In Kyrgyzstan, and especially in Bishkek, practices of social activism have been evolving and taken more meaningful and organized forms. Today, there are all kinds of activist groups and movements that are not simply struggling for resources, but feature solid ideological foundations and concrete visions. This introduction provides a brief overview of contemporary social activism in Bishkek.
In this article, we explore how religion claims its space in the city of Bishkek. The growing community of practicing Muslims asserts the right to be in the city, live according to its religious ideals, and create Islamic urban spaces. Such claims do not remain uncontested and, because religious identity has strong visual manifestation, religious claims become the subject of strong public debate. This contestation overlaps with socially constructed gender hierarchies—religious/secular claims over the urban space turn into men’s claims over women with both sides (religious and secular) claiming to know what women should wear. Yet research shows that Kyrgyz women in Bishkek do not really need fashion advice. The Islamic revivalist movement among women in the Kyrgyz capital has since the 1990s created a strong momentum that has a life of its own and is fairly independent. Muslim women wearing a hijab have become very visible and influential urban actors with their own strong claims for the city.
This article presents an “alternative urban history” of Bishkek (Frunze). We describe the history of Soviet streets and of the everyday life of young people, whose narratives fit neither the Soviet nor the post-Soviet history textbooks. Yet, these stories are extremely important, rich, and unique. They reveal the complex dynamics of the social organization of urban territories in cities of Soviet origin. The research has shown that the territorial youth culture of Frunze had much in common with similar developments in cities all across the Soviet Union. At the same time, it developed its own particular features, complexities, and diversities due to specific local conditions. The study also provides insights into the power of territory. It reveals how identities, everyday practices, and the socialization of young people were embedded in the specific geographies of the Kyrgyz capital.
While labor migration from Central Asia to the Russian Federation has been well documented and researched internationally, the equally important issue of internal migration has been largely ignored. Localized migratory processes should be recognized as vital factors in the region’s long-term social, economic, and security development. This article looks at migration from a domestic Kyrgyz perspective. It discusses the general effects of rural out-migration, the remittance “myth,” the effects on broken migrant families, hyper-urbanization in so-called novostroikas, and the less-discussed issue of creeping migration.