Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What will happen to International Ataturk Alatoo University?

The Turkish government is going all out to persuade foreign governments to shut down schools and other institutions related to the Gulen movement. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation had earlier shut down or taken over all such entities in their states before the coup attempt. Now Ankara has called upon Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Pakistan to do likewise. Here in Bishkek there are two major Turkish universities. The first one, Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University, is affiliated with the Turkish government. The second one, International Ataturk Alatoo University, is affiliated with the Gulen movement. It will be interesting to see what happens now that the Turkish government has called upon the Kyrgyz government to close Gulenist institutions.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Suggested Readings on Kurdish History?

Since I will be living and working in Kurdistan come the end of August I have been trying to educate myself on the region and its people. So far this has largely consisted of keeping up with news stories on the region, watching a few documentaries and interviews on Youtube, and listening to a lot of Kurdish music on Youtube. Granted these are rather superficial sources. But, one has to start somewhere. So I am asking for suggested readings on Kurdish history here. Currently I am in Kyrgyzstan so unfortunately I do not have access to JSTOR and other academic databases right now. Please bear that in mind regarding accessibility.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Sunny Saturday in Bishkek

It is a beautiful sunny Saturday in Bishkek today. The temperature is 27 C (80 F) with only 38% humidity. In previous summers, especially 2012, Bishkek has been really hot so this mild weather is a really welcome change. I think the greater than normal rainfall is responsible for it being considerably cooler this year.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bishkek in July

This summer Bishkek has had an usually large number of rainy and cool days. Usually it is hot all the time. But, this summer has been anything other than usual.

I have been having extensive dental work done here prompted by the need for an emergency root canal. Since dental work here is very cheap and relatively good in quality I suppose it is a good thing in the long run. But, I really don't like people sticking sharp instruments in my mouth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Next Month is the 75th Anniversary of the Deportation of the Volga Germans

Next month will mark the 75th anniversary of the deportation of the Volga Germans followed by the remainder of the Russian German population west of the Urals to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The official date of the commemoration is 28th August in accordance with the Ukaz issued by the Supreme Soviet even though the CC of the CPSU and SNK (Council of People's Commissariats) had already passed a decree ordering the deportation two days earlier. Of the nearly 800,000 ethnic Germans deported in 1941 from European areas of the USSR eastward about half came from the Volga region including Saratov and Stalingrad oblasts as well as the Volga German ASSR. The other half came from eastern Ukraine, the Caucasus, Crimea, and various areas of Russia outside the Volga region including Moscow. I have written quite a bit on this blog and elsewhere about the deportation and subsequent life of the Russian Germans under special settlement restrictions and in the labor army. You can find those pieces by searching this blog. But, this August marks the 75th anniversary and I think perhaps something more is called for to honor the memory of the victims of this crime against humanity. So if you have any suggestions leave them in the comments below.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


I just got back from two days in Almaty Kazakhstan. Due to the collapse of oil prices Kazakhstan is now cheaper than Kyrgyzstan despite the fact that Almaty has a level of development comparable to most European cities. Indeed going from Bishkek to Almaty is a lot like going from Mexico to the US in terms of architectural modernity. The cityscape of Almaty thus is in many ways much closer to that of cities in the EU and North America than it is to Bishkek. Even the old Soviet apartment blocks in Almaty look a lot newer and better maintained than those in Bishkek. The huge Megacenter mall has a lot of US franchises that I have not seen in many years including Burger King, Costas, Gloria Jean's, and Hardees. In addition to Central Asian food it has restaurants serving Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Georgian, Italian, and Croatian dishes among others. The tiny Ramstor at Vefa Center left Bishkek after 2010. But, the Megacenter has a huge and fully stocked Ramstor. Besides the Megacenter we also took the cable car ride above the city. It is like a ski lift but you take it down from the mountain and back. You get up the mountain in the first place on a minibus. I am not sure of all the reasons for the much greater development in Almaty than Bishkek. One clear reason is of course Kazakhstan's natural resources most notably oil and gas and the recent long run of high prices for these commodities. Another is undoubtedly political stability. Kazakhstan has been under the rule of the same man for its entire existence as an independent state. He was head of the Kazakh SSR for two years before that. In contrast Kyrgyzstan has had two major revolutions in recent years. They had one in 2005 and another in 2010. These two factors are undoubtedly major contributors to the much higher foreign investment Kazakhstan has received compared to Kyrgyzstan in the last decade. Finally, Almaty is a welcome relief from Bishkek and Accra in being free of NGO parasites from the EU and North America. For instance there is no Peace Corp in Kazakhstan. The absence of such organizations and their extremely corrupting influence on society undoubtedly has also played a significant role in Kazakhstan's recent social and economic development.

Monday, July 11, 2016

On the Move Again (Kurdistan)

In September I will be starting work teaching in the Social Sciences Department of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. The university and surrounding city are located in Iraqi Kurdistan. The flag to the right is the Kurdish flag. I am very excited about this opportunity although I am sad to leave Ghana. But, for a variety of reasons it is time for me to move on. Interestingly enough my PhD and MA are from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) which specializes in the study of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. I have taught in Central Asia and West Africa, and now I will be working in the Middle East. I have heard a lot of very good things about Kurdistan in general and Sulaimani in particular and I look forward to arriving there in person soon.