Saturday, 30 May 2009

Freshly baked doctors at Lund University

Frau Doktor Elmgren
Originally uploaded by Turukhtan

Ainur has now been promoted to Ph.D. in History. So we can expect much more serious posts from her in the future. ;o)

Ainur, who at 30 was one of the youngest among the 233 new doctors, was actually not the youngest. Ather Gattami, Ph.D. at 28, is a maths genius who at the age of 22 was the fastest and youngest examined Engineering student ever in Sweden.

Ather and his family moved to Sweden from Iraq when he was 12, after his father had received a serious threat from the secret service. Soon, his talent for maths was noticed, and in high school he was already taking classes in Mathematics and Physics at university level.
Ather is now a Ph.D. in Engineering at the Department of Automatic Control at Lund University. His research has focused on Optimal Decision Theory, including static and dynamic cooperative and non-cooperative games. The title of his thesis is Optimal Decisions with Limited Information - click here to read it!

As Ather explains in this interview for Sydsvenskan, Automatic Control sounds very technical but is actually a quite interdisciplinary subject, which has a lot to do with economics: "You can say that it's about games between different teams, where one team, for example, is trying to minimize costs and the other one is trying to maximize costs. It can also be about logistics and information flow."

According to Ainur the cutest doctor.
View large size.

Ather's family are secular Mandaeians (a monotheistic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview, about 100,000 followers, mostly in Iraq and Iran - Sweden has the third largest Mandaeian community in the world).
Their family trade is goldsmith, and in his high school years Ather actually worked as a salesman at a couple of gold stores in the summers. Besides having learned the trade of a goldsmith, Ather's father had also studied to be an engineer, and back in Baghdad he was one of Iraq's highest factory directors at a military-industrial company. Today he is a senior high school teacher.

According to the Sydsvenskan interview, Ather seems to be pretty relaxed about people who are impressed with his career. And he also knows that without it, the same people might very well think completely differently about him. "It's no secret that my origin is somewhere else, I don't look Swedish. Sometimes I get the feeling that people's attitudes towards me change by 180 degrees when they hear what I do. That they might have had a whole other kind of attitude otherwise."

Further reading: Ather Gattami's page at Lund Institute of Technology.

(Both photos by Tinet.)

"Aren't these your children?"

Aren't these your children?, originally uploaded by punalippu.

Ne vashi li deti, asks a Central Asian-looking militsiya officer in this Soviet poster by V. Evenko from 1961, depicted on a contemporary postcard found in the russian bookstore Ruslania in Helsinki. The message is clear. Parents should take responsibility for the misdeeds of their children. The blue text is the same in Uzbek, I think - correct me if I'm wrong.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Ilyaz Safiullin: "Yullar"

Tatar singer Ilyaz Safiullin sings "Yullar" (Roads) - a melancholy yet serene vision of the ages of a man.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Eurovision: Chirayliq victory again!

So the cutest guy in the Eurovision really won. Not that we didn't see that coming ... ;o)
Let's celebrate with some nice pictures:

Apparently Alexander is making his debut as an actor in the biggest Norwegian childrens' movie production of all times, Yohan - Barnevandreren, as a Gypsy who, of course, plays the fiddle. (The film also includes a Japanese sailor who goes around challenging local strong men - partly based on actual historical research, oh my!) More photos with Alexander in this film over here.

Also check out the gallery at, with lots of photos from when our fellow Tatar host Alsou and her colleague Ivan Urgant announced Rybak the winner and Dima Bilan, winner of the previous Eurovision, came along to give him the award (why are there no good photos of Dima and Alexander together?!) ...

As a matter of fact, Alexander Rybak won another award just before that. The Marcel Bezençon Awards, named after the Swiss guy who founded the Eurovision, are special awards from the press, the participating composers, and previous winners of the contest.
Alexander Rybak won the Press Award, and check out who won the Composers' Award!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Backstage at Eurovision'09

A Muscovite security officer and one of Ukraine's dancers pose backstage at the Eurovision song contest in Moscow. (Source:

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Mongolian hip hop group Tatar

Tatar is one of, if not the most popular hip hop group in Mongolia. I've had this video with a sad gangster love story among my YouTube favourites for months, but didn't get around to posting it until now ...

Hip hop is pretty young in Mongolia - it started in the 1990's. Since then it has quickly grown into the mainstream. The local flavour of Mongolian hip hop may include folk music influences and tributes to mothers (even more so than in American hip hop). Mongolian hip hop groups address problems in their society, such as unemployment and alcoholism, but they also make songs about love. The latter might dismay hardcore hip hop purists, but it certainly gives the music a wider appeal.
There is a nice article about the Mongolian hip hop scene over at Hip Hop Linguistics.

Marat & Behrang

Marat Nailevich Izmailov is a Russian Tatar football player, currently playing for Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Marat is praised for his speed and technique, especially in "duels" for the ball. He is (judging by the amount of fan blogs I found while googling for pictures) very popular among Portuguese fans.
Another odd factoid found while googling: if you type "marat izmailov" in the Google search window, one of the suggestions that pop up is "marat izmailov muslim". The idea of a blond and blue-eyed Russian Muslim footballer is probably very exotic to some fans, prompting the searches. The top result while picture googling was this hilarious thread at the hockey forum HFBoards, debating whether Tatars are Mongols, whether Abkhaz are Muslims, and whether there can possibly exist such a thing as an European Muslim at all. One moderator then goes on to present one of the best summaries of the Tatar phenomenon I've ever seen (on a hockey forum, at any rate), complete with illustrations. Nice work!

Marat began his pro career at Lokomotiv Moskva in 2001. In this older photo we see him sport the classic Russian hairstyle for men :0)

Marat battling Behrang Safari (FC Basel) for the ball. Behrang is an Iranian-Swedish player, also highly regarded, not only in his homeland Skåne.

This shot of Behrang was shamelessly copied from the Sydsvenska Dagbladet, the main newspaper for southern Sweden. The accompanying article is noteworthy for non-soccer fans, too. Behrang was detained by US authorities last year while changing international flights at Houston airport in Texas. Although he was travelling with the Swedish national team, he was isolated and interrogated until he missed the connecting flight to Costa Rica. Eventually he was released and could catch another flight - 24 hours later. The reason cited: Behrang was born in Tehran.
Meanwhile, three of his teammates missed the connection for a completely different reason - they attempted to board a flight to San José, California, instead of San José, Costa Rica. Swedes abroad...

Here is Behrang in his hometown, the sleepy academic village Lund, which makes me, a grudging Lundensare, feel unusually blessed. (Photo from

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Chirayliq Eurovision: Regina

Bosnia-Herzegovina's entry to the Eurovision is the band Regina with their song "Bistra Voda" (clear water). ... Someone commented: "I think that Alexander Rybak's party is going to be spoiled by the manly Regina and their beautiful anthemic ballad."

From what I've been able to find out, the song is about mother's love, and touches the subject of the Bosnian war that took more than 200.000 lives.

Here is what the band said at their press conference in Moscow:
At the press conference, they stated that the message of the song was that of a love revolution. They thereby link the song to Russia, but the red is used as the color of love. When asked if their theme was inspired by communism, the band said that there are nostalgic aesthetics in the song, but that these are not related to communism but to love. In the end of the press conference, they performed their song Bistra Voda in Russian.
mundu-sammut from Australia has provided a translation of the second stanza in the comments:
I asked some people
In the neighborhood, where my soul resides

A secret from me, they say, you are hiding, dear

I asked that they return to me

That time, the old hours, the spring

That love is in the air, they say

Give birth to me at dawn in May

Bathe me in the clear water

I guard one flower, when all others leave

I guard you as long as I'm alive

Steal a bit of Sun for us

There's no tomorrow, there's no today

It's easy when the song finds your heart

Regina formed as a garage band in 1990, and after some initial problems finding the right vocalist, they met with great success all over Yugoslavia. The civil war broke up the band when the Serb members had to flee from Sarajevo to Belgrade. For a few years Regina continued in Belgrade with new replacements members, while some original members pursued solo careers. But in 2006 all the original members were happily reunited.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Chirayliq Eurovision: Alexander Rybak

Mum reminded us that it's Eurovision Song Contest season again ... So, let's start with Norway!

Yes, the Norwegian performer this year is a cute guy called Alexander Rybak. He was born 1986 in Minsk, Belarussian SSR, and when he was four years old, his family moved to Norway. Rybak has been playing various instruments since he was five years old, and both his parents are violinists. The song "Fairytale" was composed and written by Rybak himself.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Altyn Orda

Some of my favourite screenshots from Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky. Ahistorically, but politically correctly in Stalin's days, Nevsky refuses an alliance with the Golden Horde in the movie. In reality, Alexander Nevsky ensured peaceful relations with the Mongols by enforcing tribute from the principalities to the Golden Horde and uniting the Russian principalities against Western invasions. He became the Grand Prince of Vladimir thanks to his friendship with Sartaq Khan. This connection inspired the controversial school of Russian historical philosophy known as "Eurasianism".