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Panto Season Opens Early in Central Asia

23 Nov

Along with extreme snowy weather, the pantomime season has arrived early this year in Central Asia.

That veteran performer from Uzbekistan, GooGoosha, will recreate one of her most famous roles on the Tashkent stage – Sleeping Beauty. The audience will no doubt revel in shouting “Oh yes she is!” and “Oh no she isn’t!” as it ponders whether she is dead or merely sleeping.

There will be plenty of opportunities for shouts of “Behind you!” with a host of suspects lining up to surprise the slumbering princess – such as the ugly sisters (played by Security Service head Rustam Innoyatov and his sidekick, presidential hopeful Shavkat Mirziyoyev) and the real life figures of her estranged mother and  her younger sister, Lola.

Across the border in Kazakhstan, there are plans for a revival of ‘Carry on Cleo‘, with the infamous line “Infamy, infamy. They’ve all got it in for me!” The past year has seen trouble on all sides for Astana with land protests metamorphosing into a coup plot led by a beer baron, and religious militants on the rampage in Aktobe, so it seems apt that this comedy classic will get a fresh lease of life.

 

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Kazakhstan: Strange Days

18 May

17 May 2011 will go down in the annals of Kazakh history for the dubious distinction of being the day the country had its first suicide bomber and for an unprecedented hailstorm in the commercial hub Almaty.

25-year-old Rakhimzhan Makatov killed himself and injured two others in a blast that targeted the HQ of the KNB, Kazakhstan’s successor to the KGB, in the western city of Aktobe. Officials linked the suicide bombing to organised crime and claimed that Makatov killed himself in order to avoid responsibility for crimes he was alleged to have committed.

In a modus operandi more associated with religious extremists rather than the mafia, early suspicions were that the bomber was acting out of religious convictions, but this announcement by a prosecutor’s office spokesperson served to quash any whiff of links to Islamic radicals. Religious extremism is felt by many to be on the rise in western Kazakhstan.

In the south of the country, there was a massive hailstorm in Almaty which caused damage to trees and parked cars. The intense storm lasted for about 20 minutes and the hailstones were described variously by eye-witnesses as being the size of olives, egg yolks or cherry tomatoes.

The sudden storm was preceded by two days of high temperatures with the mercury touching 32 degrees Celsius on 16 May – temperatures more usually found at the height of summer. The storm caused extensive damage with trees were brought down on some central Almaty streets leaving a number of cars trashed.

Strange days, indeed, in Kazakhstan.