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BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.


In Pursuit of Mind Modernization: What Ideological Work is Done by Kazakhstan?

A new wave of awakening of “Kazakhstani patriotism” is necessary due to the outflow of educated population from the country, an analyst says

Mar 17 — “This year Kazakhstan is going to celebrate several milestone anniversaries that carry an ideological component: the 175th anniversary of the birth of the great poet and philosopher Abay Kunanbayev, the 1150th anniversary of the outstanding oriental thinker Abu Nasr al-Farabi and the 750th anniversary of the Golden Horde. These events are aimed primarily at the young generation of Kazakhstan, which, in addition to numerous ethnic groups, is quite diverse in composition. Some of the young people are more traditional, some are looking westward, others are immersed in religious movements that have never been practiced in Kazakhstan before.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan outlines plan to shelter economy from COVID-19

The anti-crisis measures include tax breaks, fewer audits and cheaper credit

Mar 18 — “Kazakhstan’s government has unveiled a response package to limit the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the economy as it imposes sweeping restrictions on movement in line with advice from international health experts. As of midnight on March 19, Kazakhstan’s two largest cities, Almaty and Nur-Sultan, will be placed on lockdown.” READ MORE:

Keeping Kazakhstan on the Path to a Green Economy

Kazakhstan will strengthen its national capacity for regulating chemicals in compliance with international multilateral agreements

Mar 19 — “In recent years, Kazakhstan has come to the forefront of countries moving towards truly sustainable development: in 2013, Kazakhstan launched the Green Economy Plan, one of the most ambitious in the Europe and Central Asia region. By 2050, the country is aiming to meet 50 percent of its energy needs from alternative and renewable sources. Along with this important energy transition, Kazakhstan has been taking bold steps in waste management. As well as ratifying the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions, Kazakhstan has made strides in waste recycling, with the country’s share of municipal solid waste recycling increasing to 11.5 percent in 2018, compared to 9 percent the year before.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan is Going to Reform National Policy of Interethnic Relations

Kazakhstan needs a permanent monitoring system to prevent interethnic conflicts

Mar 19 — “The tragic events in Kordai district of Zhambyl region, Kazakhstan, on February 7-8 continue to be in the public eye and are being discussed at different levels. Unlike the reaction to previous similar conflicts that ended with the criminal penalty of those guilty and organisational conclusions, this time the post-conflict discourse is more expanded. The question of importance of the study of interethnic relations is being actively discussed. According to officials, analysis in this sphere, which was disregarded before, now comes to the fore.” READ MORE:


Uneven ‘Extremism’ Justice in Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, there are people serving time for a crime no longer in the books

Mar 18 — “Each week, a young man who sells shoes at a market in southern Kyrgyzstan loses a day of work to travel to the open prison where he is serving a three-year sentence. But the crime for which he was convicted, possession of “extremist” material, no longer exists.” READ MORE:

Kyrgyzstan to Strengthen Higher Religious Education in the Country

The citizens of Kyrgyzstan have obtained higher religious education abroad – mainly in the eastern Arabic countries – for almost thirty years. However, Bishkek is going to change this trend and create conditions for the same education within the country

Mar 18 — “Baktybek Niyazov has been vice rector of academic affairs in a Bishkek-based madrasah for 21 years. He obtained religious education in Kyrgyzstan back in 1993 in the Islamic University, and in 2003-2004 he studied at Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). “I decided to study abroad only to see the world. I wanted to know more and to broaden my horizons. As our religious sphere is related to the Arabic language, I decided to study in Saudi Arabia. I practised my language skills among native speakers there,” he shared.” READ MORE:

What the Kyrgyz Republic must do to diversify its economy

Backed by large gold reserves and multilateral agencies keen to improve infrastructure, the outlook for Kyrgyzstan is positive. However, the population’s tense relationship with China must be addressed if it is to make serious economic headway

Mar 18 — “The second poorest Central Asian nation after Tajikistan, the land-locked Kyrgyz Republic formerly known as Kyrgyzstan has struggled to shift to a market-based economy since gaining independence during the break up of the USSR. It has remained for the past few years in what multilateral agencies euphemistically call a transition phase. It is true, of course, that this growth is coming from a low base, but thanks to an abundance of minerals, particularly the open-pit gold mining site of Kumtor in Issyk-Kul, there is a sense that the tide might be turning.” READ MORE:


2020 Parliamentary Elections in Tajikistan: The Most Predictable and Smooth

Experts say the March 1 parliamentary elections were the most uninteresting parliamentary elections throughout the history of independent Tajikistan

Mar 13 — “According to Tajikistan’s Central Commission for Elections and Referenda, the ruling People’s Democratic Party won 47 seats in the parliament according to the results of voting on the party list and in single-seat districts. The Agrarian Party won seven seats, the Party of Economic Reforms – five seats, the Communist Party – two seats, the Democratic and Socialist Parties of Tajikistan received one seat each. Only 0.32% of voters voted for the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan. This Party did not receive parliamentary seats because of the 5% barrier.” READ MORE:

Supporting Tajikistan in tackling the misuse of antibiotics

Antimicrobials are easy accessible and widely used for preventing and controlling different infectious diseases in Tajikistan

Mar 17 — “To respond to a recent increase in the demand for antibiotics for treating viral infections and to promote their rational use, WHO in collaboration with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection have conducted trainings in 4 of the largest hospitals in the country. Together, they have reached over 500 clinicians and senior nurses.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan braces for grim times as oil, COVID-19 assail Russian economy

As the Tajik government pretends everything is normal, families are in a state of deepening anxiety over a perfect storm that could plunge the country into an unusually severe crisis

Mar 18 — “As nearby countries have embraced alarm mode over the spread of the coronavirus, Tajikistan has been behaving as normal, defying the advice being given by health authorities the world over. In the northern city of Khujand, for example, around 12,000 were marshalled together this week in rehearsals for upcoming mass celebrations for Nowruz festivities. Households and economic experts are in a state of deepening anxiety, however, over a perfect storm that could plunge the country into a crisis of unusual severity.” READ MORE:


Turkmenistan: Up in smoke

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Mar 17 — “Contrary to what has been reported in some quarters, Turkmenistan’s president has not devised a method for specifically warding off the coronavirus COVID-19. Instead, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, addressing a government meeting on March 13, spoke generally about the protective properties of the plant known in Turkmen as yuzarlik (Peganum harmala). When burned, the plant can apparently be used to fumigate the home and thereby prevent the spread of all kinds of infectious diseases.” READ MORE:

Turkmenistan fights coronavirus with (more) isolation and herbal remedies

Turkmenistan is one of the few countries in Eurasia for which there is no data on the authoritative Johns Hopkins online map of confirmed coronavirus cases

Mar 18 — “A pandemic, by definition, reaches everybody. There are now reports that the coronavirus has reached Turkmenistan, one of the world's most isolated and closed states. In recent years, the gas-rich desert state has suffered a protracted economic downturn, leaving observers to wonder how Turkmenistan's public services will cope with a full-blown humanitarian emergency.” READ MORE:

TURKMENISTAN: Raids, fines for religious meetings

Turkmenistan imposes tight state controls on exercising freedom of religion or belief. Only approved activity in approved locations by approved religious communities is allowed. Unregistered religious activity is banned and punishable

Mar 19 — “Police in Dashoguz raided two Protestant home meetings in February. During one raid, officers threatened to take away the host's grandchildren and have other participants sacked from work. The host was fined nearly a week's average wage. Another home owner in Lebap Region was similarly fined for hosting a Christmas celebration. Officials in Lebap Region banned state employees from attending Friday prayers in mosques.” READ MORE:


Foreign Investors Flocking to Uzbekistan Renewable Energy Projects

The Uzbek Ministry of Energy updates on wide array of tenders, investment, and international collaboration

Mar 17 — “The Ministry of Energy of Uzbekistan is pleased to share an update on progress towards the country's ambitious aim of generating a quarter of all electricity from renewable sources, by 2030. This update reflects Uzbekistan's commitment to international best practice and transparency, the country's growing role in the regional and global energy market, and its strategy for energy efficiency and sustainability.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan 2020: new composition and drivers of development

Multiple new departments and agencies, a lack of political will to loosen the grip on the non-state sector, conflicting gender policy, big decisions taken behind closed doors – all will endure determining political and economic trends in Uzbekistan, a political scientist says

Mar 17 — “Uzbekistan remains the most dynamic country in Central Asia due to the abundance of events, decisions, and power reshuffles over the past year. The changes are not always positive and reshuffle gradually embodies a castling of old personnel for a shortfall of new ones. The third year of the reforms announced by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev concluded with controversial events and tendencies that complicate an unambiguous assessment of the governmental results. Almost every area had both its clear achievements and explicit disappointments.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan: Karimova gets fresh 13-year sentence

Karimova was arrested in Tashkent in August 2015 on charges including corruption and tax evasion

Mar 18 — “A court in Uzbekistan has slapped yet another prison sentence on Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the late president, raising the prospect that she may remain behind bars until 2028. The Tashkent City Court on March 18 found Karimova guilty on multiple counts, including embezzlement and extortion, and sentenced her to 13 years in prison. The sentence is to apply from 2015, when she was first convicted, and will be served concurrently with earlier sentences.” READ MORE:


How Natural Resources Could Help Build Peace in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s economic growth is largely due to the agricultural sector and trade

Mar 16 — “Potential water wars due to plans for multiple dams, violent opium cartels supporting world heroin markets, and many conflict-financing minerals including everyday talc used for baby powder. These are the types of natural resources stories that usually make front page news about Afghanistan. But natural resources have a significant role to play in stabilizing Afghanistan. Instead of being a source of conflict, they may help with peacebuilding by creating livelihoods and creating opportunities for ex-combatants.” READ MORE:

War-ravaged Afghanistan battles a new threat: coronavirus

As COVID-19 cases are reported in Afghanistan concerns are raised if country's healthcare system can handle an outbreak

Mar 17 — “With 22 verified cases so far, Afghanistan is still among the countries with a relatively low rate of coronavirus cases. However, the outbreak of the illness comes at a particularly trying time for the country. The recent rise in positive cases - six new cases across three provinces in a 48-hour span - has taken some attention from a continuing election dispute that saw the top two finishers each hold an inauguration ceremony last week.” READ MORE:


The much-advertised security issues from the Taliban often overshadow prospective economic developments in the country that could help the average Afghan

Mar 19 — “My personal experiences from Afghanistan have taught me that the Afghanis are resilient people, capable of overcoming natural disasters, political turmoil, and complex insurgencies. Afghanistan’s economic development has been stifled considerably by war and poverty; climate change will only add another hindrance to the list. However, there is a deep desire amongst the Afghan population to secure a stable future. Many young Afghanis are risking their lives to make this a reality.” READ MORE:


Central Asia’s Force Majeure Fears: Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak on China’s Natural Gas Supply Demands

An economic crisis would provide another major test and could signal to the region whether Russia and China are able to become long-term allies in Central Asia

Mar 16 — “China’s COVID-19 outbreak has seen Beijing’s demand for natural gas stutter, after years of breakneck expansion. In February, China’s natural gas demand was estimated to have fallen 17 percent year-on-year, and while there were some subsequent indications of recovery for liquefied natural gas (LNG), if the COVID-19 outbreak risks a more lasting impact on natural gas markets, the impact could be far reaching. This is particularly true for Central Asia, which provides some 17 percent of Chinese natural gas as 50 billion cubic meters (bcm) of China’s 2019 natural gas imports came from the region’s three main players, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.” READ MORE:

Kremlin Under Siege From Simultaneous Health, Economic Crises

Putin used the multifaceted economic distress of the COVID-19 outbreak, the global (and domestic) economic downturn, the falling price of oil (Russia’s main export commodity) as well as the devaluation of the ruble (which lost some 30 percent of its value since the New Year) as excuses to press through his constitutional power grab

Mar 19 — “On January 15, 2020, as Russia slowly emerged from its prolonged New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas holidays, President Vladimir Putin suddenly announced a series of constitutional changes. The same day, Putin reshuffled his government, replacing his long-serving loyal prime minister and former president, Dmitry Medvedev, with Mikhail Mishustin (53)—a faceless technocrat and, until then, head of Russia’s Federal Tax Service. Some Cabinet ministers retained their positions, some were moved to occupy top posts in the Kremlin, while others were rotated from the Kremlin to the Cabinet.” READ MORE:


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