Although I’m often amazed at how great telecommunications work in this country, there are still stretches of time when internet jok — there’s no internet. In anticipation of those long hours, days, weekends, I like to load up on reading material while at work or cafes. Here’s a compilation of some of the things that made me look twice and think a while, mostly about Kyrgyzstan, international development, foreign policy, feminism, and language. Enjoy.
The Falling of the Lenins: The podcast 99% Invisible recently did an episode about the visuals of de-communization, with a focus on Ukraine, which at one point was the Soviet republic most densely decorated with statues of Lenin. So how does that factor now, 25 years after declaring independence, and while a war over Ukraine’s identity and relationship with Russia rages in the eastern part of the country? “According to the Institute of National Remembrance, the process of decommunization isn’t just about removal — it’s also meant to help Ukrainians learn their own history. Which is why, in many cases, they have suggested that towns revert to the names they had before the Soviets changed them. But whether they choose to revert to old names or pick new ones, Ukrainians do not have the option of keeping the Soviet names.”
Photos of Women Villagers Who Run the Show in Rural Russia: ““[A] village woman is strong. She can do almost everything by herself, she doesn’t really need a man for house work or raising children,” says Ivanova. “She does all the supposedly men’s work: mow, carry heavy logs, chop wood.”
A drinker’s guide to Islam: “To add to the bizarreness of the situation, this Oktoberfest, the seventh of its kind, took place not in hip Ramallah but in the remote village of Taybeh, perched picturesquely at 850m above sea level and with a population of just 1,500. Moreover, readers in western countries may wonder why thousands upon thousands of revellers had trekked all that way to attend a beer festival with only one beer on tap.”
Post-Yugoslav ‘Common Language’ Declaration Challenges Nationalism: There’s a lot of…overlap, to put it mildly, between Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Montenegrin languages. In regions of these former Yugoslavian countries where the local ethnicity does not match the titular nationality, public signs or cigarette boxes comically display their message in multiple languages — but the message is letter for letter, word for word the same (except for Serbian, which is written in Cyrillic). A recent Declaration on the Common Language has caused a stir in the Balkans. ““I don’t believe this is a linguistics issue, but a political one,” she added.”
In Tblisi: An excerpt from “Trip to Tbilisi” by Victoria Lomasko, a Russian journalist based in Moscow. Lomasko documents her conversations with Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, and Russians she meets in Georgia’s capital, and accompanies their words with lovely portraits. “In Tbilisi, I heard repeatedly from Armenian friends that despite the ongoing conflict between their countries, Armenians and Azerbaijanis understand each other better than they do Georgians. There were no people closer to them, the Azerbaijanis told me, than the Armenians.”
These Passionate Latvian Linguists Refuse to Lose Their Language: Livonian, a Finno-Ugric language (think Finnish, Hungarian) native to the Latvian coast, no longer has any living native speakers — a small group of enthusiasts and academics, about 30 in total, have taken up the responsibility of keeping this language alive. “But Ernštreits is just one of a handful of speakers, and one of only 250 people who identify themselves as Livonian in government surveys. He can write poetry in it, but he can’t buy a loaf of bread.”
A Glimpse Into Moscow’s Little Kyrgyzstan: “Every year, tens of thousands leave the republics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — the poorest countries in Central Asia — to find seasonal employment in Russia’s main cities. Many stay for years; others never return home, but their remittances form an important share of their country’s economy. The World Bank estimates that, in 2014, money sent back home by migrants was comparable to 36.6 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP, and 30 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s.” Moscow’s Little Kyrgyzstan, a 25-minute documentary, explores the dynamics of migrant labor in Russia — many of which mirror those of migration patterns in the United States.
Watch the documentary here: