As documented earlier this year by CES contributor Casey Michel, Kazakhstan’s border services had a rough 2012 – there were two mass murders in May and on December 25, the head of the Border Service was killed in a transport plane crash. This article, from RFE/RL, By Kazis Toguzbaev and Daisy Sindelar, documents events on the border in 2012 in Kazakhstan. It’s important reading for understanding just how fragile morale is along the border and why it matters:
Besides monitoring cross-border trade, Kazakhstan’s border police are also seen as the first defense against trafficking, particularly the lucrative drug trade emanating from Afghanistan…But Kazakhstan, whose population of 17 million is small relative to its vast size, has struggled to commit adequate manpower to its posts. Tolegen Zhukeev, the former head of the Kazakh Security Council, describes Kazakhstan’s borders as a “sieve.”
As it often does, Uzbekistan has cut off the transport of natural gas to Tajikistan. Tajikistan is very energy-poor and dependent on Uzbekistan for gas. This gives Uzbekistan a lot of leverage over Tajikistan, particularly in the cold winters. Out of fear of losing this leverage, Uzbekistan is very antsy that Tajikistan is planning the construction of a hydropower dam which would affect Uzbekistan’s agriculture, giving Tajikistan retaliatory leverage in the future. Basically, the stakes would be much higher for Uzbekistan if they attempted to withhold gas from Tajikistan if Tajikistan gained more leverage in the resource wars of Central Asia. From the article:
The announcement comes amid traditional end-of-year contract negotiations and continuing tensions over Tajikistan’s plans to build a hydroelectric power station that could choke off Uzbek water supplies….Tajikistan – poorest of the ex-Soviet nations and still recovering from a 1990s civil war – has few other energy sources and suffers from chronic electricity shortages.
Finally, an ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) from our friends at The Tuqay, an article called “Young and In Love (with God)” written by freelance journalist Clément Girardot. The article documents a trend toward Orthodoxy in Georgia, particularly looking at the younger crowd. The article is heavily anecdotal, with the author having spoken with a variety of representatives for different faiths and beliefs within Georgia, making for an interesting comparison. For a good vignette in this aspect of Georgian life, take a read.