The Soviet Union built Nurek, the tallest hydropower dam in the world, and Talco, the largest factory in what is now Tajikistan, as part of a single system in the 1970s. Aluminum smelting requires vast amounts of power. The dam and the plant were to help industrialize the distant, subsidy-dependent Soviet republic.
Tajikistan, the poorest country to emerge from the Soviet Union, has one economic asset of note – Talco, an aluminum smelter that, in a good year, pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars. For years, the state-owned company has been notoriously non-transparent.
On a main thoroughfare in central Bishkek stands a rare type of building in Kyrgyzstan these days: a busy factory. Women hunched over long tables can be seen from the street working late into the evening in boxy rooms under the greenish glow of florescent lights.