Zh Suis Gulzhan

23 Jan

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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.

Kazakhstan: Boozers Mull Civil Damage Claim Over Pig Poster

19 Nov

The All Kazakhstan Union of Boozers and Imbibers (AKUBI) is mulling a moral damage claim after posters appeared on Almaty streets claiming that the consumption of alcohol turns people into pigs.

“As a muzhik I like to have a few drinks to help myself unwind. I was shocked and humiliated when I saw one of my favourite pastimes denigrated in such a fashion,” an anonymous drinker told kazaxia last night in the Golden Pug Bar and Grill, referring to the pig poster.

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“As an ardent supporter of AKUBI, I will be taking up the case with my local rep. If those people from the Kurmangazy Conservatory can get a million [tenge] each for their hurt feelings, then I feel, as a boozer, that I am entitled to similar compensation.” [Editor’s note: For more on the Kurmangazy/Pushkin gay kiss click here]

 

Kazakhstan: On Your Bike

14 Nov

Almaty’s first bike share scheme has just got off the ground, but with winter just around the corner will Almaty’s answer to London’s Boris Bikes be a hit with commuters?

Almaty Bike Share Paul Bartlett

Almaty’s answer to London’s Boris Bikes – Akhmetzhan Bikes – by the city’s only cycle path

Almaty’s mayor, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, is keen to get his fellow citizens onto two wheels. The latest move in the uphill struggle to break the dependence on the jeep sees two bike stations opening in Almaty where bikes can be rented for short trips across town.

At the moment there are 30 bikes available under the scheme but the city mayor’s office hopes to eventually open up to 200 bike stations across the city. Rentals are 150 tenge ($0.85) a day (for trips up to 30 minutes at a time) or 600 tenge ($3.35) for the week.

A cycle lane opened in the city in 2010, but since then little has been done to make cycling more attractive to the masses. Almaty’s traffic-clogged streets see few cyclists braving the perilous conditions.

With fuel shortages gripping the country this year, bikes could be a way to ease the pressure on oil-rich Kazakhstan’s scarce petrol resources.

With more junk food set to arrive in the guise of McDonalds, set to open in Kazakhstan in 2015, a more determined push on getting people onto bikes may be needed to combat the looming obesity crisis when the burger joint opens its doors.

 

 

Kazakhstan: Boozing Pigs Cause a Stir in Almaty

14 Nov

In a new bid to combat rampant alcoholism in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, the authorities have caused pig breeders and medical professionals to react angrily after billboards appeared likening alcohol-imbibers to pigs.

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Almaty authorities launched a public awareness campaign that sees an upright citizen metamorphose into a pig after hitting the bottle. The descent follows four stages with the final stage showing a pig lounging on an empty bottle of strong liquor.

A spokesperson for the Pavlodar International Gourmet Zavod (PIGZ), which was recently set-up to step into the breach left by Russia’s food sanctions on the EU junta, told kazaxia that it was wrong to compare pigs with alcoholism.

“Pigs are very intelligent – unlike humans they do not seek solace at the bottom of a bottle. It is wrong to slur our porcine friends with the curse of dipsomania,” commented the spokesperson.

Kazaxia’s resident medical expert, Dr Gött, also slammed the move to equate pigs and boozing.

There is a good reason why many people choose to not eat pork – pigs are very clever. We don’t eat dolphins, do we? There is no way a pig would turn to the bottle.”

Dr Gött called for the posters to depict a different animal.

I personally think that dogs are a better analogy for what happens to people who drink too much. People who drink too much get over-excited and aggressive and start shouting irrationally; behaviour patterns that are more like dogs than pigs.”

Kazakhstan: Adventures in Democracy

9 Oct

Lord Venal has been on the observation trail once again – here are his reflections from his recent trip to Kazakhstan to observe the Senate elections [Editor’s note: This was in an unofficial capacity as Lord Venal is barred from observer missions after last year’s vicious smear campaign orchestrated by the Azeri authorities]

Democracy is inching along in Kazakhstan with the free and fair elections to the country’s upper chamber, the Senate, paying testament to this.

“We have been witnesses to an open and democratic electoral process. We congratulate the people of Kazakhstan and the election organizers,” Kazakhstan’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) told Spain’s EFE news agency, reported Fox News Latino.

The ruling Nur Otan party, loyal to the Leader of the Nation Nursultan Nazarbayev, swept the board gaining every seat in the new-look Senate.

Some 250 observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were present for the vote on October 1.

Those party-poopers at The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not send observers due to the “indirect” nature of the elections, CEC Chairman Kuandyk Turgankolov said.

The Senate consists of 47 members – 15 are appointed by President Nazarbayev and the others are elected by the lower house, the Mazhilis, with 16 places up for grabs every three years. The senators serve a six-year term.

Could not the UK learn a lesson from Kazakhstan in these matters? The House of Lords, where I sit, is an unelected body. Maybe the Queen, as Head of State, could appoint some of its members with the rest selected by a vote in the House of Commons?

Googoosha – How Dare!

17 Sep

Shocking photos of a haggard looking Gulnara Karimova grappling with a police officer have been leaked from Uzbekistan.

In the words of one of her famous songs in her guise of pop diva Googoosha, she seems to be saying ‘How Dare‘ to the cop.

Let’s hope she’s not giving her captors the ‘Round Run‘ in those nice slippers.

Karimova is the eldest daughter of President Islam Karimov. She has suffered a spectacular fall from grace spending the last seven months under house arrest in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital.

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