Almaty in October

Trip Start Jun 10, 2006
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15
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Trip End Jun 14, 2007


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Flag of Kazakhstan  ,
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hello everyone.

I'm again writing in my blog to say the weather is just fine. So far it hasn't been too cold. It's probably getting as cold as 30F degrees at night but it's still very nice in the day. It's been raining a little but it's ok. Zhanara and I live on the top floor and we've had some issues with a leak. But, for the most part we're dry.

One of the issues with living in an ex-Soviet country is that when everything became privatized, much of the government infrastructure that existed, that would take care and manage this building is no longer around. So from the time of Perestroika to today, many of these buildings have been falling to pieces. I'm actually very fascinated with all of this modernist architecture falling apart. It reminds me a little of Cuba in that respect. The decaying modernist architecture seems so ironic to me. The idea that all of this futuristic utopian architecture is in the state of decay is a constant reminder of the failure of one of the greatest modernist projects-The Soviet Union.

There are many reminders of the Soviet Union everywhere. But, most of all you can see the violent transition from a managed economy to a freemarket economy. The architecture is a reminder and so is the mentality of the people. It's very much the mentality of these people to constantly be very passive. To look the other way, is a very Soviet aproach. If you spoke up during the Soviet Union you could be punished, even killed. I think this has made a certain mentality here that I have observed by living here.

There is a boom time here that makes the dot com boom in San Francisco look like "The good o'l days". Fortunately for the bay area there was actually strong resistance to this boom period. Many of the rights we take for granted in the U.S. don't exist here. Like the rights of workers and renters,(ironically communism was the workers party) Even home ownership is under attack here. I've heard of so many examples of people getting kicked out of their humble little apartments, so large real estate developers or "real estate speculators" can build new larger high rise apartments for the new rich class here. Many of these apartments can run into the hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars range. Where the apartments before where probably privatized after the Soviet Union for a couple of thousand dollars. This is the new market in Almaty and anything goes here. If you don't move out you will be forced out. There is no excuse to stop progression here in Almaty. If your house or apartment is old then it goes out for the price you bought it for even if you don't want to move. This is where the Soviet mentality comes in. If the authorities say it's time to move people become sheep. It's so difficult to watch this happen when everyone's house we go to has all of this distinct character from a very distinct period in history and they say it's going to be knocked down. Almaty is a city that was built primarily during one of the most interesting periods of world history. It's all being destroyed very quickly. I'm reminded of how even in the west there is so much concern for everything being new. There is so much desire for more and new, that it blinds people from seeing the unique things about a city that could be preserved for other generations to understand and appreciate. Such is the case here in Almaty. I'm lucky to be here at this point in time because I get to see a place that has a certain uniqueness. It isn't Paris and it isn't New York but there is a distinct character here that is hard to describe in words. I even had a difficult time at first on how to find the beauty here. All I saw at first where apartments built in many similar ways. But as I've explored this city there is a subtle beauty that doesn't jump out at you. This is a city that you learn from slowly and then understand a certain aesthetic that is uniquely Soviet in a specific place here in Almaty.

D.money
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