18 november 2019

Central Asia news

Construction of a politically correct pyramid or Snapshots of Dushanbe summits

08.10.2007 12:15 msk

Victor Dubovitsky

Analytics Tajikistan

A colossal array of twelve state flags of CIS countries was installed on one of transport junctions in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on the eve of three summits - those of the Commonwealth, Eurasian Economic Cooperation Organization, and CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization. The pyramid (for want of a better word) looks great from the cars and trolleybuses passing by but the clash of colors serves to obscure its difference from similar arrays of the same CIS flags elsewhere in Dushanbe. The difference comes down to the arrangement of flags. Elsewhere, the flags are arranged alphabetically. In this colossal array, however, the artists were permitted certain leeway that plainly shows official Dushanbe's political preferences. Indeed, an attentive observer sees that the top of the pyramid crowned with the Tajik flag of course is flanked by the flags of Armenia, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. State flags of Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Moldova on the other hand are noticeably closer to the foundation. Priorities of Dushanbe's foreign political course seem to be clear.


No more wittiness on the part of domestic and foreign wisecrackers who are fond of appraising the Commonwealth as it is as "a valise without handgrips", "Commonwealth of the Impoverished and Starved" and so on. The organization in question seems to be attaining a new structure. "At long last, we are through with proclamation of ambitious goals that look great and exist only on paper," was how President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmon put it. The CIS summit established the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. The structure welcomes any other country willing to open its borders for trade and have similar customs duties (or lack thereof) with other members. There is one other distinctive innovation. A supranational structure is to be set up to manage the Customs Union, the first structure of this kind in sixteen years of existence of the Commonwealth.

One other nuance, one that couldn't help making happy yours truly accustomed as he is to interpreting the term "ambitious" as "self-conceited, arrogant, and snobbish". Symbolically, this word was used during the Year of the Russian Language by the president of Tajikistan. In Russia, however, the term "ambitious" still denotes something altogether different and actually commendable.

The document "On coordinated immigration policy" became a major step forward for all of the Commonwealth. Volumes have been written already on how the scale of immigration (first and foremost to Russia and Kazakhstan) soared over the last five or six years. This new "great migration" therefore continues the geopolitical processes launched by the Russian Empire - not even by the USSR. "We are working on a CIS database for immigrants, and that will help us avoid a lot of conflicts," Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan said.

On the other hand, what "economic" decisions have been made so far do not address the matter of dough spiralling prices that is of vital importance for 90% Tajiks. A sackful that cost 75 somoni barely a month ago goes at 120-125 somoni (approximately $40) now. In fact, it already goes at 150 somoni in the Pamirs and a sackful is essentially a weekly norm for a family of 7 or 8. Most dough is imported to Tajikistan from Kazakhstan. A solution to this problem from the sisterly nation and member of all three organizations that arranged their summits in Dushanbe would have been greatly appreciated.

Field of fire

The question "Who are we friends against?" has always been pressing for every military-political alliance. The CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization, for instance, has "international terrorism" alone as this object of "friendship against" even though international terrorism is not actually an enemy but an instrument in military and psychological wars.

It may be added that the item "Activeness of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization as applied to Afghanistan" disappeared off the summit agenda at the last possible moment. All attempts to discover the reasons behind it at the Secretariat of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization elicited but a garbled explanation that the issue was probably to be discussed by some "narrow circle of participants". General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha said that the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization was only pondering post-conflict restoration of Afghanistan at this point. Bordyuzha emphasized that any direct military involvement in Afghani affairs, even with the Americans gone, was out of the question. "We have experts working on all possible situations that may take shape in Afghanistan once the Western contingents withdrew from it," Bordyuzha said. With the Democrats in the White House as of this November which is a distinct possibility, withdrawal of the US Army from Afghanistan will spell trouble for Tajikistan because of the nearly inevitable disintegration of the country the Americans have been trying to hold together.

In the meantime, Rakhmon too mentioned "activization of our efforts in the Afghani direction" at the final press conference.

One other item on the agenda ("Rearmament of the Rapid Deployment Collective Forces of the Central Asian Collective Security Region with modern military hardware and special means") was quite important a part of the agenda.

"The program is expected to make rearmament of the Rapid Deployment Collective Forces easier and to have them outfitted with identical military hardware and weapons. To accomplish that, members of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization will be offered these products of the Russian military-industrial complex at preferential prices," to quote Colonel General Ivan Babichev, Senior Deputy Chief of the United Staff of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization. "It will make accomplishment of missions much easier because all regular armies of the member states will wield identical military hardware with similar specifications, life duration, and maintenance requirements. It will also simplify training (technicians and crews like)."

It seems that the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization is faithfully performing its duties symbolically denoted in its emblem (four differently directed arrows, a sign once used on military topographic maps in the late 18th and early 19th centuries). In the emblem, the arrows are placed within wreaths of olive and oak leafs - the former symbolizing glory, the latter gallantry. The ends of the arrows do exceed the wreaths some - as a warning to the hypothetical enemy, perhaps?

The author: historian Victor Dubovitsky, Ferghana.Ru expert, Dushanbe (Tajikistan)