30 April 2006

Different View of the Demonstration

Well, when I wrote yesterday that the demonstration wasn't a big deal, we'd heard that only 500-1,000 people had attended. But RFE/RL is reporting that as many as 10,000 were there. It was a calm demonstration and Bakiev and Kulov did go out. Bakiev just said the same old things.

The opposition did say they'll have another demonstration at the end of May if the president doesn't respond to their [reasonable] demands. Seems like large, peaceful demonstrations like these could get to be rather embarrassing.

29 April 2006

Well, nothing happened. At least nothing big. And it's turned out to be a lovely afternoon in Bishkek.

Demonstration Day

Looks like the demonstrators are in for a soggy day today- unless they hole up in their yurts. But what's a demonstration if you're stuck in a yurt?

Bakiev is undoubtedly worried about this thing, even though the Interior Minister claims Bakiev didn't give any orders concerning the demonstration. We've heard stories about the new techniques the security forces will use on anyone who tries to climb the fence at the white house and Bakiev has said that if there is violence or looting, the demonstrators will be entirely to blame. Bakiev also said that universities are not for politics and students should not be involved in the demonstration.

Of course, Bakiev had no problem using students just a month ago to make his celebration for the revolution look good. Students were required to attend meetings the day before and many felt like they had to attend the celebration itself.

It's also interesting that Bakiev has said he and the opposition last year are not responsible for the looting and that the government won't be recompensating anyone.

Akaev certainly wasn't a perfect leader, but at least he wasn't willing to kill large numbers of people to keep himself in power. Looks like Bakiev is.

We have been out today. Various roads have been closed at different times and there are lots of police around. One friend jogged by the square early this morning and estimated there were at least 300 police marching on the square. I imagine the rain has been a deterrent. It has been rainy all morning (it's about 1:30 in the afternoon right now) with heavy rain around 9 and 12. All seems to be quiet though.

28 April 2006

This is a picture of Islam. He was brought the baby house several months ago. While his development was fine, he was pretty scrawny. He has fattened up a lot and is getting chubby. It's easy to see the difference between the babies who are in the baby house from birth and those who are brought in later. The sooner they get to the baby house, the better. Some are fine when they get there later, but most improve dramatically in a few months. Of course, some don't do well at all in the baby house, but overall, I think they do a good job with the babies.

There are lots of babies in my group at the baby house now. A lot are girls which has been a change. All but one are Kyrgyz. I haven't gotten great pictures of them yet, but I'm working on it.

Bone Summer

One thing that would be fun to do this summer is to travel around Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tuva, and Mongolia to find more bone games. We could do Kyrgyzstan first, going south to Osh, then east, then up to Naryn and Karakol and cross the border at Karkara. We could work through eastern Kazakhstan then cross into Russia near Semey and go to Tuva, then down into western Mongolia.

Teaching Foreign Languages

This topic comes up a lot on homeschooling boards. And, not surprisingly, I have my own opinions about this even though I've never taught a foreign language (although I've studied a number of languages myself). But here are a few things to consider when you're choosing a foreign language to teach your child.

Obviously, one of the best reasons for choosing a language is if you've studied it yourself. Even though there are lots of good language programs out there, it really helps if you know something about the language before.

What native speakers of other languages live around you? Are there any who would be willing to help your child practice? What about children who speak another language? Consistent practice with a native speaker makes a huge difference. It's better to learn a more obsure language well than being able to stumble through a few phrases in Spanish.

What are your child's specific interests? This applies more to high school students. International business? Chinese might be a good idea. World religions? Try Arabic. Eastern Europe? Maybe Russian would be a good option. French literature? French, of course.

Take the usefulness of the language into consideration. While lots of people speak Chinese, it is only influential in China and SE Asia. Spanish is an excellent choice in the Western Hemisphere, but not so much in the Eastern Hemisphere. French is good all over the world, but not as widespread as English. German is a relatively common third language.

And remember that there is no way to really predict what will truly be useful in 10-20 years. When I took Arabic 10 years ago, no one thought it was a useful language. They do now. It's better to stick with something that's useful now- you can be pretty sure it will still be useful then. But betting that, for example, Chinese will become more widespread could be a little riskier.

Spanish is always a good choice in the US. If there isn't a good reason for going with another language, do Spanish.

Last, but certainly not least (since I think this can be one of the most important factors), ask your child what language she wants to learn. You may think, for example, that Spanish is the best option, but if your child really wants to learn Polish, let her. So what if it's not as useful a language? If she is truly interested in that language, it's likely she'll find a way to make it useful.

Of course there are some languages that simply may be impossible to learn no matter the interest of your child. There are good resources in only a few languages and while it is certainly possible to wing it, it requires a lot more from the parent. Several language programs, like Rosetta Stone, do have some less commonly taught languages like Thai and Turkish though.

Do remember that any study of a foreign language that your child does probably won't translate into real-world ability unless they get extensive practice with native speakers. This is why I think picking a language your child is interested in is so important. Learning languages takes time and effort and interest can really help. If your child is really interested in the language, try to get her to a country where that language is spoken after she's studied it for a few years. She'll learn a lot, see that she still has a lot more to learn, and hopefully see that what she has learned so far is worthwhile.

26 April 2006

If You Attend the Demonstration, You'll Be Kicked Out of the University

The opposition has been planning some major nationwide demonstrations on April 29th for the last several weeks. Bakiev has been clamping down in an effort to squelch the entire thing. Government employees aren't allowed to attend, not surprisingly.

Today students at more than one university were told that if they attend the demonstration, they will be kicked out of their university. Instead universities are planning activities for Saturday, like assigning students to clean the buildings and grounds so they can't go to the demonstration.

Only a handful of people went to the demonstration in Osh today and they had been hoping for many more. Sounds like the government's tactics worked there. And I imagine they will work in Bishkek.

You'd expect something like this in China, or Uzbekistan, or the old Soviet Union, or any number of other countries, but Kyrgyzstan had seemed to have a goal of doing better, of being somewhat more open to dissent. Did anything really change after March 24th? Is it even worse?

25 April 2006

I've talked about traveling to interesting places before and it hasn't really happened, but this time it may well have to happen. I don't have any desire to spend two months in Bishkek between semesters.

We were hoping to spend part of the summer in Turkey, but that didn't work out, so we're back to figuring out where we're going to spend the summer. Staying in Asia would probably be best, especially if we can teach in Kyrgyzstan for another year, but if we're heading back to the US, we could stop just about any place in the world.

I'd love to spend the summer in China, in Yunnan or Xi'an or Xinjiang. Russia would be nice too, in Siberia or Kamchatka.

We could travel around Kyrgyzstan riding minibuses and staying in yurts for about the same amount we pay for our apartment in Bishkek. I'd love to see more of Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbekistan would be good if they weren't so cross about Americans right now. I've never had a real desire to go to Kazakhstan. Tajikistan would be interesting.

But I am really quite certain that Bishkek won't be an option. At least I really hope it won't.

24 April 2006

Bribing Your Way to a Worthless Degree

I was pleased to read this article on IWPR on the government's efforts to tackle corruption in education. The Tajik government is actually starting to take action in reducing corruption.

Corruption in education is a huge problem in Central Asia. Degrees in Kyrgyzstan are practically worthless except from a few universities that have made an effort to root out corruption. There are several places you can read about this corruption (Kyrgyzstan Student Blog, Neweurasia Kyrgyzstan, and four articles from RFE/RL 1 2 3 4). These articles are in no way exaggerated, in fact, they may not make the reader truly understand how widespread and devastating this practice is.

The system works like this in Kyrgyzstan: Students are assigned to a group at the beginning of their five years at their chosen university. All of your classes are assigned, including the times they will be taught. The classes are taught as a huge lecture with dozens or possibly hundreds of students taught by the professor, then those lectures are divided into smaller seminar groups that are usually taught by teaching assistants. The standard method is for the professor or assistant to lecture and the students to write down every word they say. No interactive teaching methods are used. Students are expected to memorize their notes and then regurgitate them on the exam. It is expected that most of the students will cheat on the exam, so some professors do an oral exam where they ask students one or two questions to test them on their knowledge from the entire semester.

Do I sound cynical? Yes. And it gets worse. The Soviet system uses a 1-5 grading system where 1 is the worst, 5 is the best. A professor can't give a student a 1 no matter what- too mean. 2 is the only failing grade, even if you never show up to class (this is a common occurrence). Even if you get a 2, you have two more chances to be tested by other teachers in the department who can change your grade. Therefore, if you happen to have the bad luck of getting a teacher who won't be bribed, you can always bribe another teacher in the department. There are also students who cannot be failed no matter what or the professor will be fired.

It is incredibly rare for a student to be kicked out of school because of poor performance. Your political views or lack of attendance at government-supported demonstrations are more likely to cause you problems.

This doesn't even cover the plagiarism that goes on. But there is little point in assigning students to write a paper. And once you've gotten through your five years, it's not too difficult to figure out what you need to do to pass the exams to complete your degree.

What it all boils down to is that when you graduate, no one has any idea what you really know. Good students, bad students, anyone gets the degree and it is almost completely worthless. You have to have that paper to get a job, and you have to know the right people to get the job. Your ability makes little difference.

But Tajikistan seems to be doing something about it, and a good thing too, because the problem is as big there as it is here:

Sunatullo Jonboboev, coordinator of educational programmes with the Aga Khan Foundation's humanities project, says low funding and poor teaching have caused
educational standards to slip in Tajikistan. In part, he believes, this is due to the retention of Soviet teaching methods, whereas what is needed is education that teaches students to think critically and make decisions for themselves.

A commission is working on inspecting universities, and some rectors and dean have even been fired.

Many professors argue that the main reason for the corruption are the low salaries. While the salaries are unreasonably low and should be higher, I am completely unconvinced that raising salaries is the best solution, or can work on its own to end corruption. There are plenty of wealthy people in Kyrgyzstan giving and taking bribes. The system itself is corrupt and increasing salaries won't change that.

The fourth RFE/RL article says that Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan had implemented some new procedures to try to reduce corruption. Kyrgyzstan does have entry exams to get into a university, but it still doesn't mean you can't bribe the right person to get into the school you want whether you pass the exam or not. The Supreme Court ignores laws, why can't schools ignore their own policies. And once you're in the university, nothing changes. While an entry exam has the potential to help, I don't think it has here.

What do I think will change it? Universities implementing and enforcing policies against corruption. Student groups who refuse to pay bribes. Getting rid of corrupt administrators. Government leaders who quit taking bribes. School teachers who start in kindergarten telling students that bribery isn't the way to go. There are many things that will help, but it will take far more effort than the Kyrgyzstan government has put into it.

I look forward to watching Tajikistan's efforts and I hope the have some success. If they do, I hope that other Central Asian countries take the hint.

23 April 2006

Don't Tell Me I Should Learn Chinese

I've noticed an increasing number of articles about people promoting learning Chinese- that it will soon be a major global language and that the Chinese government is promoting its learning around the world. I disagree with the idea that Chinese is well on its way to becoming the next global language.

Chinese is simply not an internationally influential language. According to George Weber (Language Today, Vol. 2, Dec 1997), Chinese comes in sixth on a scale that takes into account the number of primary and second language speakers, number and populations of countries where the language is used, the number of major fields using the language internationally, economic power of countries using the languages, and socio-literary prestige (numbers inparenthesess are the points awarded to each language according to Weber's scale):

1. English (37)
2. French (23)
3. Spanish (20)
4. Russian (16)
5. Arabic (14)
6. Chinese (13)
7. German (12)
8. Japanese (10)
9. Portuguese (10)
10. Hindi/Urdu (9)

While Chinese has a huge number of native speakers, that is the only place where it clearly leads. There are relatively few second language speakers, not many countries use Chinese in government, and few major fields use Chinese. Chinese is really only useful as a foreign language for those who are interested in doing business in China or East Asia.

English and French are useful politically and academically in addition to business. Since my husband and I have studied Arabic and Russian, we obviously see their importance. We've almost found them to be more useful in Central Asia than the native Turkic languages. My husband has also found Spanish to be a very useful language. He has traveled around the world and the only time Chinese ever would have been useful was the week we actually spent in China. But we found enough English speakers in China that it wasn't even an issue.

You can make a case that China has become much more economically important since this research was published 10 years ago. But I don't believe that's enough to move Chinese up to second place. Arabic has also become a lot more useful in the last 10 years. I wouldn't argue with dropping Russian below Chinese though.

Does this mean I don't think people should be encouraged to learn Chinese? On the contrary, I wish more schools offered Chinese. I wish more people would learn Chinese in the US, especially if they are interested in business. But I don't think Chinese should be promoted as being the next-best language to learn after English. There are several others that can make a stronger case for that position and I'd hate to see schools or homeschooling families focusing on Chinese simply because of the number of native speakers or the Chinese government's campaign.

Maybe the Chinese government can change all that. I doubt it can because of its political system- the usefulness of Chinese will remain limited to business as long as China continues its repressive policies.

I won't be learning Chinese anytime soon, and I won't be encouraging my children to, unless they are particularly interested in business. I think there are better language choices out there. Like Persian and Kyrgyz. :)

20 April 2006


At least Kulov has it right:

”We are at the stage of exploring conditions and nothing more than that. But they immediately raise the issue, “The government is selling out its motherland!” This I find as mere political speculations. And I think, that it might be convenient for certain forces to manipulate the situation to discredit us,” said PM Kulov.

”We are investigating the conditions. We cannot refuse being unaware of those conditions. In three years we are to pay out 100 million US dollars. Where will you get this money? Then you will ask yourself why the government has not even studied the conditions,” said the PM.

New Student Posts

There are several new posts at the Kyrgyzstan Student blog, both in English and in Russian.

19 April 2006

Stability Over Free Speech

I started off by asking the students about clans in Kyrgyzstan. Based on their answers, I'd say clan influence is on the decline here. I asked what clans all the Kyrgyz students were from and where I could get more information. There isn't much written about the clans in English. We also talked about the different ideas on the symbolism of the Kyrgyzstan flag.

Then I asked about Bakiev's demand that government employees not criticize the government. The students seemed a bit closed-mouth of this point (I've rarely felt that way with them), but nearly all said that they support Bakiev's decision. One student who has attended and plan to attend opposition demonstrations was very supportive of Bakiev. He said, "If there is a choice between free speech and stability and order, we will always choose stability." Only one student expressed concern about the order.

I had been interested to ask them about this because we have heard rumors that this decree has filtered down to the universities. We've heard that students have been called to meetings with Bakiev where they were told that criticism of the government in the universities would not be tolerated. Either the students have gotten a lot more supportive of Bakiev in the past week, or the rumors we've heard are true.

I asked about Edil Baisalov (he's blogging again as of today and sounds quite perky) and they were very positive about him. He attended the AUCU and also has a master degree from the National University which give him a good academic reputation. They admired his lack of fear of Ryspek Akmatbaev and said he is part of a patriotic new generation of leaders.

Then we started in on the HIPC Initiative, and my goodness, they were riled up about that. I had asked them about it a few weeks ago, but they hadn't heard anything about it. This week Kyrgyzstan was approved by the IMF and World Bank to go ahead with the program and the US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan expressed her support for Kyrgyzstan joining the initiative. The story seems to have hit the local news this week and the students had quite the interesting version of the program.

First they said that the US was requiring Kyrgyzstan to join the program and that the World Bank and IMF set up the program for their own benefit. Actually, Kyrgyzstan chose to apply nearly a month ago. It has been reported the that WB/IMF will take control of all of Kyrgyzstan's natural resources and deplete Kyrgyzstan of any kind of mineral wealth. I don't even know where that one came from. The Russian Ambassador made a pointed statement that they weren't going to tell Kyrgyzstan what to do even though other countries might.

I told them that while I didn't know if this is the best option for Kyrgyzstan, it is a voluntary program that Kyrgyzstan applied for and that basically is set up to help countries in serious financial situations. Kyrgyzstan doesn't have to take the money (around half of the country's $2 billion dollars in foreign debt would be forgiven). It doesn't matter to the IMF/WB if they don't. It was interesting to see differently this has been reported on in different places.

We ended up talking about the US education system.

Rule of Law

One of my husband's students was asking why Ryspek shouldn't be allowed to take his seat in Parliament since he was elected through democratic means and the decision to let him run was upheld by the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan, which should have the final say in the matter.

I haven't been able to find anything that lists the reasoning behind the Supreme Court's decision- according to RFE/RL, the Court simply rejected the appeal. I can't find anything that states the reasoning behind the district court's decision.

Certainly Ryspek was elected in Balykchy, and you could argue that the election was democratic (at least as Kyrgyzstan corrupt elections get). It is also reasonable that the Supreme Court should have the final say in the matter. Someone should.

But a democracy only works if the rule of law is upheld. Ryspek did not qualify to run under Kyrgyzstan election law. The role of the Supreme Court is not to decide which laws will be followed and which laws won't be followed. Its role is to make sure that constitutional laws are followed. There was no ruling the that residency requirement was unconstitutional or a bad law. They simply said that Ryspek can run. It's difficult to have confidence in the Supreme Court's decision when it appears to be illegal.

And that is why I do not think Ryspek is a democratically-elected leader.

Reform or Resign

A lot of the opposition in Kyrgyzstan are planning a major nationwide demonstration on April 29th where they will present a list of reforms that they think the Kyrgyz government needs to implement.

Bakiev would be ill-advised at this point to ignore these demands. Especially since these reforms are really quite reasonable. I don't see anything to indicate that he'll do anything about them though.

Here is a list of the reforms from AKIpress:

1) Ruthless fight against corruption [I expect this should have been translated as criminality]. Providing of order and security of citizens. Protection of business from organized criminality’s pressure. Barring of criminalization of authority.

2) Real effective fight against corruption.

3) Immediate conducting of Constitutional reform. President has to immediately introduce to Parliament agreed project of new version of Constitution.

4) Reform of law-enforcement bodies. Resignation of some high officials such as head of President Administration Usen Sydykov, General Prosecutor Kambaraaly Kongantiev, State Secretary Dastan Sarygulov, head of National Security Council Tashtemir Aitbaev and members of government who got unsatisfactory evaluation from the Parliament.

5) Providing fair conditions for economic subjects. Ban on using official power for eliminating economic rivals. Ban of “family business” practice.

6) Elimination of executive bodies under President and passing their functions to the government. According to legislation control over national economy and state property belongs to the government.

7) Reorganization of State TV/Radio Company (STRC) into public television.

8) Return of property rights and illegally taken stocks to “Piramida” personnel. Stopping blackmail of “Piramida” company by figure-heads.

9) Immediate establishment of order in the production and sale of construction materials.

10) Ban on initiating unconstitutional proposals on limiting citizen’s freedom of speech, peaceful demonstrations and meetings, other civil rights.

18 April 2006

Preferring Boys

There has been a bit in the news recently about Valerie Hudson's book Bare Branches on the gender imbalance in Asia, especially in China. China has been making efforts to encourage families to have girls, but I think this statement from a 60 Minutes interview is absolutely true, "I don't think the Chinese government can really tackle the roots of the entrenched son preference until it raises that ceiling on the number of children" a couple can have.

Boys are preferred in so many parts of the world that it would take a lot more than some government incentives to change that preference. It still always shocks me a bit to hear the easy assurance of many people in Kyrgyzstan when they talk about their disappointment when they have a daughter. A daughter or two is fine, if you have several sons to balance them out, but having more than one daughter to start off isn't a good sign.

I am uncomfortable when people specifically congratulate me on having boys- as if I had any say in the matter. I do not like the implication that I am happier because I happen to have boys instead of girls.

Anyway, Hudson is working on a project to create a database on women throughout the world that sounds fascinating:

She is overseeing a project, which is about 40 percent complete, to document 217 indicators of the status of women in 179 nation-states, including categories as varied as the practice of honor killings, levels of employment discrimination, caloric intake and age at the birth of the first child. The resulting database will be a tool useful for researchers in many fields.

Bakiev's Silence

IWPR had a story a few days ago about Kulov's stance against the mafia and, more importantly, Bakiev's seeming indifference to the whole problem. Bakiev has hardly been reported as saying anything about the problem. Instead, he's promising school lunches to children in the region (a worthy cause, certainly, but I think the ensuring the stability of the government is necessary to providing those lunches effectively) and promising to fire officials who criticize the government (copied and pasted from AKIpress, so the punctuation and grammar errors aren't mine):

Talking about “discipline within the executive power”, President said that lately some officials criticize leadership and government of the country which is not directly related to fulfillment of their job duties.

”We discussed the issue of dismissal of officials that criticize President of Prime Minister recently with PM Kulov. Democracy is first of all discipline and responsibility, but not anarchy. This is why I warn all leaders of executive power that we will apply severe measures since now. They will either work and perform their direct job duties, otherwise we will fire them. Immediately. Let them work in political parties then,” said President Bakiev.

This is hardly a way to inspire confidence in the government. It certainly relates to Bakiev wanting people in the government to quit their political parties. Promising school lunches will get him some support in the regions, no doubt. But he is ignoring the bigger problems that are starting to shake things up here in Bishkek. Ryspek Akmatbaev is still closing the road at Issyk-Kul every weekend and no one seems inclined to stop him.

I still don't think a revolution is in the making- there are many people who still support Bakiev- but he cannot sit around and ignore the security problems going on right now. Akaev ignored the protests in the South last year, thinking it would all work out. At least Kulov seems to be doing something, although he's not a shining star in the anti-corruption department.

The opposition is planning another demonstration for the 29th. The opposition's goal is to get people from around the country (very important, so this isn't seen as a Bishkek thing, or a north thing) to voice their concerns about security and the rule of law in this country and the absolutely necessity of some constitutional reform.

17 April 2006

The End of Patience

I wish we knew if we were going to be able to stay in Kyrgyzstan for another year. Everything is pretty much on hold till then. I have been a very good patient person and I am finished being patient.

Of course, I don't have to make any plans. I don't even have to think more than a week ahead.

16 April 2006

Bone Stories

A friend of ours told us a good story today about chuko bones. Apparently collecting chuko bones when you are pregnant will ensure that you have a boy (and like many countries, boys are best in Kyrgyzstan), so our friend's mother was advised to collect bones when she was pregnant with her fifth child after having four daughters. She proceeded to get a nice large collection of bones.

Then one day before the birth, our friend (she was around 10 years old at the time) saw some little boys climbing a cherry tree and eating the green cherries. She was so worried about the boys (again, not surprising at all that a girl in Kyrgyzstan would feel like she needed to take care of stray little boys) that she said she would trade them the chuko bones for the green cherries.

Her mother had a girl. And she knew why when she found out what had happened to the bones.

A side note- I am having a very difficult time finding chuko bones to take back to the US. I have just enough for our family, but there are several people I'd like to give some to also. I am happy to pay for them. Everyone in the country has them. There are people in the bazaar who say they will sell us some. We have told many friends we are looking for them. But I cannot get my hands on more bones.

Good thing I already have my two sons.

And I'm glad that my mother didn't get discouraged when she had five daughters.

15 April 2006

Kyrgyzstan Books

A friend of ours in the US gave us a copy of an English translation of one of Akaev's books that he wrote in 2002 about the history of Kyrgyzstan and Manas. While it isn't a scholarly history, it has been nice to read something that focuses solely on Kyrgyzstan. Most books cover all of Central Asia or China and since Kyrgyzstan hasn't ever been a major player in either of those areas, it's hard to figure out exactly who was where when.

Did the Qing control eastern Kyrgyzstan or did the Khanate of Khokand? When did the Kyrgyz convert to Islam? What about pre-Soviet Islam in Kyrgyzstan? How was the border with China decided on (I mean the whole thing, not just little disputed pieces)? Since the Qing said they controlled eastern Kyrgyzstan, why didn't that part end up in China? Were the Kyrgyz mentioned by the Chinese in 200 BC the ancestors of today Kyrgyz, or even the Kyrgyz who lived near the Yenisey River? Who, if anyone, was already in the western Tian Shan when the Kyrgyz migrated there? And when did they come anyway? I know there has been a lot written on this in Russian, but there is little in English. And probably no one knows the answers to some of my questions.

Here are some other books I'd like to read. Maybe the first one would answer some of my questions:

Historical Dictionary of Kyrgyzstan

Language Attitudes Towards Kyrgyz And Russian: Discourse, Education And Policy in Post-Soviet-Kyrgyzstan

The Educational System of Kyrgyzstan

13 April 2006

Holy Friday

Origianlly posted at Conversation

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him... John 19:17-18

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, gave up the ghost. Luke 23: 46-47

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. Matthew 27:57-60

Arab Christians call this day Mournful Friday or Sad Friday instead of the more common Good Friday that we hear in the West. I prefer Mournful or Holy Friday. This day commemorates the crucifixion of the Lord, and his being laid in the tomb.

I remember the Church of the Holy Sepulchre today. There are many Protestant and LDS Christians who don't like this site (partly because they have no claim on the site like the Roman Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox sects), but I love the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They call it the Church of the Resurrection in Arabic. Again, I don't care if this church is the actual site of the crucifixion, but there is a lot of historical evidence and a long tradition that makes this site the most likely site in the area.

The history of the building is absolutely fascinating, but I just love to be in the building itself and see the remnants of the faith of so many Christians over almost 2,000 years. One of my favorite places in the church are the stairs leading down to St. Helena's Chapel where countless Christian pilgrims have carved crosses into the stone over many centuries. I love to see this visible symbol of the devotion of those faithful people.

The first time I was in Jerusalem, the dome over the traditional tomb of Christ was being repaired (and had been under construction for decades). The rotunda surrounding the tomb was rather dark. But when I went back a year later, the dome had been completed. The rotunda was filled with light. It's now one of my favorite places in the church.

There are many hymns that are appropriate today. "There Is a Green Hill Far Away" is one of our family's favorites now (the boys like it since it is short), but I'll always remember singing "There Is A Green Hill Near at Hand" instead. We also like "Upon the Cross of Calvary." But it is "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" that I remember singing at the Garden Tomb to commemorate this day.

O Savior, thou who wearest
A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest,
Weigh'd down by grief and scorn.

The soldiers mock and flail thee;
For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee
To die, O King of all.

No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved.

Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev'ry time and land.

No more can Satan harm us.
Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us;
We live, O Lord, thru thee.

What praises can we offer
To think thee, Lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer;
In our place thou didst die,

By heaven's plan appointed,
To ransom us, our King.
O Jesus, the anointed,
To thee our love we bring.

Roza Otunbaeva, the Soviet School System, and What Bakiev Should Do

Another interesting discussion with the students yesterday. I can't call them law students anymore because there are usually students from at least two or three different universities. Some come every week and listen quietly, others talk a lot and have many questions. And I always have a few questions of my own.

They laughed when I asked if another revolution was imminent. While there were rumors to that effect a few months ago, they do not see a revolution coming now. These are students from every part of the country with differing opinions on Bakiev. Some attended Saturday's protests, others stormed the White House in the revolution and are now disillusioned, and others think Bakiev is a good leader. Things aren't going well certainly, but it seems that few people think a revolution is the way to go, since things didn't turn out well with the last one. Things may fall apart in other ways, but a [relatively] popular revolution isn't likely.

I've asked them before who they wish the president was instead of Bakiev and they've always said there really isn't anyone who would be much better. But yesterday when I asked specifically about Roza Otunbaeva (a major opposition leader who played a significant role in the revolution; she also was a foreign minister under Akaev and is generally respected internationally), I was surprised by the positive response. Some of the students, especially from the south, weren't very familiar with her, but most thought she would make a good president because she is strong and has good ideas about policy. She did want to run for president last summer, but when Bakiev and Kulov decided to run together, she knew there wasn't much hope.

I also asked about Beknazarov (a current member of Parliament who was fired last fall as the prosecutor-general; he was seriously injured in a car accident last week and it's hard to find more than statements of "his health is satisfactory"). This time, the students from the north didn't know much about him and the students from the south were reasonably positive about him, although they don't think he is well educated. They seem to see him more as a popular man than an excellent leader.

I do wish now that I had asked about Edil Baisalov. He is the head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society and was a major organizer of Saturday's demonstration in favor of the rule of law and against letting Ryspek into Parliament. He also has a blog (in Russian). He was seriously injured yesterday evening, possibly shot in the head. He is alive, but obviously not feeling too perky. I'm not sure the students would have known a lot about him, but one did go to the demonstration on Saturday.

There was quite a bit of concern before Saturday about that demonstration. There were some efforts to ban demonstrations entirely, or to limit the places where they could be held. One of the students yesterday said he thought demonstrations promoted instability (and they certainly have here in Kyrgyzstan), but I pointed out that this demonstration didn't and that it is important to let people demonstrate. Certainly there can be rules about where you can demonstrate, and certainly violent demonstrations should be stopped, but trying to eliminate all demonstrations isn't the way to go. I was pleased that the Bishkek city council ruled that demonstrations are fine and allowed Saturday's to go ahead.

We also talked about education in Kyrgyzstan. One student who has in the past said she has never bribed a teacher (and was rightly proud of the fact) said that she has now had to bribe math teachers to pass her required math classes in law school. I told them that math classes are required in universities in the US (they seemed to think US students didn't have any required classes), but I would be interested to see what level of math they are required to get to in the university- if it's higher than what US students are required to do.

I asked them what they wish Bakiev would do to help the country. The general consensus is that he has no vision and no plan. They'd like to see him promote manufacturing, get rid of all of Akaev's cronies still left in the government, put some younger people into government, and start on some of the reforms he promised.

I asked what they could do (besides wait- maybe in 20 or 30 years things will improve). They said to study hard, try to stop corruption in the school, and work together.

Personally, I think student efforts to stop corruption in the universities would be valuable. It's likely to take a generation that sees the crippling effects of corruption to stop it at government levels, and starting with university students could help.

As always, a fascinating few hours and talking to them really does give me hope for the future of this country.

12 April 2006

Maundy Thursday

Originally posted on Conversation

And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. ~Luke 22:39-44

Out of all the days of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday seems to be the most overlooked, but it is one of the most important days, possibly even more so than Easter Sunday because Thursday night was the time Jesus Christ suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. Without that, the Resurrection wouldn't have been worth nearly so much.

I've spent a lot of time in the traditional Garden of Gethsemane. There are two separate sections, both filled with old olive trees. Neither sections are particularly big, and it doesn't really matter to me if the traditional sites are the actual places where Jesus actually stood. There is a large church on the site, the Church of all Nations. It's not my favorite church in Jerusalem (Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives is one I like much better), but it is a lovely building.

But my favorite place there is to the garden. Once when I was in the garden on a Saturday morning in October, one of my roommates introduced me to the hymn "Reverently and Meekly Now." These are the first and fourth verses. I also like to remember "How Great the Wisdom and the Love" today.

Rev'rently and meekly now,
Let they head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.

With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.

At the throne I intercede;
For thee ever do I plead.
I have loved thee as thy friend,
With a love than cannot end.

Be obedient, I implore,
Prayerful, watchful, evermore,
And be constant unto me,
That thy Savior I may be.

Silk Road Travels

When we in the West think about people traveling the Silk Road, Marco Polo is probably the first (and possibly the only) person that comes to mind. There's good reason for this, since he was one of the few Europeans who traveled extensively at that time, and he also wrote about his travels. He also influenced people like Christopher Columbus, and Columbus obviously has a huge impact on history.

But there are other accounts of the Silk Road and the people who traveled it. As usual, a good place for information on the Silk Road is from people at the University of Washington, and this site has a lot more on various people who traveled the Silk Road. But here are a few:

Ibn Battuta was from Morocco and traveled extensively through Asia. I was looking for information on Ibn Battuta in a past issue of Saudi Aramco World and checked to see if a new issue was up yet and there was a new article on Ibn Battuta in India. Handy.

Zhang Qian was another Silk Road traveler that isn't very familiar to those in the West. It's not quite accurate to say he traveled the Silk Road, since it wasn't really in existence yet, but he did travel and write about his experiences in Central Asia. It would be more accurate to say that his travels were the beginning of the Silk Road.

Xuanzang took a 17-year trip to India to study Buddhism and returned with a number of Sanskrit texts.

Faxian traveled extensively in Central Asia and China and you can download a translation of his book, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms: Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-hsien of Travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414) in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline.

Ban Chao was a Chinese general who made it as far as the Caspian Sea and the Ukraine. He sent an envoy, Gan Ling, to Rome who wrote about what he saw farther west.

Babur was a very interesting man who spent most of his life in Central Asia and India. There is a lot more to the man than his travels and you can read The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor to find out more.

Rabban Bar Sauma and Markos were Nestorian monks who went the opposite direction of Marco Polo at the same time. There are a few books about their travels, including The Monks of Kublai Khan Emperor of China, or the History of the Life and Travels of Rabban Sawma, Envoy and Plenipotentiary of the Mongol Khans to the Kings of Europe, and Markos Who as Mar Yahbhallaha III Became Patriarch of the Nestorian Church in Asia.

The trouble is finding translations of what these people wrote. You can read a translation detailing some of Zhang Qian's travels in Sima Qian's book Records of the Grand Historian. It would be interesting to read a book with an edited collection of Eastern views on the Silk Road, or a comparing Eastern and Western descriptions.

Volcanoes in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Aramco World also has an article about volcanic eruptions near Madina 750 years ago. They've been largely forgotten since everyone seemed to forget everything that happened around the Mongol conquests. Here's what happened:

After the evening prayer, according to one account quoted by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, “a fire burst out in the direction of al-Hijaz; it resembled a vast city with a turreted and battlemented fort, in which men appeared drawing the flame about, as it were, whilst it roared, burned and melted like a sea everything that came in its way. Presently a red and bluish stream, bursting from it, ran close to al-Madinah, and at the same time the city was fanned by a cooling zephyr from the same direction.”

The eruption lasted for 52 days. At its fiery zenith those further afield also witnessed strange sights, with reports of the light of the eruption visible in Makkah and Tayma, six days’ journey from Madinah. Historians relate that the depth of the lava flow was a long spear’s length, around three meters, and that it flowed like a red-blue boiling river, carrying in its way gravels, stones and trees, with thundering noises.
Al-Qastalani asserts that the fire was so fierce that no one could approach within two arrow flights, and that at night “the brilliant light of the volcano made the face of the country as bright as day; and the interior of the harim (the sacred area of the city) was as if the sun shone upon it.” The governor and citizens prayed for the safety of the city, and as the lava inexorably approached, many, including women and children, wept and prayed around the Prophet’s tomb. Then, the lava current turned north, and the city was spared.

10 April 2006

Food and Travel

What could be better?

The Traveler's Lunchbox- The photos here are wonderful. And anyone who loves Paula Wolfert's cookbooks is going to be creating some delicious things.

Hot Sour Salty Sweet- Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's site (authors of Flatbreads and Flavors, and many more cookbooks, including their newest one, Mangoes and Curry Leaves)

I was just really very hungry


Adventures with Murphitude

There is a Georgian restaurant in town that I have to try. I haven't had khachapuri in too long.

09 April 2006

Palm Sunday

And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered, and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. ~Luke 19: 36-40

Palm Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays out of the entire year, and one that is sadly ignored by many members of the Church. I started celebrating it 9 years ago when I was in Jerusalem and celebrated all of Holy Week with the Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem. I prefer Orthodox Easter because it is usually less touristy and there are a lot more locals participating.

We met at Bethphage on top of the Mount of Olives then walked down the Mount of Olives through Lion's Gate to the Church of St. Anne where we sang and shouted hosanna. A somewhat familiar experience since I had been at the dedication of the Mount Timpanogos Temple the year before.

I always remember that particular Sunday on Palm Sunday now, but I also like to have an official beginning to this Holy Week when the most important event in history took place. So much that was good and bad happened this week, and I like to commemorate the entire week instead of just Easter Sunday. It's nice to begin and end the week with happy events.

And don't forget Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, when Mary annointed Jesus (John 12:1-9). Unless it was on Tuesday (Mark 14:3-9).

So many of the praise hymns like "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" and "Come, O Thou King of Kings" are beautiful songs to sing today. "All Glory, Laud and Honor" is one of my favorites:

All glory, laud, and honor
To thee, Redeemer, King
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring

Thou art the King of Israel
Thou David's royal Son
Who in the Lord's name comest
The King and Blessed One

The company of angels
Are praising thee on high
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before thee went
Our praise and love and anthems
Before thee we present

To thee, before thy passion
They sang their hymns of praise
To thee, now high exalted
Our melody we raise

Thou didst accept accept their praises
Accept the love we bring
Who in all good delightest
Thou good and gracious king.

08 April 2006

Comet Break-up

We'll be zipping past some comet fragments from Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann (catchy name) in the next few weeks. It's possible, but unlikely, that there will also be a meteor shower too. The fragments probably won't be particularly bright, but here's a current sky map.

07 April 2006

Kokaral Dike

A recent news article highlights the suprising success of the Kokaral Dike in the northern part of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. I've written about the Aral Sea several times (history, dike, and dike) and it's nice to see something going better than expected for a change.

I am very impressed that Kazakhstan has made some changes to allow this project to go forward.

06 April 2006

The Local Public School

It's been interesting to live near one of the public schools in Bishkek- mostly to see a little bit of how things are done here. I also help a little Kyrgyz girl who is moving to the US soon with English and we talk about school a lot. While I think the schools are generally doing a good job here, I'm certainly not ready to enroll my own children.

The schools are very overcrowded here, so most schools run with two different shifts, or sometimes even three. Our school has two shifts. The little girl I work with goes to school before 8 in the morning and comes home around 2. Her older sister leaves around 2 and doesn't come home till 7. That quite effectively eliminates any time they have together during the week. In the US, parents would make sure their children were on the same shift , but that isn't an option here. I don't like that.

The children are outside a lot more here than they are in the US. They help keep the school and the grounds clean, they're out playing, and they go out to exercise. I like that.

Immunizations are often doled out at school and there is no option to refuse them. I'm not interested in that.

Children learn to play chess in school here. They also spend more time with dancing and art and singing. I like that.

We do have our children in an art class and a chess class in a children's center in town. No one speaks English there. My children haven't learned the huge amounts of Russian everyone said they would learn. They do understand quite a bit, but I've preferred to have them focus on reading and writing in English this year instead of learning Russian. The other foreign children we know aren't learning much Russian either because they are in the international and Christian schools. Children learn foreign languages when they attend school in a foreign language. It usually works really well in the US because US schools put a lot of effort into ESL and helping children learn English. Here, it's sink or swim. There are few non-Russian-speaking children in the public schools. And it's not a risk I'm willing to take. And they learn a lot of Russian by playing with the children in the neighborhood.

Besides, there will be little opportunity to use Russian when we get back to the US. And if we do happen to stay longer, there will be more time to learn it. I wouldn't say no to a Kyrgyz class though. :)

More on Ryspek

I talked with the students about Ryspek yesterday and they were very pessimistic about the entire situation. Ryspek is not well-liked at all, except in Balykchy, where he will be elected. (One reason for dropping the regional system of elections currently in place.) They were disgusted with the Supreme Court. They felt this would damage Kyrgyzstan reputation even more at a time when they'd thought it couldn't go much lower. They are not very positive about the direction this country is going.

Here is a very short history about Ryspek and how he got to the point of joining Parliament:

He was charged with committing several murders in 1998. He was on the run for most of the early part of this decade until he returned to Kyrgyzstan in May of 2005 after a deal with then-chief prosecutor Beknazarov.* His brother, a member of Parliament, was killed in prison riots in September 2005 and Ryspek accuses Kulov, the prime minister, of being connected. He staged demonstrations in Bishkek in October.

The murder charges against Rypsek were dropped in early 2006 on a legal formality (I've heard that it was one of several different formalities, but it definitely wasn't based on his innocence).

Ryspek decided he wanted to run for his brother's seat in Parliament. There were two problems though- his past criminal history and the fact that he hasn't lived in Kyrgyzstan for most of the last five years to fulfill the residency requirement for Parliament. An election commission ruled that he couldn't run based on these two issues (brave folks), so Ryspek staged another demonstration last Friday. There was real concern about that one. Bakiev talked to Ryspek and crew and told them to wait for the court decision.

And, handily, the courts ruled in Ryspek's favor. It's interesting to hear what people have to say about Bakiev. It seems that they feel he handled the demonstration on Friday well, but not many are impressed with the court's decision. The question is whether there was pressure from Bakiev to rule in Ryspek's favor, or if the courts are simply afraid of Ryspek.

*Beknazarov was fired by Bakiev in September of 2005. It's thought that he was getting too close to something Bakiev didn't want known during his investigations into criminal activity and corruption. Beknazarov's arrest in 2002 by Akaev's government was what started the events in Aksy where five people were killed by the government in March 2002. That is often considered to be the true beginning of the revolution and also forced Bakiev's resignation, who was then prime minister under Akaev. All these interesting little connections.

05 April 2006

Bride Kidnapping and Bishkek

Two more student posts today- one in English on bride kidnapping and one in Russian on Bishkek.

Who's Who in Kyrgyzstan

Not very interesting to most people, I know, but I need a place to keep track of all these people. This is certainly not complete yet, but it's a start.

Kurmanbek Bakiev- Current president who was elected after the revolution. Bakiev is from the south. He served as prime minister under Akaev until 2002 when he resigned after Aksy (see Azimbek Beknazarov).

Feliks Kulov- Current prime minister who was elected on a "tandem" ticket with Bakiev. Kulov is from the north. He was released from prison after the revolution. Many thought the charges that landed him in prison were politically motivated.

Roza Otunbaeva- Pretty much the only influential woman in Kyrgyzstan politics. She served as foreign minister under Akaev and also was the ambassador to the US. In 1997 she left Akaev's government and became an important opposition leader. She was a leader in the revolution and served as acting foreign minister afterwards until September 2005. She was not approved by Parliament to stay on as foreign minister. She is currently a co-chair of the Asaba Party.

Azimbek Beknazarov- Currently a member of Parliament, he has been an opposition leader for a long time. As a member of Parliament in January 2002, he was arrested for criticizing Akaev's [illegal] agreement with China on the borders. He was released March 2002 after the Aksy protests results in 5 deaths. He was appointed prosecutor-general after the revolution but was fired in September 2005. Beknazarov claimed he was fired for his campaign against corruption. He is the co-chair of the Asaba party with Roza Otunbaeva.

Zamira Sydykova- Current Kyrgyzstan Ambassador to the US. She is a journalist who was jailed twice in the Akaev years for what she wrote.

Ryspek Akmatbaev- Major player in organized crime in Kyrgyzstan. He was on the run starting in 2001 and returned to Kyrgyzstan in May of 2005 after the revolution. Beknazarov offered to let him return to Kyrgyzstan and stand trial for murder and Ryspek wouldn't have to be jailed in return for promising to not leave Kyrgyzstan. Murder charges were dropped in January after state prosecutors said some of their evidence was gathered illegally.

Ryspek is currently running for Parliament to fill his brother's seat. His brother was murdered in October 2005. Ryspek blames Kulov for the murder and has been calling for his resignation. There was plenty of controversy over Ryspek's being allowed to run for Parliament, but the Supreme Court settled the question in his favor.

Nurlan Motuev- [In]famous community leader in Naryn who seized the Kara-Keche coal mines after the revolution. People had been demanding that the mines be seized by the state since they had been privately owned and associated with Mayram Akaev's definitely suspect charitable foundation. Motuev refuses to turn the mines over to the state.

Askar Akaev- President of Kyrgyzstan from 1991-2005.

Murat Sultanov- Current speaker of Parliament. Appointed as interior minister after the revolution. He also headed the department of defense and law enforcement under Akaev and was a former finance minister. He is an economist

Omurbek Tekebayev- Speaker of the Parliament from March 2005 until he resigned in February 2006 after a nasty little spat with Bakiev. He ran for president in 2000 against Akaev and came in second with 14% of the vote.

Bayaman Erkinbaev- Chairman of the Olympic committee who was shot in September 2005. He was also a member of Parliament.

Raatbek Sanatbayev- Former wrestler who was shot in January 2006. He was a candidate to head the Olympic Committee. It is not a good idea to be involved with the Olympic committee in this country.

Muratbek Imanaliev- Foreign minister under Akaev. Head of the Party of Justice and Progress of Kyrgyzstan. I can't figure out what he's up to right now though.

Aziz Batukaev- Another criminal who probably is a rival of Ryspek.

04 April 2006

There are a few new student posts up today, and I expect to get at least one more tomorrow. Happy reading.

Ryspek Akmatbaev in Parliament

Well, well. A district court in Bishkek ruled that Ryspek Atmakbaev can run. The Central Election Commission plans to appeal the decision if they can (good for them!) but I think Ryspek will be part of Parliament soon. [Update: The Supreme Court has upheld the decision.]

It will be interesting to hear what the law students have to say about this one. Still, it wasn't much of a surprise. Here's a report on a statement from one of Ryspek's representatives, Ismail Kochkarov:

Ryspek Akmatbaev’s representative Ismail Kochkarov gave the press conference for the media representatives on April 3, 2006 at the NA AKIpress.

After an illegal attempt made by Prime Minister Kulov to withdraw Ryspek Akmatbaev from election campaign, attempts to create negative associations with
Akmatbaev’s name are still continuing, said Mr. Kochkarov having referred to three examples when unknown young people rob people and name themselves as Ryspek Akmatbaev’s nephews. Those unknown people say that Ryspek Akmatbaev has run out of money for the election campaign and they demand money at the markets and trade points. “Diversion is on-going,” explained Mr. Kochkarov. He named the phone number to which affected individuals may call, while the public foundation to support Ryspek Akmatbaev will investigate every individual case.

Personal relations between Ryspek Akmatbaev and PM Kulov have transformed into political relations, explains Ismail Kochkarov the reason of the situation. “Both of them are politicians. One politician tries to get rid of his opponent at the political arena,” said Mr. Kochkarov.

On the whole, after the recent events Ryspek Akmatbaev received a stronger support from the people. Akmatbaev highly appreciated President Bakiev’s action to go out to protesters, said Ismailov Kochkarov.

Mr. Kochkarov also commented on information in the media on escape of 9 convicts. According to Mr. Kochkarov, those 9 convicts are recidivists that serve prison term of 20 years and over who were released immediately after cancellation of Akmatbaev’s registration. After they were released, three friends of Ryspek Akmatabev were cynically murdered. "After we submitted inquiry, the situation with their release is under investigation," said Ismail Kochkarov.

"We expect provocations. We do not exclude that provocations might transform into cynical methods. Many people tell us, there will be shooting, firing, skirmishing, etc. We call on that side to stop those things. I think that people should not suffer from ambitions of other people," said Kochkarov. To the question on Akmatbaev’s neutralization, Ismail Kochkarov replied that, in his view, such attempts would be made.

IWPR also has a story from before the court's decision about the demonstrations and Ryspek. It quotes the head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society:

Edil Baisalov, who heads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, insists the authorities must get a grip and start imposing the law. He worries that there is a danger they will relent and allow Akmatbaev to register as a parliamentary candidate despite the legal problems identified with his candidature. That would be a sign of weakness, he warns.

“There can be no talk of compromise,” he warned. “The one thing that’s clear is that it’s not about Akmatbaev as a deputy or about Kulov resigning,” added Baisalov, saying the case was being “used by senior officials who just can’t wait to weaken Kulov. “But what they don’t realise is that they are playing with the destiny of the state.”

The Coalition is planning a demonstration on Saturday, the day before the election, in support of the rule of law and against organized crime. That's a demonstration I'd go to, if I were in the mood for demonstrating in Bishkek.

03 April 2006

Central Asian Language Links

I thought I'd post a few links while my plov is cooking. It smells very good.

Soviet Language Policy in Central Asia

Online Kyrgyz-Russian dictionary (I did find a new English-Kyrgyz dictionary published in 2005 in Bishkek)

Turkic Language Site- all kinds of interesting links here

02 April 2006

Democracy Isn't Western

Loved this article. And the concluding paragraph made an important point about why it even matters:

Cultural dynamics does not have to build something from absolutely nothing, nor need the future be rigidly tied to majoritarian beliefs today or the power of the contemporary orthodoxy. To see Iranian dissidents who want a fully democratic Iran not as Iranian advocates but as "ambassadors of Western values" would be to add insult to injury, aside from neglecting parts of Iranian history (including the practice of democracy in Susa or Shushan in southwest Iran 2,000 years ago). The diversity of the human past and the freedoms of the contemporary world give us much more choice than cultural determinists acknowledge. This is particularly important to emphasize since the illusion of cultural destiny can extract a heavy price in the continued impoverishment of human lives and liberties.