• KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01181 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00210 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09404 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

Our People > Stephen M. Bland

Stephen M. Bland's Avatar

Stephen M. Bland

Senior Editor and Head of Investigations

Stephen M. Bland is a journalist, author, editor, commentator and researcher specialising in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Prior to joining The Times of Central Asia, he has worked for NGOs, think tanks, as the Central Asia expert on a forthcoming documentary series, for the BBC, The Diplomat, EurasiaNet, and numerous other publications. divider Published in 2016, his book on Central Asia was the winner of the Golden Laureate of Eurasian Literature. He is currently putting the finishing touches to a book about the Caucasus. divider www.stephenmbland.com

Articles

Eurasian Creative Week Held in Uzbekistan

From 22 to 29 June, Uzbekistan hosted the first international World Coaching Championship, as part of the 8th international festival, Eurasian Creative Week. The festival events spanned three cities: Tashkent, Khiva, and Nukus, marking an expansion in scope from previous editions. The festival program commenced in grand fashion at TEAM University in Tashkent with a charity ball hosted by Silk Road Media Ltd. Over a hundred guests from various countries attended, highlighting the festival's role in fostering international connections. The charity ball began with a warm welcome from Andrew Wachtel, Chairman of the Board of Directors of TEAM University, and continued with insights from Marat Akhmedjanov, founder of Silk Road Media Ltd. The event celebrated the festival's 20th anniversary and showcased the charitable projects of the holding. Noteworthy figures such as artist, Alinur Rashidov, and composer, Tolibkhon Shahidi were part of the guest list, demonstrating strong support for promoting creative endeavors in the Eurasian region. The festival also saw the inauguration of the World Coaching Championship, a unique competition organized by Silk Road Media in collaboration with the Elena Bezrukova Center. The championships culminated in an awards ceremony where the winners were recognized for their excellence and innovation in coaching. As the festival unfolded, attendees were immersed in cultural experiences, from poetry lessons to animated video presentations on ecology. The journey through Tashkent, Khiva, and Nukus showcased the artistic talents of the region and underscored the importance of fostering international dialogue and cooperation in the creative industries. Overall, the Eurasian Creative Week served as a testament to the power of art and collaboration in bridging cultural divides and nurturing a sense of unity among diverse communities. Through initiatives like the World Coaching Championship and the immersive exhibitions at the Savitsky Museum, participants were able to exchange ideas, showcase their talents, and celebrate the vibrant heritage of Eurasia.  

1 week ago

Articles

Two-Dimensional Outlook Characterizes Western Media Response to SCO Summit

The Western media’s binary response to the latest Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana creates an unnecessary – and perhaps unintentional – “us-versus-them” dichotomy. Characterizing the SCO as the “anti-NATO” alliance where China, Russia and Iran come together, this style of coverage makes no mention of the evident efforts of the majority of post-Soviet states to balance Russia’s decades-long influence in the region. It is also notable that the same outlets serving up this black and white coverage are not even in attendance at the summit, preferring to take aim from abroad. Central Asian states cannot escape the realities of their geography and have to largely rely on Russia and China for their economic prosperity. At the same time, their future independence requires that they are a respected part of the international rules-based order as well as on their increased contribution to global supply chains. Kazakhstan’s recent democratic reforms are in direct contrast to the authoritarian image cast on so-called “anti-NATO” countries. Armenia has announced plans to quit Russia’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance. Generally, the countries in the region have – with different degrees of enthusiasm – implemented a multi-vector foreign policy, including following international sanctions against Russia and issuing statements supporting the “territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Uzbekistan’s courts even went so far as to convict a citizen for joining Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. Those looking to force an antiquated one-size-fits-all Cold War paradigm on Central Asia will ultimately be frustrated. The ongoing SCO event in Astana is bringing together a mainly Eastern-centric group of leaders speaking about deeper cooperation among the Organization’s members. While the Western press may simply decry this gathering as anti-Western, the fact that Central Asia stood in support of international sanctions against Russia and stayed neutral in the conflict with Ukraine, much to the chagrin of Vladimir Putin and his retinue, shows the region holds more shades of grey than stark black and white. Central Asia cannot be expected to fall entirely into the orbit of Western or Eastern leaning powers. The region’s republics will, and should, aim to be aligned with both. Arguably, the West, Russia, and China may all be disappointed in the end, but that outcome may well be in the best interests of the Central Asian states.

3 weeks ago

Articles

Inside Turkmenistan: What Self-Isolation Reveals About the Nation

Getting into Turkmenistan has always been a complex undertaking. For most foreigners, the only option available is to apply through an accredited Turkmen travel firm, meaning a 'guide' will trail ones every move. Alternately, there is a five day transit visa, though these are denied more often than they are issued. Arguably the second most insular state in the world after North Korea, it is fair to say that Turkmenistan really isn't in the market for tourists. Frozen in time The first leader of independent Turkmenistan was Saparmurat Niyazov, who climbed up the ladder in the Soviet nomenklatura (administration) and held such positions as First Secretary of the Ashgabat City Committee of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR; Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Turkmen SSR (i.e., Prime Minister); and First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR before the collapse of the Soviet Union. From First Secretary, he became President of Turkmenistan for life, as formalized legislatively in 1999. In the second half of 1993, the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (formerly the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR) proposed the extension of Niyazov's powers until 2002 - a second term without re-election - and in January 1994, 99.9% of voters purportedly supported this in a nationwide referendum. From 1994 to 1995, Turkmenistan considered renaming the president's office "Shah" and declaring the republic a Shahdom. However, the idea did not find favor with the elders. Niyazov's strained relationship with his son was also taken into account, and the idea was buried. Declaring himself "Turkmenbashi" (father of the Turkmen people," Niyazov began to rain down a cavalcade of decrees including bans on lip-syncing, car radios, cinema, clowns and the playing of recorded music at weddings. Long hair on men and beards were outlawed, citizens with gold teeth ordered to have them extracted. "I watched young dogs when I was young," Niyazov stated. "They were given bones to gnaw to strengthen their teeth. Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not chew on bones. This is my advice." All hospitals outside of Ashgabat were shut and the funds were instead spent on a $20 million new leisure center for horses. Compulsory education was cut by a year so students could no longer qualify to study abroad. The opera house and ballet boarded up, in place of culture came such fanciful projects as the $50 million dollar Turkmenbashi’s World of Fairytales theme park and the world’s largest shoe. Six meters long and one and a half meters tall, it was manufactured to symbolize the "great strides" Turkmenistan had made under Niyazov’s leadership. Numerous editions of Niyazov's, Ruhnama, (book of the soul) - his version of Mao’s Little Red Book - were released. A heady cocktail of pseudo-spiritual cogitations and revisionist history, the book claimed the Turkmen people to be the inventors of the wheel and heirs to Earth’s oldest civilisation. Within a year, most bookstores carried nothing but the Ruhnama, and novelists...

3 weeks ago

Articles

Suspected Attackers of Kazakhstan Blogger Aidos Sadykov Identified

Three days ago, Kazakhstan political blogger and erstwhile opposition figure, Aidos Sadykov was shot in the head at a parking lot near his residence in Kyiv whilst standing next to his wife, Natalya Sadykova. Sadykov is the author of the Telegram channel, ‘Base’, which has 59,000 subscribers, and has been permanently residing in Kyiv since 2014. Two suspects have already been identified. Both are Kazakhstan citizens, 33-year-old Meiram Karataev and 36-year-old Altay Zhakanbaev, whose names have been corroborated by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine's website. According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Internal Affairs, M. Kartayev was dismissed from the ministry in January of 2019 and is not currently a police officer.  They further elaborated that the Head of State (of Kazakhstan) had instructed the Ministry to clarify all circumstances of the case. Immediately following the attack, President Tokayev of Kazakhstan said that “the official bodies of the Republic of Kazakhstan are ready to join the investigation.” The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine reported that on the day of the crime the suspects crossed the border into Moldova and according to Ukrinform, the Ukrainian National News Agency, they have been placed on the international wanted list. Over the years, Sadykov has frequently criticized the Kazakh authorities, including the current president. In 2020, Base, together with the initiative to create the opposition Democratic Party, were co-organizers of a rally in Almaty demanding a boycott of the parliamentary election. The Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, an unregistered political party, was founded and led by Zhanbolat Mamai, a former journalist who in 2017 was convicted of receiving funds from Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive former minster with judgements against him in numerous jurisdictions, including the U.S. and the U.K., where he was found to have committed "fraud on an epic scale." Natalya Sadykova previously worked for Ablyazov's since shuttered newspaper, Respublika. Aidos Sadykov and Mamai both actively supported protests in January 2022 in Kazakhstan, which were widely seen as an attempted coup. Sadykov is wanted in Kazakhstan under articles on the incitement of discord.

1 month ago

Articles

Pavel Durov’s Visit to Issyk-Kul Sparks Investment Hopes

Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram and VK, has visited the Issyk-Kul region in Kyrgyzstan, generating significant interest amidst speculations about a potential investment in a large-scale project. The government are currently keen on attracting investment in the Three Peaks ski resort, and local authorities believe that his involvement could substantially enhance the potential of the project. Durov’s presence as an investor is seen as a strategic move that could attract additional capital and provide invaluable advertising support. Durov is traveling with Russian blogger Huseyn Gasanov, whom sources suggest could play a mediating role in the negotiations with the local authorities. The presence of Durov and Gasanov has not gone unnoticed by locals. The pair were recently spotted at the Petroglyphs Park in Cholpon-Ata, sparking rumors and excitement among residents. Many hope that this high-profile visit will lead to concrete investment plans and significantly boost the local economy.

1 month ago