All quiet at the east front


The world has settled. Local jihads at the borders of Kyrgyzstan – Uzbekistan. Continuous guerrilla warfare in Chechnya. Taliban can not tolerate any Christian or anyone who is talking about Christianity. Music, cinema, internet is forbidden, because they introduce new non-Islamic demons. Corporate and governmental political warfare for the Caspian oil. The world has settled. Central Asia not.

Between the Pamirs, Tian-Shan range and the Fergana Valley, a lake has been formed. A lake of people. A big pool, a grinding machine, chewing more than a hundred nationalities. The ones that escape are poured into the vast area of Kazakhstan, flooding the whole landscape from Altay mountains to the Caspian Sea. What is it? Is it an experiment? If it is possible, for so many different people — connected only by a common Soviet ex-government and Russian as their second language — to be  able to cope with each other? If they can bear each other, not to be tempted to demand independence from each other? Independence… Pfff … How can they have independence? Ten million people united can have independence, one million people can have independence; a thousand people can not. Their names put together can only demand an independent state. Just for the names. Because the list goes like this: Kazaks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Tatars, Uyghurs, Turks, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, Russian, Turkmens, Slavs, Ukrainians, Koreans, Karakalpaks, Cossaks, Pashtos, Hazaras, Germans, Belarusians, Afghans, Tsetsens, Pols … and all possible combinations between them.

No, this is not an experiment. This is reality in Central Asia. I haven’t seen so many people with lost identity. Some they don’t even know of which nationality their grandparents were. Well… maybe in the United States, but that’s a different story. At least, Americans have a small history to brag about. Most of the Central Asian people were either immigrants or plain nomads – immigrants without a country to immigrate that is to say. And then the Soviet Union came – the big mama – who ground every nationality and placed them under her “protective” wings.

So much about history. But what is it exactly that these people want? The answer is straight and clear. They want to settle. It is only a matter of time before this boiling soup rests on its liquids and a mild breeze caresses its surface. Till then you will see Uzbeks fighting with Kyrgyz in the streets, Russians wilting by not being able to go back to Russia and not wanting to stay in their current country, Germans trying to find the American dream that they couldn’t find back home, all nationalities living with a complete empty face stuffed with a special kind of indifference, something like “I’ve seen it all”,  Europeans trying to help the situation and agitators taking advantage of it. One thing is sure. It will be long time before boredom knocks on Central Asia’s door.

September 2001

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