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Mobilities, Boundaries, and Travelling Ideas

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Philipp Schröder
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Manja Stephan-Emmrich

Part 4. Pious Endeavours: Near and Far

10. Translocality and the Folding of Post-Soviet Urban Space in Bishkek: Hijrah from ‘Botanika’ to ‘Botanicheskii Jamaat’

Emil Nasritdinov

Texte intégral

Somewhere beyond right and wrong there is a garden. I will meet you there.
Rumi

Botanika: 70–80s, 90s and 2000s

  • 1 KASI is the former name of Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport and Architecture, wh (...)

1I live in the ninth micro-district in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Every Friday, I come home from my work around 1pm, take a shower and go to the mosque, which is located just across the small Ala-Archa River in Ata-Tyurk Park, formerly known as Park Druzby (Friendship Park). The official name of this mosque is Toiiba, but it is better known as the KASI Mechet.1 It is a large mosque, and on my way to it I can see how the parked cars of people who come to pray fill up both banks of the river and one adjacent street. There are so many cars that there is often a traffic jam, and the traffic police have to come in advance to control the flow of vehicles and keep the street open for movement. Among the worshippers, there are many students from the nearby university. Together with the residents of the local micro-districts, they form a very large crowd that fills the two buildings of the mosque, with its large yard covered by a plastic roof, and then spills into the space outside.

  • 2 Three-day trips are an important part of davaatchi (Tablighi Jamaat). If davaat is the trip, then (...)
  • 3 I am not an insider to this group. I am approximately ten years younger than the others and I grew (...)

2Because of my work, I usually come just before the prayer starts and I have to pray in the courtyard. Once the prayer is finished and this huge crowd moves from the mosque, I make my way against the flow of people to a place inside, where my friends meet every week to greet and catch up with each other. By the time I get there, they are usually already standing in a circle joking and teasing one another. ‘Assalam aleikum, Botanika! (peace be upon you, Botanika!)’ — I exclaim, and then greet each person in a circle with handshake and triple hug. ‘Walekum salam (and upon you, peace)’, — they respond: the warmth of their hugs and their smiles make me happy. We stand there for twenty to thirty minutes, exchange news, make jokes, and then either go our own ways or, as often happens, continue to one of our houses for a meal and more socializing. Some men stay in the mosque to join the three-day davaat trip,2 which is organized every Friday.3

3This chapter is about Botanika, a term that in the context of this research represents two phenomena: this particular group of men who are now in their early fifties, and the specific territory near the mosque (across the park), where these men were born, spent their childhood and youth, and where many of them still live. Jointly, these two phenomena represent a unique form of urban identity, while their story offers us a new perspective on a very special form of urban translocality that, in interesting ways, connects people and their narratives to a specific urban place in transformation. By exploring this, I hope to make a contribution to the main debates developed in this volume about translocality and to offer an alternative perspective on post-Soviet transition and urban transformation. To do so, I first present the main ethnographic account of Botanika in chronological order: tracing its history from the 1970s to the present day. I then engage with the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s book The Fold to develop a more complex theoretical explanation for this phenomenon of post-Soviet urban transformation. The fold, described by Deleuze as the intricate internalization of external change and vice versa, is a concept that represents the complexities of transition very well. It shows how the path of individual transformation towards becoming ‘a better person’ is embedded in the complex territoriality of flows, folds, and obstacles in space, time, and society. To start, I need to take the reader back almost forty years, into the 1970s and 1980s, when Kyrgyzstan was still a part of the Soviet Union, Bishkek was called Frunze, and these men were ten-or twelve-year-old boys.

Fig. 10.1 People returning from the Friday prayer.
Photo © Emil Nasritdinov (2016), CC BY 4.0

Soviet youth street culture: Botanika in the 1970s and 1980s

  • 4 For a more in-depth discussion of the Soviet territorial youth culture see Nasritdinov and Schroed (...)

4Frunze’s youth culture was very territorial during the Soviet period. In my previous research with Philipp Schroeder (Nasritdinov & Schroeder, 2016), we were able to locate and map nearly fifty unique youth rayons (districts) with clear spatial boundaries and interesting histories. These rayons played a very important role in the lives of almost all young people in Frunze in the 1970s and 1980s: they were a part of their urban identity and everyday socialization. The phenomenon of territorial youth culture in Frunze followed the trends common to other Soviet cities and towns, yet Frunze rayons had many unique features of their own.4

5Botanika was one such unique rayon. The informal name derives from the Botanicheskaya (Botanical) Street that ran through the middle of the rayon, connecting its upper and lower parts. The street was later renamed Dushanbinskaya, but the rayon kept the name Botanika. Botanika was one of the largest youth rayons in the city and it consisted of three smaller territories: Verhnyaya (upper) Botanika, Nizhnyaya (lower) Botanika, and Treugolnik (triangle) Botanika. The core of Botanika was the yard of one particular house in Verhnyaya Botanika called Shmal Dvor, where the toughest and most active boys used to live. The following maps show the territorial composition of Botanika and its neighboring rayons; the aerial photo shows its boundaries, urban fabric, and the park.

6Botanika was not known only for its size, but also for the physical abilities of its boys. The territory had several sport facilities: the Dynamo Stadium, sports school #48, and a number of sports clubs, the most popular of which were dedicated to boxing and wrestling. Many local boys were involved in sports clubs from a very young age; many of them had become very good fighters by the age of around ten or twelve and joined ‘the army’ of Botanika when they fought other rayons. Their biggest rival was the neighboring rayon to the west of Botanika called Porta, but the boys of Botanika also fought the members of rayons from other parts of the city from time to time. Almost all of my interlocutors mentioned one important feature that made Botanika unique — a strong sense of friendship and internal solidarity, which, according to them, did not exist in other rayons. Together, the large size of the rayon, and its members’ strong fighting skills and solidarity, contributed to Botanika’s reputation as the rayon to be respected.

Figs. 10.2 and 10.3 Territorial composition of Botanika and its neighbouring youth rayons and an aerial photo. Map and photo © Emil Nasritdinov (2016), CC BY 4.0

Fig. 10.4 Boys of Botanika in the early 1980s (shared by interlocutors).
Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY4.0

7My main group of interlocutors from Botanika includes seven men, all within one or two years of age of one another, who were very close friends from very early childhood. In fact, some of them were druziya s gorshka (potty friends); they went to the same kindergarten and later to the same class in school. Today, between forty to fifty years later, they remember how they spent their days as kids ‘na rayone’ (in the neighborhood). Nobody sat at home and most of their free time after school, at the weekends, and during school breaks was spent playing outside. The rayon had a lot of greenery, including a large park (Park Druzhby), a botanical garden with lots of fruit trees, and a big lake, where they went swimming in summer time. These green spaces belonged to these kids. They played there, ate fruit in the gardens, and collected wood to cook stolen geese and bake potatoes at night. They could also hide in these green spaces when running from the police.

‘There was an old airport near Botanika and we used to steal magnum there to make mini bombs. Once we noticed that two of our friends had a lot of magnum, but they were hiding it somewhere and not sharing it with us. We decided to track them secretly and saw one of them climbing a large tree in the park. “This is it”, we thought, “this is where they hide their magnum — in the crow’s nest all the way at the top”. The same evening one of us climbed this tree and guess what he found in the nest? A piece of paper, which said: “Screw you! No magnum here!”’(Botanika member, male, Spring 2015)

8The boys diligently guarded the park against trespassers from other rayons. They never touched an outsider if he was with a girl; this was an unwritten rule of the informal street code, but all other boys would be chased and beaten. As boys got older and became teenagers, the park became a place where they would bring girls, drink alcohol, or smoke weed.

‘We started drinking in the eighth grade — the first time it was some kind of punch. After we graduated with an eighth grade diploma, we bought vodka and wine and drank so much that we felt very bad and had to vomit — right there in the park, in the apple orchard by the white-brick fence, where our boys had once killed a cat’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

Fig. 10.5 Boys of Botanika in the early 1980s (shared by interlocutors).
Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY 4.0

  • 5 Botanika was ethnically mixed. The majority of members were Kyrgyz and Russian. However, my main i (...)

Fig. 10.6 Russian5 boys and girls of Botanika having a picnic in the park (shared by interlocutors). Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY 4.0

9The empty space to the east of the park (where the mosque is currently located) was a common location for fights between the residents of the student dormitory belonging to the university and boys from other rayons across the river. During these fights and other adventures, Botanika boys solidified their friendship and social ties.

‘We once went to the night club (diskoteka) in school #62 [across the river from the park]. We were ten boys and at some point, somebody from the school pushed our circle and a fight started. There were too many of them — a whole school — and too few of us, so our boys eventually had to escape, but my friend and I got stuck. We fought back to back for as long as we could, until I realized that we would not survive, so I pulled my friend out and we ran too. He had a new suit, which was completely torn and we both had big bruises on our faces. At home I told my parents that I played soccer and got hit. Next day, we put together a huge crowd from the whole of Botanika and several other friendly rayons, went to that school and started beating everyone, including their sports teacher. However, the police came very soon and we all had to run. This was useless — there were a few hundred boys, but we were able to beat only ten or so because the rest of them managed to hide inside the school and the police came too soon’(Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

10With these kinds of adventure, Botanika boys slowly matured into young men, finished school, and most of them entered university. As students, they were less active in street life, but they still retained close links with each other and shared a few exploits as students, including a big fight in a student dormitory, in which Botanika members once again fought to protect their fellows. By the time the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, many of them had completed their university degrees and started working.

Lihie 90-e’ (‘The wild 90s’)

11When the Soviet Union collapsed, the whole country entered a deep crisis. Whole industries collapsed and many people became unemployed, while those who still had jobs saw their salaries shrink. In order to survive, people traded with China, Turkey, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Many migrated to Russia and Kazakhstan for work. The term ‘lihie 90-e’ (‘wild 90s’) was common across all post-Soviet republics. The phrase encapsulated the crisis and chaos in many people’s lives. Frunze was renamed Bishkek, and Botanicheskaya Street was renamed once again — this time it became Toktonalieva Street. The street culture also changed significantly. High rates of unemployment and growing ethno-nationalistic sentiments caused a large number of Russian families to sell their properties and migrate to Russia. This ruptured the social fabric in all parts of the city: old residents left and their apartments and houses were bought by the Kyrgyz migrants coming to Bishkek from other regions (Schroeder, 2010). As a result, neighbors no longer knew each other and, in a very short period, the identity of the rayons as cohesive neighborhoods with strong degree of internal socialization was destroyed. The system of values changed as well: friendship and solidarity were no longer the norm, and cheating and impudence became characteristic of the behavior of young people:

‘My conscience never bothered me in the 90s. In the eyes of my friends it was cool to cheat someone. The highest degree of cheating and impudence was considered the most prestigious quality a person could attain. In some circles, those who could drink a lot were the coolest; in my circle, those who could cheat others best were the coolest. These were the kinds of values we had then’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

12This captures the dilemma of the collective attitudes prevalent in the Soviet Union versus the individualization of the 1990s.

13Soviet youth culture also created many delinquents and possessed many links to the criminal world. However, post-Soviet street culture was more aggressive, violent, and criminal. New criminal gangs emerged and participated in the growing drug trade and in the racketeering practiced by newly emerging businesses and small enterprises. Young people were among the most affected; during the early 90s, a large number of teenagers and men in their twenties died from alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses on the streets and in the basements of Soviet residential buildings. Many were killed or injured in skirmishes between gangs.

  • 6 These other gangs were not territorial and included boys from all parts of the city. Some gangs in (...)

14The story of Botanika is not very different. The boys of Botanika did not become a criminal gang, but because they were very good fighters they were recruited by others,6 and some did take part in criminal activities. At the same time, many became heavy drinkers and drug addicts. Today, when they remember the past, they say ‘those who survived the 90s’, or ‘those who are still alive’. The following photo of Botanika was taken in 1999 at the funeral of one of its relatively young members.

Fig. 10.7 Members of Botanika at the funeral of one of their friends (shared by interlocutors). Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY 4.0

15This is how one Botanika member describes the atmosphere of the 90s:

‘There was one elderly man who went jogging every morning. He would jog with a knife or nunchaku in his hands. I used to look around and think that the air was different — it was very tense. The money had just changed [from the ruble to the som]; heavy drinking, theft, and robbery were very common’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

16Many of my interlocutors are not proud of this part of their lives and share it with some hesitation.

‘When I divorced my wife, I came back to Botanika to live with my parents. The whole rayon was drinking and everyone was saying to me: ‘Hey, take a glass and let’s go!’ My mother used to lock the door, but what was the use? We lived on the first floor, so I would jump out through the window. My sister also divorced and lived with us. I remember one day, I came home drunk. My younger brother came after me — drunk. Then my dad — drunk! Finally, my sister — drunk as well! My Mom was pulling her hair: “What a drunkards’ family!” Later, I got a Russian girlfriend from Botanika and we rented a corner in the dormitory in the completely opposite part of the city, but Botanika boys would still come all the way, because for some reason, shopkeepers used to trust me and give alcohol on credit […]. By the early 2000s, I did nothing but drink. I used to drink several bottles a day. I had to drink continuously to be able to walk and not to shake. I couldn’t even sleep. It was a complete intoxication’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

17Other members of Botanika were involved in criminal activities: some in racketeering and some in petty theft and drug trading. One of my interlocutors was imprisoned four times:

  • 7 I.e., he was taken to the police precinct for a minor violation, such as being drunk.
  • 8 The police asked him to admit that he had stolen the phones.
  • 9 The police often framed people because they had to show their superiors that they had dealt with t (...)

‘I was always jailed because of vodka. There was this guy in our rayon, one day he gave me a drink and asked me to pass a bag to someone. I was drunk and did not know there was heroin inside. I went there and the police were already waiting for me. It turned out he was from the police and I was not the first one to be framed like that. This was my first conviction. For my last conviction I was framed for stealing fifteen cell phones. I once got into the police7 and they asked me take them on myself.8 I thought: they will beat me first and then frame me anyway. So, I agreed and for several days during the investigation, they fed me, gave me lots of vodka and took me to court from time to time. The judge knew I was framed. Everyone was looking at me and laughing: “What kind of thief is this? He is just an old drunk!” Ehhh, everything was because of vodka’9 (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

18Another member of Botanika shared the story of his life from the early 90s to 2008: it was all about vodka and weed. He used to work in several businesses and state enterprises and earn very large sums of money through various corrupt schemes, but he drank all of this money with his friends:

‘In the 90s, three of my friends and I started doing business together. Once, in the fall, we bought the whole KAMAZ [large Soviet truck] of cognac to sell. We did not sell a single bottle — we drank it all over the winter, not just by ourselves of course. We also used to smoke weed. Once we sat and counted how much weed we would need for a winter and according to our calculations we needed thirty small boxes of hashish. We went to Issyk-Kul, where I had some friends and bought the boxes. Well, they did not last for a winter. We finished all thirty boxes in one week […] Later [in a different job] my regular day would start with a bottle of vodka on my table, which I drank with my subordinate. He then would go to work, while I would go to sleep. If I finished my cigarettes, I would just call him through the window and he would send someone to get me a pack. At lunchtime we would finish our second bottle. After work we would drink as much as we could. I remember once we had very good food for a snack and we finished a whole box of vodka [twenty bottles] overnight […] I lived like that for almost twenty years’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

19The same interlocutor explained that during one of those drunken nights, he quarrelled with his very good friends from Botanika; their relationship was spoiled for a long time after that. Many of my interlocutors share similar experiences; during the 90s, many of them lost friendships and rarely saw each other.

  • 10 As a result of the retreat of the state during this period, everyone had to take responsibility fo (...)

‘In the 90s we did not communicate. Those were wild times, and everybody was a lone wolf.10 Why would you share your own piece with someone else? Every wolf had his own territory’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

20By the end of the 90s the members of Botanika were drunk, doped, imprisoned, exiled, dangerous, criminal, isolated, or dead. There was little hope of recovery. However, in the early 2000s, suddenly things started to change.

Davaat and the spiritual enlightenment of the 2000s

  • 11 Tablighi Jamaat is an apolitical movement that works towards the revival of Islam. It originated i (...)

21In the mid-90s, the first representatives of the Tablighi Jamaat11 movement arrived in Kyrgyzstan (Balci, 2012). This was a difficult period for them because the majority of the population did not know anything about Islam and the first Kyrgyz davaatchiler (followers of Tablighi Jamaat) experienced a lot of hostility. However, in a relatively short period of time, davaat became very popular; by the early 2000s, the number of followers who enjoyed regular three-day, forty-day, and four-month spiritual journeys had reached its peak (Ismailbekova and Nasritdinov, 2012). The jamaats (travelling groups) were often organized on the basis of language: Kyrgyz-speaking and Russian-speaking. The city boys usually joined the Russian-speaking groups and on these trips they learned the basic premises of Islamic teachings and practices.

22Botanika was one such Russian-speaking urban community and, one by one, they became involved in davaat practices and started changing their lives on the basis of Islamic teachings. The very first person who became interested in religion did so because of the influence of his uncle. All the others joined gradually, one after another, like a snowball, over a period of approximately eight years. The individual stories of how Botanika members became religious are very unique and extremely interesting. The first is from an interlocutor I discussed earlier, who in the late 90s did nothing but drink:

  • 12 Tahajud — voluntary night prayer.

‘I was permanently drunk and extremely intoxicated in those times. Two of our Botanika friends came to me. One of them was already going to Friday prayers, but they were both still into racketeering — they used to ‘bomb’ [racketeer] everyone. So, they came to me and said ‘You have to go for davaat’. I asked them ‘What is it?’ ‘You will sleep for three days in the mosque’. ‘Is that it? I can sleep anywhere. What will we do there?’ They themselves did not know. Muhammad Sharif gave them targib [encouragement] to be concerned for others, so they came to me. They told me to take something to cover myself. I took a tiny kids’ blanket and I almost died in that mosque: it was snowing, it was very cold inside, and someone stole my boots. All three days I was shaking — from my alcohol withdrawal and from cold because of this little blanket. “Bastards!” — I was very angry with my friends. However, I slowly started recovering and on the third day I even ate soup. During these three days I didn’t understand anything. The boys in the group told me: ‘Say subhanallah’. I couldn’t even pronounce that and asked them to write it down. Then at night, one other friend from Botanika who was with us woke me up and said ‘Go pray tahajud’.12 I did not understand where to go and how to pray, and water for ablution was so damn cold. Anyway, I did my ablutions, came inside the mosque — everyone was asleep. I woke him and asked why nobody else was praying. He said: “This is voluntary”. I said: “You dummy, I’ll break your neck! Then you come and pray with me”. He said: “Let’s go and eat instead”. Stupid guy, I couldn’t eat even in the day time. That is how I suffered for three days. When I came back, I did not start praying five times a day right away, but I started going to Friday prayers, and most importantly, after these three days I quit drinking and I have never ever had a drop since then’(Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

23Some stories are told with humour, such as this example from a man who used to be involved in various commercial frauds:

  • 13 Sahaba — companion of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

‘One day I met some friends in Botanika. They were going to the funeral ceremony for a Botanika boy’s father and they invited me to come with them. This was in the 2000s. I thought, well, it is a good occasion to have a drink. We drink a lot anyway, but here is a good reason. I went with them and saw a lot of men with beards in the room. I thought that this might be some kind of fashion or maybe they just didn’t have razors. Anyway, I sat and waited for my drink. Instead, they all came to me one by one and talked: one talked about Allah, another about angels, the third about hell, and the fourth about sahabas.13 I was thinking: “It is ok; 100 grams of vodka is worth all this listening”. I waited and waited, but didn’t get anything. What kind of funeral was this without any alcohol? A couple of weeks later, my other friend from Botanika told me I needed to go for davaat. I thought, I have been in many extreme situations in life, I can handle that too. So, I went. All the boys in the group were young. I didn’t understand anything. I was just mechanically repeating all their moves. However, on our way back to the KASI mosque, I felt as if I was flying above the ground, and I felt as if everyone was like a brother to each other. I wanted to hug and kiss everyone. So, after this first davaat ‘the ice moved’. That is how they got me in. However, you can understand the essence of religion only in the forty-day trip, and dua [supplication] during forty days is also stronger. My daughter was studying in England and in my forty-day journey, I asked Allah to give her a Muslim husband. When I came home, she called and told me that she’d got a boyfriend and that he was a Muslim from Albania. That is how the wisdom of religion comes, and its understanding. This is all from Allah, of course’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

24Another member of Botanika was involved in racketeering and at some point, he crossed paths with a notorious criminal, Ryspek, who gave an order to kill him. He says:

‘I knew I was a dead man. I moved my family to a different place, got several guns and waited at home. This is when a friend told me that duas [supplications] are accepted in the path of Allah and if I go for a three-day davaat and make dua, I can solve all of my problems. I had nothing to lose and decided to give it a try. I went and for three days I was asking Allah for help. When I came back, the issue was miraculously resolved, and a few weeks later, Ryspek himself was killed. Everyone was like: “Hey, what kind of dua were you making there?”’(Botanika member, male, Spring 2015)

25One other member of Botanika had serious problems with his health and with his family: he was jobless and his wife wanted to divorce him. Sometime after he went for his first three-day trip, his health improved and his wife returned.

26In 2008, the Botanika interlocutor who used to drink and had smoked weed for twenty years was living in a Western country as a refugee. His salary was about 2,000 USD a month but he was living there alone and his normal working day would usually finish with a litre of gin and a joint. He started seeing his Botanika friends in his dreams a lot, so he decided to give one of them a call. This is how he described their conversation:

  • 14 Traditional Kyrgyz meals.

‘We just talked about nothing. He asked: “What are you doing there?” I said “I work, what about you guys?” “We do nothing, get together every day, drink tea, and enjoy ourselves. Why don’t you come back?” “And what will I do there?” “There is plenty of work here and you will also spend time with us, drink tea, and have plov, kuurdak”.14 This conversation strongly affected me. I really wanted to go back. I thought about it every night and one day I just packed my things and flew back to Bishkek’ (Botanika member, male, Spring 2015).

27He came back in January 2009 and for five days he met his friends and visited relatives. On the fifth day (Thursday) he had his last drink and on Friday, Botanika sent him for his first three-day davaat trip. After he returned, this man, who had drank almost every day for twenty years, quit drinking. Not long after he went for a forty-day trip and during this journey he asked Allah for a good Muslim wife. He explains that a week after his return he married a very pious Muslim woman. Nowadays he drives a taxi; they live happily and have two children.

28The Botanika brother who was jailed four times learned about Islam in jail. He said that during his last imprisonment, out of one thousand prisoners, one hundred identified themselves as practicing Muslims. They represented diverse Muslim groups. He quit drinking and smoking on January 10, 2012 and in 2014 when he was released, boys from Botanika helped him to go on a trip, first for three days and then for forty days.

29The lives of all seven men have slowly improved since then. Nobody drinks or takes drugs anymore. Two of them smoke, but they are trying to give it up as the others have. None of them are involved in criminal activities; they all have jobs or businesses: one runs an Islamic kindergarten, one drives a taxi, three are engaged in commerce, and two work as security guards. Four of the seven have families and their wives are also practicing Muslims. Some of them travel for three-day davaat trips every month and travel for forty days every couple of years. Others travel only from time to time. However, all of them pray five times a day, fast during Ramadhan and attend Friday prayers.

30Most importantly, they all maintain very close connections with one another. They call each other on an almost daily basis and they meet every few days for tea or full meals. Sometimes, they invite some religious scholars or experienced Tablighi practitioners to these meals and listen to their talks. In addition, they spend a lot of time talking to other former residents of Botanika whom they have known since childhood and encourage them to join in with their religious practices. Their friendships have evolved from the loyal relationships of childhood, through their comparative estrangement in the 1990s, to a new closeness that has been established on a very different foundation. This time their friendship has a spiritual basis and according to their explanations, this relationship is much deeper; they say that Allah puts mahabbat (brotherly love) in their hearts and this connection is a great source of support. Botanika — as a group — has reemerged, stronger than it ever was. Now it is known among the local residents and in the wider community of davaatchis in Bishkek as Botanicheskii Jamaat (Botanical religious group).

  • 15 Turkish investors gained influence in post-Soviet Bishkek, particularly in the spheres of construc (...)

31Similarly, Botanika as a place has changed significantly. During Soviet times, it was a place of internal solidarity and cohesion. However, it was also a place where outsiders were beaten, while its boundaries were the scene of conflicts with boys from other rayons. During the 90s, the place was completely run down: it was not safe; it was full of drunks, drug addicts, and hooligans, and there was a lot of litter in the streets and parks. Nowadays, it looks very different. The mosque, which was built on the empty field between the park and Ala-Archa River is now one of the four marqases (regional centres) of Bishkek: it regulates the activities of all mosques located within its wider sphere of influence. Every day, davaatchiler from this mosque make gasht — knocking on the doors of nearby apartment buildings and inviting men to the mosque. In the streets, there are lots of small shops, cafes, and businesses. The park was renovated by Turks15 (and for this reason renamed Ata-Turk Park), and today it attracts lots of visitors from the nearby residential districts and even from other parts of the city. Botanika has become very safe: one can easily walk through the area even in the middle of the night. People are reclaiming the public spaces inside the yards of Soviet apartment blocks and, just as in Soviet times, children are among the first to make use of them. Most of my Botanika interlocutors still live in the neighborhood. They participate in the activities of the mosque and try to recruit more people, particularly their former friends of the same age.

32This is the happy conclusion to the Botanika story and its ethnographic aspect. The end might look somewhat ‘too happy’. As I mentioned earlier, many boys from Botanika did not survive the 90s and early 2000s and died from alcohol poisoning, drug addiction, and criminal activities. Many still continue the same lifestyle. There were many others who did not become drunkards or criminals, but also did not become religious, while there are others who join in with religious activities but are still struggling, trying to improve their lives. In short, their individual paths are very diverse. However, the lives of the particular group I have focused on in this chapter share striking similarities, and they represent a unique and extraordinary transformation, both of a community and of a space. My next task is to try to make sense of this transformation from a theoretical perspective. In order to do so I shall engage with the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, to develop a complex and nuanced understanding of the broader post-Soviet urban transformation and the more specific theme of urban translocality.

Deleuze’s fold and the transformation of Botanika

33Many academic and policy-based explanations for the changes brought about by the post-Soviet transition can be criticized for being simplistic and ideological: from socialism to capitalism, from a planned to a market economy, from atheism to religiosity. These explanations fail to recognize the complexity and unpredictability of developments in specific post-Soviet contexts. In Central Asia today, twenty-five years after the break-up of the Soviet Union, we can trace a multitude of diverging and converging paths, which together form a very uneven, complex, and interesting pattern of development.

34To grasp this complexity, we need a new theoretical perspective that extends beyond the traditional positivistic approach to the social sciences. Postmodern French philosophy can offer a lot in this regard, particularly the ideas of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, which he developed in his book The Fold. The writings of Deleuze and his co-author Félix Guattari are extremely rich in regard to the interpretation of contemporary transformations of space, such as the changes I have described taking place in Botanika. Furthermore, Deleuze’s concept of the fold offers a way to challenge linear, one-dimensional treatments of post-Soviet transition in Bishkek and elsewhere. Deleuze engages in a very complex discussion about how different worlds fold and unfold into each other and how the boundary between them has a life of its own. Deleuze conceptualizes the fold as an intermediate zone between physical and metaphysical, animal and spiritual, inside and outside, and this model can be used to understand the spiritual transformation of Botanika and the stories of my interlocutors.

  • 16 All citations in the remainder of this chapter are from The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (London: (...)

35Deleuze treats transition as a process with infinite variation. He rejects universality and writes that all organisms have the quality of irreducible plurality. He is in favour of epigenesis (the view that perceives form as shaped by process) as opposed to preformation (the view that form develops simply by growth in size). This is also useful to consider in relation to transition: it is a process that is impossible to predict or describe in a one-dimensional fashion (e.g., the transition from a planned economy to a market economy) but instead must be conceptualized as something that can develop in any possible and unpredictable direction. I shall apply these and other Deleuzian concepts to Botanika’s transformation from the 1990s to the present.16

Caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly

36Deleuze describes transformation as a constant shift from the material to the spiritual and back. During the Soviet period, communist ideology shaped the materiality of existence. Boys from Botanika were predominantly working class. They did not have many opportunities to realize material aspirations even if they had them. Although they were not strong believers in communist ideology and, in fact, youth street culture can be seen as an ideological alternative to it, these boys were still driven by the romanticism of street life and by such spiritual values as friendship, solidarity, courage, and heroism, rather than by material incentives.

‘Values were different in the Soviet times. We did not divide into rich and poor. To strive for wealth was considered abnormal; nobody was after money. One the contrary, if a person was rich, people would say: “He is hapuga [a greedy person], a thief”. We had uravnilovka [levelling]; wages were similar and sufficient for everyone. The future was secure and we did not have material aspirations; nobody taught us to pursue financial success. We were more motivated by prestige. For example, it was prestigious to study economics in university and the whole city was trying to get in. The history department was also popular because you could then progress along the communist party line. The law faculty — not so much; who wants to be a ment [police officer]?’(Botanika member, male, Spring 2015)

37If the Soviet Union did not collapse, perhaps, these boys would have slowly turned into regular Soviet citizens with a more traditional Soviet outlook. However, as the formal Soviet ideology collapsed in the 1990s, the informal ideology of street life also began to erode. No more the street ‘code of honour’, but ‘survival of the fittest’: material ‘derivative, mechanistic, machinic forces’ (p. 12) and animal instincts became more dominant. People survived the ideological, economic, political and socio-cultural crisis but they abandoned spiritual and moral values. Moral chaos, deception, betrayal, and cheating became very common. It was a period when ‘every man was for himself’ (kazhdyi byl sam za sebya). According to Deleuze, such changes are accidental and they happen as a result of the influence of external factors, which, in the case of Botanika, would be the actions of the state and various international actors.

38Deleuze compares life and death, portraying life as something that unfolds and death as something folding in on itself. In Botanika in the 1990s, young people in the urban areas of Kyrgyzstan were dying in great numbers due to alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses, and criminal activities. This was the period accurately described by Joma Nazypary (2002) as post-Soviet bardak — chaos — and as a result many Botanika members died young, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and joined urban gangs. During this time, the group dynamics broke down: everybody lived his own life and there was very little communication between them. In this desperate situation, the salvation ideology promoted by Tablighi Jamaat offered an escape for my interlocutors.

  • 17 According to Deleuze, ‘vertical’ refers to the connection between the physical and metaphysical or (...)

39Farideh Heyat (2004) and Mathijs Pelkmans (2007) show that the chaos in Kyrgyzstan during this period was one of the main reasons people turned to religion in search of spiritual, moral, psychological, and socio-economic support. The stories I explored in the first part of this chapter reveal how, one by one, ‘demoralized’ members of Botanika started practising religion and improving their lifestyles, quitting drinking, drugs, and criminal activities. They also became more united again, regularly meeting each other, organizing religious activities together, and reestablishing a sense of community and communal identity as Botanika. Deleuze introduces the concept socius — process, in which the world as ‘a theatrical basis, a dream, an illusion’ (p. 125) unfolds into ‘collective spiritual unity’ (p. 125). Horizontal unity based on friendship, shared memories and experiences, translates itself into a vertical17 spiritual unity that connects many of the members of Botanika in a shared spiritual quest.

  • 18 Dr Rasa Alishauskene, Center for Baltic Research, presentation organized by the Tyan-Shan Policy C (...)

40In the first years of the new millennium, the whole country, including Botanika, began to recover. Life began to unfold in many spheres: people became more economically secure; two revolutions (in 2005 and 2010) brought more democratic governance; and it became safer to walk the streets. The regular monitoring of public opinion conducted by the Center for Baltic Research18 reveals that the population of Kyrgyzstan has the most positive perception of life in their country in comparison to all the other former Soviet countries, and this perception has remained fairly constant over the last several years.

41Deleuze explains how the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Baroque artistic style evolved in response to the theological collapse that occurred under the influence of capitalism, in order to save theological ideals from the new forces of materialism through the multiplication of existing perspectives and the invention of new ones. We could argue that Botanika’s spiritual reemergence is a response to the collapse of Soviet ideology in the context of post-Soviet chaos and dikii kapitalism (wild capitalism). Post-Soviet society survived by multiplying existing perspectives and creating new concepts, therefore in Kyrgyzstan today we see a great diversity of religious practices and communities (Pelkmans, 2006).

42Deleuze calls this process ‘schizophrenic reconstruction’ by ‘characters, who reconstitute the world through their inner, so-called auto-plastic modifications’ (p. 68). This is exactly how the members of Botanika reconstitute society and space — by engaging with their inner landscapes, by rediscovering a metaphysical basis for their existence and nourishing their spirituality — and it is in this flux the permanence is born (p. 79). This calls to mind theories of chaos and complexity, which argue that when systems collapse, in the context of overall chaos, new centres emerge, so-called ‘strange attractors’, which become the main nodes of a new system emerging out of this chaos. According to Deleuze, these strange attractors are not of material origin. They are ideas, which actualize themselves in physical matter: ‘it is not the body that realizes, but it is in the body that something is realized’ (p. 105). So, Botanika is the body, both communal and spatial, in which Botanika as a spiritual concept is actualized.

43To illustrate the relationship between life and death as a process of folding and unfolding, Deleuze uses the analogy of a caterpillar metamorphosing into a cocoon and then to a butterfly. This analogy is very apt to describe Botanika: in the 1970 and 1980s it was like a caterpillar, which in the 1990s folded itself into a cocoon, and in 2000s emerged from this cocoon as a butterfly.

Infinite variation in transition

44Deleuze distinguishes three main forms of transformation. The first — vectorial — is similar to a straight line from point A to point B; it is akin to a simplistic understanding of the transition from socialism to capitalism. It is very limited, like many such transitological perspectives. The second — projective — is based on the projection of internal space onto external space, such as an individual explanation or account of change. This is similar to one of the Botanika member’s accounts of transition. But the third perspective, described by Deleuze as the infinite variation that portrays transition as a bundle of curves, each constructed through an infinite number of angular points, gives the most complex, rich, and diverse interpretation of reconstructed change.

45Transition as infinite variation conceptualizes wholes and parts of the world using the principles of similitude and extension of time, number and matter, which is the ‘original formula of derived infinity’ (p. 46). Transition is the result of the folding and unfolding of space, time, and narrative, creating great diversity in a specific place. Due to this infinite diversity or fractal complexity, society becomes more and more complex and interesting. It is not a transition from one condition into another, but from outside to inside, from material to spiritual, from simple to more complex. It is an implosion, not explosion, and the story of Botanika is one of such multiple diverse trajectories.

46Such implosion happens in two directions identified by Deleuze. The first is a converging series, in which individuals come together to form one world and create communities with similar visions, practices, and lifestyles. Botanika is one such community, which Deleuze would call ‘compossibles’ (p. 60). The second direction is a diverging series, in which individuals create different worlds, which leads to differentiation between communities whose primary principles, concepts, and metaphysical bases are different. This model illustrates the great religious diversity in Kyrgyzstan today.

  • 19 There is not enough space here to describe how diversity and freedom in Kyrgyzstan are more establ (...)

47Interestingly, this diversity does not generate conflict because the world is reconstituted by first being decomposed into the multiple diverging paths of individuals and then by the discovery of the ‘florescence of extraordinary accords’ (p. 82) in which multiple diverging actors play in accord with each other and create a ‘polyphony of polyphonies’ (p. 82) or concertation of life. It is a new world in which diverse communities with their unique features and distinctions coexist without conflict because their main driving force is not external, but internal or spiritual. This is where the situation in Kyrgyzstan becomes so different from the situation in other Central Asian republics,19 which are still ruled by authoritarian regimes, and where the external powers of the state still dominate internal sources of change. This kills diversity and results in artificial unison instead of polyphony. These countries could be said to lack freedom because freedom, according to Deleuze, is first of all the moment of a soul.

The metaphysical dimension of transition and the power of agency

48As he develops this understanding of transformation, Deleuze examines three forms of singularity within it. The first singularity is a physical point, an elastic or plastic point-fold. These are real singular events from the life stories of the participant, often connected to specific points in space. The second singularity is a mathematical point, a position, a site, or a point of view. We can understand it as the material explanation of change, an explanation based on common-sense logic and physical, nonspiritual reasoning, which characterizes many existing ethnographic accounts of transition. The third singularity is of particular interest; it is a metaphysical point and it focuses on ‘the soul or the subject’; it is ‘a higher point of another nature’, a ‘point of inclusion’ (p. 23).

49From this perspective, one perceives change not so much as the result of external influences, but as the result of internal spiritual change. It is a perspective that can defy the common-sense logic that relies on material reasoning and instead can posit spiritual force as the basis of all change. In the words of Botanika members referencing the Prophet Muhammad’s Hadith, ‘Allah will not change the conditions of people, until people change themselves’. This is a narrative born in the spiritual journeys of Botanika; it is a new logic that emerged during crisis, a logic that reverses causality and places the metaphysical before the physical. As davaatchis frequently mention, the main purpose of going for davaat is to change one’s yakyn (conviction), to remove from the heart the belief in the power of creation and replace it with a belief in the power of the creator. The main meaning of ‘La illaha ilallah’ (There is no God but God) in the davaatchi’s narrative is that everything that happens in our life, good and bad, happens only according to the will of God, and therefore, the only way to change one’s ahval (conditions) is by improving one’s morals and spiritual practice.

50The implications of such a change might seem insignificant, but when we understand that it applies not only to Botanika, but also to a much larger group of the population of Kyrgyzstan, which is day by day growing in number and becoming more religious, then we see the Deleuzian ‘unity that envelops multiplicity’ (p. 128) and connects to nothing less than ‘the soul of the world’ (p. 26). This focus on the soul as the expression of the world relates the individual metaphysical experiences of human beings to the condition of the world in which they exist. Thus, we develop a new dimension of transition — the metaphysical. This can be seen in the narratives of Botanika members, both in their use of spiritual reasoning to explain their physical transformation, and in their numerous stories of spiritual miracles in their personal lives.

51The metaphysical dimension of transition revives the power of individual and collective agency. Deleuzian individuals, or monads, are not passive objects of change — once they channel their internal spiritual forces, they become powerful agents, subjects, even ‘superjects’ (p. 20), working towards the improvement of their own lives and of the condition of the society of which they are a part. People describe themselves as becoming empowered: with the help of belief, prayers, supplication, davaat, and acts of piety, they contribute to changing the world for the better. According to this view, external factors, even such strong geopolitical actors as the US, Europe, Russia, and China, who are all competing for influence in Central Asia, become less influential: according to one of my interlocutors, ‘George Bush and Vladimir Putin are both from Allah’.

The fold

52The shift from materiality to spirituality discussed above does not have a clear border or threshold. Deleuze describes it as the fold — a curve with inflection points marking change. These inflection points are all unique for the different members of Botanika: they happened to them at different times and under different circumstances. Some of my respondents’ stories that describe these inflection points — the times when their lives were taking significant turns — are very dramatic and illustrate very sharp changes, while others describe a more gradual transition. The most frequently mentioned inflection points for my respondents were their first three-day and forty-day davaat trips. For some, these resulted in their giving up alcohol, for others, in the resolution of life-threatening conflicts in the criminal world, and for others in finding a pious Muslim wife. For Deleuze, such inflection points are a ‘point-fold’ (p. 14), and the ‘ideal genetic element of transition […] authentic atom, non-conceptual point of non-contradiction, and a point of intrinsic singularity’ (p. 14). They are also a ‘pure Event’ (p. 15), a ‘weightless non-dimensional point between dimensions’ (p. 15). This is exactly what that first experience represents: the transition from one mode of existence dominated by material animal instincts into another, characterized by spirituality and morality. The personal accounts of this point-fold in the stories of Botanika members are very rich, detailed, and well-imprinted on their memories.

53If we project these individual trajectories of spiritual-material-spiritual change, mapping individual inflection points as they occur, we could envision the following diagram to illustrate these transitions from the Deleuzian perspective:

Fig. 10.8 Individual and collective trajectories: the Deleuzian perspective. Diagram © Emil Nasritdinov (2018), CC BY 4.0

54This diagram allows us to discuss one last Deleuzian concept in the quest to debunk a linear perspective of transition — his idea of texture, which is freed from structure. Our understanding of the complexity of transition is limited by the rigidity of the structuralist perspective, which understands transition as the transformation of one structure to another, e.g., capitalism to socialism, a planned economy to a market economy, or atheism to religiosity. This is too rigid, too stiff, too essentialist. Instead, Deleuze draws an analogy with textiles, with cloth that covers the body. He describes how, in the baroque style, the shape of clothing is freed from the shape of the body; with its multiple and complex folds, it has a life of its own. Today, in Kyrgyzstan, the analogue of the multiple folds of the baroque style is the hijab and the long and loose Islamic dress. The primary aim of Islamic dress is exactly that — to hide the form of the body behind the infinite folds of the textile. It is an art of texture, not structure, which Deleuze calls the ‘intensity of a spiritual force exerted over the body’ (p. 122). It turns the soul inside out and it moulds the ‘inner surfaces’ of a person (p. 122). We can thus think allegorically about the drapery of the material world: the materiality of existence is covered with the spiritual layers of individual self-actualization.

Conclusion: fold, hijrah, and urban translocality

55The fold is the transition from ‘mundus’ to ‘cosmos’ (p. 29) and it is the most interesting aspect of this research. How are materiality and spirituality connected? How does the internalization of external change happen? How does internal change affect external space? How can we understand the fold in the stories of Botanika? I suggest bringing to the discussion one additional Islamic concept — hijrah.

56Hijrah is an important Islamic concept that is associated with the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in 622 AD from Mecca, where Muslims were persecuted, to Medina, where the majority of residents at that time already accepted Islam. This migration was so important that it signified the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Traditionally, hijrah is perceived as a journey, a trip, a distance to overcome, and traditionally a person moves from a non-Muslim to a Muslim place (see Kamoludin Abdulaev, Chapter One). But the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also described hijrah as leaving one’s sins behind and beginning a new, pious life. This is a more complex understanding loaded with larger potential for interpretation, and it can help us to better understand what happened in Botanika.

57Most of my interlocutors did not move from one place to another; for the most part their lives are tied to Botanika. Instead of changing their place of residence, they changed themselves, and because of their (and many other people’s) internal evolution, a place that used to be non-Muslim became more Muslim in regard to the daily practices of its residents, including those of my main interlocutors. The Deleuzian fold is an excellent concept to understand hijrah: it is a membrane, an intermediate zone, a connection between two different worlds — non-Muslim and Muslim, materiality and spirituality, sin and piety. The fold helps one world to fold and unfold into another. It is a major zone of transition, a ‘sinuous, zigzag, unlocatable primal tie’ (p. 120). This hijrah-fold therefore becomes the main translocal connection.

58However, this story is not just translocal, it is also significantly ‘transtemporal’. It may be that a person remains in the same location, and perhaps that location does not even change significantly, at least not physically: all the old Soviet housing blocks are still there in Botanika. But the dynamic perception — the ‘trans’ — originates from a change within that person in that physical space. Translocality is not only the movement of people or goods or ideas across boundaries, as it is often understood, but it is also the transformation of place over time in tandem with the shifting spiritual perspective of its long-time inhabitants. ‘Transtemporality’ as a form of translocality within one place is exemplified by the lifecycles and biographies of my interlocutors, which, in turn, are closely related to the biography or lifecycle of the neighborhood as a very particular urban place and space. The main destination of the spiritual journeys of the ‘Botanika boys’ is Botanika itself as a ‘Muslim place’ (materially and immaterially). Individual biographies are thus connected to that of the neighborhood, thereby conflating both into Botanika as a single material-spiritual-spatial entity.

59This seems like an apt point at which to end the story. However, let me add one final fold of thought, without which this conceptualization of translocality in Botanika will be incomplete. At the end of his book, when Deleuze applies his analysis of the baroque to the contemporary world, he suggests that today everything is in movement and thus ‘monadology’ becomes ‘nomadology’ (p. 137). All of my interlocutors mentioned that the key turning points in their transformation were their three-day, forty-day and four-month spiritual davaat journeys. Movement is crucial for transformation: at least for a short period of time, they all had to perform a real physical hijrah — to leave behind the environment of duniya (the worldly environment) and stay in the environment of din (religion) ‘to clean the heart’ (a phrase commonly used by davaatchis). Just as Joseph Campbell discusses in his 1948 work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a person must leave his home, experience difficulties on the journey, and return transformed, enlightened and capable of changing the place from which he departed and to which he has returned. This is the most important understanding of translocality that this chapter contributes to the current volume: hijrah — the spiritual-physical journey of Botanika residents — becomes the fold that completely transforms the urban space.

Bibliographie

References

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Campbell, J. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New World Library, 3rd ed. July 28, 2008 [1948].

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Pelkmans, M. ‘Asymmetries on the ‘Religious Market’ in Kyrgyzstan’. In C. Hann, ed. The Postsocialist Religious Question: Faith and Power in Central Asia and East-Central Europe. Berlin and Münster: Lit Verlag, 2006, pp. 29–46.

Pelkmans, M. ‘“Culture” as a Tool and an Obstacle: Missionary Encounters in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan’. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13.4 (2007): 881–99, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2007.00462.x

Notes

1 KASI is the former name of Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport and Architecture, which is located on the same side of the river as the ninth micro-district.

2 Three-day trips are an important part of davaatchi (Tablighi Jamaat). If davaat is the trip, then we still need to define davaatchi and Tablighi Jamaat practices. A group of between eight and twelve men travel from their own mosque to a different one, usually located in the same city or in the nearby settlements. During the trip, the group (jamaat) stays in that mosque and engages in worship, learning, and meeting locals. All members travel using their own money for transportation and food. During these trips, it is strictly forbidden to talk about politics. The main purpose of a trip is not preaching, but personal improvement and development.

3 I am not an insider to this group. I am approximately ten years younger than the others and I grew up in a different city in Kyrgyzstan. However, I have developed relationships of friendship and trust with the members of this group over the last nine years, since I moved here.

4 For a more in-depth discussion of the Soviet territorial youth culture see Nasritdinov and Schroeder (2016).

5 Botanika was ethnically mixed. The majority of members were Kyrgyz and Russian. However, my main interlocutors are predominantly Kyrgyz with only one man of Tatar ethnicity.

6 These other gangs were not territorial and included boys from all parts of the city. Some gangs involved the new migrants. One of the most notorious was the Ryspek gang, founded by a criminal from Issyk-Kul, who recruited members from among the students of Inkub (a residential sport school in Bishkek), the majority of whom were from outside of Bishkek.

7 I.e., he was taken to the police precinct for a minor violation, such as being drunk.

8 The police asked him to admit that he had stolen the phones.

9 The police often framed people because they had to show their superiors that they had dealt with the reports of crime in their locality.

10 As a result of the retreat of the state during this period, everyone had to take responsibility for themselves.

11 Tablighi Jamaat is an apolitical movement that works towards the revival of Islam. It originated in India in the 1920s and has since become widespread all across the globe. Its main principles, summarized by its founder Maulana Ilyas Kandahlavi, are based on the idea that Muslims can only improve their own condition and that of the society they live in through worship (not by engaging in politics or fighting jihad). That is why the main purpose of Tablighi Jamaat practice is to improve oneself and remind other Muslims about their duties to Allah. It is not a proselytizing group — they do not preach to non-Muslims. One of the most important Tablighi Jamaat practices is three-day, forty-day, and four-month trips, when a group of Tablighi moves from one mosque to another and engages in worshipping, learning, and inviting local people to the mosque.

12 Tahajud — voluntary night prayer.

13 Sahaba — companion of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

14 Traditional Kyrgyz meals.

15 Turkish investors gained influence in post-Soviet Bishkek, particularly in the spheres of construction, trade, and education. They own several large construction companies and shopping malls and there are now many Turkish cafes in the city. In addition, Turkish lyseums (secondary and high-school) and Turkish universities are quite popular.

16 All citations in the remainder of this chapter are from The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (London: Athlone Press Ltd, 1993), unless specified differently.

17 According to Deleuze, ‘vertical’ refers to the connection between the physical and metaphysical or spiritual worlds.

18 Dr Rasa Alishauskene, Center for Baltic Research, presentation organized by the Tyan-Shan Policy Center, American University of Central Asia, 14 March 2016.

19 There is not enough space here to describe how diversity and freedom in Kyrgyzstan are more established compared to other Central Asian states. Kyrgyzstan is often referred to as ‘the island of democracy in the sea of authoritarian states’. Although this statement has been rightly criticized, I believe in that if one takes a more comparative view it still makes a lot of sense. For example, today in Kyrgyzstan there are more madrasas (Islamic religious schools) than in all other Central Asian states together.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 10.1 People returning from the Friday prayer.Photo © Emil Nasritdinov (2016), CC BY 4.0
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/5856/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 198k
Légende Figs. 10.2 and 10.3 Territorial composition of Botanika and its neighbouring youth rayons and an aerial photo. Map and photo © Emil Nasritdinov (2016), CC BY 4.0
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/5856/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 190k
Légende Fig. 10.4 Boys of Botanika in the early 1980s (shared by interlocutors).Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY4.0
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/5856/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 213k
Légende Fig. 10.5 Boys of Botanika in the early 1980s (shared by interlocutors).Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY 4.0
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/5856/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 188k
Légende Fig. 10.6 Russian5 boys and girls of Botanika having a picnic in the park (shared by interlocutors). Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY 4.0
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/5856/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 167k
Légende Fig. 10.7 Members of Botanika at the funeral of one of their friends (shared by interlocutors). Photo © Emil Nasritdinov, CC BY 4.0
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/5856/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 183k
Légende Fig. 10.8 Individual and collective trajectories: the Deleuzian perspective. Diagram © Emil Nasritdinov (2018), CC BY 4.0
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/5856/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k

Auteur

Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the American University of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan). His three main areas of research and teaching expertise are migration, religion and urban anthropology. He has published several book chapters and articles on spiritual nomadism, migration, transnationalism, and regional change.

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