While hard economic times in Kyrgyzstan may prompt feelings of nostalgia among some for the Soviet era, few days pass in the remote mountain village of Orto Talaa when many residents don’t curse the calamity that was Communist central planning.
Orto Talaa came into being in 1988. Soviet state planners back then envisioned the new settlement as a safe-haven from the nearby village of Buiga, where persistent landslides had flattened homes and devastated livelihoods. A second wave of relocation occurred in 2004. Now, there are about 50 families in Orto Talaa, all of them transplants. While residents are thankful that their homes no longer face the threat of being crushed by cascading rocks, life in Orto Talaa has not lived up to the promise of a better future, a promise made by a Soviet government that no longer exists.
“There is no school, hospital, or market here. … It is very difficult in winter because of the cold and wind,” said Jamilya Mineshova, whose family settled in Orto Talaa during the first migration wave in 1988. Pointing to a pipe, the only source of water in the village, she laments, “People and animals drink from the same water here.”
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Michael Igoe is a freelance reporter specializing in environmental issues in Central Asia.