International House of Dan: News From Molvania

Friday, March 25, 2005

News From Molvania

I remember reading about Molvania a while back, and chose it as the backdrop to a quick review of recent events in those Eurasian countries Americans like to mix up... all those countries whose names end in "stan" that are not Afghanistan.

We begin with the most well-known one, Pakistan. The Bush administration has decided to reward our South Asian ally in the "war on terror" by selling some F-16's to them. This has obviously made India less than happy, which is good, because Indo-Pakistani relations were starting to get a little boring, right? It's especially calming to see Pakistan get advanced weaponry from us, because they've never been known to sell nuclear technology to our enemies...

On to Kyrgyzstan, where a recent popular uprising has ousted President Askar Akayev. This is the latest installment in the new Cold War, wherein the U.S. and Russia compete for the attention of breakaway Soviet countries that we value because of their proximity to the Middle East, and the Russians value because of their proximity to Russia. The U.S. is staying neutral on the issue, presumably because Kyrgyzstan is difficult to pronounce. (FYI, since I started writing this post, the opposition leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has taken the reins and begun assembling an interim government... the world moves fast, people!)

Up next, Kazakhstan, who is set to join the space race by launching small satellites off of Russian planes. This reminds me of an old "Dilbert" strip where Elbonia, a stereotypical Soviet breakaway country won a contract to launch satellites and tried to do so with a giant slingshot. Anyway, Mr. Akayev was in Kazakhstan for a while as he fled Kyrgystan, and the Kazakh government is hoping external factors won't cause similar rebellions there before the upcoming elections.

Then on to Turkmenistan, where "President" Niyazov wants to close all hospitals outside the capital, Ashgabat, so that Turkmenis needing hospitalization from all corners of the 500,000 square km nation will have to take a little road trip in order to receive medical treatment. Niyazov said "in the capital, you can be treated by doctors. These regional hospitals are not needed." This is the man who in 2002 renamed January after himself, April after his mother, and September after a book he wrote (students are tested on the book before being admitted to college), and renamed the days of the week, except Friday. Yeah...

Now who could forget Tajikistan? Well... Tajikistan is probably next, they had elections at about the same time as Kyrgyzstan and the Tajik opposition is already calling for similar action. Their elections are being contested pretty heavily, and I think they recently took over from Russia as guards at the Tajik-Afghani border. Not much there, moving on...

We close with Uzbekistan, our human rights abusing allies in the "war on terror." Uzbek treatment of political opposition is pretty notorious, they're pretty much always being criticized by everyone because of executions, disappearances and the like. Uzbekistan is a perfect destination for low level detainees who we would like to subject to torture without anyone knowing about it. Our strong support of the Uzbek government has been a source of constant criticism, but it's close to Afghanistan, and they let us set up bases there, so...

By the way, if anyone cares, "stan" comes from ancient Indo-European languages and means "home" or "place".


Post a Comment

<< Home