Kazakhstan has long sought to diversify its economy to make it less dependent on energy exports, a mission that has taken on increasing importance in this age of low oil prices. A state-of-the-art automobile production line situated on the steppes of northern Kazakhstan represents a potentially important step in this direction.
Power and wealth rule on the roads and sidewalks of Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. The drivers of expensive cars tend to flout traffic and parking rules with impunity. But where police fail to enforce laws, a civic group is mounting a name-and-shame initiative to counter bad, sometimes dangerous habits.
Georgians have developed a taste for fast food during the fasting period of Lent. The trend has highlighted a cultural paradox in this South Caucasus state, where Orthodox Christianity forms perhaps the main pillar of national identity.
As President Almazbek Atambayev was trumpeting Kyrgyzstan’s democratization potential during a late March European tour, Kyrgyz state security agents were raiding a human rights organization best known for defending members of the embattled Uzbek minority in the southern city of Osh.
The mercury is rising in Uzbekistan now that spring has arrived, yet the political temperature remains cool in advance of a presidential election March 29. Uzbekistan may suffer from a variety of political, social and economic ills, but election fever has never gripped this Central Asian state.
After years of controversy, the French-run hypermarket chain Carrefour, one of the world’s largest retail giants, finally opened a store in Armenia earlier in March. But, for many Armenians, the opening signified more than just easier access to a vast array of retail items. Rather, it signaled a potentially significant step for Armenia toward genuine market competition.
Few Westerners doubt the South Caucasus country of Georgia’s commitment to eventual integration with Europe. But as a massive currency devaluation tightens the squeeze on Georgia’s relatively fragile economy, calls are increasing for ordinary Georgians to reconsider the actual benefits of that commitment.