While President Serzh Sargsyan’s administration touts Armenia’s pending accession to the Russia-led Customs Union as likely to usher in an era of prosperity for the South Caucasus country, rights activists assert that when it comes to democratization, Customs Union membership means Yerevan will take “one step forward, two steps back.”
With the Kremlin’s attention fixated on Ukraine, the Caucasus Emirate, a terrorist group fighting to establish an independent Islamic state in the North Caucasus, threatens to undermine Russian domestic security in new ways.
Two years ago, Steve Presnal’s dream came true when he embarked on a hunt for Siberian ibex in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan Mountains. With two friends, the 49-year-old from the US state of Wisconsin had booked a trip through an international agent who set them up with a Karakol-based hunting guide. But that guide got the three arrested.
Relative to other Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan has a fairly free and perennially noisy domestic media scene. Even so, Kyrgyz outlets tend to be no match for Russian state-controlled media when it comes to establishing narratives for current events.
Many in Azerbaijan had entertained hopes that, following his re-election in late 2013, President Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan would ease repressive policies targeting free speech and the flow of information, especially on the Internet. Unfortunately, it is now clear such hopes were misplaced.
On a hillside in northeastern Kazakhstan, south of the Russian border, a simple and stark slogan looms over the city of Oskemen: “Kazakhstan,” reads the message in giant white letters arrayed across the green slope.
Taking the bus from Tbilisi to Istanbul is a 24-hour-plus ordeal that generally involves cattle-dodging, seaside views, stops for local food and the pungent odors of fellow travelers. But there is another rite of passage that helps differentiates the trip from most other long bus rides -- the loading and transit of hundreds of cartons of cigarettes.
A man wearing a cowboy hat and an American-flag shirt sits astride a Pershing missile. His face has been peeled away, exposing his skull. Nearby, a Kyrgyz grandmother in traditional dress, a naked child and a Russian Orthodox priest, among others, demand, in English, “No more Hiroshimas!”