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.
When Kazakhstan opened the doors of the Nazarbayev University in 2010, the institution was hailed as a fledgling bastion of academic excellence and freedom in an educational system still hobbled by Soviet standards.
No sooner had images of a hippopotamus lost on a central street in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi gone viral this summer than offers of financial help for recovery from the city’s June 13-14 flood began to pour in. Yet, today, with well over $8.3 million raised from a variety of sources, questions have surfaced about how transparently and effectively the government is managing the money.
The cultural fault line that seems to divide the West and many formerly Soviet states is perhaps most visible when it comes to differing attitudes on LGBT issues. But a culture clash is also flaring in the sartorial sphere. In Azerbaijan, for example, a public debate is brewing over whether it is appropriate for men to wear shorts.
Squeezed onto narrow benches in an airless courtroom in a provincial town in southern Kyrgyzstan, dozens of men from Imam Rashot Kamalov’s congregation looked bewildered as a disorderly hearing unfolded.
The overall atmosphere in Azerbaijan is grim when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Yet, the release from prison of Taleh Baghirov, a young, charismatic Shia Muslim cleric, goes against the general trend in Azerbaijan.