Monday, December 16, 2013

Forget your Past: the Abandoned Mount Buzludzha Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters

After the fall of the Soviet Union, many ideological monuments and places have fallen into disrepair. Although Lenin's mausoleum remains maintained, and a variety of statues in his honor litter the post-Soviet landscape, there are impressive places that have fallen into complete disrepair. One such is found in Bulgaria, which had formerly been a Soviet satellite state.

The saucer-line monument still looks impressive from afar. Images taken in the days of its use on Mount Buzludzha are even moreso, showing the detailed artistry behind the structure and its otherwordly appearance. 

But now, it exists only as a rotting husk. The government does not maintain the structure, and it remains essentially abandoned -- battered away each year with the elements.

Graffiti on the entrance reads in English, "Forget your past."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Because of the holiday season, I figured it would be suitable to talk about how Russia celebrates the holidays. 

To begin, St. Nicholas is especially popular in Russia. The legend is that the 11th-century Prince Vladimir traveled to Constantinople to be baptized, and returned with stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas of Myra. Since then many Eastern Orthodox Churches have been named for the saint, and to this day, Nicholas is one of the most common names for Russian boys. The feast of St. Nicholas (December 6) was observed for many centuries, but after the communist revolution, the celebration of the feast was suppressed. 

During the communist years St. Nicholas was transformed into Grandfather Frost. Other religious traditions were suppressed during the communist era. Before the revolution, a figure called Babouschka would bring gifts for the children. Like Italy's La Befana, the story is that Babouschka failed to give food and shelter to the three wise men during their journey to visit the Christ Child. According to tradition, she still roams the countryside searching for the Christ Child and visiting the homes of children during the Christmas season. Babouschka never completely disappeared, and now in the post-communist era, has returned openly. 

Christmas trees were also banned by the Communist regime, but people continued to trim their "New Year's" trees. Most Christian Russians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it is customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheatberries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. 

A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. A priest visits the home accompanied by boys carrying vessels of holy water, and a little water is sprinkled in each room. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity.

Arms Dealers!

Everyone assumes Russia has a ton of big scary men carrying huge guns around all the time just like in the movies right? Well that may still certainly be the case! Russia is a major player in the sales of weapons worldwide. Russia has its sights set on an interesting goal by 2020. 

Russia wants to be the top arms exporter in the world by 2020, quadrupling its annual arms sales to about $60 billion per year to other countries. When asked about how much extra they would have to sell yearly, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "It is four times the current amount." This seems quite confident to me. To put these numbers in perspective, the U.S. sold $69.1 billion worth of weaponry to foreign customers last year, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Russia became the world's second-largest arms exporter in 2011, generating $13.2 billion in revenues.
Last year, Russia exported $15.2 billion worth of weaponry while adding Afghanistan, Ghana, Oman and Tanzania to a list of about 80 foreign customers.

Hopefully, they don't mix vodka with all extra money they will have from the sales. 

The Red Army Choir

The Red Army Choir, (after the fall of the USSR called the Alexandrov Ensemble after its first director Alexander Alexandrov), is the official choir of the Russian Armed forces. It started out around 1928 as a small group of vocalists, which grew to 300 performers by 1933, including dancers and an orchestra. After Alexandrov died, the group was taken over by his son Boris Alexandrovich Alexandrov. The choir became so well disciplined that he could sometimes leave stage for up to a half hour, with the choir performing perfectly despite his absence. For their discipline, and the generally stellar quality of their musical performance, the group became world renowned.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, the group continued on, only with the renaming of the group.
I found out about this group from a youtube video of a performance by the choir in 1992, in the Tchaikovsky Hall, in Moscow. I listened to the first part and just couldn’t stop. The vocals are supremely beautiful and the dancing is really quite interesting (the dancers all maintain a distinctive Russian folk-style dress, and dance with an obvious ballet influence.)

I have linked the video below; it is well worth your time to watch it! 

Have a great Winter break, happy holidays, and a great new year. See you all in class next semester!

Russian Cuisine: Baba Romovaya Cake

      I really like food from all over the world and I have not tasted that much Russian food in my life so far and so I decided to find a recipe. I searched for a long time for something that sounded good to me and I actually found a lot of things but then I saw the Baba Romovaya cake and I knew I wanted to make that. Sadly I have no kitchen supplies since I live in a dorm but as soon as I get home I will be making this cake and a lot more recipes I found like "Rice Kasha with Cheese," "Borsch," and "Ossetrina pod Syrom (a.k.a. Sturgeon Baked with cheese)." Below I have posted the recipe for the yummy cake and a picture of one I didn't bake, hopefully someone else will get to enjoy it this holiday season!

Baba Romovaya cake recipe

3 ea eggs
5 oz flour
5 oz sugar
5 oz cherry juice
2 tbsp rum
4 tbsp rum
2 ea yolks
8 oz cream
1 tbsp starch

Beat up eggs with sugar with the mixer until there is foam. Stir in flour very gradually and make dough very quickly. Fill in the form half (the dough wil rise twice) with dough very very carefully. Grease the form abundantly with butter and sprinkle with flour. Close all windows and doors to avoid draughts otherwise "baba" will catch a cold". Put in a warm place, don't move it. As soon as the dough rise up to the top, bake in the oven (180C) until it is golden. It is very important to keep the form of "baba" after baking. Put upside "baba" in the form down on the paper until it is cold. Don't take it out of the form until it is cold. Mix rum with cherry juice in a large bowl and sink "baba" in this syrup. Beat up yolks with cream and starch, pour in rum. Put the mass on a "steam bath" (put a smaller pan with cream mass in a large pan with water) and bring to thickening. Pour the sauce over "Baba" before serving.

Nadezhda Durova

Nadezdha Durova was a woman who, while disguised as a man, became a decorated soldier in the Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic wars. She was the first known female officer in the Russian military. She left her father’s house while in her late teenage years and joined a nearby Cossack regiment. She was always very rebellious growing up. Always running off into the forest to go on adventures all by herself. However this was not appropriate for a girl in 19th century Russia. Especially a young aristocratic girl as she was. Her father was a captain in the military and she was born on a military base where he worked. This is how she first became associated with the military and where she was raised to love the sound of a canon and the cry of battle. Once old enough to be mistaken for a young male she cut her hair and fled home to chase after the life she always wanted. The Russian military asked a few questions as some did say she looked too feminine, but she scraped by and was in the military for three years serving in countless battles until her bravery on the front lines got her noticed and she was discovered for what she truly was. Durova was a strong woman and no doubt she was fearless, and her time in the Russian army was a great inspiration in her time for the feminist movement. Proving to Russians of both genders that females were more than just dolls dressed up in makeup and gowns.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Want a Free Subway Ride? Squat Down and Give Me 30!

    So.... in a fit of wasting time after a final, I came across and article concerning train rides in Russia I found both absolutely genius and hilarious at the same time! Apparently, in an effort to promote both the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi and living a healthier lifestyle, the Moscow metro set up a special vending machine that offers travelers one free ticket in exchange for performing 30 squats.
In order to gain the free ticket, subway riders had to perform the squats in front of the machine as well as all of the curious bystanders, AND do them in under two minutes.  The machine remained at the Vystavochaya station in the west of the Russian capital until Dec. 3.  Although the period of time that this was there has passed, I think it is something that if it were to be kept around and implemented in more places than just Russia, it would seriously promote healthier living, and allow people who perhaps could not afford the transportation otherwise to have a means of obtaining transportation!

Dyatlov Pass Incident

Death Mountain
The name couldn’t be more fitting…
It was February 1959.
Nine hikers were found dead along the upper ridges of Siberia’s Kholat Syakhl (Mountain of Death), their frozen bodies preserved in a way that makes the case extremely intriguing for investigators – and anyone with a fantasy about government corruption, yetis or UFOs.  
The hikers, all described as fit, intelligent college students experienced in the ways of the wilderness, had told everyone that they were going on a short trip to the Ural mountains, hoping for a little excitement before the start of the next semester. When the students failed to return, authorities assumed that they had simply become lost, and that the majority of them would turn up alive.
They were wrong.
When the investigators finally stumbled upon the ruined remains of the camp, they were shocked by what they found. The damaged tent was tightly sealed, the way it should have been to ward off the biting cold. But there were long gouges along the sides of the canvas, evidently made by a knife from within. All of the students’ gear (warm clothing, shoes, cameras, utensils, etc.) had been abandoned, and the hikers were nowhere to be found.
Investigators found a small trail of human footprints in the snow – barefoot, despite the subzero temperatures.
They followed the trail to the first two bodies, those of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenk. The men had been found in their underwear and located about a mile from the tent. They lie still beside the remains of a long-dead fire, frostbitten and covered in snow. The tree limbs above their heads had been broken, as though they had been struggling to get off the ground.
The next to be found was the corpse of Igor Dyatlov, the leader of the group and the boy after whom the pass would henceforth be named. Zina Kolomgorova and Rustem Slobodin were discovered shortly thereafter, their bodies approximately 200 yards apart, one behind the other as though they were trying to crawl back towards the tent.
It took two months for the rest of the group to be located. They were under a heap of snow, no doubt a makeshift shelter, also frozen by shearing cold. And though their bodies showed no external signs of struggle (no cuts or bruises associated with self-defense), they suffered a number of violent internal injuries (namely, their chests had collapsed inwards, breaking their ribs and crushing their internal organs, and fractured skulls). Only Lyudmilla Dubinina’s corpse showed any visible signs of damage – she was missing her tongue.
No animal tracks were found near the bodies. There were no signs of avalanches or other natural disasters that should have forced them to leave their tent. Yet a test of the victim’s clothing, little that they were wearing, showed increased levels of radiation that the government conveniently refused to comment on.
There are other explanations, of course. The last shot on one of the hiker’s cameras showed a flash of light, and another group that had been out hiking in the area reported seeing ‘bright orbs’ in the night sky, leading Lev Ivanov, leader of the Soviet investigators, to privately conclude that the deaths were the result of a UFO. Others hypothesize a military accident by the Russian government, an ill-fired missile or sonic waves that drove the hikers crazy. Many of the more superstitious locals fantasize about the “snow monsters” who could have crushed the hiker’s bones, aided by lore that a message had been scrawled on the tree near Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko reading; “Now we know that snowmen exist”. Others still claim interference by the zolotaya baba, the “golden woman”.
Whatever it was that really caused the hikers’ deaths, it was only ever officially reported as “a compelling, unknown force”.


Russian Interesting Facts

Russian Interesting Facts

* Many may not know but Russia is the largest country in the world, what is interesting is that although this is the largest country in the world it is ranked 9th largest in population size.
*Russians never shake hands over a doorway they believe it could start an argument.
*Russia covers 1/7 of the land on the earth, and is neighbor to more countries than any other country.
*Moscow is the biggest city in Russia, it has a population of 10.5 million people.
*Moscow also homes the most billionaires.

Protest Areas for Winter Olympics

President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach told that Russia will set up public protest zones in Sochi during the Winter Olympics. There has been no detail on where these zones will be set up or how they will be managed. These zones seemed to be set up to try to diffuse the situation of the anti-gay laws set up in Russia right now. A similar situation happened in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, they tried to set up protest zones though they were unsuccessful.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Switch - Political Spin on the Media


Without Notice, Putin Dissolves a News Agency

Vladimir Putin has suffered a plurality of cries against his political purity, now including his appointment of a certain fiercely pro-Putin supporter to the head of a revamped Russia Today media outlet - Dmitry K. Kiselyov. Control of the Media, many say, is just another step in Putin's "growing chokehold on the people of Russia."  

But how was this news outlet, Руссия Сегодня, created? 

Well, Putin's appointment wasn't the most major point of media regulation committed - that award goes the dissolving by decree of RIA Novosti with the stated intent of "strengthening the Kremlin's influence at home and abroad." The amount of power being exercised in these actions forces a public which has questioned the legitimacy of Putin's intentions since the beginning of his third term to continue to be distrusting. 

Many believe that these moves towards the consolidation of power are in response to the recent political problems in the Ukraine - Putin continues to assert that Ukrainian ties are historically with Russia and not the West, and regulated media allows Putin to enforce his stance with far more efficacy. 

Ultimately, the shuttered news outlet will be absorbed the new state run agency. Putin's close allies support the decision without giving any clear reason for the move, stating that it is "what's best for the nation" and difficult to "explain to the world at large." 

One is forced to wonder - do the means justify the end? The complacency with extreme power in the hands of the government even to do thing which are "in the best interest of the nation" seems as though it bears too much invested power - especially if that agency is already suspect of corruption and self-serving tendencies. The political atmosphere in Russia seems to continue to creep towards a boiling point. 

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Russia was founded three hundred years ago by Czar Peter the Great in 1703ce. The area on which it was built was extremely boggy. This cause many problems with building due to health concerns and flooding. Many serfs lost their lives building this great city. Although it began as a fortress for war with a small town, within the span of nine years, it had become large enough to be the capital city of Russia. Due to a lack of bridges across the Neva River, the city was known as the Venice of Russia for a time. From boggy swamp to glorious city, St. Petersburg is a monument to the innovations of Peter the Great.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saw this and thought of Russian class:

Farewell of Slavianka

Farewell of Slavianka, written by Vasily Agapkin premiered in 1912, was written for the woman of Bulgaria when they accompanied their husbands in the First Balkan War.
A theory of where the melodies originated is that it was inspired by the Russian march "Yearning for the Motherland" or that it originated from an old folk anti-war song during the Russo-Japanese War.

The melody gained it's popularity in Russia and other adjoining countries during WWI when the men left their homes to this music. Also, it was preformed on November 7, 1941 on Red Square where the soldiers left straight to fight in the Battle of Moscow.  


     Встань за Веру, Русская Земля!

Много песен мы в сердце сложили,
Воспевая родные края
Беззаветно тебя мы любили,
Святорусская наша земля.
Высоко ты главу поднимала -
Словно солнце твой лик воссиял.
Но ты жертвою подлости стала -
Тех, кто предал тебя и продал!
И снова в поход труба нас зовёт.
Мы все встанем в строй
И все пойдем в священный бой.
Встань за Веру, Русская земля!
Ждут победы России святые.
Отзовись, православная рать!
Где Илья твой и где твой Добрыня?
Сыновей кличет Родина-мать.
Под хоругви мы встанем все смело
Крестным ходом с молитвой пойдём,
За Российское правое дело
Кровь мы русскую честно прольём.
Все мы - дети великой Державы,
Все мы помним заветы отцов
Ради Родины, Чести и Славы
Не жалей ни себя, ни врагов.
Встань, Россия, из рабского плена,
Дух победы зовет: в бой, пора!
Подними боевые знамена
Ради Веры, Любви и Добра!

    English translation

      Arise, Russian Land, defend your Faith!

We have composed many a song in our heart,
Glorifying the native land.
We've loved you no matter what,
You, our holy Russian land.
You've raised your head high,
Your face has been shining like the sun.
You've become a victim of betrayal --
by those who have cheated and sold you!
And again in march trumpet calls us.
We all stand in order
And go to the holy battle.
Arise, Russian Land, defend the faith!
Russia's holiness awaits victory.
Respond, the Orthodox host!
Where is your Ilya, where is Dobrynia?
The mother is summoning her sons.
Under the banners of all we stand boldly
Procession with prayers go,
For the Russian right thing
The blood we shed Russian honestly.
We all are children of a Great Power,
We all remember the forefathers' commandment:
For the Homeland, Honor, Glory,
Pity neither yourself nor the foes.
Arise, Russia, from your prison of slavery,
Victory's spirit is called: time to do battle!
Rise your battle flags
For Faith, Love, and Good.

The lyrics were later changed by different writers and composers who cherished the piece, however, this version has stuck and is still sung in Russia today. It even has been petitioned to become the Russian National Anthem on more than one occasion, but has never been put into effect.

This piece was later transcribed with no voice, just band, in the late 1990's. 

Original sang by the Russian Red Army

Band Version

The Nutcracker's Mother Ginger

In Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, one of the most controversial and most delightful parts of the ballet is the appearance of Mother Ginger and the Bon Bons in Act Two. Mother Ginger and the bon bon children perform what is known in ballet terms as a "divertissement", quite literally (in French) a distraction from the more serious roles in the ballet. The role of Mother Ginger is traditionally played by a man, in part because Mother Ginger's costume requires a very, very large dress, which can weigh up to 100 pounds. All of the little bon bons hide under their mother's skirt and come spilling out at the beginning of their dance. The hilarity of Mother Ginger and the cute-factor of the bon bons provide the audience with a well-intended light-hearted giggle. However the true meaning of Mother Ginger’s casting comes out when you look at the major aspects of the national allies and feuding countries, you find out that Mother Ginger actually takes on a political propaganda aspect. In many of the large productions of the Nutcracker, Mother Ginger sports a very flamboant attitude and a curley mustache. It is pictured this way to resemble (slightly) of a French men. At the time of the show’s creation, Russia did not like the French and made Mother Ginger a cross- dressing/ homosexual French man. This was to state that the French were all homosexuals or cross-dressing men and therfore were not real men at all. You then look at the variation in the same act called “Russian” which sports energizing music with high jumps and multiple turns showcasing the most masculine form of ballet dancing (yes masculine ballet does exist) to state that Russia is full of real and strong men compared to the previous French model. Many of the most famous male ballet dancers perform in their early career as Mother Ginger to prove to the companies they work for that they will perform any role and to have a light hearted part that they can goof off in the middle of a greulingly difficult show. I am very honored to have followed in the greats’ footsteps by performing this in the beginning of my dancing life(as pictured).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Drug War and the Destabilization of Central Asia

(Pictures to come later.)
The Drug War and the Destabilization of Central Asia
            The United States’ view of Central Asia has always been through a narrow and short sighted focus. Rather than regarding the Central Asian states directly, relations have been seen as “means to an end”. This can be viewed in a period of eras. The Bush-Clinton era from 1992-2000 focused on ensuring political and economic stability, though they “view[ed] Central Asia mainly through the prism of its relations with China and Russia”, as Jeffrey Mankoff states – thus careful to engage in to close of an interest.[1] However, such economic schemes, such as the Silk Road Initiative, have by in large failed – being little more than, as Stephen Blank writes, a “bureaucratic contrivance.”[2] After 9/11, in the Bush-Obama era, ranging roughly from 2001-2014, there has been a focus almost exclusively on security, but always viewed the tinge of Afghanistan and Islamic radicalism, while failing to appreciate the potential for regional catastrophe if the Central Asian states were to grow even weaker.[3] As Weinthal and Luong write, this realpolitik approach may have worsened the long-term problems, especially with the US relationship to Karimov.[4] If these were the first two eras of US-Central Asian relations, then post 2014 and the drawdown of military forces in Afghanistan will require a re-evaluation of either strategy. Rather than engaging in “soft balancing” through a new “Great Games” by competing or acting unilaterally rather than collaborating with Russia and China, and rather than viewing Central Asia as only a battleground or staging area against Islamist terrorism, the United States must realistically approach regional stability, including dealing with criminality and corruption. [5][6]
One of the most prevalent issues of destabilization in Central Asia is its illicit drug trade, the essential shadow economy of Central Asia. This is an issue by which the United States may have greater sway in than either economic or political reform, but could affect them through its shockwaves. The illicit drug trade perpetuates corruption and may help fund terrorism – though certainly funds the ruling elites, weakening the state and negatively affecting legitimate growth.[7] As well, repressing the illicit drug trade may be more politically tenable than other investments. The United States, and indeed the United Nations, has a public face of being highly dedicated to continuing the drug war with a prohibitionist stance. Although this may change, it does not look likely in the short term.[8]  The question of whether this drug war, with production, distribution, and consumption as mala prohibita crimes, should even continue is unfortunately beyond the scope of this paper.[9] The political will, internationally, does not yet exist for mass drug legalization, nor does the framework presently exist in international law.[10][11] As such, the topic must be approached realistically – the idea of legalization will not be further addressed here. First, an overview of the scope of the drug problem must be elaborated upon, and an examination undertaken of overpoliticization of drug policy, which will remain the key problem in relevant US foreign policy, along with present corruption domestically, and the lack of cooperation between the US, Russia, and China.

The “Northern route” is the most significant drug flow through Afghanistan to Central Asia.[12] Much of the drug flow was through the Khorog-Osh highway.[13] The majority, however, is through Turkmenistan and roughly half through Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. From Tajikistan, the drugs continue to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Through Uzbekistan, drugs are trafficked into Russia as well as the Caucasus via Kazakhstan. In recent years, Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan have moved from simply a transit country into a market for drugs from Afghanistan, as well as into its own production of opium, ephedra, and cannabis.[14] It is estimated that 30% of Afghan-produced opiates find their way into Western Europe, with 60% moving into Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Afghanistan accounts for 88% of the world’s opium productive.[15] The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates the total number of opiate users in the combined Central Asian regions being between 3.4 and 3.8 million people. Illicit drug use represents a public health hazard, beyond the addictive nature of opiates. Hepatitis C and HIV, given injective methods of opiate and stimulant use, spread rapidly. There is an estimated HIV prevalence among intravenous drug users from 7% in Kyrgyzstan, 4% in Kazakhstan, and 16% in Uzbekistan as well as Tajikistan. This prevalence is higher dependent on subregion. For example, 2% in Bishkek, to 13% in Osh. These rates have been on the rise. In western Siberia, there has been a 700% increase in the rate of HIV infections, theorized to be mostly amongst intravenous drug users. Younger individuals have been the most affected. In Uzbekistan, 8413 (64%) of 13,146 HIV cases have been among people aged 34 years or younger. Domestically, Central Asian states have by in large focused on the criminal/punitive model of reprimanding drug crime, rather than treating it as a medical issue.  In fact, opioid substitution therapy is performed only in Kyrgyzstan, and rejected in every other Central Asian state.[16] Internationally, efforts have been concentrated on the criminal element as well, which will be elaborated upon later in this paper. Only 11 percent of the budget for UNODC’s Central Asian program is dedicated to preventing drug use, whereas 88 percent is for fighting against organized crime, corruption, and terrorism. [17]
Beyond public health, the criminal aspects of the drug problem are enormous. According to Aleksandr Zelitchenko, a retired Kyrgyz police colonel and coordinator for the European Union’s Central Asian Drug Action Program in Kyrgyzstan, corruption poses a greater risk than the public health crisis. Although the extent of the drug problem is mostly measured in drug seizures, the records are unreliable. Measures of yield have been historically off, and even Turkmenistan has not provided data on seizures since 2000. In Kyrgyzstan, Zelitchenko estimates that the actual number of illicit drug users is probably around 100 thousand.[18] In addition to seizure data, one can conclude that drug-related criminal activity is growing worse through an examination of how drug-related crimes feature. According to Kairat Osmonaliev, “…in the early 1990s, each 23rd crime was related to drugs, but by the end of the 1990s, each 10th crime registered was directly related to illegal drug circulation.” Organized crime is steadily increasing. Central Asia’s corruption and reliance on clientele socio-politico forms of interaction do not help in this; low legal salaries give rise to the temptation to take cuts of the enormous profits of the drug business. For example, the Department Head of the DCA in Zaravshan Valley was arrested with 30 kg of heroin in 2004. Even worse, the Tajik ambassador to Kazakhstan was caught twice transporting drugs, including 62 kg of heroin.[19] Although these drug syndicates have not yet grown in comparable power to South American counterparts, this may actually complicate enforcement through a small chain of distributors. Central Asian leaders are keen to link Islamic terrorism with the drug trade, in part legitimized by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s involvement in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan before 2001. According to Sebastian Peyrouse, however, the baseline linkage between terrorism and drugs is “based on a very simplistic reading of the Afghan situation.” A lack of profitable crops outside of poppy fields complicates the situation in Afghanistan, coupled with “warlords and patronage mechanisms.” In addition to the mislinkage between Islamic terrorism and the drug trade, Central Asian states are keen to paint themselves as victims of an Afghanistan “spillover”, diverting attention from their own responsibility. Securing porous borders is not as simple as establishing a few checkpoints with barbed wire. Writes Peyrouse, “Every entry into Central Asian territory can be negotiated (by buying a false passport, bribing a border guard to forego a document check, and so on).” It requires political will to secure the borders – a will that is substantially lacking.[20] CAEC, the Central Asian Organization for Economic Cooperation, attempted to include discussions on regional security, particularly which of drug control. Within CAEC, the IDCC – the Interstate Drug Control Commission – was formed. However, IDCC has done little more than provide lip service to the idea of enforcement, with little in the way of real results.[21] To focus on all of the domestic problems with Central Asia’s drug enforcement is beyond the scope of this paper, but they deserve mention as they are inextricably linked. Nevertheless, Central Asian states have been shown to act on combatting the drug trade under international pressure, giving foreign policy a voice in encouraging compliance.[22]
Although the Central Asian states have adopted virtually every major narcotics treaty, most efforts at international pressure have been conducted bilaterally. There has been a significant missed opportunity in dealing multilaterally and involving the international community in combatting the Central Asian drug issue, representative of the over politicization of the issue. With the drawdown in Afghanistan, there are fears that dealing with the supply side of the issue will now be significantly more difficult, in spite of US claims to the contrary. Russian attempts at convincing NATO and the UN Security Council to act against Afghan drug production were unsuccessful. The plan, dubbed “Rainbow-2”, would have been a large scale poppy eradication program, partnering CSTO with NATO, in addition to UN sanctions on Afghan landowners who authorize the cultivation of opium.[23] According to Viktor Ivanov, director of the Federal Drug Control Service in Russia, stated that he believed “a joint operation… by NATO and CSTO wherein CSTO could focus upon the transit states and NATO would have to destroy the poppy fields in Afghanistan…. would be accomplished in a week.”[24] NATO refused, fearing that this would worsen the image of the organization in Afghanistan, along with a lack of alternative sources of revenue for Afghan farmers. This attempt at hitting the focal point of supply remains Russia’s objective.[25] Contrawise, a plan known as CACI, the Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative, seeks to build support for law enforcement agencies by establishing counternarcotics task forces in each of the five Central Asian countries, communicating across boundaries. Then-assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, William Brownfield, stated to RFE/RL that the plan would help in preventing a boost in the flow of opium poppy after the 2014 drawdown in military power. The plan would have been funded by the State Department, purchasing equipment and paying for training. However, the plan is essentially dead in the water.[26] According to Elena Chernenko, writing for Kommersant, unlike the plan of attacking supply directly Moscow was less than enthusiastic about CACI, and it felt that the plan was little more than a cover for the US to increase their footprint in Central Asia.
"Зачем создавать что-то новое, если в этих странах уже действуют структуры ОДКБ? Почему бы американцам просто не присоединиться к ним, если они действительно хотят бороться с наркотрафиком? Почему они настаивают на двусторонних диалогах с центральноазиатскими республиками, демонстративно игнорируя интересы РФ в регионе? Ответов на эти вопросы мы не получили, отсюда и сомнения в истинной подоплеке предложений США",— пояснил "Ъ" один из российских переговорщиков в Вене. "Это новый инструмент проникновения в Центральную Азию, способ усилить военно-политическое влияние США в регионе",— категорично заявил "Ъ" другой член делегации РФ.[27]

This fear of US-Central Asian bilateral talks is not a new one. In addition, Russian diplomats have raised the valid concern that CACI does nothing to actually solve problems of corruption in law enforcement. According to a February 2012 report by RFE/RL, CACI has not been “rejected” but “blocked.” Ultimately, the US wants to deal with the drug problem by attacking demand in Central Asia, but Russia wants to deal with supply in Afghanistan. Both want the other’s help, but both have very differing strategies.[28] This is an example of Russian fears – whether legitimate or not – of the United States attempting to circumvent Russia’s geopolitical influence. Although there may be hope with the European Union improving relations with the Central Asian republics, they have traditionally had a distant relationship.[29]
Obviously, the bilateral nature of CACI did not help to alleviate these fears. As Aleksandr Zelitchenko recommended, Russia has a vested interest – more than the United States – in combatting narcotics. Not involving CSTO, thus, is an immediate mistake. Dealing unilaterally instead of regionally and involving interested powers, as well as neighbors, is a mistake. Having a narrow focus on security measures rather than attacking the problem at the source of demand is costly, and may be less effective. The fault lies with both sides, regardless of motivation. Resolving the drug crisis in Central Asia will take significantly more than bombing poppy fields or setting up stricter border security. Acts must be taken to counter both demand and supply, along with international pressure directed to shift domestic views on how best to approach drug policy, in addition to corruption – a fundamental understanding of how the drug trade benefits the elites, rather than too narrow of a focus on Islamic fundamentalists earning funds through the drug trade. Although the United States and Russia share skepticism with each other’s plans as being a threat to sovereignty and livelihoods, much of this paranoia is misplaced. Both nations have a keen interest in regional security, but the US prefers to act unilaterally.[30] There is no easy or quick fix. However, if Central Asian countries can be convinced that it is in their long term national interest, including the ruling elites, then much of demand – and future supply – may be resolved. Unfortunately, it may already be too late to strike the heart of the problem in Afghanistan for US foreign policy makers. This task may be left ultimately up to both the Central Asian states, and Russia, given the United States’ waning interest in Central Asia. It may be that a new “Great Game” is not so much the worry, as US absence entirely.[31] Still, Central Asia is unable to deal with the drug problem by itself – but a balance must be struck between sovereignty, and international assistance.[32]

[1]               Jeffrey Mankoff. “The United States and Central Asia after 2014.” CSIS. Pg 11. January 2013. Web. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[2]               Stephen Blank. “AWOL: U.S. Policy in Central Asia.” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst30 Oct. 2013. Web. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[3]               Jeffrey Mankoff. “The United States and Central Asia after 2014.” CSIS. Pg 11. January 2013. Web. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[4]               Pauline Luong and Erika Weinthal. “New Friends, New Fears in Central Asia.” Foreign Affairs. Pg 1. March/April 2002. Web. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[5]               T.V. Paul. “Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy.” International Security. 2005, 30.1. The MIT Press. JSTOR. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[6]               Jeffrey Mankoff. “The United States and Central Asia after 2014.” CSIS. Pg 11. January 2013. Web. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[7]               Timothy Krambs. “Drug Control in Central Asia.” Foreign Military Studies Office. Pg. 5. U.S. Army.> 7 Dec. 2013.
[8]               Jamie Doward. “Leaked Paper Reveals UN Split Over war on Drugs.” The Guardian. 30 Nov. 2013. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[9]               Free Legal Dictionary. “Mala Prohibita.” The Free Dictionary. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[10]             Activist Post. “UN Drug Czar: States Can’t Legalize Marijuana Under International Law.” Activist Post. 21 Nov. 2012. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[11]             Sergej Guneev. “Putin Criticizes States Legalizing Soft Drugs.” RIA-NOVOSTI. 5 Jun. 2013. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[12]             UNODC. “Opiate Flows Through Northern Afghanistan and Central Asia: A Threat Assessment.” UNODC. United Nations. Pages 23, 68. May 2012. <>. 7 Dec. 2012.
[13]             Kairat Osmonaliev. “Developing Counter-Narcotics Policy in Central Asia.” Silk Road Studies. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. January 2005. PDF Pg. 23. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[14]             Timothy Krambs. “Drug Control in Central Asia.” Foreign Military Studies Office. Pg. 16. U.S. Army.> 7 Dec. 2013.
[15]             Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. “Drug Traffic from Afghanistan as a Threat to European Security.” Parliamentary Assembly – Council of Europe. 24 Sep. 2013. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[16]    International – Eastern Europe and Central Asia (Abstracts and statistics from other studies).”Common Sense for Drug Policy.>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[17]             Sebastien Peyrouse. “Drug Trafficking in Central Asia.” PONARS Eurasia. Sep 2012. Pg. 4. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[18]             Richard Weitz. "Kyrgyzstan: A Look at Central Asia’s Drug War.” Eurasianet. 29 Feb. 2012. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[19]             Kairat Osmonaliev. “Developing Counter-Narcotics Policy in Central Asia.” Silk Road Studies. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. January 2005. PDF Pg. 26-28. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[20]             Sebastien Peyrouse. “Drug Trafficking in Central Asia.” PONARS Eurasia. Sep 2012. Pg. 3. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[21]             Kairat Osmonaliev. “Developing Counter-Narcotics Policy in Central Asia.” Silk Road Studies. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. January 2005. PDF Pg. 68. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[22]             Timothy Krambs. “Drug Control in Central Asia.” Foreign Military Studies Office. Pg. 4. U.S. Army. <> 7 Dec. 2013.
[23]             Alexander Vatutin. “Rainbow-2 Anti-Drug Plan for Afghanistan.” Voice of Russia. 6 Sep. 2011. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[24]             Fergana International Information Agency. “Viktor Ivanov...“ 3 May 2012. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[25]             David Brunnstrom. “NATO Rejects Russian Call for Afghan Drug Removal.” Reuters. 24 Mar. 2010. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[26]             RFE/RL. "Russia Said To Block U.S. Drug Plan Amid Wariness Over Central Asian Influence.“ Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. 12 Feb. 2012. <>. Dec. 2013.
[27]             Елена Черненко. “Антинаркотическую инициативу заблокировали в Вене.” Коммерсант. 17 Feb. 2012. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[28]             RFE/RL. "Russia Said To Block U.S. Drug Plan Amid Wariness Over Central Asian Influence.“ Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. 12 Feb. 2012. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[29]             EEAS. “First Eu-Central Asia Security Dialogue…” European Union. 13 June 2013. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[30]             T.V. Paul. “Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy.” International Security. 2005, 30.1. The MIT Press. JSTOR. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[31]             RFE/RL. “The SCO, Security, and a New ‘Great Game.’” 11 Sep. 2013. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.
[32]             Reid Standish. “The Three Evils of Narco-Policy in Central Asia.” Registan. 7 Sep. 2013. <>. 7 Dec. 2013.