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

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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.

 

 

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