Friday, 25 May 2007

Pan-Asian single of the week: V101

The guy that goes under the nick "V101" at is 18 years old and from Izhevsk (Udmurt Republic), Russia. As can be seen in his other pictures, he has green or grey eyes and fairly "Asiatic" features.

Russia is full of beautiful young men, and he surely is one of them.

Falconers in Kyrgyzstan

Joe and Mary Ann McDonald would never have expected to visit Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, but they did. During their trip, they met a couple of Kyrgyz falconers.

"The most exciting 'wildlife' shooting occured in Kyrgyzstan, where we traveled up a long valley surrounded by extremely rugged mountains. The location, near Lake Issik Kul -- a nearly two hundred mile-long lake that is bordered by snow-covered mountains that rise as high as 21,000 feet, was incredibly rugged, and is the home of traditional falconers. The area attracts tourists, and we no sooner arrived than falconers on horseback appeared, with European buzzards (analagous to our redtail hawks or, more properly, rough-legged hawks in appearance) and one golden eagle. The buzzards were incredibly tame, and although treated with respect they were handled in a cavalier fashion I'd never seen with an American falconer, who generally handles their birds with the utmost tenderness. These birds were treated like pet cats or dogs, and seemed to thrive. One falconer carried a buzzard on one shoulder and a ring-necked pheasant on the other, and both coexisted and were handled -- including placing both birds on our heads, with complete sangfroid. I've only 'worked with' pheasants one other time, and then, in the US, the birds were nervous and flighty. This pheasant was completely calm, and I had to wonder if it was handled since the day it hatched to account for this temperament."

Friday, 18 May 2007

The Georgian Gigolo - the Russians and their southern neighbours

The following is an excerpt from an essay I wrote during my studies of Russian cultural history – “Persons of Caucasian Nationality” – Xenophobia and Imperialism in Russia. You can read the full text here in Swedish (and Russian). Note: Of course, with "Caucasians" I will be referring to people from the Caucasus Region, and not the US-American label for "white" people.

In the last decades of the Soviet Union, there was one very popular stereotype about people from the Caucasus region. It was born after Stalin’s death and the following more relaxed approach to his legacy. Now, people were finally able to openly tell anecdotes about Stalin, where he often appeared as a womanizer.

In the mid-1960’s, the image of “the Georgian gigolo from the Black Sea coast” was becoming widespread. Stalin’s ethnic background, and the fact that many popular holiday resorts located on the Black Sea coast were in Georgia, led to this stereotype being projected primarily on Georgians, although it was applied also on all other Caucasian nationalities.

“The Georgian gigolo” appeared not least in anecdotes:

A foreign woman asks a Georgian: “Sprechen Sie deutsch?” – “Of course I want to!” he answers with a willing smile. (Tsutsiev 1998, part 1.3 – my translation)

He also appeared in contemporary fiction. In the short story To tell or not to tell by Viktoria Tokareva, the heroine Artamonova has a short-lived affair with the Georgian Vakhtang, who has a difficult time working as an actor, because he is “too beautiful”.

Artamonova understood: he needed to change his profession. For instance, he could be a paid lover in the West at expensive hotels. But how can you tell a man something like that? (Tokareva 2000 – my translation)

Soviet women liked the attractive and friendly “Georgians” they met on their seaside holidays, while Soviet men quite often experienced an inferiority complex towards their southern rivals. It was – and it is still – a common conception that Caucasian men possess extreme abilities in the sexual field (a stereotype that is eagerly confirmed by some Caucasian men, according to my interviews with Natig Jafarov from Azerbaijan, 2001–2003). Seifali Akhundov writes in the article The Caucasian and the woman, the woman and the Caucasian:

A long, long time ago on the street in winter, a drunk proletarian stopped me and unexpectedly asked: Is it true that you people (from the Caucasus, he meant – S.A.) don’t have a straight one, but a bent one? Of course, I didn’t care to answer him, but the nature of the question intrigued me. Firstly, I thought back then that the form and size of the reproductive organ do not depend on ethnic background. Secondly, as I assumed later, this question was rather of a rhetoric character and, probably, bore witness of an inferiority complex towards Caucasians, as experienced by some Russian men, mainly thanks to the myths about the incredible masculine power of Caucasians. In this case, an out-of-the-ordinary form of the organ was seen as one advantage. (Akhundov & Pishchikova 2001 – my translation)

Another stereotype that slowly developed during the same period, and often became blurred with ”the gigolo” is ”the market trader Georgian”. This stereotype was of an even more malicious character.

Like a broken, quarrelsome twig on the human tree, he sticks out on all the Russian markets, from Murmansk to Norilsk, disrespectfully swindling the unsuspecting northern people … Greedy, illiterate, of those who in Russia pejoratively are called “soul worth a kopeika [the smallest unit of Russian money]”, everywhere he throws away all restraint, everywhere with pockets wide open, money shiny from unwashed hands, everywhere he tosses money … (Viktor Astafjev, Catching Gudgeons in Georgia, cited by Tsutsiev 1998, part 1.4)

One example where the stereotypes of ”the gigolo” and ”the market trader” are combined – as two sides of one coin – can be found in Yulia Voznesenskaya’s The Ladies’ Decamerone. The novel tells about ten Soviet women of various backgrounds, who in the spirit of Boccaccio in the course of ten days tell each other stories under different topics. Certainly, when the topic of “first love” comes up, the holiday romance of a young girl at the Black Sea can't be missing – which, however, meets its tragic end at the hands of a jealous rival:

Well, did you come to your senses yet? Have you understood that he isn’t suitable for you? You realise, don’t you, that your parents would never allow you to marry a Georgian who can hardly read and write. Just you wait, one day you’ll see him standing at the market selling tangerines and mimosa!
That thought really made me blush. Because we were brought up to regard all trade, and especially market trade, as the most unsuitable – yes, shameful! – business that anyone could engage in. (Voznesenskaya 1985, p. 29 – my translation)

In the early 1990’s, anti-Semitism seemed to be the most widespread form of racism in post-Soviet Russia. But in the growing wave of xenophobia it would soon prove to be “persons of Caucasian nationality” who were subject to the worst form of discrimination and the most of the racist slurs. The antipathies that earlier had found their expression in the stereotypes of “the market trader Georgian” have since the wars in Chechnya virtually exploded in the stereotypes about “the Chechen terrorist”.



1. A random Georgian from the gallery of, by the user VAKISPARKI.

2. Another random Georgian from, by the user Kolxi.

3. Cover of the record
A Georgian is waiting for you by mushy Georgian-Russian singer Soso Pavliashvili, who plays with Russian stereotypes about Georgians.

I'm Georgian! - a picture that can be seen randomly posted in Russian discussion forums. This elephant seal's nose apparently has a likeness to the racist stereotype of Georgians. Interestingly enough, this nose shape is also an inherent trait of typical racist caricatures of Jews.


Akhundov & Pishchikova 2001 = Ахундов, Сейфали и Пищикова, Евгения: Кавказец и женщина, женщина и кавказец, 2001

Tokareva 2000 = Токарева, Виктория: Сказать, не сказать, Будет другое лето, Вагриус, Москва 2000

Tsutsiev 1998 = Цуциев, Артур: Русские и кавказцы – очерк незеркальной неприязни, Вестник IC I, Владикавказ 1998 (offline?)

Voznesenskaya 1985 = Voznesenskaja, Julia: Kvinnornas decamerone, Bokförlaget Alba, Malmö 1987

Pan-Asian single of the week: Jonik

Jonik is 28 years old, from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. To the question "About race:" he has replied, "STUPID QUESTION" ("ДУРАТСКИЙ ВОПРОС"). And I can only agree.

Ah, but why such a closely cropped photo ...?

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Uighurs selling traditional sweet snacks

Uighurs can certainly be found not only in Xinjiang, but all over China and neighbouring countries. Some of them are street vendors or have restaurants. Having studied "the Uighur look" now, I think the indescribably handsome shashlyk-maker I ogled at a grill in Ulaan Bator could very well have been Uighur. (He was dressed in all black and standing at the steaming grill outside in the blistering summer heat, acting all cool and friendly and efficient. Of course, I was once again much too nervous and embarrassed to interview him or ask him to let me take his picture ...)

In Chinese cities, it seems there are quite many Uighur street vendors who sell a kind of traditional sweet cake with nuts and fruit. I found some pictures of it on Flickr:

In Shanghai - by MFinChina. She writes: "A bunch of guys from Xinjiang and their nutloaf. Another person commended me for being brave enough to take their picture -- these guys have a reputation for being tough and harassing lone women (which I have experienced myself), although the Uighur guys who sell meat-on-a-stick near my house are all nice."

In Tianjin - by Matthew J. Stinson.

Samer! has another picture of an Uighur and his loaf, this time from Beijing.

If anyone who happens to read this knows more about these "fruit cakes" or "nut loaves", do tell! They look really tasty. I'd like to go to China just to try this ...

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Chinggiz Khaan's Legacy

Чингис Хаан. Genghis Khan. Some still see him as the epitome of evil (common in Muslim historiography), some revere him as a founding father (the Mongols, naturally, and plenty of Central Asian peoples), and some exotize him as a mighty barbarian warlord, both horrifying and romantic (Europe and its Anglo-Saxon colonial offshoots).

As a historian, I prefer to leave the moral judgements aside (curiously the spelling manager marks both "exotize" and "judgements" as suspicious words). I'm merely interested in the images of the great Khan that are produced and reproduced in the world. For the purpose of this article, I will take a look on Central Asian men taking on the role as Genghis Khan, masquerading or mimicking a common image of him (we don't know what he really looked like!).

Reenactment in 2006, celebrating the 800th anniversary of Genghis Khan's establishment of the Mongol Empire.

Mobile communication is of vital importance for a nomad army!

To be continued on the same theme.

Uighurs in Xinjian

The Uighurs, from whose language the title of this blog stems, are one of the many minorities in China. There are some movements of Uighur separatism and/or Chinese repression against their culture.

Each of these two boys will definitely grow up to be a "chirayliq yigit", handsome young man.

(Photo from AFP via


Throat-singing (overtone singing) is practised in many parts of Central Asia, most famously perhaps in Tuva.

Two Tuvan singers, who are not identified by name on YouTube, perform the song Kombu. (This is likely an excerpt from Werner Herzog's documentary film "Glocken aus der Tiefe", about "faith and superstition in Russia".)

Yat-Kha mixes throat-singing with rock. This video, for the song Dyngyldai, was awarded the first prize for "low budget clip" at the MIDEM'97 in Cannes:

Don't miss Yat-Kha's covers of classic rock songs on his album Re-Covers ...

At the bottom of the Wikipedia article, there are several links to tutorials on throat-singing. Here is another one that's kind of cute.


By the way, these videos on YouTube always seem to provoke ardent discussions about what's "Turkish" and what's "Mongolian". Turkic and Mongolic peoples have been living together and mixing for hundreds of years, but there are apparently people on both sides who don't want to accept this.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Pan-Asian single of the week: Bagi82 features over 1 million singles from all over the world, including Central Asia. One of the members is Bagi82, 24 years old, from Zakamensk, Buryatia, Russia.

Georgians on Flickr

One of the Flickr groups focusing on Georgian culture is "The Georgians". Its manifesto: "We try to catch the individuality of a small but outstanding nation: The Georgians."

Here are some samples from the vast image pool. Click on the photos to see descriptions and larger format at Flickr.

Photographers, from top left to bottom right: 1. grijsz, 2. Rapho, 3. & 4. Paata, 5. grijsz, 6. & 7. Paata, 8. shioshvili.

Mongolian wrestlers

During my travels in Mongolia last summer, I had the privilege of watching a wrestling championship at the festival honouring the holy Otgontenger mountain in the Hangai mountain range in central Mongolia.

wrestling4 wrestling1
(View full size of picture 1. View full size of picture 2.)

The traditional Mongolian wrestler's outfit is, according to legend, designed so that you can tell if the wrestler is a man or a woman. Women are not allowed to participate in wrestling, perhaps because it would be 'dishonourable' if a man was beaten by a woman.

In traditional Mongolian society the roles of women and men are strictly divided: basically, men tend to the horses and hunt, and women do everything else.

(View full size.)

(View full size.)

Men of Afghanistan

Wartorn Afghanistan has, in my opinion, some of the most handsome men (and, certainly, women) in the world.

Photographer Michael Luongo has a website with portraits of Afghani men, with the mission of "challenging media sterotypes".

Visit Luongo's website to see more portraits like these: They are all available for purchase. He also has a site with more general photographs from Afghanistan.

A Mongolian Marlon Brando


This man was tinkering about with his motorcycle in the middle of the desert. All cool, with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, he gave Sukhe, our driver, directions to the closest town, and then offered to show us the way. I was too shy to take any other pictures of him than this shaky shot from the car.

Photo by Tinet. View full size.