GooGoosha’s Gilded Cage

1 Apr

Gulnara Karimova, who has been under unofficial house arrest since March 2014 in Tashkent, is set to be moved to a gilded cage in the centre of the city as part of a deal brokered by Lord Venal on his recent visit to Uzbekistan’s capital.

Tashkent's Palace of International Forums - GooGoosha's new home?

Tashkent’s Palace of International Forums – GooGoosha’s new home?

Karimova, better known by her stage name of GooGoosha, is the eldest daughter of Uzbek pensioner Islam Karimov, Under the new deal she will be housed in the grandiose Palace of International Forums, which was built at the height of her power in the late 2000s. Since then she has had a spectacular fall from grace.

In her new surroundings, GooGoosha will be able to shop to her heart’s content in a private shopping mall in the palace’s basement – modelled on Barbara Streisand’s personal mall.

GooGoosha and Gerard in happier times

GooGoosha and Gerard in happier times

The complex will also include a medical centre for botox and other cosmetic surgery needs, along with a dedicated yoga ashram. A private nightclub will host holograms of her pals Sting and Gerard Depardieu for impromptu duets.

Residents of Tashkent are happy that a use has finally been found for the imposing white marble edifice, considered by many to be a white elephant.

Uzbekistan: Joy as Missing Pensioner Becomes President (again…)

30 Mar

There was unbridled joy in the mahallahs of Uzbekistan as the pensioner who went awol earlier this year swept to a landslide victory in the presidential poll on 29 March.

Lord Venal was in Tashkent to observe the proceedings and here are his findings.

The plucky voters of Uzbekistan braved chilly conditions to re-affirm their allegiance to the man who has run the country for the last quarter of a century. Support was down slightly for the septuagenarian leader at 90.39 % (he got 90.76% of the vote in 2007), but overall he remains the only show in town.

His backers took to twitter to take the wind out of the neigh-sayers’ sails:

The Uzbeks sure know how to organise a good election – we observers were wined and dined at every turn during our all too short visit. Election day began early with the traditional Osh Plov, platters of the national rice and meat dish served alongside three types of tea – green, black and white (or vodka to the uninitiated).

Then it was onto a new shopping centre in Tashkent’s old town to see pensioners picking up free loaves of bread and subsidised, rationed staples such as rice and cooking oil. In the run up to the election the president remembered his fellow senior citizens with this largesse. It reminded me of the food bank Lady Venal has set up for the poor of the parish back home.

After this strenuous morning, it was time for a lengthy lunch of more Uzbek delicacies and some cheeky wines from the chateaus of the Parkent Valley. I remember snippets of a fascinating conversation with the guys from the North Korean observer mission, but not enough to repeat here unfortunately.

After lunch we visited a polling station but alas there were no voters to be seen as the turnout at this station had hit the 100% mark by lunchtime. Time flew past and before we knew it, we were off for a farewell meal after a long day of observing.

Let’s just hope Kazakhstan can match the Uzbeks for hospitality when it chooses its president on 26 April.

 

Kazakhstan: Lear or Joffrey?

27 Feb

A major obstacle to presidential succession plans in Kazakhstan was removed this week with the suicide of Rakhat Aliyev.

With Aliyev, Kazakhstan’s Public Enemy Number One, found dead in his prison cell earlier this week in Austria, the way could now be clear for the president’s eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, to ascend to the throne.

While Aliyev was still on the scene there were fears that Dariga’s psycho ex-husband, convicted in Kazakhstan of plotting to overthrow the government and organising a criminal group that abducted people, could somehow sneak into power on the back of his ex-wife.

A snap presidential poll has been called for April 26 in Kazakhstan, a vote which should see incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev sweep back into power on a tide of mass popular support, but there’s one snag – the septuagenarian president, who was been running the show since 1989 in Kazakhstan, has not yet said whether he will be running.

kazaxia’s chief political commentator Gary Kafali has identified two possible scenarios should Nazarbayev decide to call it a day.

With Aliyev out of the way,  the president can hand over the reins to his daughter to safeguard the widespread interests of the Nazarbayev clan in Kazakhstan with no fears of his nemesis making an unwelcome appearance.

Kafali imagines a King Lear scenario where the leader of the nation divides his time between his three daughters with Dariga taking over the running of the country. However, Shakespeare fans will know that didn’t end well so it may not be the best for Kazakhstan.

The Joffrey scenario will see Nazarbayev by-pass his daughter and anoint his eldest grandson instead. Nurali Aliyev, son of Rakhat and Dariga, would be a guarantor of the clan’s interests, although there are fears that he may have inherited some of his father’s less pleasant genes. Game of Thrones fans will be wary of the young leader turning into a leader in the sadistic mould of Joffrey Baratheon.

When pressed, Kafali said that the most likely scenario is that president Nazarbayev will be unable to give up power and we should expect to see him back in charge come April 27.

Uzbekistan: Joy as Missing Pensioner Found

20 Feb

In line with Astana’s recent directive to independent media outlets to promote positive news, kazaxia is proud to be able some to offer some good news at long last – missing septuagenarian Islam Karimov has been located in Qarshi, Uzbekistan.

Was this missing pensioner at Mardi Gras in Brazil?

Karimov, or “Butch” to his friends, was tracked down after kazaxia released a silver alert earlier this week. He is said to be in good shape though confused as to how he ended up in this city, which is a long way from his home in Tashkent.

Butch plans to continue with his dream to be president of Uzbekistan in his 80s, emulating his hero Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Who knows, if Mugabe should step down, President Karimov could one day be the world’s oldest serving president.

 

 

Uzbekistan: Silver Alert

16 Feb

Concerns are growing in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for missing pensioner Islam Karimov. Some of his family members are worried about his whereabouts as he has not been seen in public since late January when he met new US ambassador to Uzbekistan Pamela Spratlen.

Image result for karimov

He was due to endorse his candidacy for Uzbekistan’s presidential election on 6 February but failed to show up for that appointment.

The septuagenarian presidential hopeful is known to his friends as ‘Butch’ for the role he played in overseeing the bloody massacre in Andijan, Uzbekistan in 2005. He is said to be short-tempered and prone to bouts of confusion.

Zh Suis Gulzhan

23 Jan

zsg 2-page0002

Kazaxia would like to express its support for freedom of expression in Kazakhstan in the spirit of Je suis Charlie .

Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, editor-in chief of the embattled ADAM bol magazine,was detained in Almaty this morning as she attempted to go to a public meeting with some of the magazine’s readers in Republic Square.

Yergaliyeva has been on hunger strike since 19 January in protest at a November court ruling ordering the closure of ADAM bol for engaging in alleged “extremist war propaganda“.

Other journalists from the magazine were also arrested en-route to the gathering, which attracted a handful of activists. The magazine is one of the last examples of that endangered species – the independent, opposition press, in Kazakhstan.

 

 

 

 

 

Eating the Soviet Union

13 Jan

With nostalgia for the Soviet Union peaking as fascists and speculators are once again perceived to be threatening the gates of Moscow, Anya von Bremzen’s timely memoir of the USSR, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, provides interesting food for thought about the crazed experiment that attempted to construct a communistic paradise on earth.

Von Bremzen’s epic tale of her family’s trials and travails through the Soviet Union, charted via the medium of food, takes the reader on a journey from the excesses of the period running up to the October Revolution to the post-Soviet era of oligarchs and mafiosi and their own extravagant lifestyles.

Von Bremzen spent the first 10 years of her life in the USSR before emigrating to the USA in 1974 with her mother. The book harks back to her time living in a flat near Moscow’s Arbat and her adventures cadging juicy fruit chewing gum from diplomats for trading with her schoolmates. But its her family and the profound effect that the Soviet Union had on their lives that are the real stars of this tale.

Von Bremzen and her mother’s journey through the culinary world of the land of the Soviets begins with a multi-layered kulebiaka pie and travels via the leaner times of Lenin on into the manufactured famines of the 1920s and early 1930s.

By the end of the 30s Stalin’s land of socialist plenty was being imagined with kotleti, the Soviet take on the hamburger, emerging as the food of the masses. Then came the war years with rationing and starvation just around the corner before the tide was turned.

Von Bremzen’s work draws heavily on the Book of Tasty and Healthy Food: Iconic Cookbook of the Soviet Union, the USSR’s premier guide to the art of proletarian cookery curated by the USSR Ministry of Food and by the people’s commissar Anastas Mikoyan. First published in 1939, subsequent editions set the standard for the Soviet table.

The stagnant years with Brezhnev at the helm of the Union were remembered as a time of the ubiquitous Salat Olivier, a melange of boiled carrots, potatoes, pickled cucumbers, boiled egg and whatever protein was to hand all smothered in the ever-available mayonnaise.

The chaotic Yeltsin-years of the 1990s are marked by the arrival of plov, the Central Asian rice-based dish spiked with lamb, cumin, raisins and chick peas became a firm favourite with the post-Soviet generation.

In her foodie odyssey through the Soviet Union, von Bremzen has found a darkly humorous and compelling way to bring to life the years of the Soviet Union and tell its history. One wonders how the food of Putin’s Russia will be remembered with the rouble tanking and sanctions against imports beginning to bite.

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