The SRAS Guide to Fermented Milk

Russia and Eurasia offer what can seem to be a bewildering selection of dairy products in their transnational food cultures. An area of special note, and often one of the strangest to Westerners, is the seemingly never-ending assortment of fermented milk drinks in the Russian gastronomic repertoire. To cut down on the brow-furrowing and sometimes […]

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Horse Trekking in Kyrgyzstan – Student Observations

While Bishkek is a modern, dynamic and constantly evolving city, it still provides an opportunity to tap into the ancient nomadic traditions of the Kyrgyz people. One of those traditions, horseback traveling, is becoming increasingly popular with SRAS students – and surely for a good reason. Practicing Russian and Kyrgyz while learning about local culture […]

Manti, Pozi, Bauzi: More Than Just Another Dumpling

Манты (manti) are steamed dumplings consisting of ground meat and spices in an unleavened pastry shell. Манты are a popular dish across Central Asia, Pakistan, Northern China, Turkey, and Russia. They are considered native to Central Asia, but are also thought to have descended from a still-older Chinese dish. Почему они носят такое название? It […]

Cheburek: The Half-moon Pastry from Crimea

On streets throughout the post-Soviet space, you can generally find the чебурек (cheburek) — a juicy, fried, savory pastry — for sale. This tasty treat likely originated in Turkey or Crimea and its popularity slowly traveled north and eventually spread throughout what is today the former USSR. Почему они носят такое название? Чебурек was likely […]

Okroshka: A Cool Soup for Hot Summers

Окрошка is a cold soup that most often consists of finely-chopped raw vegetables with cooked meats and potatoes in a base of квас (kvass; a beer-like, carbonated, bread-based drink) or кефир (kefir; a buttermilk-like fermented milk drink). Okroshka has considerable versatility in its ingredients and is enjoyed in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other former Soviet […]

Kyrgyz on Kyrgyzstan

What defines being Kyrgyz? Defining something as broad as a nationality or ethnicity is always complicated. I decided to get a view specifically from young Kyrgyz women and interviewed Bigemai, 27 and Aiza, 22 for their thoughts. Bigemai grew up in Bishkek, the oldest of four siblings. She works professionally as a hairdresser and volunteers […]

New Year’s Eve: Student Observations

The New Year is, without doubt, the most important holiday on the Russian calendar. It equates if not outstrips the importance of Christmas in America, if to compare the two holidays in the two cultures. New Year in Russia is a time to be together with family and friends, for gift giving, major consumer spending, […]

Holidays in Kyrgyzstan: A Guide

This resource provides a list of those holidays of cultural importance in Kyrgyzstan. Dates, days off, and histories of the holidays are all included. Long Weekends and Extra Days Off by Semester for 2020 Spring Summer Fall Winter March 1 & 21 May 1, 5, 9, 24 July 31 August 31 November 7-8 January 1, […]

Plov: A Central Asian Rice Staple

Плов (Plov) is a hearty dish made from deep fried meat and vegetables, over which rice is cooked. Плов is considered a national dish in many countries of Central Asia and the Near and Middle East ‒ Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. It is generally popular over most of the area that the Soviet Union […]

Oromo: Kyrgyz Food with Vegetarian Options

For those obsessed with all things pumpkin — pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice-cream, pumpkin-spice lattes — оромо is sure to please. Oромо is a rolled, layered, steamed pastry that comes with various fillings (pumpkin being common and our favorite). It evokes everything we love about pumpkin season back home in the States. This main dish is […]

Guide to Religion in Russia

The following resource is meant to quickly but thoroughly overview the subject of religion in Russia. It includes statistics on membership, information on major organizations and institutions, and links to sites offering histories. Mention of religion in other FSU countries is made as well. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome! Contact the Author Table […]

Lagman: Central Asian Noodles & Broth

Лагман (lagman) is a dish that is very common in Central Asia, China, and much of Russia. While the basic recipe has perhaps hundreds of local variations, this simple and filling dish always consists of noodles floating in broth or soaked in a savory sauce with vegetables and often features meat, spices, and various savory […]

Chak-chak: A Glorious and Celebratory Fried Honey Cake

Чак-чак (chak-chak) is a dessert food made from deep-fried dough drenched in a hot honey syrup and formed into a certain shape, most commonly a mound or pyramid. It is popular all over the former Soviet Union. In Russia, чак-чак is especially associated with the Tatar and Bashkortostan republics, where it is considered a national […]

Victory Day: Student Observations

Victory Day is celebrated every May 9th in many countries across the former Soviet space. This public holiday gives often multiple days off and celebrates the end of The Great Patriotic War (which is WWII as experienced in the USSR). Estimates vary, but about 37 million Soviet people died in the war from causes ranging […]

Banyas in Bishkek – Cultural Experience

Banya (a washing house) has remained a part of the Russian culture since ancient times, carrying all sorts of traditionally obtained meanings including religious, symbolic and medicinal. The banya was officially endorsed by the Soviets as a health facility and its use spread throughout Eurasia. It remains popular for health and recreation throughout the post-Soviet […]

Kyrgyz on Kyrgyz Female Role Models

Editor’s note: Women’s rights suffered greatly in Kyrgyzstan after the fall of the USSR. Violent traditions such as “bride kidnapping,” where women are kidnapped and forced into marriages became common and even praised by some locals who (mistakenly) believed it to be an ancient national tradition. The spread of Islam, which is traditional in Kyrgyzstan, […]

The Talking Kyrgyz Phrasebook

Below, you will find several useful phrases and words. To the left is the English and to the above right is an English transliteration of the Kyrgyz translation. Below the English transliteration is a Russian transliteration. Kyrgyz uses a modified Cyrillic alphabet nearly identical to the Russian. In the center of each row is a […]

The Talking Uzbek Phrasebook

Below, you will find several useful phrases and words. To the left is the English and to the far right is the Uzbek translation. Uzbek is currently transitioning from the Cyrillic script to Latin. While Cyrillic is common in Uzbekistan, Latin is the official script. In the center of each row is a play button […]

The SRAS Guide to Fermented Milk

Russia and Eurasia offer what can seem to be a bewildering selection of dairy products in their transnational food cultures. An area of special note, and often one of the strangest to Westerners, is the seemingly never-ending assortment of fermented milk drinks in the Russian gastronomic repertoire. To cut down on the brow-furrowing and sometimes […]

Halva: Ancient and Nutritious

Халва, the rich, crumbly dessert well-loved across many cultures, is so densely filling it almost manages to feel like a meal – and not an entirely unhealthy one at that. There are more than one hundred types of халва, which is generally ground and sweetened nuts and/or seeds. Its role as a staple dessert extends […]

Manas: The Kyrgyz Odysseys, Moses, and Washington

The main thing to know about Manas is that it is epic. Created, most historians believe, more than a millennia ago, it is one of the world’s longest poems at more than half a million lines. It has been written down more than sixty times from various bards, creating a different version each time. It […]

Моя Россия 13: Религия в России – Религия в СССР

The following is lesson 13 of the Моя Россия advanced Russian lesson series. Note that all bold words and phrases have annotation below. Red words and phrases indicate the subject of this blog entry’s grammar lesson. Asterisks indicate slang. В предыдущих уроках мы обсудили историю некоторых религиозных конфессий, имеющих большое значение для истории и культуры […]

Home Sweet Yurt

Yurts are felt-covered, portable housing that have long been used throughout Central Asia. Although the region is urbanizing, the Kyrgyz still know and follow the traditional customs that surround the traditional yurt. Hospitality is revered in the traditionally poor country of Kyrgyzstan. As soon as they see a new arrival, neighbors will come to meet […]

Моя Россия 10: Религия в России – Ислам

The following is lesson 10 of the Моя Россия advanced Russian lesson series. Note that all bold words and phrases have annotation below. Red words and phrases indicate the subject of this blog entry’s grammar lesson. Asterisks indicate slang. В прошлый раз мы говорили о Русской православной церкви и о язычестве в России. Сегодня же давайте […]

National Kyrgyz Horse Games

This year elections for the Issyk-Kul region were coming. This does not affect life much as a temporary student in Kyrgyzstan except that it means that the Бир Бол political party set up the National Kyrgyz Horse Games (Национальные конно-спортивные игры) with free entrance for anyone! This was only a half hour walk outside of […]

Моя Россия 1: Гости и приезжающиe

The following is lesson 1 of the Моя Россия advanced Russian lesson series. Note that all bold words and phrases have annotation below. Red words and phrases indicate the subject of this blog entry’s grammar lesson. Asterisks indicate slang. Меня зовут Роксана. Мне 23 года, и уже много лет я живу в Москве. Большую часть […]

Jewish Bishkek: A Brief History and Guide

My experience with the Jewish community in Bishkek began on a weekday evening in September. I did not really expect to find a synagogue on Suyumbayev Street. I had been following the gradually narrowing road for blocks, eventually across the wide Jibek-Jolu Avenue. On the other side of this thoroughfare, Suyumbayev was sidewalk-less, and full […]

Central Asian Culinary Discoveries

As an American having lived in Moscow for the past 12 years, I’m fairly well acquainted with Central Asian culture. Much of Central Asia was incorporated into the Russian Empire and was part of the USSR. Today, the majority of immigrants to Moscow come from Central Asia. Thus, finding examples of Central Asian cuisine, dress, […]

Nooruz in Bishkek: Student Observations

As soon as I knew I’d be spending time in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I asked Google about the national holidays that would happen during my stay. Google gave me a neat little list of holidays that were mostly familiar — except for one: March 21, Nooruz. Nooruz (also Nowruz, Novruz, or Naw Rúz), which means “New […]

An Oral Account of Yurt Making in Kyzyl-Too, Kyrgyzstan

Four and a half hours southeast of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, the village of Kyzyl-Too lies nestled in a valley about four miles from the shore of Issyk-Kul, the world’s second largest saltwater lake. With a population of only around 1500, Kyzyl-Too is known regionally – and increasingly globally – as a bastion of Kyrgyz cultural […]

What Bishkek Eats for Ramadan

Well, Bishkek, it’s the beginning of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. This year, the holy month starts July 9th, coinciding with watermelon season in Kyrgyzstan. Ramadan also coincides with the dog days of summer, when the days are at their longest, temperatures are at their highest, and beach season at […]

Up Close and Personal with a Manaschi

A Performance and Interview with Nazarkyl Seydrakmanov This past week, SRAS students met with one of Kyrgyzstan’s most famous manaschis, Nazarkyl Seydrakmanov. Manaschis are Kyrgyz professional storytellers of the Manas epic poem, the longest epic poem in world history. During this meeting, Nazarkyl discussed his personal life story, the artistry of his craft, and gave […]

Mad for Manas in Talas

There are few essential things to know about Kyrgyzstan. One of these is the country’s folkloric hero, Manas. You might recognize the name from the Manas Transit Center, the supply center for US troops fighting in Afghanistan. That transit center is named for him, as are quite a lot of things in Kyrgyzstan. Manas is […]

Kyrgyzstan, A Love Story II: Immigrating to America

Read part one here. Living on opposite sides of the world, it would seem unlikely that I, a small-town American girl, would even meet my future husband, Rakhat, who is from a small village in Kyrgyzstan. However, as it happened, Peace Corps volunteers lived with his family while he was growing up, inspiring him to […]

Kazakhstan: An American Gains Fresh Perspectives

Explaining the motivation to leave one’s homeland, comfort zones, and, ultimately, established identity can be a difficult task. When the proposed destination is considerably less comfortable than one’s accustomed conditions, explaining becomes even more difficult. Catch phrases like “life changes,” “new adventures,” and “fresh perspectives” can only shed so much light on your intentions – […]

Kyrgyzstan, A Love Story

During the spring semester of 2008, I decided to study abroad in the rustically beautiful country of Kyrgyzstan. Many would be surprised at my exotic choice of destination (which is actually increasingly popular among SRAS students). However, what really set my study abroad experience apart from the ordinary was me. For I was not only […]

Sheep Guts Won’t Kill You: A Guide to Seeing the Kyrgyzstan that Most People Don’t (Part II)

This is the second of a two-part series. Read part one here Naryn: Work the System Some people I talked to suggested that Naryn was the most Kyrgyz of all the provinces. Most of the country’s Uzbek population lives south of this province, and the Russians tended to keep to the northern areas. In fact, […]

Sheep Guts Won’t Kill You: A Guide to Seeing the Kyrgyzstan that Most People Don’t

I’m an anthropologist. Actually, I’m still a year of fieldwork and a dissertation away from getting my Ph.D., so that makes me an anthropologist-in-training. In September 2007, I will move to Central Asia to study the ways people think about things like their ethnic group and their religion, and how that affects their participation in […]

Culture Shock: A Kyrgyz in the States

One of the greatest advantages of studying abroad is the experience of culture shock.  It teaches us that even our most basic assumptions of “how things are” do not always hold true and that cultures can exist, and even prosper, while holding assumptions that shock and bewilder our own. It is often only through this […]

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