It felt like an omen. As people filed out of the state musical theater in Nukus, Uzbekistan, after celebrations to mark the centenary of the late founder of the city’s remarkable avant-garde art museum, rain began to fall.
The contrast between the Azerbaijani government’s secular orientation and the country’s increasingly pious population is coming into sharp focus in a seaside town about an hour’s drive from the Iranian border.
Management and staff at Kazakhstan’s flagship university are disputing recent accusations of censorship from a lecturer, who alleges he is being squeezed out over attempts to hold lectures on the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
After a brief, winding trek up the hillside along a main thoroughfare, visitors to the northern Tajikistan town of Istaravshan reach an imposing, modern bricked gate leading to the remains of the ancient Mug Tepe citadel. The fortress represents a centerpiece underpinning Tajikistan’s claims to a proud historical legacy ranging back to the First Persian Empire and beyond.