Three years after Kyrgyzstan slapped Vladimir Putin’s name on a mountain, some intrepid local businessmen are aiming to cash in on the name of Russia’s strongman president—recently found to be the most popular politician among Kyrgyzstanis.
Since early this month a black billboard promising a “Putin Pub” coming “soon” has loomed over the intersection of two central thoroughfares in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Cast in white, the Russian leader’s visage emerges out of the darkness in a style reminiscent of Marlon Brando on “The Godfather” film posters.
The backers of the “pub/sports bar/karaoke” joint are shrouded in mystery. That is not uncommon in Bishkek, where locals spend hours debating which parliamentarian owns what. But Artem Kolosov, who has been promoting the bar actively on social media, confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that the billboard is no hoax.
Thailand-based Kolosov, who describes himself as the pub’s “PR Director and Art Director” wrote to EurasiaNet.org in English: “I am sorry I cannot say where and when it will open. In mid-September opening [sic]. That's all I can say.”
As with Bishkek’s popular Obama Bar, with which Putin will soon compete, few in Bishkek seem concerned about naming rights. There is already the Guinness Pub, Kyrgyz Fried Chicken, Burger Kiиg and a number of other rip-offs.
But one commenter writing on the website of Kyrgyz news service AKIpress thought differently, musing: “Maybe Putin is opening the bar himself? Now that [Western] sanctions have hit Russia, his profits have fallen. So, he has decided to open a pub in a friendly country to create a new stream of income.”
Hard-drinking Kazakhstan is moving to curb alcohol abuse by extending a ban on late-night alcohol sales.
The new bill banning retail sales between 9 p.m. and noon was signed into law by President Nursultan Nazarbayev on June 18. The rules extend an existing late-night ban on alcohol sales (including beer) and will hit retail outlets which do a roaring trade in late-night booze sales. Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will not be affected.
The law also bans alcohol sales altogether at filling stations as well as education and health institutions, but moves by parliamentarians to ban sales at markets and stadiums as well failed.
Kazakhstan raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 in 2009. The new bill doubles fines for selling liquor to under 21s to a maximum of $1,200 (with the revocation of an offender’s license to sell alcohol).
The government says the bill is aimed at curbing excessive alcohol consumption, for which Kazakhstan rates 34th worldwide, according to a World Health Organization survey of 188 countries released in May.
Each person in Kazakhstan aged over 15 imbibes on average 11.3 liters of alcohol a year, almost double the global average of 6.2 liters, the report said—although the government has questioned the WHO’s methodology.
The report found the prevalence of “heavy episodic drinking” (defined as consuming at least 60 grams or more of pure alcohol on at least one occasion in the past 30 days) to be 7.8 percent in Kazakhstan. Among drinking males the prevalence stood at 30 percent. Some 8.9 percent of males and 1.9 percent of females have drinking disorders in Kazakhstan, according to the report.
The WHO singles out Kazakhstan as one of 11 countries with the “most risky patterns” of drinking.
If vodka is your poison of choice and you live in Turkmenistan, you should now expect to start shelling out more money.
Since local media doesn’t report on such affairs, hopeful boozers only made the discovery upon visiting shops in recent days.
One shopkeeper in central Ashgabat, Toyly, said the prices went up on February 2. “Half-liter vodka bottles have gone up by $0.35, and 0.7-liter bottles are $0.50 more expensive,” he said.
As Toyly explained, the alcohol used to mix the vodka mainly comes from Ukraine, which has raised its prices. There has been no apparent impact on wine and cognac, however.
Vodka at Toyly’s shop ranges in price from the cheapo 0.45-liter “Arassa” at $2.50 through to the luxury “President” brand, which costs $34 for a 0.75-liter bottle.
Another shop in central Ashgabat with a broader selection stocked more than 10 different brands. There, a slightly larger bottle of “Arassa” costs $2.07, while the priciest brand is that including the portrait of the late President Saparmurat Niyazov available for up to $53.40.
Also available is 0.7-liter “Galkynysh” – Turkmen for Revival, the title used to describe the current era of rule under President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Galkynysh initially went up to $10.52 and then mysteriously dropped by $0.07 the following day.
“All bottles contain the same alcohol, from Ukraine. It is the filtering that varies. ‘Galkynysh’ goes through double filtering, which is why it costs more than ‘Arassa,’” explained shopkeeper Bayram.
The rising prices have done little to contain enthusiasm for vodka.
A month after a law restricting alcohol sales in Uzbekistan came into force, trade in beer, wine and spirits – over the counter at least – has dried up in downtown Tashkent.
Where the city used to be scattered with small shops selling alcohol, only a handful remain since the law designed to safeguard the nation’s health took effect on October 1.
The law bans sales of alcohol and cigarettes within a 500-meter radius of schools, places of worship and sports facilities. That rules out just about any spot in Tashkent and other towns, “despondent” alcohol traders have pointed out to the independent Uznews.net website.
A stroll around downtown Tashkent reveals that many stores that used to sell the demon drink have shut down or changed their trade. A handful of alcohol stores remain in the city center (some of which appear to be remarkably close to schools). Not surprisingly, those still in business are doing a brisk trade.
Implementation of the law seems patchy: Uznews.net found many alcohol stores still in business earlier this month, and there is anecdotal evidence that some stores sell alcohol under the counter. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are not covered by the ban.
Trade in cigarettes seems unaffected: They remain on sale in shops and at stalls all over Tashkent. For anti-smoking campaigners, the law looks like a missed opportunity, prohibiting smoking in “places of work” but stopping short of a ban in restaurants and bars.
Muslims in northeastern Kazakhstan have been scandalized by the appearance of a new brand of vodka bearing the name of God.
KTK television reports that vodka bottles with the Arabic inscription, “Allah’s strength is enough for everybody," have appeared in shops all over the city of Semey (formerly Semipalatinsk) for approximately $4.40 a pop.
“Imams are outraged: They haven’t seen a bigger sin,” says the report.
“It’s difficult for me to even speak about this. The only salvation for those who did this is to repent. After all, Allah is against alcohol. And here you have such mockery,” Imam Bekzat Boranbai uly told KTK.
A representative of the Aktobe factory that produces the vodka denied intentional blasphemy, insisting the labels and caps are manufactured in Russia.
Drinkers in the former Soviet Union often have dozens of choices when it comes to vodka, which enjoys pride of place in any self-respecting corner store. In Khorog, Tajikistan, I once saw Marlboro Vodka, with a red and white label that looked like a pack of the American cigarettes. Sitting next to that was Mercedes Vodka, stamped with the iconic luxury car emblem.
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