In the newer suburbs that ring the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, a piece of paper can decide if life will be nasty and possibly short, or relatively comfortable and upwardly mobile.
Sabyr Omuraliev, the informal leader of Kalys-Ordo, one such new settlement, or “novostroika,” is well regarded by his neighbors. Referred to as “a bridge” and a “big man,” they credit him with arranging for the community’s 900 squatters to obtain property titles and residency permits a year after they occupied the land in 2002. In its short existence as part of the Bishkek municipality, Kalys-Ordo has acquired lots of comforts.
“Every new settlement has its own story,” Omuraliev says cheerfully over a bowl of beetroot soup in his summer kitchen.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist. Bermet Zhumakadyr kyzy provided reporting for this article.