There’s a Tom Waits song called Big in Japan. It’s basically what I sang to myself all week.
Let’s start with Kazakhstan. The good news is 2015 should be the bottom of Kazakhstan’s dropping GDP growth numbers (from 7.5 percent in 2011 to projected 1.3 percent in 2015), but the World Bank says the recovery won’t be quick and depends on Russia & China.
Then the International Crisis Group released a tepid report on Kazakhstan’s stability. Their verdict: everything is well and good as long as Nazarbayev is around and Russian stay in Russia, but Nazarbayev turns 75 this summer and his passing could lead to the kind of political instability Putin could use an excuse to step in. It’s a lot of mongering, if you ask me. However, what happens after Nazarbayev is a very serious question and Russia definitely cares about the answer.
Last thing on Kazakhstan this week was about the essentially annual die-off of a thousand strange-faced saiga antelopes on the steppe. There are a lot of factorsat play: a cosmodome nearby, a regular infection gone rampant, poachers. Scientific American wrote last year that this is getting a bit weird.”
Tajikistan sparked a few interesting pieces this week. For one, the commander of the OMON (a kind of special police force) has gone missing, maybe to join ISIS, maybe not (see my piece on skepticism further on). The country also closed its eastern region–Gorno-Badakhshan–to tourists. Badakhshan province in Afghanistan has been the site of increased Taliban attacks, but it’s also where the opposition in the civil war called home and the site of semi-regular trouble. My bet is on the situation in Afghanistan prompting this.
A random Turkish news site decided that copying an entire paragraph wholesale without attribution is fine. It’s not really. So just read mine. Hilariously, the website that stole my words has a legal notice on the bottom of the page saying “Copyright, trade marks and other intellectual property rights in this website can not be reproduced without the prior permission.” That’s ironic.
In better news, a Tajik news site wrote (in Russian) about the opinion piece I posted this week–in which I outline my skepticism regarding numbers of Central Asians fighting with ISIS. I likened it to a game of telephone. The bottom line is that numbers matter and estimates have varied from 70 to 4,000. My issue is not so much that articles state a number, but that they are not always clear where the number comes from.
Last but certainly not least, the piece I wrote on the 10th anniversary of the Andijan massacre. I outline how “Uzbekistan’s most orderly protests” turned into a massacre and talked to Steve Swerdlow, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, about what’s changed in the past decade. TLDR: not much. But really, read it.
Next week is Hell Week so there will be fewer web pieces from me. Magazine Issue 7 here we come!