Richness and resilience: A history of ballet in Tajikistan

Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, is changing rapidly from a Soviet city once known for its quiet tree-lined avenues into a bustling megapolis with towering glass high-rises. As many of the city’s Soviet-era buildings, like the former headquarters of Tajikistan’s Communist party and the famous Mayakovsky theatre, are being torn down, one grand building still proudly stands at the city’s heart – the marble white Opera and Ballet Theatre named after writer Sadriddin Ayni.

Covid-19 and Central Asian Over-Dependence on Labor Migration: An Update on the Central Asia Migration Tracker

The Central Asian republics, in particular Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, have become accustomed to exporting excess labor capacity, generating much-needed revenue for households, and relieving pressure on their governments to create jobs and provide public goods and services. But the Covid-19 pandemic laid bare the vulnerabilities of the region’s over-dependence on migration.

Kazakhstan’s Alternative Media Is Thriving—and in Danger

Today, Kazakhstan has only a handful of independent traditional media outlets left, which lack the ability to cover the country’s vibrant sociopolitical life, something that has thrived despite authoritarianism. The gap, however, is now being filled by alternative media: Scores of bloggers are using YouTube, Telegram, and Instagram to report on events and to contradict the narrative served by pro-government traditional media. Alternative journalism is blooming, raising questions about how far it can go before the Kazakh government pulls the plug.

Young People, Social Media, and Urban Transformation of Dushanbe

Although there are no meaningful mechanisms for Dushanbe’s young people to claim their right to the city, they are finding informal ways to do so, from documenting the changes to challenging and negotiating the narratives surrounding Dushanbe’s post-Soviet transformation on their social media profiles. Urban development has thus become one of many important social issues dissected via digital methods of storytelling.

How digitising Tajikistan’s heritage is connecting a scattered diaspora

The COVID-19 crisis has sparked new efforts to connect Tajiks around the world to their culture. In early 2020, Masud Khalifazoda, the Tajik ambassador to the UK, reached out to movie director and poet Anisa Sabiri, with an idea to open the Tajik Cultural Centre (TCC): a cultural centre in the UK that would help connect English-speaking audiences to Tajik culture. “We planned to hold our first events in London, but the pandemic disrupted our plans. We, however, didn’t give up and decided to move online.”

Transforming Tajikistan: Between a Soviet past and a Tajik future

Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, is changing rapidly. In what was once a Soviet city known for its quiet tree-lined avenues, new highrise towers and grand administrative buildings are emerging. It is an extraordinary transformation taking place as Tajikistan reimagines what it means to be an independent Central Asian republic with its own national identity. But some residents are questioning the price at which it comes: the demolition of the city’s Soviet architecture and with it, the loss of childhood homes and memories to large-scale construction.

Revolution and Rising Discontent: An Update on the Central Asia Protest Tracker

Barely twenty-four hours after the polls closed in Kyrgyzstan’s flawed parliamentary election in October, protesters stormed and occupied the White House, the home of Kyrgyzstan’s executive and legislative branches. The people of Kyrgyzstan woke up the next morning to images of protesters drinking tea in President Soronbai Jeenbekov’s office while politicians who had just been sprung from prison held rallies on Ala-Too Square. Overnight, the protesters had managed to fracture Kyrgyzstan’s political status quo.

Introducing the Central Asia Migration Tracker

The long-term effects of migration from Central Asia are more negative than positive. Socially, migration is resulting in a brain drain, particularly in Kazakhstan, with the most talented and qualified Central Asians staying abroad permanently, degrading their countries’ social fabric. Economically, migration is making the region, particularly Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, even more vulnerable to external shocks and is disincentivizing the government from developing the economy. Politically, migration is serving as a pressure valve that prevents the buildup of unemployment-fueled social and political frustration and helps the undemocratic regimes to stay in power.

Digital vigilantism in Tajikistan: Smartphones, social media, and the culture of shame

The global trends of digital vigilantism have reached Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and taken on a local form. Armed with smartphones, access to the Internet, and a distrust for law enforcement, many of the city’s residents are taking on the state’s dysfunctions. Recordings of incidents of traffic violations, disorderly conduct, and kidnappings of young men into military service are regularly posted on social media to galvanize civil society and force the state to respond – all amidst an environment of tight state control over the freedom of expression and high-priced low-quality Internet.

Tajikistan’s energy sector reforms: Is energy export the only way out of the revenue dilemma?

Tajikistan’s energy sector faces a dilemma today: The country’s state-owned electricity monopoly, Barqi Tojik, is in desperate need of raising its electricity tariffs to collect the revenue necessary to reform the energy sector, but the population cannot afford paying higher tariffs, in many ways because unreliable electricity supply results in economic loss and low incomes. The roots of Barqi Tojik’s revenue problem lie in low electricity tariffs, poor collection rates, and significant transmission losses. The Tajik government is reluctant to act on infrastructural and institutional reforms of the energy sector it has committed itself to on paper. Instead, the government has been heavily investing in turning the country into an energy exporter to raise desperately needed revenue. In the process, the government is over-centralizing electricity generation and is making the country’s energy sector more vulnerable to climate change.

Mapping Patterns of Dissent in Eurasia: Introducing the Central Asia Protest Tracker

The Central Asia Protest Tracker (CAPT) dataset produced by a team at the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs mapped out a total of 981 incidents in the five Central Asian republics Kazakhstan (520 protests), Kyrgyzstan (351 protests), Tajikistan (27 protests), Turkmenistan (9 protests), and Uzbekistan (74 protests) from January 1, 2018 to August 31, 2020.

In conservative Tajikistan, Gen Z activists are using Instagram to fight for feminism

When Timur Timerkhanov, a 25-year old journalist from Dushanbe, lost a childhood friend to suicide — taking her life to avoid a forced marriage to a stranger — he felt a call to action. Like many other young Tajikstanis, he reached out to the only platform that felt natural: social media. “I am telling Nazira’s story so that her sacrifice isn’t pointless,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “The subject of forced marriage is just one of many examples of gender and domestic violence. It’s scary to think about the girls who can’t find any other way out.”

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