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Comrade Kyiv


Abandoned Kyrgyzstan: Aalam-Ordo, the Centre of the Universe


Along the southern border of Issyk-Kul lake, Kyrgyzstan, two shining golden gates and 1,500 metre long wall shield a giant hundred hectare complex. I scaled the wall and on the other side, I discovered hundreds of abandoned yurts, an outdoor theatre and a handful of colourful peeling murals. ‘Aalam-Ordo’, which translates as ‘the centre of the universe’, now sits abandoned. 

At the order of Kyrgyzstan's then President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a centre for culture science and spirituality was constructed in 2009. It was a bold vision. Young and old would live together in 365 yurts, exchanging ideas and learning from each other. These ideas would be accessible by all online. The hope was that these ideas would spread far and wide, and potentially even bring a Nobel Prize to Kyrgyzstan. 

Massive murals with traditional Kyrgyz motifs like eagles and horses feature prominently on the sides of walls and buildings. Others have a more symbolic meaning. One mural depicts a dragon stealing Kyrgyzstan's wealth as villagers desperately fight back. The villagers who fight back become ensnared in the dragon, and eventually become it, a visual metaphor for the vicious cycle of corruption. Ironically, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who commissioned the centre was removed from power in 2010, after corruption led to widespread protests which sparked the second Kyrgyz revolution. Today, the centre stands forgotten on the shores of Issyk-Kul, while corruption continues to ravage Kyrgyzstan.  

Further Reading


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East vs West: A Comparison of Soviet & American Cold War Posters

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The Buran: The Soviet Response to NASAs Space Shuttle

On November 15, 1988, the Soviet Union's first reusable space shuttle, the Buran, launched in what is now present-day Kazakhstan. This little-known chapter in the Cold War space race saw the Soviets build their own version of NASA's Space Shuttle to challenge the USA for space supremacy. The Buran, Russian for "blizzard", was once the future of the Soviet space program. But, its first flight was also its last. A year after its launch, the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR collapsed. The space shuttle program was suspended. In 1993, it was canceled altogether.


Not Lovin' It: The Rise and Fall of McDonald's Diplomacy

On a chilly winter’s morning in January 1990, hundreds of Russians lined up as early as 4am to try a McDonald's hamburger. At 10am, the first McDonald's restaurant in the Soviet Union opened its doors in Moscow's Pushkin Square. 32 years later, McDonald's closed all of its 847 stores in Russia and left for good. It was the end of an era and the death of Hamburger Diplomacy.
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