Events Calendar

Cinema Club Film Screening: Little Angel, Make Me Happy (Turkmenistan, 1993)
Mar 23 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Directed by Usman Saparov

This film “tells an intimate story within the larger historical context of the deportation of ethnic Germans from Turkmenistan to Siberia during the Second World War. Saparov’s historical narrative touches on one of the most complex questions for the modern ‘little person,’ the question of ‘motherland’. The film received Grand Prizes at six international festivals, and many other awards.” []

Please RSVP.

Sergey Abashin – Central Asian Migrants in Russia: Will there be a Religious Radicalization?
Apr 4 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Religious radicalization among Central Asian migrants to Russia have raised particular attention in connection with the active recruitment by the “Islamic State” of many people from the region, as well as their participation in a series of terrorist attacks in Turkey. Many experts have wondered whether Central Asian migration to Russia creates fertile ground for spreading the most extreme forms of religion. The breakdown of social structures and customary practices, social isolation, and the negative attitude of the local community to migration feed–as several experts have asserted–the radicalization process. In this presentation, Sergey Abashin, using contemporary sociological and anthropological studies, will analyze the main features of migration from Central Asia to Russia, its structure, dynamics, the legal status and living conditions of migrant workers, and their main strategies and perspectives about their future. He will address the place of religion in migrants’ identity and practices, the types of religiosity and the potentially increasing radicalization.

Sergey Abashin is doctor in history and professor at the European University in Saint-Petersburg. He has authored two monographs, Nationalism in Central Asia: In search of Identity (2007) and The Soviet Kishlak: Between Colonialism and Modernization (2015).

This event will be held in Russian with English translation, and is part of the CERIA Initiative, generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

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Islamic Education and Knowledge Transmission in Central Asia
Apr 10 @ 9:30 am – 3:00 pm

Islamic Education and Knowledge Transmission in Central Asia
April 10, 2017, 9:30am-3:00pm
Central Asia Program, IERES
George Washington University
1957 E Street, NW, Lindner Commons, Suite 602

9:30am. Session 1. State Institutions, Muftiates and the Teaching of Islam

Sebastien Peyrouse (George Washington University)
At The Crossroads of the Religious and Regime Security: The Teaching Of Islam In Uzbekistan

Kamal Gasimov (CAP Fellow)
Ideology of Islamic Education and the Struggle Over Transmission of Religious Knowledge In Azerbaijan

Gulnaz Sibgatullina (Leiden University)
Russian vs. Ethnic Vernaculars: Languages of Islamic Education in the Post-Soviet Space

11:00am. Coffee break

11:30am. Session 2. Religion and Ethics at School and in the Media

Rafael Sattarov (CAP Fellow)
State-Backed Ideological Policy and “Spirituality and Enlightenment” in Uzbekistan

Donohon Abdugafurova (Emory University)
Islam, Morality and Public Education: Religious Elements of Ethics and Etiquette in the Uzbek School Curriculum

Noah Tucker (CAP Associate)
Identifying Islamic Education and Indigenous Counter-Extremism Resources in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

1:00pm. Lunch

1:45pm. Session 3. The Informal Transmission of Religious Knowledge

Nurbek Bekmurzaev (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs)
Mediatization of Religion in Kyrgyzstan: Redistribution of Power and Changing Perceptions of Religion

Benjamin Gatling (George Mason University)
Learning to be a Sufi in Tajikistan

Yanti Hoelzchen (Tuebingen University)
Kyrgyzstan’s New Mosques: The Institutionalization of Islamic Education In Contemporary Kyrgyzstan

This event is part of the CERIA Initiative, generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

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Cinema Club Film Screening: “The Gift to Stalin” (Kazakhstan, 2008)
Apr 20 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Directed by Rustem Abdrashev

“Set in 1949, just before Stalin’s 70th-birthday jubilee, the film centers on Sasha (Dalen Shintemirov), a 9-year-old boy who escapes from a train transporting Jewish refugees from Moscow to Kazakhstan.

“Hidden among the shrouded corpses callously dumped on the tracks, Sasha is rescued by an aging railway worker (Nurzhuman Ikhtimbaev) and taken to his tiny village. There, in an ethnic melting pot of other exiles, he is cared for by Vera (Yekaterina Rednikova), an earthy Russian, and Yezhik (Waldemar Szczepaniak), a shy, thoughtful Pole.” – JEANNETTE CATSOULIS, The New York Times

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Mining Firms and Local Communities in Central Asia
Apr 26 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Mining Firms and Local Communities in Central Asia @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412

Chair: Sean Roberts (George Washington University)

Zhanyl Moldalieva (United Nations University—Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology)
(Re)thinking Transparency and Accountability in Natural Resource Governance: The Case of Kyrgyzstan’s Mining Communities

Nazik Imanbekova (CAP Fellow)
Capacity-Building Programs in the Mining Sector of the Kyrgyz Republic


Dinara Nurusheva (CAP Fellow)
Development Challenges of Post-Mining Towns: The Case of Kazakhstan 

Zuhra Halimova (IERES Visiting Scholar)
Civil Society Lead EITI Process in Tajikistan
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Zhanyl Moldalieva is a Ph.D. Candidate in Public Policy and Policy Analysis at the United Nations University—Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology/Maastricht Graduate School of Governance. Her research focuses on contested and relational spaces of resource governance in Central Asia. In the past, she worked extensively with the USAID projects on good governance, public administration, and political transition.

Nazik Imanbekova is a visiting fellow at the Central Asia Program, and a transparency and open government activist from Kyrgyzstan, who has worked at various organizations from local NGOs (Public Foundation ElNaz, EITI public reception, EITI NGO Consortium, Human Development Center Tree of Life) to IGOs (UNDP). As the head of EITI public reception in Talas region, she developed a dialogue platform, which the national government to adopted and led to the establishment of periodical meetings with local communities. She holds a Specialist Diploma with Honors in Economics from the Academy of Management under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Dinara Nurusheva is a visiting fellow at the Central Asia Program. She earned her MA in Global Political Economy at City University London. Currently, she is involved in Central Asian research groups Bilig Brains and PaperLab, platforms for collaboration of young researchers in the region. She worked in the governmental think tank in Astana, and private analytical center in Almaty.

Zuhra Halimova is a visiting scholar at IERES. From 1997 to 2016, she worked as the Executive Director of the Open Society Institute in Tajikistan.  A graduate of the Department of Oriental Studies at the Tajik State University and the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi, India), she has served as a member of the International Harm Reduction Program Advisory Board and of OSF’s International Youth Program and Education Support Program Advisory Boards for several years.  She has also been a member of the Council of the Global Fund for Women and of the Asian Women in International Affairs Initiative for many years.

Julie McBrien – The Tricky Matter of Defining Religion
Apr 27 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Julie McBrien - The Tricky Matter of Defining Religion @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412

What is religion? The answer to this question is either so obvious that it needs no asking, or so abstract and theoretical that we end up declaring it insoluble. The question therefore often gets sidelined and we operate with un-reflected upon notions of religion.  These ideas about religion, nonetheless, guide the research and analyses of academics, the policy and programs of those in government and development, and the allocation of research funds, for example. In short, the definitions potentially have real-world consequences. Julie McBrien will examine the varying ways religion in Kyrgyzstan has been defined over the last century as a backdrop for looking at present moments of classification. She will consider two contemporary cases in which competing understandings of religion by foreign observers, one of whom was Dr. McBrien herself, obfuscated rather than illuminated the lived experience of those in Kyrgyzstan. She will argue that these misreadings can create situations in which analyses and interventions (can) go awry, with political as well as scholarly implications. This talk is based on her long-term research on religion and secularism in Kyrgyzstan, including ongoing work on marriage, gender, and the state.

Dr. Julie McBrien is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and the incoming director of the AISSR Research Program Group “Globalizing Culture.” She is senior researcher and co-coordinator of the ERC funded project “Problematizing Muslim Marriages.” McBrien has conducted research in Kyrgyzstan for nearly 15 years working on issues related to Islam, secularism, politics, gender, and marriage. Her publications can be found in Material Religion, JRAI, Anthropology Today, and Critique of Anthropology. Her book From Belonging to Belief: Modern Secularisms and the Construction of Religion in Kyrgyzstan is forthcoming with Pittsburgh University Press.

This event is part of the CERIA Initiative, generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

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The United States’ and Russia’s Relationship in Central Asia and its Neighborhood
May 2 – May 3 all-day
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Tuesday, May 2

10:30 Opening remarks

Alexander Cooley (Harriman Institute, Columbia University) and
Marlene Laruelle
(George Washington University)

10:45-12:15 Panel 1. Central Asia and the ‘global order’

Chair: Rajan Menon (City College of New York)

Paul Stronski (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
Prospects for Central Asia Policy in the Trump Administration

Christian Bleuer (ANU)
American Allies’ Strategic and Economic Interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia: Navigating Change and Continuity in the US-Russia Relationship

Alexander Cooley (Columbia University)
Central Asia as a Buffer Zone between National Populist Great Powers

12:15-1:00 Lunch

1:00-2:30 Panel 2. The international community in a changing environment

Chair: Alexander Cooley (Columbia University)

Roman Vakulchuk (NUPI)
Big Powers in Central Asia: Old Rhetoric, New Perception

Ivan Safranchuk (MGIMO)
Central Asia – Asset, Burden or Instrument for International Actors?

George Gavrilis (Columbia University)
Central Asia’s Borders: The Next Twenty-Five Years

2:30-3:00 Coffee break

3:00-4:00 Panel 3. Russia’s presence and influence in Central Asia and Afghanistan

Chair:  Nargis Kassenova (KIMEP)

Yulia Nikitina (MGIMO)
Russian Strategies of International Status-Seeking in International Institutions and Forums

Ekaterina Stepanova (IMEMO)
Armed Conflict, Insurgency, Terrorism and Peace Process in Afghanistan: A View From Russia


Wednesday, May 3

9:30-10:30 Panel 4. Is China really changing the given?

Chair: George Gavrilis (Columbia University)

Robert Sutter (George Washington University)
China’s expansion into Central Asia—A Pattern for Its Periphery?

Sun Zhuangzhi (CASS, Beijing)
Building Silk-Road Economic Belt and Central Asian Stability and Development

10:30-11:00 Coffee break

11:00-12:30 Panel 5. Central Asia’s perspectives on the US-Russia new relationship

Chair: Marlene Laruelle (George Washington University)

Nargis Kassenova (KIMEP)
US and Russia’s Failing ‘Pivots to Asia’ and Central Asia

Erlan Karin (KISI)
New Perspectives on the US-Russia Relationship and Multivectoralism in Central Asia

Emil Joroev (American University in Central Asia)
Trump’s America Viewed from Bishkek: Sharing Moscow’s Hopes or Excited for Own Reasons?

12:30-1:15 Lunch

This conference is generously funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


This event is co-hosted by SIPA and the Harriman Institute (Columbia University), and generously funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. 

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Cinema Club Film Screening: “Two Horses of Genghis Khan” (Mongolia, 2009)
May 4 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Directed by Byambasuren Davaa

“Two Horses presents a stiff look at the crushing after-effects on Mongolian heritage in the years following the Chinese cultural revolution, in which priceless artifacts of music and art were destroyed, including the family heirloom of this story’s protagonist – a nineteenth century horse head violin engraved with the words of an old and largely forgotten Mongolian folk song.

“Unlike almost any other song, the verses of the song after which the film is titled embody the history and paradigm change of the Mongolian people. For singer Urna Chahar Tugchi, the song becomes the touchstone of her cultural identity after making a promise to her late grandmother to bring the family’s old horse head violin back to the homeland. Her grandmother was forced to destroy the beloved violin in the tumult of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and now only the head and neck remain intact, along with a few of the verses of the folk song that were engraved on the neck. With the dark days of the revolution now past, it is time to fulfill the promise.” – Corinth Films

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Social Cohesion in Kyrgyzstan
May 10 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Social cohesion has emerged over the last two decades as an important concept in both academic and political discourse, especially in fragile and conflict-affected environments. At the same time, the evidence on how to build social cohesion and peace at the individual level has been quite scarce. This event will review some exciting new evidence on building peace and social cohesion at the micro-level from Central Asia.

Drawing on the results of the Life In Kyrgyzstan Study, a long-term quantitative study of socio-economic developments of over 8.000 individuals, Prof. Tilman Brück will present some insights on social cohesion and peace in Kyrgyzstan since 2010.

Dr. Kanat Tilekeyev will explore findings from the Kyrgyz Social Cohesion Through Community-Based Development Project, discussing the motivation and design of the project; development of the social cohesion index; and findings from operations and implications for future community-driven development programming in conflict-affected and fragile environments.

Dr. Damir Esenaliev will present the findings from the impact evaluation of the LivingSidebySide® (LSBS) peacebuilding programme designed to foster ethnic tolerance and skills for resolving conflict among young adults in Southern Kyrgyzstan.

Professor Tilman Brück is Director of the ISDC – International Security and Development Center. His research interests focus on the economics of household behaviour and well-being in conflict-affected and fragile economies, including the measurement of violence and conflict in household surveys and the impact evaluation of programs in conflict-affected areas.


Dr. Damir Esenaliev is a Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Peace and Development Programme. His recent research focuses on impact evaluation of peacebuilding interventions in Kyrgyzstan and on quantitative microeconomic research related to labour markets, welfare, inequality, intergenerational mobility and governance. 

Dr. Kanat Tilekeyev is a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Public Policy and Administration, University of Central Asia. He has extensive experience in research on agricultural economics, trade, business development, policy impact evaluation and microeconomic studies of the countries of Central Asia at projects of the World Bank, USAID, FAO and other donor and research organizations.
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Victoria Kim – Re-visiting the 1937 Deportation of Ethnic Koreans to Central Asia + Film Screening of “Koryo Saram The Unreliable People”
May 11 @ 4:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Re-visiting the 1937 Deportation of Ethnic Koreans to Central Asia:  80 Years of Survival and Prospering

Followed by a screening of Koryo Saram The Unreliable People


The year 2017 marks the 80th anniversary of the first deportation of an entire nationality in the Soviet Union. In 1937, approximately 172,000 ethnic Koreans – the entire population of Posyet Korean national district and neighboring territories in the Far Eastern Krai – were forcefully relocated to Central Asia on cargo trains by the Soviet government. Eighty years later, their descendants still live in independent Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Some of them view the deportation as a tragedy whereas others see it quite differently.

Victoria Kim will discuss the changing narrative of the 1937 deportation and focus on the process of re-definition of the Korean identity currently taking place across Central Asia.

Victoria Kim holds an MA from the Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS in Korean Studies and MA from the University of Bolton in International Multimedia Journalism. Originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, she is currently based in Beijing, China, as a researcher and documentary storyteller. She is the author of Lost and Found in Uzbekistan: The Korean Story. Her multimedia long-reads, podcast and seminars on the Korean diaspora in the former Soviet Union are featured in The Diplomat and by the Korea Economic Institute of America, Royal Asiatic Society, and etc.


Koryo Saram The Unreliable People

Koryo Saram The Unreliable People tells the harrowing saga of survival in the open steppe country and the sweep of Soviet history through the eyes of Koryo Saram – the deported Koreans – who were labeled by Stalin as enemies of the state. Through rare archival footage and personal interviews, the film follows the deportees’ unique history of integration into the Soviet system while working under punishing conditions in Kazakhstan, a true melting pot of exiled people from all over the Soviet Union.

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