This week’s blog post has two parts. First one is more personal and related to language and culture, and second one is more connected to this week assignment.
Growing up in the Soviet Union we took pride in being truly ‘multicultural’ (it is an American term; and I am using it not being able to find a better equivalent). In my school and among our neighbors and friends we had Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Koreans, Greeks, Chechens, Georgians, Tatars, Armenians, Kalmyks. The common language that everyone used was, of course, Russian. The Soviet propaganda worked very well in “Russification” of the entire USSR.
Vladimir Mayakovski, a Soviet proletariat poet wrote in his poem “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin:”
“I would have learned Russian just for the fact that Lenin spoke it.”
This quote was used as a great propaganda tool. We were all proud to be able to speak and use the the same language that Lenin spoke and used for writing his books.
Soviet propaganda poster. The text above is a quote from Lenin “We promise to the workers and peasants to do everything for peace and we will.”
Using the periphery and center reference – the farther away people lived from the major cities, they used less Russian and more of their native language; and vice versa. In our family, my parents used Uzbek to converse with neighbors, Kazakh between themselves and Russian with me as we lived in a city. When we visited our relatives in rural areas, we used mostly Kazakh.
The Kazakh culture that my parents grew up in was instilled in our home. The children were taught to respect their elders, and were to address their parents and grandparents using ВЫ – formal (plural) “you” only, even when using Russian language. I could never imagine addressing my parents using ТЫ – an informal “you” as it would be considered a grave insult.
Interestingly enough, my best friend who was Russian, addressed her parents using informal “you” and we had these interesting conversations on how differently we perceived the usage of ВЫ/ТЫ addressing our parents. To her the informal “you” was an expression of closeness and family ties to one’s parents and the usage of formal “you” was an indication of as if being strangers with one’s own parents and therefore, inability to have a special family bond. To me, however, the usage of the formal ‘you’ was an expression of my respect and love for my parents; and it never stood in the way of having close relationship with my grandparents and my parents.
When going to the open air market, “bazar,” my mom often spoke Uzbek, addressing different salespeople as “auntie,” “uncle,” “older brother/older sister,” “younger brother/younger sister” depending on their age. And that is exactly the way Uzbek family members address each other in their own families. I found it fascinating that you could address people you don’t know as if they were your family members. Think about closeness of ties on different levels in a society.
Uzbek tradition of tea drinking with your close neighbors was our family tradition as well. We celebrated big family milestones with our relatives as well as our neighbors. I consider myself lucky growing up in an environment that was culturally and traditionally family oriented. People were friendly and hospitable because of their culture. And I mistakenly assumed that it was like that in any part of the USSR. However, when I visited Moscow and St. Petersburg in my early 20s, I encountered my first very big cultural shock with the seemingly cold Russian culture. On the brighter side, once you get to know Russian people, they are quite warm and hospitable. But that probably is the same everywhere.
BTW, the term”nationality” in Russia is not the same as it is in English. In America, one’s nationality is determined by citizenship. In Russia, a person’s nationality is different from his/her citizenship. Your nationality can be Ukrainian but you could be a citizen of Georgia.
To stay on the topic, I am writing on President Karimov’s applauded “multi-vector” diplomacy through which he is successfully able to maintain good relationship with the European Union, the United States (stationing US military base 2001-2005 and currently serving as one of the points in the US and NATO backed Northern Distribution Network), Russia and China (both members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization), maneuvering carefully and always looking out for the Uzbek interests.
(pictures above are Islam Karimov’s meetings with Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, John Kerry, Jose Manuel Barroso)
The EU and the US imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan based on human right abuses (following rejections of their inquiries for independent investigation of Andijon massacre of 2005) but the sanctions were gradually lifted due to the country’s important geostrategical position in the region resulting in better diplomatic relations and outcomes for each actor involved.
Uzbek leader keeps his distance with the immediate neighbors especially Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan due to water, border and interethnic conflicts. However, he does not ignore them and looks for solutions, although indirectly “via multilateral or international engagement” (Karimov keeps bilateral relations with the global partners).
Uzbekistan also has good relationship with South Korea and Japan. Japan has pursued its own version of “Silk Road Diplomacy” toward Central Asia since 1997, focusing on “education, economic development, political reforms, as well as energy resources.”
In the words of M K Bhadrakumar, former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan, Karimov’s “multivector diplomacy” allows him to get ‘what he wants out of big powers like the U.S., Russia and China, without giving up its sovereignty in return” and that deserves a proper recognition. However, given the president’s age, what steps are being taken to groom the next person that succeeds him?
Younkyoo Kim, Fabio Indeo, The new great game in Central Asia post 2014: The US “New Silk Road” strategy and Sino-Russian rivalry. Communist and Post-Communist Studies 46 (2013) 275-286. www.elsevier.com/locate/postcomstud
Umida Hashimova, East-West Diplomacy of the Uzbek President (February 17, 2011). The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 34 Retrieved from http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=37524#.VsqVE_krLIU
Zabikhulla Saipov, Uzbekistan Seeks to Reinvigorate Its Diplomatic Clout in the Region (December 5, 2014). The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue 217. Retrieved from http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=43167&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=27&cHash=9b8db1b9767574e772d4a8e902dd4b4a#.VsiwVfkrLIV
Pictures are from various internet sites and used here for non-commercial purposes