Page 88 - The Chapka 2016
P. 88

          Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan - three countries in Central Asia stretching from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north with China on the eastern flank and Uzbeki- stan and the Caspian Sea to the west.
The three countries are bound together by their Soviet history but now, after twenty five years of independence, have distinct characteristics and futures.
Kazakhstan is a country of opposites; a landmass larger than Western Europe with a population of seventeen and a half mil- lion, oligarchs in power and peasants in the fields, the second coldest capital in the world with minus thirty degrees in winter but plus thirty in the summer, a national dish of boiled horse sausage on pasta washed down with fermented mare’s milk while boasting to be the birthplace of the apple, the beauty and bustle of the Silk Road and the vast quietude of the Steppe. Everything is old versus new and invariably a contradiction.
Kyrgyzstan is a Soviet time capsule, where the capital, Bishkek, is a haven for sixties architecture and infrastructure, Lenin still
stands proudly in front of the parliament building and out in the countryside Russian troops exercise in military training areas and bases.
Tajikistan on the other hand was always at the extremity of the Union and has a different feel and mentality. People are poor but appear happy and content in their poverty. Dushanbe, the capital, boasts the second largest flagpole in world (and little else) and remains as a reminder of how Kabul must have looked and felt before the Taliban and war ruined it.
What one cannot escape is the both beauty of the three countries and the history. Whether one is hunting fox with golden eagles in the mountains rising off the Steppe; fishing on the ice lakes in Borevoya or just enjoying the vibrant colours and variety in the markets along the Silk Road, one feels little has changed since the day when Captain Arthur Connolly, of the East India Com- pany was beheaded in Bokhara for spying in 1842 at the start of The Great Game; a game that continues today.

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