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June 15, 2014


"Hate to pull you all away from something as world shattering as the IRS and their backup policies,"

About as world-shattering as the White House's tape erasing polices back in the 70's, I would say.

I have visited Kyrgyzstan many for work, and I am a Russian speaker. I've never heard anyone call the country "Kyrgyz" though in conversation my colleagues call it Kyrgyzia. Next time I'm there I'm going to ask about the three variants. (Wikipedia doesn't help much.)

From at least the time that Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds signed that oil deal, it has been abundantly clear that Turkey had reconciled itself to a Kurdish nation-state. And it also appears that the Kurdish regional government (and hence, presumably, a Kurdish state when it is formally established) has clamped down effectively on the PKK. As a result, it is clearly a big plus for a Turkish government that is trying to avoid getting into a big armed insurrection in its southeast.

That represents a big change in Turkey's view of the Kurds. And there are obvious synergies with the Turkish government's policy, the past few years, of dealing with its own Kurds via economic development, rather than simple repression.

The question for Turkey is, might a Kurdish state in northeast Syria adopt a similar anti-PKK stance? (Assuming the Syrian Kurds didn't just join the Iraqi Kurds in a single state.) My guess is that they would. It is substantially more important to them to have a real Kurdish state than to support actions against the Turkish government in Turkey.

Thanks for the insights Anthony and wj.

As to the name, in the discussions with the English teachers in English, several of them said point blank they preferred Kyrgyz, though now I'm wondering if they were saying Kyrgyzia and I wasn't picking up that ending. At any rate, the explanation at least two of the teachers proferred to me was that they felt apart from the 'stans'. I'm wondering if this was because they thought that I, as an American, might have relatively unrefined view (and they were/are right, I still don't know enough), and they might not feel the need to do so when they are speaking to a Russian speaker. But that's just a guess. Unfortunately, I've got no Russian to speak of, so I'd very much like to hear what you find out.

There were some interesting impressions of tensions among the English teachers in terms of whether education should be Russian medium or Kyrgyz medium. There seems to be generally a catholic view to that (one of the better university's in Bishkek is Turkish medium, while a second one has Turkish medium classes in addition to English and Russian medium) and as visitors emphasizing ways to try to teach English in English rather than resorting to the native language, we were able to sidestep those questions (thank god!), but that is also something to watch, I think.

It is also of note that not only has there been an exodus of Russian speakers since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been an influx of Turkish immigrants who, with a relatively small stake, can set up a business in Kyrgyzstan.

This time, we've been asked to visit Talas Oblast, which is going to be, well, a blast, if only to imagine that I might be where the Battle of Talas was fought. And last time, I didn't get a chance to drink koumiss.

Interesting articles? Here's one I came across:


Andrew Bacevich interviewed on Moyers:


American power and arrogance are going to come to an end some day. We still have time to choose how that takes place.

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