Two years ago, Steve Presnal’s dream came true when he embarked on a hunt for Siberian ibex in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan Mountains. With two friends, the 49-year-old from the US state of Wisconsin had booked a trip through an international agent who set them up with a Karakol-based hunting guide. But that guide got the three arrested.
Relative to other Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan has a fairly free and perennially noisy domestic media scene. Even so, Kyrgyz outlets tend to be no match for Russian state-controlled media when it comes to establishing narratives for current events.
Russia’s state-run oil giant Rosneft wants to purchase a majority stake in the state-controlled company that owns all of Kyrgyzstan’s civilian airports. The negotiations are stoking concern in some circles in Bishkek about the potential risk to Kyrgyzstan’s sovereignty. But with its entrenched corruption, poor governance and remote location, the Central Asian country has few other options.
Political leaders in Kyrgyzstan tend to have their roots in the atheist, Soviet past, and thus are prone to be skeptical of religion. Yet unlike their counterparts in other Central Asian states, they have been relatively tolerant of Islam’s revival.
A slow-motion ecological calamity is unfolding at Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. An underground plume of refined oil products – the result of a spill back in the 1990s – is migrating toward the lake and, today, it’s only a few meters away from hitting water.
On a warm autumn day in early November, pedestrians in downtown Bishkek met an unusual sight: a 500-strong crowd of hijab-sporting female Muslim activists riding bicycles, heading to a state hospital to donate blood. “Passersby were in shock,” laughed Jamal Frontbek kyzy, whose organization Mutakallim helped organize the event. “We wanted to dispel stereotypes.