Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, its cultural exports have been viewed with suspicion all over the world, including in traditionally receptive Central Asia.
The latest Russian artist to learn that to his cost is Grigory Leps, a popular singer who has come in for criticism over his support of the war. Leps was due to hold a concert on July 8 at the Macao Luxury Village Resort in the southern Kazakhstan town of Konayev, but that has been shelved amid much public discontent.
Leps caused particular upset by announcing earlier this month that he and a fellow Russian musician would offer up a cash bounty to any soldier who could destroy a Ukrainian tank.
But as EurasiaChat co-presenter Alisher Khamidov noted in the podcast this week, a reverse trend has been noted in Kyrgyzstan.
“Authorities in Central Asia are quite vigilant about who is coming, who is pro-[Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and who is not,” he said. “Kyrgyzstan, unlike Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, has been cancelling the concerts of anti-Putin performers.”
Alisher was referring in particular to nixed plans to stage a June 23 concert by Russian rapper Morgenshtern following the issuing of a restraining order by Kyrgyzstan’s Culture Ministry. The ban was ostensibly triggered by concerns over the content of Morgenshtern’s lyrics, but the singer is known to have adopted a firmly anti-war stance.
Khamidov and fellow EurasiaChat presenter Peter Leonard turned next to the latest drama to grip Kyrgyz politics. Two very different politicians, opposition MP Adakhan Madumarov and deputy prime minister Edil Baisalov, are coming under increasing pressure.
Madumarov may be on the cusp of losing his immunity from prosecution, while Baisalov, a civil society darling-turned-fierce attack dog for the government, is facing calls for his ouster.
The politicians could not be more unalike, but some believe their fates are interconnected, as Alisher explains.
And now Turkmenistan. In late 2021, it came to light, courtesy of some solid reporting by Bloomberg news agency, that this gas giant was found to be responsible for colossal and environmentally harmful methane emissions.
Turkmenistan appeared to have ducked addressing the problem for the longest time, despite numerous international overtures. But there was a breakthrough in May, when it emerged that U.S. officials are in negotiations with Turkmenistan to provide it with funding and expertise to stem gas leakages from outdated infrastructure.
Alisher and Peter discussed what this whole theme says about decision-making in Turkmenistan. Who is it who ultimately decides what should be done? Peter is skeptical that the national leadership has clear thoughts at all about questions on the environment, despite their relentless rhetoric on the topic. Alisher, meanwhile, sees Turkmen National Leader (and former president and father of the incumbent) Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov as the man ultimately pulling the strings.
This episode was produced and edited 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.