investigates the cultural where I am living in which I enjoy whil- together we set off to investigate Dordoi Bazaar,
ing away my time bargaining over dairy 15 km to the north of Bishkek, and one of Asia’s
life that surrounds it, and listens to some
products and sausages. I like bazaars, I greatest public market places.
personal tales of life in the bazaar. like the hustle and bustle, and the wide
array of rough and ready characters who shout and Arrival
spit and haggle their way through the day as they We arrive, stumbling out of a marshrutka and onto
make their living amongst the stalls of raw meat the dusty fringes of the market itself. The first thing I
and mobile phones. My landlord, however, claims notice upon our arrival is the mosque (set just outside
that places like this will soon be gone – overrun by the bazaar entrance) . Imams, no doubt influenced
supermarkets. When I ask why, he explains simply, by their proximity to such unabashed entrepreneur-
“Because that’s capitalism.” He has a point. Though ship next door, are getting in on the act too, selling
the pressure for change comes more from the state religious texts, Islamic trinkets, and symbols of Is-
than any natural born love of lamic faith. Though
the free market. “I do not want to say bad things the mosque is only
Modern state leaders from about three years
Ata-Turk and the late Shah
about my village… but it is dirty old they are already
of Iran, to contemporaries in and dusty and full of garbage” planning on adding
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan another storey as
have viewed the humble ba- soon as next year.
zaar as an anachronism. These “uncivilized, un- They must be doing a roaring trade.
sanitary” representations of pre-modernity must Dordoi bazaar itself is moving on up too. Only
be overcome if a nation is to achieve dignity and five years ago the bazaar had almost nothing in the
autonomy on the world stage - or so they would way of permanent structures. Tents to shelter the
have you think. merchants and customers were set up each morn-
In actuality, one would be hard pressed to find ing and taken down each night. Now, things are
a more robust example of capitalism in action growing and improving fast. Wide metal avenues
anywhere in the world. Bazaars offer conditions of shipping containers have appeared, serving as a
of near perfect competition. Sellers of the same permanent skeletal structure. These old metal crates
products are situated directly beside one another. that once sailed the high seas are now improvised
The buyer and seller can come to a price which is market stalls, resolutely stuck to terra-firma, stacked
suitable considering the quantity and regularity of two-high and forlornly distant from the oceans
purchase. One can understand the governments they’ll never see again.
uneasy relationships with bazaars however when “The whole market is divided into six zones – each
one considers that levying taxes reliably on goods owned by a different business man,” Ursubek tells
which change in value with each transaction is a me. “They are all very, very rich men.” he adds. Each
difficult task. of these zones tends to specialize in a certain range
Every neighbourhood in Bishkek hosts a mini- of goods or a particular source country. For example,
bazaar of some kind and despite my landlord’s there is a Chinese section and a European section.
dire words about the threat posed by supermar- The Chinese section sells cheaply made, extremely
kets, trading does not seem to be diminishing. affordable goods. The European section sells mostly
These local bazaars, however, are small fry. I want- upper-end clothing. These sections are further sub-
ed to experience the real thing, the Mother of all divided. One area is called Mir Zapat (Shoe World).
Bazaars. Therefore one afternoon in late October I Shoe World, and a veritable world of shoes it is too,
enlisted the help of a couple of guides, my friends stretches across five or six rows of cargo contain-
December/January 2008 The Spektator
Focus 21

ers, each row at least 100 meters long. There are bazaar on trolleys. The work was hard and the ing the workers’ salaries. After that there was noth-
shoes from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Rus- pay, considering the difficulty of the work, was ing to sustain his family in Issyk-Kul.
sia, China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Such diverse meagre. “We ended up here.” Asambek says. “I have only
provenance is hardly surprising any more in today’s been living in Bishkek for about seven years - in a
globalized economy, but consider that Kyrgyzstan Asambek’s bazaar tale village called Ak-Bata near the bazaar. I like it there
lies more than a thousand miles from the nearest Asambek, too, is no stranger to a tough day’s and I do not want to say bad things about my vil-
deep sea port, and the presence of such a boutique work at the bazaar. Over a lemonade and a ciga- lage… but it is dirty and dusty and full of garbage.
of footwear is impressive. rette, he tells me something of his early life and of Still, these days, it feels like my true home.”
As we stroll around, we spot a number of mil- his own experiences working at the bazaar. “Fortunately, when we first arrived, my aunt
itsianeri (police officers). Unprompted, Urusbek Born in a small village on the south shore of Is- was already earning a living vending cigarettes
complains that he despises the militsia. “They are syk-Kul, his mother and father worked on a kolkhoz, and lemonade here at Dordoi Bazaar. Getting
not good guys. All they do is try to intimidate you or collective farm. His father managed the herds started was simple enough, all one had to do was
for money. And they leave all the thieves alone of cattle and sheep and his mother worked in the buy some cigarettes and lemonade in bulk and
because they take money from them.” The milit- fields. During the late 1990s the government was walk around the bazaar with a tray. Entry into this
sia are hired by the bazaar owners. One distinc- in the final stages of ending state-ownership of line of work was so simple that quite quickly there
tion that I do not completely understand is be- the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The were too many cigarette and lemonade vendors.
tween the militsia, who Urusbek derides, and the government sold the livestock and stopped pay- Profits dried up.”
private security guards that supervise particular
entryways or buildings and patrol the bazaar at
night. These guys Urusbek viewed as honest, “All
they do is guard.”
After about two minutes Urusbek tells me to be
careful because we are being followed by someone
he knows to be a pickpocket. As I turn around to
catch sight of this child of Fagin he drops back and
disappears into the crowd. The thieves are mostly
pickpockets. The ones that Urusbek knows about
are all between the ages of eleven and twenty.
They are expert at their trade. Due to the accu-
mulating complaints from customers about pick-
pockets, the militsia conduct sporadic attempts to
round them up and detain them for a little while.
“It’s just a half-hearted attempt to intimidate the
youngsters.,” Urusbek says. “After all, it happens
only once or twice or year and each operation
only lasts a single day. The officers can do it so
quickly because they already know who to detain
and where to find them!”
Since I was last at Dordoi in 2006 child labor
has been prohibited at the bazaar. The prohibi-
tion is sadly not stringently enforced, although
we didn’t see any kids working as porters. Urus-
bek tells me that before, many teenagers, himself
included, did portering work. They either loaded
and unloaded trucks or moved goods around the December/January2008 The Spektator
22 Focus
Right At the end of the day older women and
children collect trash, sort it and haul it to a lo-
cation just aside from the retail portion of the
bazaar where they sell it. Plastic earns 1.5 som/
kilo (about 2 cents/lb) whereas cardboard gets
3 som/kilo (nearly 5 cents/kilo). Many of the
women are also hired to sweep and generally
clean the walkways.

Below Stock is taken from the storage contain-

er above, to be sold in the store underneath.

Asambek tells me that it was around this time ters temperatures of -15 to -30’С weren’t much of
that his father died, devastating the family not only an encouragement. But the bazaar cannot cease to
emotionally but financially as well. Asambek as well function because of a cold snap, of course!”
as his two older brothers and older sister had to These days Asambek has broken away from Dor-
drop out of school and begin working just so the doi bazaar. He is now studying and hopes one day
family could make ends meet. His brothers were to work in the tourism industry. I ask him if he looks
old enough to look for work on construction sites fondly upon the bazaar that seems to have exacted
abroad, which they did. They worked in cities in Si- such a hold on him throughout much of his youth:
beria – a land relatively flush with cash from rising “I don’t mind visiting from time to time,” he says, “but
oil prices. His sister and mother went to work for his I don’t get nostalgic about the days I spent working
aunt who had astutely moved out of the vending here. It was a tiring way of making a living.”
business and into the lemonade making business.
Urusbek, took up what work he could. “A couple of Shutting up shop
neighbourhood boys and I used to scour the bazaar Towards the end of the day things at Dordoi be-
for discarded cups and bags. We sold them to the gin to slow down. Closing time does not occur in a
mother of a friend of mine. She washed the cups single moment; rather the further removed shops
and sorted the bags for resale. The cups were sold tend to close first, and, as the crowds in the bazaar’s
to the lemonade or tea vendors and the bags back far reaches begin to diminish, neighboring store
to the merchants. We could make about fifty som a owners are enticed to follow-suit and close up for
day (a little less than $US 1.50) doing this. “ the night. The process rolls from the margins to the
This state of affairs continued for 3-4 years, he center like a slowly collapsing house of cards until
says, but about two years ago he graduated to a the lights are extinguished and the traders have
job loading and unloading cargo trucks. Work that gone home.
offered much better pay but much more strenu- As the corridors empty, a great deal of discarded
ous working conditions. “The working day typically plastic and cardboard is left behind. At this point,
started at 07:00 and lasted until sometime between one of the few instances of non-glass recycling I
17:00 and 19:00. The amount of work ebbed and have witnessed in Kyrgyzstan occurs. Old ladies and
flowed along with the wholesale trade at the bazaar young kids collect plastic bags and cups as well as
but most weeks we had to be there at least six days. cardboard and sell it to processors. A kilo of plastic
These regular workdays earned each porter about pays 1.5 som (that’s about $US .05/lb), cardboard is
200 som ($US 5). In addition, however, once or twice worth double. The cardboard is also harder to pack-
each week we were required to work through the age and carry to the recycling center. Many of the
night, that is from 07:00 one day until 07:00 the next. women also are hired by the bazaar to clean up be-
That is really, very hard,” his eyes and the weighty fore opening the next morning. Whatever doesn’t
pause underscored the point. The 24 hour shifts get harvested for reprocessing is swept up and
paid 400-500 som. Other days the “night bazaar” de- thrown away.
manded their presence. The night bazaar, apparently Getting there: A taxi to Dordoi should cost about 120-150 som,
(Asambek was unsure) is when Kazakh traders come alternatively you can take one of the private mini buses that
to Kyrgyzstan to buy wholesale goods. “Waking up wait on the north-east side of the Sovietskaya/Chui intersec-
to work at 2 or 3am is no simple task, and last win- tion

December/January 2008 The Spektator

THE GUIDE Bishkek life
Bars and
New York Pizza (177, Kievskaya)
Decorated with pictures of the Big Apple and serv-
ing a fine selection of steaks and other American-
themed dishes, NYP is sure to get New Yorkers
Steinbrau* (5, Gerzena)
Don your beer drinking trousers and head down
thinking of home. Also serves what many believe to Bishkek’s take on a Bavarian-style beer hall.
to be the best pizza in town. $$$ They brew their own stuff - such a relief from the
There’s a fine line between ‘bar’ and ‘restaurant’ in
insipid bilge that’s normally sold as lager. Compli-
Bishkek. Places more suitable for drinking sessions Armenian ment your pint with a plate of German sausage
are marked with a star* Landau (Manas/Gorky) with sauerkraut. $$$
Fancy something a little different? If you can tol-
erate the arthritic service, Landau isn’t a bad spot International
Price Guide (main course, garnish & drink) for a pork steak or some other Armenian culinary
$ - Expect change from 150 som goodies. Also, treat yourself to some decent Arme- No. 1* (Gorky/Sovietskaya)
$$ - A little over 200 should do the trick nian conjac whilst your here, you’ll never go near A Beatles themed bar to make Bishkek scousers feel
$$$ - Expect to pay in the region of 350 Bishkek conjac again. Ever. $$$ at home. Huge screen outside for sporting events.
$$$$ - A crisp 500 (or more) needed in this joint Shashlyk and cool beer. $$
Ak-Bata (108, Ibraimova) 2x2* (Isanova/Chui)
This place must serve up pretty authentic dishes Trendy drinking hole with a circular bar and friend-
as it’s always full of Chinese playing mah-jong and ly staff. A good place for knocking back a few pre-
American waving their chopsticks about. Smoky and stuffy, nightclub cocktails. Slouch into one of the comfy
but in a nice way. $ lounge seats and try to look cool. $$$
Cowboy* (Toktogul/Orozbekova)
Bishkek’s all-American restaurant-cum-dance club Chuchuara Hoga (117, Chui) Avant Gard (127, Sovietskaya)
has now gone a little more up-market, but wild With this Chinese restaurant, a little out of the way We’re not so sure what’s so avant-garde about
nights are still to be had. Dig in to a kilo of chicken and rarely visited by tourists, you really feel you Avant-Gard. They put candles on the tables in the
wings and then hit the dance floor. $$$ are getting the real deal. Request a хого (your own evenings, but there is a distinct lack of Parisian
personal Chinese boiling-pot) and randomly select Bohemians. Still, the food is fine and the relaxed
Hollywood* (Druzhba/Sovietskaya) a variety of unusual chinese delicacies to throw in.
As you would probably guess, decorated with ambience means AG is a good place for a conver-
Beware, the ‘spicy’ sauce, although delicious, may sation, or a debate on existentialism. $$
movie posters, photos of cinema icons and a leave delicate stomachs in some distress several
bunch of American kitsch. Hollywood is popular hours later - consider the ‘not-spicy’ sauce as a Boulevard (Erkindik/Kievskaya)
with a younger crowd and is usually packed from suitable alternative $$ A small stylish restaurant, offering a refined atmo-
mid-evening onwards. A fun place for a few drinks sphere, delicious cakes and wi-fi internet. By Bishkek
Peking Duck I & II
before heading off to the clubs. $$ standards, the service is usually excellent. $$$$
(Soviet/Druzhba & Chui/Tog. Mol.)
Metro* (133, Chui) Huge portions to feed even the biggest of glut- Captain Nemo’s (14, Togolok Moldo)
In the impressive location of a former theatre, Met- tons and an English language menu that provides Small nautically themed restaurant with a selection
ro remains the première drinking hole for ex-pats. plenty of amusing translations. Dancing occasion- of evocatively named dishes including ‘Fish from the
A high ceiling, a long bar and friendly staff compli- ally kicks off on more raucous evenings. $$ ship’s boy’ and ‘Tongue from the boatswain’s wife’.
ment a good Tex-Mex menu and a wide selection Cosy wooden interior and porthole style windows
of drinks. Metro is one of the best bets for catch-
Dungan create a hybrid underwater log cabin experience.
ing sporting events on TV, although thanks to the Luk-Fu (Orozbekova/Kievskaya) Spirits, cocktails and a good business lunch. $$$
hideously late kickoff times for Champions League In many Bishkek joints the lepyoshka is stale and the
football matches, don’t count on the staff waiting service makes you look for candid cameras. At Luk- Coffee House (9, Manas)
up unless it’s a big one. $$$ Fu, despite its stolovaya atmosphere, not so. Add to Treat yourself to some of the finest coffee and
that generous portions and cheap prices and the cakes Bishkek has to offer at the imaginatively
Answers to this month’s crossword named ‘Coffee House’, a cosy boutique café with a
place is a pearl. One of few establishments offering
J O I N S C R I B B L E satisfying vegetarian meals. $ European flavour. Curl up and read a book, or just
drop in for a caffeine hit and a chocolate fix. $$$
A D I C R V Hui Min (Ibraimova/Frunze - next to Esperanza Casino)
C H O P D R A I N A G E Don’t be put off by the slightly decrepit feel to this Concord (Alatoo Square)
place, they serve up some damn fine Dungan eat-
K L G C N Y N ing. Try the gan-fan (meat, peppers, spices, rice),
Waiting staff dressed as airline stewards and an in-
terior featuring some aeronautical paraphernalia
B E A C H B U G G Y its big enough to keep you going all day and you’ll attempt to lend a little glamour to this small diner
O T O S S C K get change from a ton. Also, ask for the special just off Ala-too Square. Good, cheap food and fur-
Dungan tea, it’s rather good. $
O N R U S H D U B L I N ther deals for lunch during midweek make this a
popular spot during the daytime. $$
T Y T E G O E Georgian
S T A N D A S I D E Mimino (27, Kievskaya) Cosmo Bar* (Sovietska/Toktogul)
O D R C R S J Re-opening soon we’re told, Mimino is nice, cosy and Board the sweet smelling elevator, ascend to the
serves up bowl-fulls of steaming, hearty Georgian fare top-floor Cosmo Bar and splash the cash with your
P E E K A B O O S T Y E with pomegranate seeds a-plenty. We recommend fellow free-spending cosmonauts. Elegant interi-
A R I R E R the Georgian cheese bread and anything that’s served or, plush sofas, fancy drinks and pretty waitresses.
L A V E N D E R T R E K in a pot. Watch out for Uncle Joe at the door. $$$ Huzzah! $$$$ December/January2008 The Spektator

24 Bars, Restaurants & Clubs
Doka Pizza* (97, Akhunbaeva) Lounge Bar* (338a, Frunze) Italian
The ever-popular Doka Pizza, open non-stop, pro- One of our favourite places to drink in the Sum-
vides decent live music on most nights and a wid- mertime, when we can afford it. Outdoor balcony- Adriatico (219, Chui)
eranging menu. There’s a large eating area outside cum-terrace high above the street with slouch- Classy restaurant with it’s own Italian chef. Great
that’s open in the summer with a garden, stage couches and fine veiws of the circus - which you pizza, improved service, and a fine selection of
and kids play area. Both Doka restaurants do a can sometimes smell in the summer. Nice. $$$ pasta dishes. $$$
good ‘beeznes lanch’ before 4pm. $$$ Meri (33, Gorkova) Cyclone (136, Chui)
In the summer months, Meri has one of the prettiest Smart Italian restaurant with plush interior, effi-
Doka Pizza* (153, Kievskaya)
dining areas in Bishkek. International cuisine served 24 cient, polite serving staff and a warm atmosphere
More sexed up than its Akhunbaeva sister bar,
hours a day, more lively nights see jiving on the dance to alleviate Bishkek’s winter chills. Pasta dishes
there’s a strip bar downstairs, Doka Kievskaya is
floor to all your favourite Kyrgyz pop tunes. $$$ stand out among a menu of traditional Italian fa-
often a post-party chillout venue for Bishkek’s
young, rich kids. Enjoy the good food, the lively vourites. $$$
Navigator (103, Moskovskaya)
vibe, and the coquettish waitresses – just don’t
A pricey, but pleasant place to while away an af- Dolce Vita (116a, Akhunbaeva)
break your beer glass, there’s a stiff fine. Also
ternoon. Sit in the bar area over a beer or lounge Cosy Italian restaurant with smiling waitresses
non-stop. $$$
in the airy non-smoking conservatory. Attentive serving excellent pizza. Also serves salads and Eu-
Fatboy’s* (Chui/Tynastanova) service and a refreshing selection of salads, a good ropean cuisine. Small terrace outside for summer-
Civilised, friendly cafe bang in the middle of town place for a light, healthy lunch when fat and grease time dining. $$
and a popular ex-pat meeting point. Sensible spot are getting you down. $$$
for conversation, but if you’re alone there’s a mini-
library to peruse (although literary classics are thin Japanese
on the ground). Check out the American pancakes
for breakfast, top marks. $$$
Four Seasons (116a, Tynystanova)
Advertise with Aoyama (93, Toktogula)
Elegant sushi joint frequented by serious looking
suited-types concluding their latest dodgy deals.
One of the poshest places to eat out in Bishkek.
Elegant, yet modern interior and polite service.
Great place to splash out on a special occasion or
just for the hell of it. $$$$
The Spektator The food’s excellent though - if you can scrape to-
gether enough soms. $$$$

Watari (Shevchenko, Frunze)

(or just give us money) A small Japanese-owned restaurant that serves su-
Live Bar* (Kulatova/Pravda - near Ibiza club )
shi as well as dishes with a more indian flavour. The
24 hour sports bar with live music at weekends.
refined atmosphere makes it ideal for a business
Plenty of leather couches provide the ideal place
to sip cocktails whilst watching the Champions
Small ads from 25USD meeting or just a sophisticated night out $$$
league at 3 in the morning. $$
Contact: Korean
Jam* (179, Toktogula)
An underground oasis of cool. Jam is a cafe with a Petel (52, Zhykeeva Pudovkin)
full menu and a lounge bar atmosphere, open till Operating in the back room of a Korean family’s
3am . $$$$ Pit Stop (Toktogul/Orozbekova) house, this is Korean style home-cooking at its most
Open 24-hours. Stands out for its rather expensive personal. Closed on Sunday. Ring: 0543 922539 $$
drinks, its big Michael Shumacher poster and the
MK International offers: home-made formula 1 decorations. Classy. $$$
Santa Maria (217, Chui)
Plush Korean restaurant offering Eastern favou-
• American Courses--English Language Courses Stary Edgar’s* (15, Panfilova) rites, including exciting Korean barbecues where
• Work & Travel Programs The concrete monstrosity of the Russian Theatre con- you get to cook your own dinner, plus an extensive
• Work & Study Programs ceals one of Bishkek’s finest attempts at a cosy base- European menu. $$$
• English Language Courses in the US, UK and Europe ment bar. Friendly staff, a decent menu and a collection
• Au-pair Programs
• Preparation for any kind of programs
of old bits and bobs decorating the walls make Edgar’s Lebanese
an attractive alternative to the city’s mainstream cafés.
E-mail: A blues band plays most nights and a pianist adds a Beirut (Shevchenko/Frunze)
Office Tel: 61-41-96 romantic ambience on some Sunday evenings. $$$ Now in a new location, Beirut continues to serve
U Mazaya (Behind ‘Zaks’ on Sovietskaya) enticing Lebanese goodies including falaffle, hu-
Possibly Central Asia’s only rabbit themed restau- mus, and tasty little meat pie things. $$$
rant. Descend into this underground warren and
tuck in. Also check out the fairy-light adorned Regional/Central Asian
flagship sister-rabbit-restaurant in Asenbai micro
region. $$$ Arabica* (Sovietskaya/Kulatova)
Veranda (Gorky/Soviet. Vefa Centre roof ) Descend the steps into an aromatic cloud of hooka
Wow, what a view. Eat rather decent international smoke. The music’s normally reasonably decent
cuisine whilst taking in a superb view of the moun- chilled out sort of stuff, the food’s good, and the
tains from the 4th floor terrace above the Vefa centre. waitresses smile. At me anyway. $$$
Now under the protection of a retractable winter-
proof roof. $$$$


Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Bars, Restaurants & Clubs 25
Arzu-II* (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge) Turkish Arbat (9, Karl Marks)
Twenty-four hour joint that’s a godsend for those Tel. 512094; 512087
who get cravings for lagman or manty at four in Carlson (166, Sovietskaya) Smart ‘elite’ club popular with a slightly older
the morning. Sometimes smoking isn’t allowed, Great outdoor eating area. We recommend the crowd. Strip bar and restaurant in same building.
sometimes it is, however the food and prices are tavuk sote (chicken, peppers, tomatoes) and a big (Entrance charge 200/350 som midweek, 350/450
constantly pretty good. Comfy booth style seats lavash bread - a good feed. A good outdoor ter- som Fri/Sat. Strip bar 700 som)
to dig yourself into after a heavy night. $$ race, but be prepared to be serenaded by god-aw-
ful Karaoke style crooners. $$ City Club (85/1, Zhukeyeva-Pudovkina)
Arzu-I (Togolok Moldo, next to the stadium) Tel. 511513; 510581
Offers a hearty selection of Kyrgyz and European Ibrahim (Gorkova/Oshskaya) So exclusive it makes the Spektator crowd feel like
dishes and a homely atmosphere. It’s probably a Several dining rooms including private booths and cheap scum bags, City Club is one of the posh-
little too chilly for al fresco dining these days, but a covered outdoor terrace with an extravagant wa- est clubs in town. Get past the ‘face control’ (ugly
there’s also a great outdoor terrace. $$ terfall fountain to help you keep cool while tucking people beware) and spend your evening with
into your kebabs in the summer. $$ gangster types, lecherous diplomats, Kazakh busi-
Jalalabad (Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya) nessmen and a posse of young rich kids who all
Basically the cheapest food (that won’t give you gut Istanbul (48, Chui) seem to have studied in London. (Entrance charge:
rot) in the centre of town. While it should stand out Discretely tucked away on Chui Prospekt, Istanbul girls 200/boys 300, Fri/Sat girls 300/boys 500
for its fresh lagman, Jalalabad is sometimes over- is a low key cafe offering tasty Turkish cuisine. Puff
looked. Probably at its best in summer, when the away on a hookah pipe or slurp lentil soup to your Golden Bull (Chui/Togolok Moldo)
shashlyk masters flanking the entrance offer their heart’s content, all at a nice price. $$ Tel. 620131
creations straight to guests sitting at Eastern-style A Bishkek institution. Full of ex-pats and tourists
tables – cross your legs and see how long you can Konak (Sovietskaya/Gorkova) literally every night of the week. Long bar, friendly
last before cramp sets in. $ This Turkish joint used to be ‘Restaurant Camelot’ staff, cheapish beer, everyone’s happy. (Entrance
hence the incongruous suits of armour in the back charge [girls/boys] free/400 midweek, 150/400 Fri/
Jetigen (Gorky/Logvinenko) room, and the rather crappy castle facade. However, Sat. ‘Foreigners’ free.)
A new place offering European cuisine as well as the food is often great, the salads are large and fresh,
the usual local specials. Stands out for it’s deli- and the staff are always pleasant. Recommended! $$ Ibiza (9, Kulatova)
cious lagman, fresh lepyoshka bread, and attentive A cavernous space with a large dance floor. Danc-
service. $
Night ers suspended on platforms 15 feet above the
floor, strobe lighting, smoke machines and bang-
Smile (Chui/Sovietskaya)
Despite the name, you’ll be lucky to see one on the
waitresses face. Nevertheless, if it’s decent cheap
food you’re after, this isn’t a bad place to look. The
Clubs ing dance tunes. Bishkek’s (half-arsed) attempt
to create a little bit of the party island. Efforts to
negotiate a cheaper entrance fee are futile. (En-
There are some Bishkek old-hands who say that trance charge 350-400 som)
eggs are just as good as those at Fatboys next door, things aren’t what they used to be when it comes
and half the price. Think about it. $ to nightlife in Bishkek. They talk of legendary nights Retro Metro (24, Mira)
of carnage, vomit, and debauchery - delights that
Russian/Ukrainian contemporary Bishkek struggles to offer. Bright, happy, 80’s kitsch bar, the DJ spins his rec-
Not so, we say. Take your pick from the list below ords from inside the front of a VW camper van. One
Pirogoff-Vodkin (Kievskaya/Togolok Moldo)
and we’re sure there’s still enough carnage, vomit of the most popular places for post-2am partying.
Classy restaurant with a turn of the 20th century
and debauchery in town to keep everyone happy. (Entrance charge: 200/300 som midweek, 350/450
atmosphere serving Russian specialities. $$$ som Fri/Sat. Reservation price 200 som)
Taras Bulba (Pr. Mira/Jibek Jolu) Diskoklubs
We haven’t had time to check this Ukrainian place Live Music
Heaven (Frunze/Pravda - in the Hotel Dostuk)
out yet - although the word is that it’s well worth
As Heaven is found inside a hotel it is suprisingly Promzona (16, Cholpon-Atinskaya)
stopping by for a borsht po-ukrainski.
unseedy. In fact it stands out for being a bastion
Zaporyzhia (9, Prospect Mira) of the well-dressed (if one is generous). Turn up in Promzona’s far-flung location sadly means a taxi
Recently opened, Zaporyzhia is a cossack fla- tatty jeans and a t-shirt and you may feel a little out ride or a long walk home are in order at the end
voured restauraunt in a varnish-scented log cab- of place; then again, you may not give a shit. Tables of a night. Nevertheless, this trendy live music
in. Hearty rustic dishes and a homely atmosphere. by the dancefloor cost 1000 som but include drinks venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an exten-
Recommended! $$$ up to this value. (Entrance charge 200-300 som) sive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring,
strangely, a wind tunnel fan, make this one of the

Jetigen Pharaoh 1 (East side of the Philharmonic)

People tell us this place is well worth a dance and a
screwdriver - but the Spektator can’t vouch for this
best nights out in Bishkek. Tuesday is Jazz night.
Rock or blues bands normally play at the week-
ends. (Music charge 200-350 som)
as is currently on medication, can’t drink alcohol and
We invite you to try our homemade hasn’t been out much lately. (Entrance charge ?) Tequila Blues (Turesbekova/Engels)
Kyrgyz specials in our newly opened Recently re-opened! A possible misnomer, the te-
Infinity (Micro region 7) quila is just fine, but the blues is pretty much non-ex-
family restaurant Yet to be investigated. Ask a taxi driver to take you istent. Young Russian studenty types mosh away the
Local specials to eat in or take away to ‘Infinity’ (and beyond) in the 7th micro region. nights to rock bands in an atmospheric underground
for less than 100som! It’s located way out near the hotel Jannat. Any re- bunker. Weekends are not for the fainthearted, or the
ports would be welcome! (Entrance charge ?) claustrophobic. (Entrance charge 100-150 som)
Gorky st. / Panfilova st.
Apple (28, Manas) Zeppelin (43, Chui)
Fat, old, lecherous foreigners not welcome, this Zeppelin is in the same vein as Tequila Blues but
place is for a younger cooler crowd. Multiple bars,
not quite so spit and sawdust. On the nights we’ve
large dance floor, friendly atmosphere. Thursday visited, there’s been a line up of young rock or punk
usually a big night. (Entrance charge 100-300 som)bands strutting their stuff, heavier beats seem to
go down best with the young Russian crowd. Full
Mojito (Micro region 12)
restaurant menu.
Another place to be checked out. Do they actually
(Entrance charge 100-150 som)
serve mojitos? Possibly. Is it a Hemingwayesque
club reminiscent of 1950s Havana? Probably not.. Live music also common at Doka Pizza Akhun-
(Entrance charge 100-300 som) bayeva and Stary Edgar (see ‘bars/restaurants’) December/January2008 The Spektator

26 What’s On
at the International chamber orchestras festi-
A Month Of val in Dushanbe; the participation of young op-
era singer Jenish Ysmanov at the International
Classical Music young opera singers competition in Saint Pe-
tersburg; the participation of saxophone player
The Arts and Culture Program of the Swiss Co- Aleksandr Akimov at the Tashkent Jazz festival; The Conservatory
operation Office in the Kyrgyz Republic is con- the participation of Vikram Ruzakhunov group Jantosheva, 115
ducting a series of concerts at the philharmon- and singer Aidai at the International Chimkent Tel: 479542
ic in December at the Malyi Hall of the Kyrgyz jazz festival. Concerts by students and professors.
National Philharmonic.
The upcoming concerts promise audiences rich The Swiss Cooperation Office in Kyrgyzstan The Puppet Theatre
and harmonious artistic performances, which (SCO) has been supporting arts and culture Sovietskaya/Michurina
will provide unforgettable experience. development in Kyrgyzstan since 1998 to con- Performances on Sundays at 11:00am.
tribute to formation and maintenance of inde-
An Evening of Modern Music will be held on pendent and diverse cultural environment. The Kyrgyz State Philharmonic
December 8 at 18:00. This concert is part of Arts and Culture Program of SCO supports film Chui Prospect, 253
the Arts Festival “Argonavty”. Compositions of and music development, culture development Tel: 212262, 212235
A.Arutunyan, B.Tchaikovsky, J.Iber, P.Hindemit, in villages, jazz popularization and local initia- Hours: 17:00-19:00 in summer
and more. Performers are students of the Kyr- tives through small grants. Tickets: 70-100 som (sometimes much more for
gyz National Conservatoire: E.Kalashnikov special performances)
(clarinet), G.Joldoshbaeva (flute), A.Sobolev There are two concert halls featuring classical, tra-
(bayan), U.Raimbekov (trumpet). (Free entry) Remembering ditional Kyrgyz, and pop concerts and a variety of
An Evening of Ancient Music will be conduct-
ed on December 11 at 18:00. Baroque music
Khusein Mukhtarov Russian Drama Theatre
Tynystanova, 122 (Situated in Oak Park)
accompanied by clavecin will be performed Tel.: 662032, 621571
by young teachers of the National Conserva- The 70th anniversary of the USSR people’s art-
Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-18:00
toire, who took attended the Academy of An- ist, distinguished Kyrgyz opera singer Khusein
Tickets 30-100 som
cient Music in Warsaw in the summer of 2008: MUKHTAROV is also to be held this month.
A range of local and international plays in Russian.
Gulshan Konusheva, Shirin Tashibaeva, Zaira
Raimbekova and other. (Tickets cost 100-150 An evening devoted to the memory of a great artist The Abdylas Maldybaev Opera and Ballet Theatre
soms and are available from Philharmonic, tel.: The evening will be held on December 10 at Abdyrahmanova, 167
614015). 17.00 at the Opera and Ballet Theatre. Tel: 661548; Tickets 50-300 som
Well-known soloists of the Opera and Bal- The theatre has resident opera and ballet compa-
An Evening of Organ Music will be held let Theatre will take part in the concert. Also nies with occasional guest companies. The season
on December 14 at 17:00. Compositions of a film about the singer will be shown during usually runs from autumn to spring but there are
D.Bukstehude, F.Mendelson, I.S.Bach, and more the evening and a photo-exhibition about the often performances at other times of the year as
will be performed. Soloist: Viktoria Vasilieva. professional life of the artist will be held in the well.
Also Oksana Shutova and Alena Kaimakova will theatre lobby. FREE ENTRY!
take part. (Tickets cost 150 soms and are avail- The Kyrgyz Drama Theatre
able from the Philharmonic, tel.: 614015). Also, on December 10 at 12 pm an opening of Panfilov, 273 (behind the Government House)
the memorial plate will be held in front of the Tel: 665802, 216958
An Evening of Piano Concerts will be con- house, where the opera singer lived. Address: Hours: 8:00-20:00 in summer
ducted on December 16, 18:00. Compositions prospekt Manasa 61 (“Okean“ shop).For more Tickets 20-200 som
of S.V.Rakhmaninov, K.Sen-Sans, F.List, and information please contact Kanykei Mukhtar- The resident company performs a range of local
more. Performers are the Symphony Orches- ova, tel.: 666488, email: kanykei.mukhtarova@ and international plays – performances are in Kyr-
tra of National TV and Radio, conductor is Ra- gyz or Russian.
hatbek Osmonaliev, soloists are Leila Asanbe-
kova, Daniyar Idaev, Akak Osmonova, Aiturgan
Turapova. (Free entry)
These concerts are being held by the Swiss Co- inmountainregionsofKyrgyzstan
operation Office in Kyrgyzstan as part of the
Music for Development line to support young
since 2005.
musicians in Kyrgyzstan. In 2008 they supported
several projects: a concert tour of the National
Conservatoiry students to the Issuk Kul region;
the participation of Conservatoire students at
the Academy of ancient music in Poland; the
participation of the Manas chamber orchestra

Adverts, Services & Classifieds

English Lessons The Spektator Proofreading Services
Classified Ads Pre-intermediate, intermediate, and FCE Have your documents proofread by native
Place a classified advert (buying, selling, exam courses English speaking professionals.
services etc.) from only 150 som Qualified English teacher with over four years’ ex- Our team can proofread anything in English in-
Email: perience available for one-on-one lessons from cluding: university essays, menus, technical docu-
400 som per hour. Will also teach small groups ments and contracts. Typical A4 page of text from
of 2-3 students from 500-600 som per hour. Free 200 som.
consultation. Email or tel. 0550991945

December/January 2008 The Spektator

Ski Map 27


4 2
Ski resorts
1. Strelnikova. 1
2. Uzun-Bulak
3. Politekh
4. Kashka-Suu (2100m)
Restaurant, bar, sauna, ice-skating, 2 conference halls. Six ski-runs
of up to 2000m in length. Chair lift and rope tow.
5. Great Alarchinsky Glacier (summer skiing)
6. Edelweiss 10
7. Kalga-Kar 12
8. Oruu-Sai (2100m)
Conference hall for 30 people, cafe, bar, sauna, billiards, table ten-
nis. Three ski runs of up to 1000m in length.
9. Kyzgyz-Bezel
10. Almaluu
11. Noruz (2000m)
Slopes up to 2300m in length
12. Toguz-Bulak (1900m)
Ski runs up to 3000m in length. Chair lifts. Home of the Kyrgyz
national snowboarding team.
13. Orlovka
Nine ski runs of up to 2800m in length. Two chair lifts and two rope
tows. Tel. 0773-121 215 (base) 937 873 (Bishkek office) Restaurant,
bar, billiards, sauna.
14. Sosnovka
15. Tö-Ashu
No lifts, car lift 100 som or use your own. In this high-altitude loca-
tion, snow remains through April. Chair and cabin lifts planned for
2009. Spectacular scenery. Heliskiing.
Prices (approx.):
Renting gear: 300-800 s. Try ‘Snowland’ near the Narodny in the
10th mikrorayon, ‘Limpapo’ on Isanova opposite Beta Stores (phone
610 120, call here also to reserve places on Mikhailov’s tours), ‘Red
Fox’ on Sovietskaya/Gorky and in Tashrabat precinct, or ‘Avtogid
Gazeta’ on Moskovskaya/Korchinskaya. Most ski bases also offer a
rental service, but stocks are limited.
Lift tickets: All day 400-500 s for systems with chair lifts, 150-250 s
for the others.
Instruction: 500 s/h adults, 400 s/h children.
There are many companies that specialise in heliskiing (flying the
wilds in a sexy Soviet helicopter for a bit of off-piste skiing). Try the

following sites for more info: www.kyrgyzstan-mountain-sports. 13

com,, and December/January2008 The Spektator

28 Weekend The End
As restrictive legislation on religious feedom is passed
1. J.M Barrie is often credited with in parliament, the Spektator looks at some religions that
creating which girls name? may struggle to register 200 members in Kyrgyzstan:
2. What does a thanantologist study?
3. A ‘murder’ is the collective noun Raëlism is the religious, naturalist belief system
for which bird? promoted by the Raëlian Movement, an atheist UFO
4 Nikos Kazantzakis created which religion founded in 1970s which focuses on the so-
famously exuberant Greek? cial ideas of sexual self-determination, individualism,
5. How many eyes are there in a and humanitarianism in the spirit of sharing and re-
pack of 52 cards? sponsibility, which, they claim, will bring a new age
6. What is ‘pepper’ in Hungarian? of wealth and peace guided by those with greater
7. Which Spanish painter said that he intelligence, as predicted by main religions. They
would eat his wife after she died? also believe in scientifically advanced humanoid
8. Who was the first man to set foot on extraterrestrials known by our primitive ancestors as
the moon? Which foot did he use first? Elohim (or “those who came from the sky”). Raëlism
9. Which actress said of her divorce: espouses belief that Elohim synthesized life on Earth
“At least I can wear high heels now!” through mastery of genetic engineering, and that hu-
10. What was the ‘Rubicon’? Who man cloning and “mind transfer” are mechanisms by
crossed it in 49BC? which eternal life may be achieved.
Tom Cruise) 10) A River, Julius Caesar Ho No Hana Sanpogyo is a Japanese religion of-
Left 9) Nicole Kidman (after divorcing ten called the “foot reading cult.” It was called this be-
5) 42 6) Paprika 7) Dali 8) Neil Armstrong, cause its founder, Hogen Fukunaga, claimed he could
children’s book) 2) Death 3) Crow 4) Zorba diagnose illness by examining people’s feet. He found-
ed the group in 1987 after an alleged spiritual event
Answers: 1) Wendy (from his Peter Pan
where he claimed to have realized he was the reincar-
nation of Jesus Christ and the Buddha. The group at
Answers to this month’s crossword can be found on page 23
one time claimed 30,000 members. However, Fukuna-
Across SUDOKU ga charged $900 for the foot readings and a suspicion
1 Enrol in (4) MEDIUM arose that he used the money to benefit himself.
3 Write quickly and/or badly (8) Cargo Cults are a group of religious movements in
8 Cut (of meat) (4) Melanesia, in the Southwestern Pacific, which believe
9 Removal of surplus water (8) that manufactured western goods (‘cargo’) were creat-
11 Motor vehicle for the seashore (5,5) ed by ancestral spirits and intended for Melanesian peo-
14 Surge (6) ple. The classic period of cargo cult activity was in the
15 European Capital (6) years during and after World War II. The vast amounts
17 Allow another to take charge - let me of war matériel that were airdropped into these islands

through (5,5)
during the Pacific campaign against the Empire of Ja-
20 Infants’ hiding-and-reappearing game (8)
pan necessarily meant drastic changes to the lifestyle
21 Eyesore? (4)
22 Aromatic shrub related to mint (8) of the islanders. Manufactured clothing, canned food,
23 Arduous walk (4) tents, weapons and other useful goods arrived in vast
quantities to equip soldiers—and also the islanders
Down who were their guides and hosts. With the end of the
1 Footwear symolic of dictatorial authority (8)
war the airbases were abandoned, and “cargo” was no
2 Worship of false gods (8)
4 Big top entertainment (6)
longer being dropped. In attempts to get cargo to fall
5 Sweet powder used on cakes etc (5,5) by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders
6 Donkey’s call (4) imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers,
7 Flat (4) sailors and airmen use. They carved headphones from
10 Spooky ride (5,5) EASY wood, and wore them while sitting in fabricated control
12 Cathedral’s covered walk (8) towers. They waved the landing signals while standing
13 Sudden and ill-considered (4-4) on the runways. Over the last seventy-five years most
16 Repeat performance (6) cargo cults have petered out. Yet, the John Frum cult is
18 Type of gem (4) still active on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu.
19 Diesel fuel (4) Adherents to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti
Monster (or Pastafarians) profess belief in a super-
natural creator which closely resembles spaghetti
BRAINTEASERS and meatballs and can carry out miracles with his
Take the name of two animals. Drop the third letter noodly appendage. Beliefs include that the invisible
from each name. Read the remaining letters, in order, and undetectable ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ cre-
from left to right, and you’ll name a world capital. ated the entire universe “after drinking heavily” and
What capital is it? that pirates are divine beings. All ‘evidence’ for evo-
lution was planted by the Flying Spaghetti Monster,
Rearange the eleven letters of ‘interaction’ to make in an effort to test Pastafarians’ faith. The Pastafarian
two words that are closely related to each other belief of heaven stresses that it contains beer vol-
canoes and a stripper factory. Hell is similar, except
Answers to last month’s brainteasers Dwarf, dwindle, that the beer is stale, and the strippers have VD.
dwell; Party for polyglots: 45 - 10 could not speak Welsh, The Reformed Church of Alfredo is a reformist
20 could not speak Tajik and 25 could not speak Apache. sect of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (but
So there could have been 10 people who spoke none is not recognized or accepted by orthodox FSMists).
of those languages. However, that would maximize Reformist FSMers state that the Flying Spaghetti Mon-
the number of people who could speak all 3, and the ster does not, as many claim, favor pirate clothes; in-
problem asked at least how many speak all 3. Therefore, stead, he favors the sleek black Ninja clothing of his
we must assume that these 10, 20, and 25 people are all true devotees. Alfredoists state there are hundreds of
separate people. Having identified 55 each of whom is
references to Ninjas in Pastafarian sacred texts, but like
missing one language, the remaining 45 speak all 3. - Ninjas, most people never even know they’re there.

December/January 2008 The Spektator

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