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RFE/RL Review for February 2009


RFE/RL Analyzes Kyrgyzstan's Turn Away from West, towards Russia

RFE/RL devoted substantial attention in February to the decision by Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev to evict American troops from the strategic Manas air base. On RFE/RL's "TransMission" blog, Central Asia reporter Bruce Pannier speculated that Bakiev could be attempting to win the votes of conservatives and nationalists in upcoming elections or to "wring more money out of the United States in the long run, which might not be such a bad thing in some Kyrgyz voters' eyes." Pannier also raised the possibility that Moscow's recent financial pledges to Bishkek and its plans to assemble a joint rapid-reaction force in Central Asia may be "a convenient smokescreen" for Bakiev as he heads into elections later this year or next. Meanwhile, RFE/RL correspondents Farangis Najibullah and Ron Synovitz reported that Washington is exploring possible new supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.

** The Executive Editor of RFE/RL, John O'Sullivan, may be reached by email at <osullivanj@rferl.org>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at http://www.rferl.org

South Slavic Service Looks at Kosovo, One Year After Independence

When Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, many in the region predicted violent aftershocks. But, as the South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported in February, Kosovo's first year as an independent state has been a surprisingly tranquil affair. The country has a new constitution, a national anthem, an army, and a flag; a European mission has successfully assumed control from the United Nations; and there have been no major outbreaks of violence. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Stewart Jones told listeners that "Both the government and the people of Kosovo have much to be proud of--the new constitution, dozens of new laws, hundreds of kilometers of new roads, dozens of new schools."

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Gordana Knezevic, may be reached by email at <knezevicg@rferl.org>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org, in Albanian at http://www.europaelire.org and in Macedonian at http://www.makdenes.org; English-language news about events in the Balkans can be found at http://www.rferl.org/section/South+Slavic+Language+Services/168.html


Kazakhs Turn to RFE/RL for News, Analysis of Economic Turbulence

On February 4, the Kazakh national currency lost almost 20 percent of its value in one day. This decline, and the government's inability to explain it, caused a near panic in several regions of the country. The Kazakh Service immediately reacted and, using its network of correspondents around the country, explained the situation to its audience on radio and the web. Experts both in Kazakhstan and abroad offered their analysis as well. On that day, the Kazakh Service was the only reliable source of information for people in Kazakhstan about the devaluation of their currency.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Yedige Magauin, may be reached by email at <magauine@rferl.org>. The Kazakh Service's website is at http://www.azattyq.org/; English-language news about events in Kazakhstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/section/Kazakhstan/158.html


Kyrgyz Service Publicizes U.S. State Department's 2008 Human Rights Report

When the U.S. State Department released its annual human rights report on February 25, the Kyrgyz Service was the first local media outlet to cover the story, and over the subsequent days the Service devoted substantial coverage to the report's assessment of Kyrgyzstan. The Service broadcast reactions from and interviews with a variety of Kyrgyz citizens, including local human-rights activists and representatives of all the major political groups. Most agreed that respect for human rights in Kyrgyzstan has sharply worsened over the past two years.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at http://www.azattyk.org/; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/section/Kyrgyzstan/159.html

Tajik Service Spotlights Think-Tank Report Warning of Unrest

On February 13, the Tajik Service interviewed Paul Quinn-Judge, the Central Asia Project Director of the International Crisis Group, which released a report in February warning that Tajikistan could see broad social unrest and the collapse of its government in the near future. Quinn-Judge told listeners that the two most pressing problems facing Tajikistan are the collapse in the country's energy infrastructure and the sharp decline in money being sent home by Tajiks working abroad.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Sojida Djakhfarova, may be reached by email at <djakhfarovas@rferl.org>. The Tajik Service's website is at http://www.ozodi.tj/; English-language news about events in Tajikistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/section/Tajikistan/162.html

Ukrainian Service Discusses "Reset" of U.S.-Russian Relations

Throughout February, the Ukrainian Service broadcast reports on the possibility that the United States and Russia would "push the reset button" on their relationship, to use the phrase uttered by Vice President Biden at the Munich security conference, now that both countries have relatively new presidents in office. The U.S.-Russia relationship is very important in Ukraine, which is growing increasingly unstable due to the global economic crisis.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Irena Chalupa, may be reached by email at <chalupai@rferl.org>. The Ukrainian Service's website is at http://www.radiosvoboda.org/; English-language news about events in Ukraine can be found at http://www.rferl.org/section/Ukraine/164.html

Turkmen Service Assesses Presidential Visit to Iran

When Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov paid an official visit to Iran on February 16, the Turkmen Service interviewed Central Asia expert Steve Sabol about the potential significance of the trip. Sabol told listeners that it could be a signal to both the West and Russia that Turkmenistan is pursuing a foreign policy defined by its own interests. He said such a visit is never good from a Western perspective because it wants to see Iran completely isolated, and the prospect that Iran could provide some financial and material aid to Turkmenistan could motivate the country to export its natural gas to Iran. He added that Turkmenistan may still attempt to develop alternative routes for its natural gas to increase demand and therefore the price it can receive for it. Russia and the West are currently courting Turkmenistan for its large gas reserves.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Oguljamal Yazliyeva, may be reached by email at <yazliyevao@rferl.org>. English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/section/Turkmenistan/163.html

South Slavic Service Takes Wry Look at Linguistic Absurdities in Former Yugoslavia

February 21 was International Mother Tongue Day, a United Nations-sponsored event that aims to promote linguistic diversity and to protect the world's threatened languages. The South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service used the occasion to take a wry look at the language issue in the former Yugoslavia, where politics and interethnic conflict have led to some absurd practices. The region once used what everyone considered one common language, known as "Serbo-Croatian," but it now claims as many as four native languages--Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin--despite the fact that a Serb from Banja Luka and a Croat from Dubrovnik can carry on a conversation and understand each other perfectly. Street signs often give multiple versions of the same designation, even though only one is necessary, while films produced in Serbia are released elsewhere in the Balkans with subtitles. The post-Yugoslav period of heightened national awareness has seen an intentional evolution in the local languages--Croatians have coined entirely new words, while Bosnians now pepper their speech with Turkic terms.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Gordana Knezevic, may be reached by email at <knezevicg@rferl.org>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org, in Albanian at http://www.europaelire.org and in Macedonian at http://www.makdenes.org; English-language news about events in the Balkans can be found at http://www.rferl.org/section/South+Slavic+Language+Services/168.html

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