EurasiaChat: Kyrgyzstan puts out the flags
Also in this edition of our podcast, Uzbekistan rues poor education results, and Turkmenistan's ex-president basks in football glory (for now).
Kyrgyzstan opened this New Year with a slightly new-look flag.
The changes were not, in truth, that great. The colors and the sun-like figure at the center of the standard remained more or less the same.
But President Sadyr Japarov, who chivvied lawmakers into proposing this initiative in September, said the sun emblem needed to look less like a sunflower, which he believes to symbolize subservience and weakness.
But the details are probably beside the point, as Alisher Khamidov argued in our latest edition of the EurasiaChat podcast.
“This president is trying to send a strong message: ‘Look this is a very important nation-building gesture … I'm in charge,’” Khamidov said.
Indeed, the flag saga, which descended into farce in the first few days of the month, is part of a broader piece.
Alisher and co-presenter Peter Leonard dwelled on this theme in brief, but it is worth checking out a fuller examination of these developments published in Eurasianet last month.
Much attention in Uzbekistan, meanwhile, has been focused on the publication in December of the Program for International Student Assessment report produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The reported ranked Uzbekistan in the group of bottom ten nations as assessed on the educational achievements of its schoolchildren in mathematics, reading and science literacy.
This has plunged many into a state of despondency about what this means for the country’s future. The bullish reactions of officials to these findings are far from reflecting popular consensus views.
“Although, the Education Ministry has reacted in a glass half-full manner, and critics are taking a glass half-empty view, I personally want to note that the glass is empty,” one social media commentator, Otabek Bakirov, remarked on his Telegram account.
Alisher said that the disappointment is being felt particularly acutely because so much has been invested in trying to enhance the quality of secondary education in Uzbekistan.
“The PISA test results are a wake-up call for the administration [of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev]. I think there are two approaches the administration can take. They can say: ‘This test shows that the previous administration, of the late president Islam Karimov, failed miserably and now we're trying to fix things.’ The second way is that they can keep this information closed and not publicise it,” Alisher said.
Turkmenistan is a country that likes to keep information close to its chest, but not when it comes to its would-be achievements. Former President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been in particularly ebullient form of late following back-to-back successes registered by a soccer team named after him.
Arkadag — the name is derived from an honorific meaning “patron of the nation” — was created to represent the eponymous city willed into existence last year by Berdymukhamedov. Despite only having been created last year, the team, which was created by raiding the top talents from other premier league peers, has already won its first title and bagged the Turkmenistan Football Cup in late December.
In a message of self-congratulation, Berdymukhamedov predicted that Arkadag would now surely go on to achieve success in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League, known as ACL, and even in FIFA club world cup, a format for which no Central Asian team has ever managed to qualify.
But the road may be running out for Berdymukhamedov’s delusions. While Arkadag has clearly been allowed to win in domestic competitions, they will not be afforded the same benefit once they compete internationally.
“When you're inside your own little bubble, illusions are fine .. but there's always a point when you can have come up and bump up against reality,” Peter said on the EurasiaChat podcast. “Berdymukhamedov senior is … going to realize next season that actually you can't bluff your way into winning everything.”
This podcast was produced by Aigerim Toleukhanova.
Aigerim Toleukhanova is a journalist and researcher from Kazakhstan.
Peter Leonard is Eurasianet’s Central Asia editor.
Alisher Khamidov is a writer based in Bishkek.