Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The language of protest

April 19, 2006

Today I was thinking about all the useful phrases that are not included in standard Russian textbooks. While in the U.S., when I came across Russian speakers, I felt self-conscious, as though my Russian was too full of mistakes. But immediately upon arriving here, I dove right back into using Russian as my main means of communication. My vocabulary includes the following useful phrases, none of which I came across during my formal studies of Russian:

“It’s a mountain pass, damnnit.” (Said to a taxi driver who ignored my requests to slow down, risking both of our lives as he sped ahead of several vehicles, driving in the wrong lane and with no visibility of oncoming traffic).

“I think there is a dead person lying in front of the central department store.” (said today to a police officer, one block away from where I saw a motionless person lying in the central thoroughfare, a blue cloth covering his face)

A colleague informed me that protests are scheduled for next Saturday. Organized by the former speaker of Parliament, Omurbek Tekebaev, they will demand that President Bakiyev fulfill his promises to the people. Specifically, they have 10 demands:
1. To provide citizens with order and security and protect businesses from criminals.
2. To effectively fight corruption.
3. To reform the Constitution.
4. To reform law-enforcement bodies
5. To provide fair economic conditions and ban using official power to eliminate business competitors.
6. To move control of executive bodies under the President to the government.
7. To reorganize the state TV into public television
8. To return the stolen property and stocks to the attacked Pyramid
television company.
9. To establish order in the sale and production of construction materials.
10. To ban unconstitutional proposals that limit freedom of speech and other civil rights.

She seems to be well-versed in current events, so I asked her why the
government was going to let Rysbek run for Parliament and why the people of the Balykchi region would vote for him.

She told me that Rysbek has close ties with Bakiyev’s son.

“Maxim Bakiyev now controls all the businesses owned by Akaev. He always shows up together with Rysbek. In Balykchi, the elections will not be clean. People fear that if they don’t vote for Rysbek, the voting officials will tell him and they’ll face consequences.”

Despite the slightly depressing things like finding dead people in the street and notorious criminals running the government, Bishkek is a beautiful and pleasant place. I ate lunch today at an outdoor table, enjoying the smell of greenery and perfumed lilacs in the air. I received an email from someone at a rafting company, reminding me that the rafting season will soon begin. From this point on, the markets will fill with a rainbow of fruit, vegetables and flowers. And the mountains will similarly explode, making for wonderful outdoor opportunities on the weekends.

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