In our podcast this week, hosts Aigerim Toleukhanova and Alisher Khamidov discuss how Central Asians see the Turkish earthquake: a tragedy in a friendly country, first, but also a frightening portent.
Shoddy construction, dodgy inspection regimes, and active fault lines – the Central Asian states look a lot like Turkey. Moreover, many construction firms behind the region’s ongoing building boom are Turkish. Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, appeared to acknowledge the risk when he ordered a halt to residential construction in Tashkent. Are governments prepared?
Ahead of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, Aigerim and Alisher unpack why this holiday is so controversial. For those who don’t believe celebrating is sinful, there is the tricky matter of interethnic dating. Kazakhstan may be more tolerant than Kyrgyzstan, but there are still conservatives eager to tell women whom they can see.
Speaking of interethnic relations, a diplomatic breakthrough between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan is being hailed for simplifying cross-border trade. But it is a reminder of lingering distrust in southern Kyrgyzstan, which suffered pogroms in 2010. Ethnic Uzbeks there feel like they still lack a voice in politics, while some Kyrgyz fear that warmer ties with Uzbekistan will embolden the separatist bogeyman. Similar anxieties, often unspoken, percolate in Kazakhstan, especially about the loyalties of ethnic Russians in the north.
And audiences in Central Asia are demanding films in local languages. There are growing hopes that the domestic film industries, despite funding problems, can make a post-Soviet comeback. But will this excitement last if authoritarians use filmmakers to rewrite history?
Aigerim Toleukhanova is a journalist and researcher from Kazakhstan.
Alisher Khamidov is a writer based in Bishkek.