Posts tagged Independence Hall

More photos from Astana, Kazakhstan

I’m reading another OLD book published in 1961 by Random House, authored by Arther S. Trace, Jr. titled “What Ivan Knows: That Johnny Doesn’t.”  It’s a comparison of Soviet and American School programs back during the Cold War period.  Very interesting pronouncements about the value of one over the other, I’ll write more about it tomorrow.  I’m also reading Abai, sage Kazakh who encouraged his fellow countrymen to study hard in Russian. Abai was forward thnking about education.

I have had these photos for a while, but thought I’d show them today. Astana and Almaty are different than anywhere else in Kazakhstan, much different.  The picture of aqua structure is close to the president’s house, I believe it is a concert hall where a Kazakhstani friend went recently for a film festival.  She is a Russian blonde and a pretty mother of three children. Some wanted to take photos of her, thinking she was a movie star.

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Paintings and Artwork of Central Asian Reality from Past

I’m still watching very closely what is happening in southern Kyrgyzstan though it is very far from my husband’s and my flat in Astana, Kazakhstan.  I took some photos of artwork in Independence Hall several weeks ago.  The reality of Central Asian nomadic lifestyle is vividly shown in the two movies I watched recently, “Mongol” about Genghis Khan and also “Nomad, the Warrior.”  The latter has GREAT cinematography showing the Tien Shan mountains in the background. Both movies had good things to show about the Central Asian culture, but some of it was over the top, too fictionalized.

The other day I watched a 30 minute movie titled “Arabia” which seemed a promo piece for Saudi Arabia. The movie was put together by a Saudi student who had lived in the U.S. for seven years, I kept thinking “student project” over and over in my mind as I watched the story unfold about the two golden ages, first frankincense and now oil. You could have inserted things about Kazakhstan in it because it showed camels, desert, glitzy buildings, a proud past, oil money presently and much more.  The Bedoun tents were not as elaborate.However, the scene shot of Mecca with the tent city could have included some devout Central Asian Muslims doing their pilgrimage, but the Kazakhs are not that Muslim.  The Kazakhs are more interested in preserving their more romanticized distant past from even before the Muslims came to their land.  Enjoy the photos of what artwork I liked from 1,000s of years past up to about 100 years ago before the Soviets took over with industrialization and collectivization.

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Photos of Kazakh Red Carpets (Part II)

This blue pattern is not a carpet but tape used in a traditional Kazakh pattern. An art piece about 2 meters square shown at the Pyramid. Yesterday I wrote about some issues that have been brewing for a while, I have more questions than answers.  Since I don’t know the Kazakh language I have to rely on my Kazakh students who know English to fill me in on their traditional values and their culture.  Kazakhstan is no different than many Central Asian nations, they have 1,000s of years of history but are trying to come to terms with present day reality. As a nation, they have some of the same Soviet baggage that Kyrgyzstan is trying to lose.  How does a leader of a nation guide his or her people to salvage from the past traditions and embrace from the 21st century what should be in place in order to compete with the rest of the world.  I don’t envy the interim president’s job in Kyrgyzstan, she has an uphill battle with what has happened lately in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan, in Osh.

What are the true numbers of deaths and those wounded?  The health care facilities are not that great to begin with, I can’t even imagine how the hospitals and doctors are coping right now. Also, how are the survivors or families of those victims who perished last week, what are they doing to memorialize their loved ones?  I don’t know that much about the Uzbek people who are caught in the middle.  They probably were born in Kyrgyzstan but are ethnic Uzbek while the country of Uzbekistan doesn’t want these refugees fleeing from Kyrgyzstan to feed and support, they have their own fragile economy trying to support their own.

For lack of anything else to write because I have no answers or solutions and can only grieve for those stuck in the middle of this terrible power play, I am showing more Kazakh carpets. These are photos I took several weeks ago at Indepedence Hall in Astana.

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Photos of Kazakh Red Carpets and Women’s Issues

My American friend Julia in Almaty has a real passion to learn as much as she can about the traditional patterns of the Kazakh carpets.  For me, this might be a “women’s issue” but  I believe it is also tied in with failed communist policy from days gone by.  According to Julia, at some point the carpets were banned during the Soviet Union, maybe in the 1970s.  However, in Central Asia each soon-to-be bride was expected to make a carpet to have in her dowry before she got married.  Each carpet had her own symbols and story to tell along with the year it was done and the woman’s name woven in.  No different than our American quilts that show patterns and have stories attached to it.  These red carpets were created as pieces of art in happier, more bucolic times in Central Asia.

On a related note with women’s issues, I just got an e-mail from an American friend of mine, Elaine, who lived in Nepal for a semester.  She has an anthropology background and her riveting accounts reveal what she experienced in Nepal, no easy life.  What’s so amazing about Elaine is that she is in her late 70s but still going strong. Here’s what she wrote in her e-mail to me…

“…although at some point I do want to record what I learned about the ongoing tragedy of widows in both Nepal and India.  Although they’re no longer required to join their husband’s funeral pyre, they often opt to do so, only because the alternative of no status, no financial resources appears worse to them.  Enough!”

When I lived and taught in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 1993-1994, I first learned about bride kidnapping from my Kyrgyz students.  Many of their aunts or even the Kyrgyz students’ mothers had been kidnapped as brides.  However, kidnapping was against the law back in the early 1990s but during the Soviet period I think it was commonplace to avoid taxation or maybe to avoid having to make the carpets that took at least a year to accomplish. I think there might be a strong connection with not making the traditional Kyrgyz or Kazakh carpets because the USSR deemed it as too culturally bound and the other issue of bridekidnapping.  The newly minted Soviet women probably didn’t have the time to make carpets because they were too busy in the collective farms or in the industrial factories. It could be a real research question for someone in anthropology to find out the correlation between the Soviet edict of NO more carpets and when the bride kidnapping started or WHY it became commonplace.  Too many questions, not enough answers!!!

I suspect that those westerners who are INTO women’s issues and may even major in Women’s Studies would find out that there are numerous failed policies in many different countries that work against women.  However, these same purported “scholars” who are mixed up with Marxist dogma in western university would never want to reveal that former communist states or current communist countries propagate very contemptible laws that work against women.  Really, American women have NOTHING to complain about when it comes to their rights.  Oh, should I also mention women’s issues in China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan’s neighbor? Why are so many girl babies killed in China with their “one child policy?”

What we need is honest inquiry into what is happening to women in other countries.  I haven’t even brought up the issue of the sex trafficking that happens all too frequently in Krygyzstan or other former Soviet Union countries.  Read a riveting account titled “Two Kyrgyz Women” if you want to know more about the plight of what is happening in Krygyzstan. If the Kyrgyz men of that small nation are angry, it is because their women folk are being brutalized and used.  They are desperate to preserve their honor and the honor of their nation.

But this blog was about Central Asian carpets right?  Please look at the photos that I took in the Independence Hall in Astana and think about the Central Asian women who created them. Many of these women are soooo far away from being independent, it breaks my heart.  Please think about Kyrgyzstan as the numbers of deaths continue to increase in southern Kyrgyzstan.

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Photos of What Nomadic Life Looked Like in Central Asia

Ken and I went to Independence Hall in Astana, Kazakhstan over two weeks ago and I am glad I got some photos that shows what life was like in Central Asia.  Of course, I continue to think about Kyrgyzstan to the south of us what is happening there in the southern part of that small nation.  No way to turn back the hands of time to a life that appears much more tranquil.  See for yourself the displays that are inside Independence Hall.  I highly recommend for anyone who is visiting in Astana to go to this museum to see all the beautiful Central Asian artifacts and artwork. This photo is of Kazakh women working on a carpet.  They almost look real!

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Astana city plan and “Charge of the Light Brigade”

As promised I wrote earlier that I would show photos of the 1:600 scale plan of the city of Astana, Kazakhstan.  I would use the adjective “ambitious” to go with this vision of the Kazakh government that was created by a Korean company in 2008.  Some of these buildings should be in place by 2030, some already exist and are easily recognizable to anyone who spends any length of time in Astana.  For me, it was good to see that the right bank is the old part of the city that was built up by the Soviets and the left bank is where all the governmental, new buildings and tourist attractions are.  I think if you take a map and go to Independence Hall to see for yourself, you will make sense of this city far quicker.  I wish we had done that over three months ago when we first arrived in Astana.  See if you can find the Baiterek, the Pyramid and the New University Astana in these pictures.

So, why do I also add “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Lord Tennyson which is memorializing events in the Battle of Balaclava in October 25, 1854?  I don’t know, but I like this poem after watching the film “Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock. Blind Side was more than just an American football movie, it had some good literature in it that might relate to Kazakhstan.  Maybe not…

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred;
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die,

Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabers bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

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K-19–Soviet Widowmaker Sub and Russian “Collage” Painting

Last night Ken and I watched a movie titled “K-19-Widowmaker” starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, released in 2002. K-19 was based on a true story which portrayed the grim realities of the Cold War in a Soviet nuclear submarine in the 1960s.  Impossible decisions were made by these two captains who were in conflict with each other.  Their decisions one way or the other, in the effort to save the crew, could have triggered the end of civilization as we know it. Ford was THEE Comrade Captain and ultimate bad guy while Neeson had been demoted from working with his own crew of 120 men, thus making him second in command under Ford.  In order to make this film, it cost over 100,000 million dollars. National Geographic had sunk their own money into this “documentary” to show support for something that had been kept secret among the members of the real Soviet navy crew once an investigation took place back in Moscow to find out who needed to be punished. Certainly things went awry, who could have anticipated this with such a proud and noble start at the beginning of their mission. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of this incredible movie only retrieved about two thirds of their investment in return from the box office and sales of the DVD.

Why are people not interested in movies related to the Cold War?  Is it because it is a confusing history or because there are too many versions of it from the U.S. side as well as the Soviet side?  In any case, it shows how loyalty, respect of command and allegiance to one’s country even if it means certain death, are values that run very deeply.  Not one American was portrayed in this movie except a U.S. Navy helicopter who came to the rescue of the K-19.  From start to finish the movie featured actors as Soviet navy men speaking English with Russian accents all the way up to the star actors, Ford and Neeson. But I don’t want to spoil this story for you, you will have to see it for yourself to see how closely this movie might align itself to politics in Kazakhstan right now.  I see some parallels from my vantage point of living in the seat of the government, Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan.

Politics is a terribly murky topic to write about, when Ken and I went to Astana’s Independence Hall, we saw a LARGER than life mural on the third floor.  The artist painted in 19 men congratulating the president of this country who is striding in the center with a medal around his neck.  On the left side is former French president Mitterand, Bush, Blair, the Japanese president (forget his name) and others smiling and clapping.  On the right of the big mural, which is called a “collage” in Russian because it is not an actual event but a historical collection of the main characters is Yeltsin (clapping hands on far right), Putin (is NOT clapping), Lushenko, Bakayiev (deposed president of Kyrgyzstan), Yushenko (former president of Ukraine) and many more leaders from the former republics of the U.S.S.R.  If my readers want to help me out with naming the characters, that would be GREAT help!

[thanks to one of my blog readers, some of the mystery is solved about the other dignitaries in this collage: Junichiro Koizumi (name of the Japanese Prime-Minister); next to Bush is Berluskoni (Italy), Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgia) and Hu Jintao (China);

On the right: Can’t figure out the person behind Yeltsin, but then as you said Putin, behind him is Lukashenko (Belorus), Bakiyev (Kyrgyz Republic), behind him is, to me he looks like Gerhard Shroeder (Germany), Emomoli Rahmonov (Tajikistan), can’t tell for sure, think it’s Ahmet Necdet Sezer (Turkey,)  Lukashenko (Belorus), Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan), Yushenko, Robert Kocharyan (Armenia)]

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Events in Astana (Part IV)

Yesterday was dedicated to our going to Independence Hall across from the Pyramid. I kept telling Ken that there was a city plan of all of Astana in this structure extending south of the Pyramid.  The entrance to the Hall that had been built up in just weeks several years ago, had arrows pointing to the south and not west, the entrance that faces the Pyramid.  Hundreds of workers were all over the grounds getting it ready for the real tourism season to begin.  Once we paid our 400 tenge each for our tour guide, we saw all levels of museum Kazakh artifacts from yesteryear, Kazakh carpets and vibrant paintings. And finally what Ken came to see, the floor plan of the city at a scale of 1:600 done by a Korean firm several years ago.  We did not see the 4-D film that was adjacent to the floor scale model of the city, I believe that shows the building of the Pyramid.  Another time…

Afterwards Ken and I went home to prepare for our Kazakh dinner guest, a friend of Ken’s from almost 20 years ago.  Always good to spend time with Misha (not his real name) because he is someone who knows 15 languages.  Even though he is Kazakh his first language was Russian and he had to learn Kazakh on his own.  Of course, his English is very good too, as is his German, Ukrainian and all the other languages he has mastered.  More on that conversation with Misha in a later post.

Finally, to get some exercise after our big meal, I went back to the Buddy Bears exhibit to take more pictures of people taking pictures and then walked towards the President’s Palace.  The sunlight was waning in the west and I was stopped by one policeman for my documents.  I smiled and said that I lived in Astana but I was being like a tourist because it was so beautiful outside.  This was all done in my very bad Russian, he smiled back.  I think I charmed him.  Noone around, perhaps even the president wasn’t in his residence so I think the officer must have been bored and just curious who I was.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you photos I took of the layout of the city, very ambitious plans! (The Independence Hall is closed only on Monday and from 1:00 to 2:00 for lunch all the other days, but opens at 10:00 a.m.and closes at 6:00 p.m.) Well worth the tour to understand this old and new city of Astana, the right and left side better.  I believe it should be mandatory for anyone who is planning on living here for any length of time.  Deboard the plane and go directly to Independence Hall…do not pass GO!

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