To most St. Petersburg residents, it’s a familiar scene: A group of children commandeer a courtyard for a game of pick-up soccer on a Saturday afternoon, rain notwithstanding. But these kids aren’t used to relaxing so openly in Russia’s second city. They are the children of Central Asian labor migrants, who often fall between the cracks of Russian society.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that dissidents in much of the former Soviet Union were a bunch of foul-mouthed junkie pornographers.
In March, police in Azerbaijan arrested Mahammad Azizov on drugs charges. A few weeks later, they picked up Dashgin Malikov. Days later, Taleh Bagirov was nabbed. On May 9, it was Rashad Ramazonov's turn.
When Munkhtsetseg Enkhbat, a Mongolian language instructor at the National University of Mongolia, wanted to expand her knowledge in the related field of Manchurian linguistics, she decided to go abroad. But instead of heading to China, she enrolled in a doctoral program in Russia.
When VKontakte.ru briefly appeared on a government blacklist of banned websites last week, it raised eyebrows.
Russia's leading social network isn’t just a place where friends connect, make plans, and share experiences. It’s also one of the main platforms the opposition has used to organize its activities across the country’s far-flung regions.
When it comes to differences with Russia over energy or arms shipments, Azerbaijan rarely flinches or gives an inch. But when discussion turns to the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s annual sequin-studded pop-music extravaganza, Azerbaijan seems unusually solicitous in its reaction to Russia.
Russian politicians and state-controlled media outlets have been taking lots of potshots at Tajikistan lately. Some observers believe the barrage of verbal darts may be a precursor to retaliatory measures by the Kremlin for Dushanbe’s delay in ratifying a military basing agreement.
Last autumn, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambayev tried to clarify the Kremlin’s energy ambitions in Central Asia: Putin promised massive Russian investment in the impoverished country’s hydropower sector in return for an Atambayev pledge to enhance economic and security cooperation.
Azamatjon Ermakov used to have a relatively peaceful life ferrying traders and their goods around on his donkey cart in a village in Uzbekistan’s Andijan province. He had embraced Islam in 1995 and became a regular at the local mosque.