post-Soviet

Kazakhstan distances itself from Soviet past

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Here’s a beautiful photo reportage on the gradual disappearance of large-scale Soviet-era frescos and mosaics that used to be commonplace on the walls of buildings all over the Soviet Union. Entitled ‘The walls are crying’, the article recognises that the façades of public buildings were very consciously used in Soviet times as a way of reinforcing the desired collective understanding of what it meant to be part of the system, as well as demonstrating what that system strived towards.

I’m including the article on this blog not just because I’m a big fan of socialist realist agitprop (which I am!) – both the images themselves and what they represent – but also because, to me, this disappearance is a symbol of the deliberate shift in Central Asian countries away from their Soviet heritage. I would like to do some more research into this and the impact it has on contemporary society – what does it mean for young people who have been born since 1991 or lived most of their life in an independent country?, for example.

In the meantime, enjoy the images but also reflect on what this gradual disappearance means for social construction and identity in post-Soviet Central Asia as well as the last sentence of the main text, ‘Они, как призраки ушедшей эпохи, напоминают о несуществующей стране, частью которой когда-то являлись’ which translates as ‘These images, as ghosts of a bygone era, remind us about a country that no longer exists but which we were once part of’…

Article (c) Esquire Kazakhstan; available at http://esquire_kazakhstan.yvision.kz/post/380573 [ru]

Стены плачут

Фрески, барельефы и мозаики, выполненные в стиле соцреализма, не относятся к охраняемым объектам культурного наследия. И они медленно умирают.

Стена – это поверхность, которая всегда на виду. Человек использует ее с пещерных времен – для передачи информации и самовыражения: признания в любви, ненависти. Во времена Хрущева и проводимой им массовой застройки, стены жилых домов стали одним из инструментов агитпропа. Изображения на советских зданиях были выполнены в разных техниках: от двухцветных грубых мозаик до сложных многоцветных полотен и объемных барельефов. Картины славили трудовые свершения, науку, образование и мир во всем мире. К созданию масштабных произведений привлекались профессиональные художники, а сами фасады были выполнены из разноцветной штукатурки, мозаики – из кусочков смальты, стекла, керамики. Многие из этих полотен погибли вместе со зданиями, на которых они находились. Некоторые продолжают разрушаться. Но большое количество фресок и по сей день можно увидеть в отличном состоянии. Они, как призраки ушедшей эпохи, напоминают о несуществующей стране, частью которой когда-то являлись.

Мозаика, служащая указателем на въезде перед шахтой “Долинская”, Карагандинская область. Выполнена из цветного стекла и кафеля. На каске шахтера когда-то располагался настоящий фонарь и светился.

Мозаика, иллюстрирующая труд, дружбу народов и науку. Дом Культуры, г. Каркаралинск, Карагандинская область. Даже в поселках и небольших городах декоративная отделка фасадов была обязательным элементом дизайна общественных зданий, построенных в 1960-70-х годах.

Масштабная мозаика на стене Дома Союзов в центре Караганды иллюстрирует единство рабочего класса.

Часть комплекса сложнейших барельефов в административном центре Караганды. Барельефы выполнены с портретной точностью и сохранились в хорошем состоянии.

Барельеф на здании бывшего управления Водоканала, г. Караганда. Скульптор: Юрий Гуммель, автор самого масштабного памятника Ленину в Караганде. Ныне проживает в Германии, куда уехал с семьей в 90-х годах.

Фрагмент комплекса мозаик на Доме Союзов и здания ЦентрКазНедра – самого масштабного полотна в Караганде. Сохранились в отличном состоянии.

Мозаика на здании административно-бытового комплекса шахты “Долинская”. Шахта подготовлена к ликвидации.

Фреска из разноцветной штукатурки на стене заводского здания в Караганде. Обращает на себя внимание сложностью композиции и точностью подбора цветов.

Фреска на фасаде одного из цехов завода НКМЗ, г. Караганда. Огромная территория завода, расположенного в самом центре города, уже много лет заброшена.

Редкое сочетание мозаики и барельефа, г. Караганда.

В мозаике с шахтером использовано стекло, отчего изображение блестит на солнце, п. Актас, Карагандинская область.

Жилой дом в Караганде. Мозаика выполнена из большого количества элементов.

Фрагмент мозаики с абстрактной композицией, г. Караганда.

Несколько лет назад при ремонте здания мозаику с изображением Гагарина полностью закрасили, но вовремя спасли, г. Караганда.

University of Central Asia public lecture on education and identity among Pamiri youth – 22 August, Bishkek

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This lecture looks really interesting. I can’t attend (being in Oxford, not Bishkek at the moment!) but if any readers go, I’d love to hear your comments.

Here is the info from University of Central Asia’s website:

http://www.ucentralasia.org/news.asp?Nid=384

Education, Identity and Resilience among Gorno-Badakhshan Pamiri Youth by Carole Faucher

Speaker:  Carole Faucher

Date: 22 August 2012, 4 pm

Venue: University of Central Asia, 138 Toktogul Street, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, Conference Room.

Abstract
This lecture examines the interplay of religious, secular and home education in the self-identification process of Pamiris originating from Tajikistan’s Autonomous Province of Gorno-Badadkhshan (GBAO), living in Central Asia with access to Ismaili religious education. The continuous pursuit of knowledge is an intrinsic component of the Ismaili faith, a Shia branch of Islam to which the majority of Tajik Pamiris of GBAO belong. Ismaili religious education includes topics that are also part of secular teaching such as literature, history and geography, and emphasizes development, the use of critical thinking and group interaction. At home, youth master their mother tongue and other aspects of Pamiri culture(s), while the national curriculum aims to socialize them as active citizens of the country where they live. These three sources of education provide structured ways of constructing a sense of belonging. How youth identify themselves in specific contexts nevertheless depends on a multitude of factors, including their own personal historical trajectory. Findings from field research conducted in Khorog, Murghab, Dushanbe, Khujand, and Osh over the past two years indicate that religious education provides Pamiri youth with a strong base for integrating and unifying different categories of knowledge and identity frameworks provided by the other means of education. Good academic performance is a highly valued cultural trait which has more to do with community resilience then with individual competitiveness, and it contributes to the preservation and accumulation of cultural capital associated with the Pamiri regional identity framework.

Registration
Please RSVP to vladilena.vladimirova@ucentralasia.org with your name and affiliation. Please indicate if you require Russian translation.

Biography
Carole Faucher is an Associate Professor at the University of Tsukuba, Japan. She obtained her PhD in Sociology from the National University of Singapore and her Master’s in Anthropology from the Université de Montréal. She has written extensively on identity politics, education, and regionalism in South-East Asia. Her latest publications include the co-edition (with J. Gomez) of a special issue of the Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies entitled “Politics and Identity: Negotiating Power and Space in Asia” (2010). She is currently working on publication projects focusing on Central Asia, including the co-edition (with B. Pasilov) of Education, Identity and Social Transformation in Central Asian Societies, a journal special issue collection which will introduce a number of young scholars from the region. She has been conducting research in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan since 2009.

Language
The presentation will be conducted in English. Russian translation provided upon prior request.

Modern day Kazakhs: young, uncertain and ‘lazy’?

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Tengri News today reports on a study in which a group of experts have tried to come up with an illustration of the modern day Kazakh.

The group make some interesting assertions, focussing on young people in their depictions. Here’s the article reposted in full:

A ‘modern day Kazakh’? Photo (c) Tengri News

Psychologists, economists and financial experts have attempted to create a collective image of a modern Kazakhstan citizen, Tengrinews.kz reports.
According to Director of the Association of Practicing Psychologists Aleksey Kulikov, contemporary Kazakhstan citizen is able to set goals and achieve them consistently. His/her goals are not global, like saving the world or attaining the global peace; they are very local and concrete.

However, according to Kulikov, an average Kazakhstan citizen is rather lazy. This is especially true for young people. “Parents give them a lot and this kills a person’s motivation to do everything himself. This causes laziness and some kind of passivity. When such person grows up and the time comes to work, it is very difficult for him. We hold trainings in major company and see a lot of people with good positions and wages, but without any drive. They are not the leaders they should be.”

According to the psychologist, the fact that Kazakhstan is a big country and its population is small compared to its territory makes modern Kazakhstan citizens are more sensitive about competition than the citizens of other countries. “Yes, there are forty candidates for one position in Europe, their population is much larger. But we have less people and, thus, fewer companies and fewer positions. One has to fight for his job, prove himself and be a careerist,” he said suggesting that modern Kazakhstan citizen would have been more successful if he was not lazy.

Making the image of modern Kazakhstan citizen, the experts focused on young people stressing that a modern Kazakhstan citizen is young. Director of the Center for Analysis of Public Issues Meruert Makhmutova said: “Who is the modern Kazakhstan citizen? It is difficult to characterize categorically, as there are two poles. Speaking about youth, those who pull the carts at the markets and have no clear plans for the future are on one pole. Those getting good education in the best Western universities are on the other pole. But I can confidently say that a modern Kazakhstan citizen does not know what will happen to him in five years. Before (during soviet time) it was all predictable: school, university, work. There is no predictability these days,” the speaker said.

“A modern Kazakhstan citizen has a low level of economic literacy,” Serik Akhanov, Doctor of Economics said. According to him, this is confirmed by how Kazakhstan citizen is not rational is spending his salary, is not practical in household use. He does not save money for education of his children. “The most terrible is that he does not save money for a “rainy” day either. Modern Kazakhstan citizen is a Homo Faber, Man the Creator. But I dream that he becomes a Homo Sapiens, a Thinking Man,” the expert said.

According to him, Kazakhstan citizens are quite talented people who live in the nomad culture. “We are still wandering, but in a metaphorical sense: we are in a constant change of impressions, constant change of lifestyle. We, Kazakhstan citizens, are able to build the “people’s” capitalism. The most important thing is that everyone should work,” he said.

For more information see:http://en.tengrinews.kz/people/Modern-Kazakhstan-citizen-is-a-careerist-and-lazybones-11608/

Article (c) Arman Baimukhanov, Tengri News

Interesting times for Ukrainian higher education

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Whilst this blog has a key focus on higher education in Central Asia, it occasionally visits other post-Soviet countries to catch up with developments there. Today we’re in Ukraine, at the western edge of the former Union.

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States

Whilst Central Asian countries and Ukraine share a Soviet heritage, there are also some notable differences. For example, Ukraine’s geographical location at the western edge of the former Soviet Union thereby puts it on the eastern fringe of the current European Union. With the addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU in 2007, and with Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and other Eastern European countries members since 2004, this eastern fringe has become less of a fringe and more of a normality. Other than Russia, Central Asia’s key neighbour is China, with potential growth in relationships with India (and Pakistan, to a lesser extent). The EU is far less significant for Central Asian countries.

Politically, Ukraine has appeared to be more open to opposition than the Central Asian countries, as the Orange Revolution of 2004 demonstrated – though like Central Asia, the country has by no means thrown off its Communist-era bureaucracies and corruption in public service. The sum of politics and geography equates to Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union, often testy but never really moving anywhere.

The influence of the European Union is relevant for Ukrainian higher education, as many players in the sector are keen to integrate more closely with the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). However, at the start of this year, the Minister of Education and Science Dmytro Tabachnyk seemed to have made a literal about face on this European enthusiasm by returning to Russo-centrism in his draft Law on Higher Education. The draft Law was criticised in January as being ‘shaped primarily by purely technical aspects of the “Russian model”‘ (Kvit, 29 January 2012). Kvit also claims that the draft Law blocks university autonomy and by doing so, prevents alignment and integration with European (and other international) partners and organisations.

So far, so bleak for the prospect of change.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to read of yet another volte-face for higher education. Again reported by Serhiy Kvit in University World News, an early April article notes that despite the draft law having already been shown to parliament, the prime minister Mykola Asarov “took part in a round-table discussion with representatives from the academic community, and said that he wanted them to review the draft law on higher education”.

This was totally unexpected – and made all the more enigmatic by the banning of Education Minister Tabachnyk from the meeting! The working group has taken on board more than 4,000 proposals from the wider academic community. As Kvit says, “literally everyone could participate.”

The end of this twisting and turning story has not yet been reached. Whilst the prime minister has promised that previous drafts of the new Law will be withdrawn so that a version drawn up by the working group can be considered, I think Kvit is right to reserve his optimism for now.

Will Tabachnyk claw his way back into the process (he remains Minister)? Or will prime minister Asarov, Kvit (rector of the western-facing National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy) and colleagues see their draft through parliament?

I will be watching University World News closely to find out what happens next…

References

Kvit, S., 29 January 2012, Draft higher education law is retrogressive, obstructs integration, University World News issue 206. Accessed 19 April 2012 from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120124154939502.

Kvit, S., 08 April 2012, New dawn for higher education in Ukraine?, University World News issue 216. Accessed 19 April 2012 from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120405132528872.

For more information about Ukraine’s higher education sector, read their 2004 report submitted as a new member to the Bologna Process (which led to the EHEA). UNESCO has also published a monograph on higher education in Ukraine (2006).

Post-soviet universities need academic salaries reform to succeed – University World News

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Re-post of an interesting article from:

http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=201204070940315

By Gregory Androushchak and Maria Yudkevich

For decades, universities in Soviet countries were governed, evaluated and financed according to the same principles. The system is not like this any more. However, faculty contracts – a core element in any university – have not changed much.

Faculty contracts in post-Soviet countries reflect the fact that many universities are built around teaching and learning processes. So, faculty contracts more or less explicitly describe teaching loads and obligations, and most monitoring and reporting activities are concentrated around contractual arrangements.

At the same time, the professoriate in general has few incentives and opportunities to be actively involved in research; research is poorly rewarded and teaching loads are heavy.

Teaching is far more relevant as a source of income for faculty, compared to other countries. At the same time, faculty in many post-Soviet countries (Russia and Armenia are typical examples of this) do not participate in consulting but rather engage in non-academic jobs.

Compared to professionals outside universities, university teachers are relatively poorly paid. That is the case for both top rank (such as associate professor or full professor) and entry rank (assistants or lecturer) academics.

Low salaries, moonlighting common
It is a common pattern in all developed countries that academics obtain less money but enjoy non-monetary benefits. However, even taking that into account, faculty salaries in former Soviet countries are significantly lower than those in other countries.

At least in part these conditions are based on the fact that, in general, these countries are relatively poor, compared to Western European countries, the United States, Canada or Australia.

But this does not explain why these salaries are more than twice as low in terms of gross domestic product per capita. In Nigeria, Ethiopia or India, where GDP per capita is also low, relative earnings of university professors are huge, compared to the rest of the population.

Since salaries are low and insufficient, moonlighting is quite common. Many teachers are engaged in teaching at several universities (including on for-profit programmes), offer private lessons or take on extra teaching at the same university.

Many teachers use the university reputation of their main employer (a position that does not pay very much money as a salary) to gain a good per-hour contract at a less reputable, for-profit university, which provides good money.

Many post-Soviet countries gave up university-specific entry examinations and substituted them with unified government exam systems, which have not continued in a widespread form.

However, private tutors are still in great demand, since they now help people to prepare for these unified tests; and many applicants from all income groups use preparatory lessons to increase their chances of enrolment to the best universities.

Fringe benefits
While academic contracts in post-Soviet countries differ substantially from those in developed countries, the fringe benefits are more or less the same as in the rest of the world.

Faculty enjoy retirement funds and longer vacations – the only time that academics who are overloaded with teaching but have not given up on research ambitions can engage in research. Other potential benefits, such as housing or work loads, are generally unavailable.

In the Soviet period, university teachers had access to many non-monetary benefits, and also had a higher social status than those who worked in business. So, the academic profession at that time attracted the brightest graduates and was able to provide them with quite good remuneration, high social status and fringe benefits – as well as clear career prospects.

Today, the conditions offered to university professionals, especially young ones, have the opposite effect with the best potential researchers choosing non-academic work or leaving the country to work in universities around the world.

Whether proper incentives can be restored, and how, are the key questions for building word-class universities in Russia.

Many post-Soviet countries are experiencing a demographic shock: the size of the 16- to 19-year-old age cohort is critically low. Few babies were born in the early 1990s as not many people felt brave enough to have children.

The lack of students creates huge competition in the university sector, for good or even not-so-good students. While university administrators are facing up to this challenge, they also need to reform the university sector by removing weak institutions and cheap diploma mills.

Reforming academic contracts is a key ingredient for creating better incentives for teachers, and would attract new young people into the higher education sector.

Gregory Androushchak is adviser to the rector at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics. Email: gandroushchak@gmail.com. Maria Yudkevich is vice-rector of the National Research University – Higher School of Economics.Email: yudkevich@hse.ru.

This is an edited version of the chapter, “Faculty Contracts in Post-Soviet Countries: Common features, different futures”, inPaying the Professoriate: A global comparison of compensation and contracts, edited by Philip G Altbach, Liz Reisberg, Maria Yudkevich, Gregory Androushchak and Iván F Pacheco. New York: Routledge 2012. It is republished with permission.

(c) University World News, 08 April 2012, issue 216

Post-Soviet education, part 2: Uzbekistan

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Here are a couple of stories about cotton-rich Uzbekistan.

The first, from a blog called Why Nations Fail, looks at the phenomenon of children being forced to pick cotton when they should be in school. Below is an extract from the blog post specific to Uzbekistan:

… For starters, take Uzbekistan. Why does it have 1/15 of the US income per capita? Perhaps it is because of “human capital” — Uzbekis having less education and education and skills? Well there’s a surprise, Uzbekistan has close to complete primary and secondary school enrollment, and close to 100% literacy. But look a bit deeper, and you’ll see something a little unusual going on in Uzbeki schools.

The basis of Uzbekistan’s economy is cotton, which makes up 45% of exports. The cotton bolls start to ripen and are ready to be picked in early September, at about the same time that children return to school. But as soon as the children arrive the schools are emptied of 2.7 million children (2006 figures) who are sent by the government to pick the cotton. Teachers, instead of being instructors, became labor recruiters. In the words of Gulnaz, a mother of two of these children:

“At the beginning of each school year, approximately at the beginning of September, the classes in school are suspended, and instead of classes children are sent to the cotton harvest. Nobody asks for the consent of parents. They don’t have weekend holidays [during the harvesting season]. If a child is for any reason left at home, his teacher or class curator comes over and denounces the parents. They assign a plan to each child, from 20 to 60 kg per day depending on the child’s age. If a child fails to fulfill this plan then next morning he is lambasted in front of the whole class.”

Children in Uzbekistan bringing in their cotton quota (from WHY NATIONS FAIL, original from EJ Foundation).

The harvest lasts for two months. Rural children lucky enough to be assigned to farms close to home can walk or are bused to work. Children farther away or from urban areas have to sleep in the sheds or storehouses with the machinery and animals. There are no toilets or kitchens. Children have to bring their own food for lunch. In the spring, school is closed for compulsory hoeing, weeding, and transplanting.

So school or no school, children aren’t learning all that much in Uzbeki schools. They are instead being coerced to work. This type of coercion is actually all too common, and is indicative of the sorts of institutions that not only fail to impart human capital to children, but are at the root of much more widespread economic and social failure. “

(c) Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

A more unusual perspective for those of us based in Europe/North America comes from South Korea. The Korea Times reports on Uzbekistan’s efforts to emulate South Korea’s experience in expanding educational opportunities and improving quality. This arose following an educational conference in Uzbekistan this February attended by a number of Korean universities. Here is an excerpt from the article, entitled Uzbekistan all out to reform education:

In an ambitious effort to upgrade and reform its educational system, the Uzbek government, under the initiative of President Islam Karimov, hosted an international educational conference last month: “Fostering a Well Educated and Intellectually Advanced Generation – A Critical Prerequisite for Sustainable Development and Modernization of a Country.” …

Addressing the global forum, President Karimov emphasized that the “National Program for Training of Specialists” his government adopted 15 years ago “stands as an inseparable and integral part of our own Uzbek model of economic and political reforms based on a step-by-step and evolutionary principle of building a new society in the country.”

“The program is aimed at completely rejecting stereotypes and dogmas of the communist ideology imposed in the past, consolidating democratic values in the minds of the people, and firstly, among the young generation,” he said.

The program features 12-year universal compulsory and free education via a “9+3” plan, namely nine years of study in a secondary school and the next three years in specialized professional colleges and academic lyceums where students obtain vocational training in the two to three specialties demanded by the labor market, he explained.

Intellectual treasure

Noting that more than 1,500 new professional colleges and academic lyceums have been built, Karimov said, “We attach great importance to giving pupils not only a broad-scale knowledge and vocational skills, but also to compulsory learning foreign languages.”

“This is the most important condition for active communication of our young people with their counterparts from foreign countries, and allows them to get an extensive knowledge of everything that is going on in the modern world and enjoy a huge world of intellectual treasure.”

The higher institutions play an important role in reforming the educational process and training highly qualified personnel required in the labor market, he said. During the last years their number has increased twice and now there are more than 230,000 students studying at 59 universities and other higher educational institutions, he added.

“The annual expenditure for reforming and developing education in Uzbekistan makes up 10-12 percent of GDP and their share of the spending side of the government’s budget exceeds 35 percent, and this by itself serves as confirmation of the huge attention being paid to this sphere,” he said.

Article is (c) The Korea Times.

Karimov concluded that “The new generation, the educated youth who are free of any vestiges of the past are today turning into a vital driving force for democratization, liberalization and renewal, and the confident growth of the country.”

I will leave you to make your own conclusion, particularly contrasted to the cotton picking story, about whether Karimov’s words sound genuine or not.

Post-Soviet education, part 1: Russia

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By happy coincidence, I’ve read a number of articles recently looking at education in a number of the post-Soviet countries. Below is an interesting story about Russia, written just before Putin’s re-“election” as President, and it also touches on higher education.

The story is (c) Ria Novosti.

Putin praises Russia’s educational revolution

An “educational revolution” is transforming Russia’s society and economy, Russian Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Vladimir Putinwrote in an article published on Monday in the Izvestia daily.

“Russia’s main hope is a high level of education, especially for our young people,” Putin wrote.

Fifty-seven percent of Russians between 25 and 35 years old have higher educations, a level matched only by Japan, South Korea and Canada, Putin said in the article.

“Demand for education is skyrocketing” in the 15-25 age group, with 80 percent of young men and women aspiring to or receiving higher education, he wrote.

Even if the Russian economy is at times unable to absorb so many professionals, “there is no way back,” Putin wrote. “It’s not people who should try to adjust themselves to the existing structure of economy and labor market – it’s economy that should change to allow citizens with high level of education and high demands to find a decent job.”

While the Russian constitution guarantees the right to higher education free-of-charge, the lackluster showing of Russian universities in recent global rankings has triggered a spate of national discussion.

Not a single Russian institution is included in the top 200 of the 2011-2012 Times of London Higher Education rankings. Only two Russian institutions have been included in the rating, Moscow State University in the top 300 and Saint Petersburg State University in the top 400.

Foreign rankings have been repeatedly criticized by Russia’s top education officials and university staff as lacking fairness, objectivity and transparency. Education Minister Andrei Fursenko has said he believes a lack of information about programs and graduates from Russian universities provided to rating agencies is partly to blame for their poor showing.

In August, Putin called for the urgent modernization of Russia’s higher education system so that it meets the demands of today. He promised to allocate some 70 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) to create an innovative educational infrastructure in Russian universities in the next five years.

Higher education budget expenditures have more than tripled since 2005, reaching 390 billion rubles (almost $14.5 billion) in 2011.