It is hard to make a new nation on a short notice (about Kyrgyzstan)

The whole world seems to be covered by a thin layer of red, yellow and brown particles that makes the sceanario around me a bit unreal through the dusty sun haze. I know that this is not the whole world, but right now the sand seems to be taking over my world, and these days my world consists of Kyrgyzstan. The sand is everywhere; on my clothes, in my nose and in my eyes and the bus has gotten a slightly new yellow look. It is autumn in Kygyzstan and it is dry. Dry and warm during daytime and sometimes freezing cold at night. The contrast between t-shirts and shorts during daytime, and wollen clothes and heating in the bus after dusk seems unecessary harsh as the sun is making me uncomfortable warm at the moment.

But it is not only the contrast bewteen the heat and the cold that will stand apart in my memory when I think about Kyrgyzstan. As in Kazakhstan there are huge contrasts everywhere. Contrasts between the nomadic culture and the modern city life, between the old soviet system and capitalism. One day I am enjoying a coffee latte and wireless internet in the capital Bishkek, the next day I am eating laghman (a local noodle sup) and nan in a yurt (the nomadic 'tent') on 3500 metres above sea level in the rural mountains by the lake Issyk Kul - the pride of Kyrgyzstan. It is a country were you can see BMWs (they are usually imported from Germany; they still have the D on the back of the car) along side a yurt, where the old Kyrgyzstan is meeting the rest of the world and where the adjustment will take some time as this area was a no-go area, closed to the rest of the world as a military reseach centre during the Soviet times.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan seemed to be going in the same direction with something that looked more and more like dicatorship than a western democracy, but where the Kazakh president was popular, the Kyrgyz president didn't enjoy the same popularity, and where the Kazak people seemed to accept the political terms in their country, the Kyrgyz people made a revolution. If the so
called revolution has changed a lot, I can't say, but at least we didn't find any tower in a newly made capital with the president's golden hand.

Coming from the flat and enormous Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan is in many ways the opposite of Kazakhstan, but they have the dust in common though. Where Kazakhstan is a big, flat country, Kygyzstan makes up for its small size by being a very mountainious country with about 90% 1500 metres above sea level and 41% above 3000 metres. Where Kazakhstan is the new and upcoming country in the region after discovering an oil bubble in the Caspian sea in 2000 (we are talking about a country that might become one of the world's largest oil exporters just conquered by Saudia Arabia), Kyrgyzstan has a much poorer future ahead - the officially inflation is 6%, but it might be as high as 20% according to sources in the only English newspaper in Central Asia. The economy is only saved by a growing tourist industry and the country's good water supply.

The country has a similar history as the rest of Central Asia; it is not only struggling with bad economy, but also the struggle of becoming a nation over night after Soviets fall. In Russia there is a small difference in the pronounciation between being Russian and living in Russia to embrace all the different ethnic groups living in the former Soviet Union. One can either read this is a way of making room for all the different ethnic groups and try to keep the tension low, or one can read it as a way of saying: "you will never be a real part of this country. You are forever different." I don't how to read it since my knowledge about the the former Soviet Union, Russia and Central Asia, is quite limited. What I think is interesting is what defines nationality when living in a country your whole life doesn't? Needless to say that this question is valid everywhere else as well, and I might not need to mention that it has become harder to be a Slavic descendant in these countries; they are denied access to the government, and they often have harder times getting jobs. According to my guide book(!), as many as 250 people left each day in 1993, the same number in 1996 was 38 people. This of course, also has an impact on the economy as they often are the most educated people. It is just the classical brain-drain problem that appears here as in countries.

After 70 years under Russia in some way and with Russian as the official language and a populationconsisting of different ethnic groups; nomadic Kyrgyz and Kazakh people, Russians, Germans, Ukraines, Koreans and so on, it is hard to define a new national history. As in Kazakhstan it is the nomadic culture and the language that is to be the national tool. Kyrgyz and Kazakh were to become the official languages, though not over night, but in Kazakhstan, according to the law, everybody should by now speak Kazakh. The schools are to teach in the Kyrgyz and Kazakh, but what do you do when Kazakh and Kyrgyz are both oral languages with no written tradition and when many people realise that they speak Russian better than their "native" language? Many parents supportive of the their childrens possibilities to be taught in their own language, chose to take their kids back to the schools teaching in Russian, realising that the school books and the teachers had sadly not the same standard as the Russian taught schools.

It is hard to define a new nation on a short notice.

Apart for being a country striving to be a become a nation state, Kyrgyzstan will for me always be a country remembered by the kids shouting "helloooo" on the streets and "give me your money" laughing, for its stunning nature, kind and open people. A country made out of sand and revolutions, a shepard, his family and a bike, a horse without shoes, a drunken man and his angry wife, kymyz and bad stomachs and the haunt for the nicest shyrdak in town.