ÅDÅMDÅR / 2019
Photo collage by Perizat Suleimanova


ÅDÅMDÅR / 2019

(a subjective list)

December 30, 2020


(a subjective list)

2019 was a busy and controversial year. It was a year of activists and human rights defenders. In Astana and Almaty, it was a year of solidarity. It was a year of volunteers and artists. The year of #ReAction in Bishkek. It was a year of losses – in Arys after the June 24 explosions, and on December 27 after the plane crash near the village of Guldala. It was a year of victory and the salvation of Kok-Zhailau.


Doctors of the year

Doctors of Arys, Shymkent and Turkestan regions
On June 24, explosions rocked military depots in the city of Arys. Civil and military doctors from Arys were aided by fellow doctors from the Shymkent and Turkestan regions, as well as by employees of the Kazakhstan branch of the Red Crescent. In conditions of extreme heat, they rescued a significant number of injured and wounded from the city.

One of the evacuation points for the victims of the Arys explosion in Shymkent
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

Doctors of Almaty and Almaty region
On December 27, a plane operated by airline BekAir crashed, causing 66 casualties. Twelve people were killed, and 50 were hospitalized, 12 in critical condition. Ambulance doctors and hospitals in Almaty and the surrounding region managed to save the lives of several injured passengers.

The location of the December 27 plane crash
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov


Athlete of the Year

Marat Zhylanbaev, ultramarathoner

Marat Zhylanbaev ran through the largest deserts of Asia, Africa, Australia and America, alone, becoming the first and only athlete in the history of humankind to do so. He set several world records, seven of which are listed in the Guinness Book of Records. Most world records set by him in the early 1990s remain unbeaten. Zhylanbaev is a trainer and master international athlete. He has developed his own training system for marathons and ultra-marathons. 

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

In 2019, he held several dozen sporting events in various parts of Kazakhstan in which several thousand people took part. Many of the races organized by Zhylanbaev promote a healthy lifestyle, and also have a social and environmental focus.

In 2019, as in previous years, Zhylanbaev made a name for himself not only in sports, but also in his community, speaking out about key issues and incidents of 2019 at important public events – supporting detained activists, advocating the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and raising his voice against the proposed construction of a resort at Kok-Zhailau.

Thanks to Zhylanbaev’s tireless efforts in sports and education in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, a powerful marathon movement has emerged, uniting thousands of people.


Reflection of the year

Pasha Kas, artist

Pasha Kas is the brightest and most discussed street artist in Kazakhstan and one of the key representatives of Central Asian and post-Soviet street art. He is the creator of a significant number of street art works, graffiti, installations and multimedia art works.

In January 2019, Kas installed his new artwork “Reflection” at the intersection of Zhansugurov Street and Seifullin Avenue in Almaty.

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

This piece is devoted to one of the most urgent environmental issues of Almaty – the problem of air pollution in the city and deforestation, as well as the situation surrounding the threat of the destruction of Kok-Zhailau.


Solidarity of the Year

The solidarity of artists, human rights defenders and activists

On April 21, 2019, civil and environmental activists were arrested in Almaty. Since then, representatives of a fragmented art community in Kazakhstan began to consolidate and come forward to show support to the detained activists. They uploaded artwork online and conducted art events and flash mobs on streets, at police stations, and in courts.


A post shared by ⚡️RUKH (@rukh2k19) on


Temudzhin Duisen, director, creator of the flash mob “From Nazarbayev to Truth” 
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

Significant legal assistance to the detainees was provided by human rights defenders and independent lawyers.

Assistance to victims of the city of Arys

On the morning of June 24, explosions went off in the ammunition depot in the city of Arys, in the Turkestan region. Residents of the city were evacuated; many left their homes on their own and were evacuated to neighboring cities and towns.

Hundreds of volunteers and activists from all regions of Kazakhstan greatly supported victims from Arys. Groups of volunteers from Uzbekistan and the Kyrgyz Republic were also involved in relief efforts.

ADAMDAR/CA recorded the work of volunteers as well as the shipment of the first humanitarian caravan from Almaty to those affected in Arys.


Aiding BekAir crash victims

After the dissemination of information about the Fokker-100 plane crash and the need for blood in order to provide transfusions to victims of the crash, hundreds of citizens went to the Almaty Blood Center to donate to help injured passengers.

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

Residents of the village of Guldala, on the outskirts of which the plane crashed, organized a field kitchen, serving hot tea in the morning for rescuers and emergency services.

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

Volunteer of the year

Zhandos Seit

Seit took an active part in assistance work for victims of the explosions in the city of Arys, as well as in the formation of a shipment of humanitarian aid for the victims. He accompanied the first caravan of humanitarian aid from Almaty to the Turkestan region. After distributing aid to the multiple evacuation points where the Arys evacuees were located, he stayed in the Turkestan region and worked as a volunteer for several days, helping the victims and organizing the delivery of new humanitarian supplies.

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

For several years, Zhandos Seit worked for Mercy Voluntary Society, helping children in need.

In 2015, he initiated and organized a civic assembly in memory of Batyrkhan Shukenov. He invited a small group of friends, but in the end, several thousand citizens attended.



In 2016, he was part of the first group of volunteers and activists to help the victims of the mudflow in the Nauryzbay district.



Music Video of the year

“Suyunchu” Zere

Фото: Тимур Нусимбеков

About the clip: [link]

The short documentary “YEAR OF ZERE” goes into detail about the life and work of the Kyrgyz singer.


Songs of the Year

“Zhuiye”, Marhaba Sabi


“Peremen” [Changes], Victor Tsoi and the group “KINO”

Source: @rukh2k19

“I Am Dying in Nur Sultan”, the group "Opia"

Opia, a young and courageous indie rock band from Almaty, wrote this sad but beautiful and surprisingly timely song. It addresses a wide array of topics, including the arrests of activists, the Cult of Personality surrounding the president, the oil and gas needle, smog in Almaty, the poster art revolution of 2019 and other integral parts of the history of modern Kazakhstan.


“Zharalghan namystan ...” (the first anthem of the Republic of Kazakhstan)

The first anthem of Kazakhstan found a new life in 2019. The words “Zharalghan namystan Kaһarman khalyqpyz, / Azattyq zholynda zhalyndap zhanyppyz” (“We are valiant people, children of honor / We have sacrificed everything on the way to freedom”) and “Alyptyng quaty — khalyqta, / Khalyqtyng quaty — birlikte! (The hero’s strength comes from the people / The people’s strength comes from unity!) received new meaning and connotations thanks to civic activists and artists.


Festival of the year


“Stihia” [meaning “the elements”] is an annual festival of electronic music, which takes place in Moynaq, Uzbekistan, on the territory of the desiccated Aral Sea. The mission of the festival is to raise the world’s awareness of the tragedy of the Aral Sea and develop a responsible attitude to rationed use of water and the revival of the Aral Sea.


Bravest people of the year

Members of the feminist movement

2019 was one of the most eventful years in the history of the feminist movement in Kazakhstan. KazFem, Feminita, FemAgora and other feminist groups and initiatives organized art events, happenings, and educational meetings that made an impact and captured people’s attention. They conducted both authorized and unauthorized rallies and flash mobs in Almaty, Astana and Shymkent. They sang Peremen [Changes] by the band KINO and I Am Dying In Nur Sultan by Opia in the alleys and on the streets. They held protests in solidarity with illegally arrested activists and political prisoners. They served on duty at police departments and courts, where police and SOBR [Special Rapid Response Unit] brought activists and other detained citizens. They collected assistance for Arys, visited Private Beibarys Tolymbekov in Otar, and delivered packages to the special detention center on Lobachevsky Street which contained food, clothes, and other essentials to make the prison stay for those detained more comfortable.. We honor Arina, Fariza, Bena, Aigul, Ksenia, Leila, Elya, Olesya, Aidana, Olya and dozens of others as the bravest people of the year.



Photos of the year

“You Can’t Run From the Truth,” by Tamina Ospanova

Photo by Tamina Ospanova

Tamina Ospanova’s photo depicts a group of art activists who displayed a banner with the words “You Can’t Run From the Truth” on April 21, 2019 at the Almaty Marathon. The photo went viral; it was actively reposted on social networks and instant messengers and it was reprinted by dozens of media outlets from around the world. This photo has become one of the most important symbols of civic activists and the struggle for democratic reforms in Kazakhstan in 2019.


“Father of Nature” (park ranger Yerlan Nurgaliev), by Ali Ospan

Photo by Ali Ospan

Photographer Ali Ospan took this photograph of Ranger Yerlan Nurgaliev with a baby saiga antelope on a field trip of the rangers of Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve. The reserve’s rangers work hard to save the critically endangered saiga antelopes from poachers. A few months after this picture was taken, Nurgaliev and his partner Peter Nitsyk stumbled upon a group of murdered saiga antelopes. A little later, they noticed poachers in two jeeps. In a fight with poachers, Nitsyk was injured. Nurgaliev received a traumatic head injury, fell into a coma and died on his way to the hospital. The series of photographs captured by Ali Ospan not only documented the deceased hero Yerlan Nurgaliyev, but also became a symbol of the protectors of nature and the tragedy of the disappearance of saigas, whose population has declined by 95% since the 1990s.


Artists of the year

Askhat Akhmedyarov

Roman Zakharov

Askhat Akhmedyarov, from the northern capital of Kazakhstan and Roman Zakharov, from its southern capital, were active artists in 2019. They participated in solo and group exhibitions, published their writing on Facebook , created installations, staged performances and art events.

In 2019, interest in their work was shown not only by lovers of art and culture, but also by the police of Almaty and Astana.

Photo from the personal page of Askhat Akhmedyarov

In April, police detained Zakharov for his public artwork “The Only Source of State Power is the People” (quoting Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan), which, in addition to being a reminder of this basic constitutional principle, was an aesthetic act of support for previously arrested activists. 

Roman Zakharov 
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

In December, Akhmedyarov held an art event: “Вибачте за нього” (“[Our] apologies on his behalf” in Ukrainian) in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Astana, where he held a poster with these words printed below a portrait of a donkey. During the demonstration, the artist was detained by the police.



Words of the year

“I have a choice”, by Medina Bazargalieva, artist, art activist

In March 2019, Medina Bazargalieva, a 17-year-old artist, held a solo art event in Almaty, in the course of which she walked along Panfilov Street repeating the words “I have a choice!” These words became one of the main slogans in artistic and democratic protests in Kazakhstan in 2019. These words, often in hashtag form, were painted on posters, posted on Facebook profile pictures, and shouted at rallies and art events.

Medina Bazargalieva

“You Can’t Run From the Truth”, by Bauyrzhan Sabit, film director, art activist

The phrase, formulated by Sabit, appeared on the most famous poster of 2019. Later, it was quoted and repeated by activists across Kazakhstan and the planet.

Due to his civic engagement, in the fall and winter of 2019, Sabit began to be subjected to pressure from the police and special services.

Photo by Malika Autalipova



In May 2019, after the publication of a journalistic investigation about corruption at Kyrgyzstan customs (Radio Azattyk together with OCCRP and Kloop.kg), the hashtag #ReAction appeared on social networks and throughout the Kyrgyz media. This word united representatives of different spheres of Kyrgyz society into an informal civil movement which advocated for democratic reforms, freedom of speech, and anti-corruption efforts. On November 25, a peaceful rally called #ReAction took place in front of the Jogorku Kenesh building in Bishkek against corruption and for these reforms.

On December 18, #ReAction 2.0 took place in Bishkek, which was attended by over a thousand citizens. The rally participants advocated for freedom of speech, and against corruption, censorship and pressure on independent media.


Illustration of the year

“All of Kazakhstan 2019 in one picture” by Le Shapalaque Comics


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Books of the year

“Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High-Altitude Mountaineer” by Anatoli Boukreev. New Russian translation published 2019.

Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion

— A. Boukreev

Anatoly Boukreev was an outstanding Kazakhstani mountain climber, one of the best climbers of the USSR and an internationally known legendary figure in the history of mountaineering. In May 1996, during a descent from Everest, Boukreev singlehandedly performed an unprecedented rescue operation: in dangerous blizzard conditions and managing an extremely challenging load, he saved three climbers from the United States. Anatoly Boukreev died in an avalanche while climbing Annapurna on December 25, 1997.


“The Art of Living and the Art of Seeing. Blinova and Halfin” by Alexander Brener
Alexander Brener, born in Alma-Ata in 1957, is a poet, artist, and writer. Since the 1990s, his name and work have been widely discussed in the world of contemporary art, art activism and actionism. In his new book, “The Art of Living and the Art of Seeing,” Brener writes about his friends – artists Lida Blinova and Rustam Halfin, key figures in the Kazakhstani artistic underground who formed the first wave of conceptual and contemporary art in Almaty.

“The essays compiled in this book are not art criticism or essays on art history. These are not memories or even literary portraits, but rather not so graceful declarations of love ... ”

 Alexander Brener



“The Great Exodus of the Kazakhs” by Godfrey Lias

British journalist and writer Godfrey Lias first published his book “Kazak Exodus” in 1956 in the UK. This book is about a large-scale but little-known tragedy – the exodus of the Kazakhs from East Turkestan (Xinjiang) in 1948. The book is based on field studies, conversations and meetings conducted by Lias with those nomads who survived the exodus, most of whom died during the migration. In 2018, Lias’s book was translated into Kazakh and Russian under the titles «Аспантау асқан үркін көш» and «Великий исход казахов». The translation and publication of the book was completed by political scientist Bakhytzhan Bukharbai.

This book is interesting not only in the context of the history of the twentieth century. Taking into account the scale of the modern concentration camps in the XUAR [Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region] and the mass repressions of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Turkic Muslim peoples in Xinjiang by the PRC authorities, as well as the significant number of political refugees who flee from the XUAR, Lias’s book continues to be relevant today.


“Alatau Trails” by Baghlan Junus
The mountains, gorges, and peaks of Alatau comprise one of the most beautiful landscapes in the universe. Hiking and wandering the trails of these divine places have long demanded modern and high-quality guides and maps. In 2019, Zhunus, a mountain climber, businessman and public figure, released his new book “Alatau Trails: A Guide to Almaty Mountain Trails”. The book presents the main routes along major mountain gorges near Almaty.

This book is a must-have for those who love to wander along the foothills, gorges and mountains of the Zailiysky Alatau.


Curator of the year

Altyn Kapalova

On November 28, the contemporary art exhibition Feminnale opened in Bishkek at the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts named after Aitiev. The curator of the project was Altyn Kapalova. This is the first large-scale feminist exhibition in the history of the Kyrgyz Republic. Following the official opening of the exhibition provocations began against Kapalova and other organizers and participants of the art project, as well as museum employees. They began to receive threatening and insulting phone calls, including threats of physical violence and murder. Members of the reactionary ultra-right group Kyrk Choro were among the most active aggressors against Feminnale. Some of Feminnale's work has been censored by the state. Despite the pressure, Kapalova has continued to work and to defend the participants and organizers of Feminnale. She continues to uphold the principles of feminism and of freedom of speech and creativity.


Exhibitions of the year

“Bad jokes” / Art-meken


“In Honor of L. B. [Lydia Blinova]” / Aspan Gallery

Photo by Aspan Gallery

Heroic Deeds of the year

Evacuation from the city of Arys

After the explosions of military depots in the city of Arys, dozens of residents of Shymkent and the Turkestan region went to the disaster area to evacuate people from the danger zone. Also, soldiers and officers of military units stationed in the city took part in helping an immediate evacuation from the city of Arys. Video frames shot by eyewitnesses of the June 24 tragedy show that a number of military and civilian persons rescued and evacuated victims at risk to their personal health and life. During the evacuation, several citizens and military personnel were killed, and hundreds of people were injured.

Source: @rukh2k19

Rescue operation at Pobeda Peak

Mountain climbers of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic participated in the rescue operation. A group of military climbers of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan joined the operation, which included highly professional climbers: Captain Maksut Zhumaev, Senior Lieutenant Vasily Pivtsov and Major Amanzhol Rakhmetov. Climbers, Kazaviaspas aviators and rescuers worked in the most difficult alpine conditions (from 5,000 to 6,000 meters above sea level), in areas at risk for avalanches. Searching for missing climbers is an activity often associated with a high risk to the life and health of rescuers. According to experts, this operation was one of the most difficult and dangerous rescue operations of the year. Unfortunately, due to snowfall and avalanches, rescuers were not able to find the missing climbers.

Participants of the rescue operation
Photo from Galina Mulenkova's Facebook page


Documentarians of the Year

Camera operators Aigul Nurbulatova and Suinbike Suleimenova

On April 21, 2019, police detained Almaty camera operators Aigul Nurbulatova and Suinbike Suleimenova because they filmed the art protest “You Can’t Run from the Truth” by Asya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekov.

Aigul Nurbulatova
Photo by Malika Autalipova

In court, Nurbulatova and Suleimenova did not plead guilty. On May 16, during the appeals process, Suleimenova made a public speech, in which she talked about her attitude to the Almaty marathon and the activists arrested there. She explained how the principles of photographic composition compelled her to take the photo from the angle and location that she did. She also mentioned the first Kazakh documentary filmmaker Iskander Tynyshpayev, who had been repressed by the Soviets, spending 10 years in a gulag. In addition, she asked the judge several questions without receiving a single answer.

After their detentions and trials, Nurbulatova and Suleimenova continued to work not only as camera operators and photographers, but also as civil activists.

Suinbike Suleimenova
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov


Journalists of the Year

Amangeldy Batyrbekov, “Saryagash info”

In 2018, Amangeldy Batyrbekov became the first journalist to tell the story of a boy who was sexually abused in the village of Abay, South Kazakhstan region [SKR]. The case of "the rape of the boy from SKR" has become one of the most discussed in recent years, resonating with many.

In September 2019, a court in the city of Saryagash in the Turkestan region sentenced Batyrbekov to two years and three months in prison. Batyrbekov, a journalist, activist, and editor of the newspaper Saryagash Info, denied the charges against him. The International Fund for the Protection of Freedom of Speech “Adil Söz” recognized him as “a prisoner of freedom of speech in Kazakhstan.”

Photo from Amangeldy Batyrbekov's personal page

On November 2, Tamara Kaleeva, the head of Adil Söz, announced that an international campaign had commenced to protect Batyrbekov. Members of the IFEX global freedom of expression network, which brings together more than 100 non-governmental organizations from around the world, have appealed to senior Kazakh officials to defend Batyrbekov.

The international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) included Batyrbekov in their list of journalists who were imprisoned in 2019 in connection with their journalistic work.


Daniyar Moldabekov and Olga Loginova, Vlast.kz

Daniyar Moldabekov and Olga Loginova, journalists of the online edition of Vlast.kz, covered various topics and stories in 2019 – from simple personal stories to the presidential elections, the events in Arys, protests, and the December 27 plane crash at the Almaty airport.

Thanks to the professional work of Moldabekov, Loginova and other independent journalists, society was able to learm about the underreported, yet most important problems and topics of 2019.

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

Lukpan Akhmedyarov, Uralskaya Nedelya

Lukpan Akhmedyarov is a journalist and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya. In 2019, he continued to cover the most important topics in the life of Uralsk and greater Kazakhstan, even though this year, as in previous years, Akhmedyarov and his colleagues were subjected to pressure, threats and detentions by the police for their journalistic activities. In 2012, Akhmedyarov survived an assassination attempt. He was attacked by a group of criminals, receiving several stab wounds around his heart, he was shot twice with a pellet gun. The name of Lukpan Akhmedyarov has become a symbol of the professional, brave, and honest work of the region’s independent journalists.

Photo from Lukpan Akhmedyarov's personal page


Investigations of the Year

“Clans, Corruption and Smuggling on the Silk Road” — a joint investigation of Azattyk Radio, OCCRP and Kloop

Radio Azattyk, together with the Center for the Study of Corruption and Organized Crime (OCCRP) and the website Kloop.kg, conducted a large-scale journalistic investigation into a corruption scheme at border control and customs of the Kyrgyz Republic, which was put in place by high-level official Raim Matraimov. Shortly before the publication of the articles, an informant that had been assisting the journalists was killed. In December, Matraimov sued the authors of the investigation as well as political activist Shirin Aitmatova. The investigation and its ensuing events caused a fiery reaction in Kyrgyz society and became the impetus for two peaceful rallies in Bishkek: ReAction and ReAction 2.0.

Illustration: Azattyk radio

Series of investigative materials on Kok-Zhailau by Vadim Boreiko

Boreiko released his first article on January 4, 2018 on the website www.ratel.kz. About 20 articles were published on this site from January to March 2018. After ratel.kz was blocked, Vadim Boreiko continued to publish the investigation on his personal Facebook account. These materials were reprinted the Kazakhstani online eco-journal “Liven’”. In total, about 180 articles about Kok-Zhailau were published in 2018-2019.

Boreiko’s investigation revealed many previously unknown details in the proposal of the development of Kok-Zhailau. His investigation, along with the work of other environmental activists and experts, contributed to the cancellation of the development project planned at Kok-Zhailau.

Vadim Boreiko
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov


Losses of the year

Erlan Nurgaliev

On January 13, 2019, Okhotzooprom inspectors Yerlan Nurgaliyev and Petr Nitsyk found carcasses of animals killed by poachers while patrolling the reserve near Lake Tengiz in the Karaganda region. The Okhotzooprom is a state-owned enterprise engaged in the conservation, of saiga antelopes and other rare and endangered species of wild ungulates in Kazakhstan. Later, the rangers got a lead on two Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs which the poachers were using. During the ensuing chase, the poachers attacked both Nurgaliev and Nitsyk. Both inspectors were seriously injured. The poachers left the beat-up men in the cold January steppe. Nitsyk survived, but Nurgaliev suffered a severe head injury and fell into a coma, succumbing to his injuries a few hours after the attack. The death of Nurgaliyev was one of the most tragic losses of 2019. Hundreds of people, including rangers from other nature reserves and national parks of Kazakhstan, came to his funeral to honor the slain ranger. A photograph taken by photographer Ospan Ali of Nurgaliyev holding a baby saiga antelope has been seen by millions of people around the world.

Often, due to corruption and imperfections in Kazakhstan’s environmental legislation, poachers evade accountability and justice for their actions. The death of Nurgaliyev became the catalyst for tougher punishment against poachers. In 2019, Nurgaliyev’s image became a national symbol of the struggle for the conservation of nature.

Photo by Ali Ospan

BekAir Flight

On the morning of December 27, at 7:22, a BekAir airline flying from Almaty to Astana lost altitude during takeoff and struck a concrete fence, after which it collided with a two-story building between the settlements of Guldal and Almerek in the Talgar district of the Almaty region. The crash claimed the lives of 12 people.


Victory of the year

Saving of Kok-Zhailau

On October 29, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev made an official statement banning the construction of a resort on Kok-Zhailau. This declaration marked a victory for environmental activists, who have been advocating for the preservation of Almaty’s main alpine valley for many years.

The threat of this environmental disaster on Kok-Zhailau led to the emergence of the Save Kok-Zhailau movement in the mid-2010s, the largest environmental movement in the history of independent Kazakhstan.


The movement involved representatives from various cities around Kazakhstan. A number of well-known Kazakhstani scientists, ecologists, writers, artists, and journalists became involved as well: Gerold Belger, Azhar Dzhandosova, Svetlana Spatar, Vadim Boreiko, Pasha Kas and many others. The work of these experts and environmental activists sparked discussions that resonated widely not only in Kazakhstan, but also at internationally, including in the context of violation of the UN Aarhus Convention.


Team of the year


In 2019, ololo launched another coworking facility (they currently manage four coworking spaces in Bishkek and one in Osh), a new creative space in Issyk-Kul, and opened 2 hostels. ololo’s spaces have hosted 547 events over the last year. These events were attended by about 30,000 guests. They conducted seven flash mob-style events called “Musical Erkindik,” in which street musicians perform on Erkindik Boulevard  in the center of Bishkek. They were nominated for and won the Agile Award for “Best coworking in Central Asia”.

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

In November 2019, ololohaus hosted work from the Feminnale art exhibition at their site, which was attacked by the far right and censored by the Ministry of Culture of the Kyrgyz Republic.


Person of the Year

Asiya Tulesova

Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

Asiya Tulesova is an environmental and civic activist and co-author of the art campaign “You Can’t Run From the Truth.” She is also the head of the environmental project Almaty Urban Air (AUA). In addition, she is the vocalist and leader of the rock band We Have To Now.

On April 21, Asiya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekov were arrested for displaying a banner at the Almaty marathon on which was printed “You Can’t Run from the Truth”, with #AdilSailayUshin (“For Fair Elections”) and #IHaveAChoice printed below.

Aigul Nurbulatova, Beibarys Tolymbekov, Suinbike Suleimenova, Asiya Tulesova
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

Tulesova and Tolymbekov were both found guilty by the court and sentenced to 15 days in jail. On April 23, Tulesova, while in custody, announced a hunger strike “due to disagreement with the illegal court decision.” The international human rights organization Amnesty International recognized Tulesova and Tolymbekov prisoners of conscience, as they “were detained for the peaceful expression of their views.” The flash mob carried out by these two activists marked the beginning of an unprecedented wave of artistic protest from Kazakhstan and Central Asia by young people and the creative class. Demonstrations featuring banners, posters and street art with similar content, as well as displays of solidarity with the detained activists took place in cities in Kazakhstan and around the world: Almaty, Astana, Karaganda, Uralsk, London, Berlin, New York, Prague, Budapest, Paris, Los Angeles, Milan and other cities.

Tulesova’s and Tolymbekov’s protest inspired the creation of a number of civic movements, art groups and personal initiatives in various cities of Kazakhstan, which began to advocate for democratic reforms, for freedom of speech and assembly, and against repression.


Translated from Russian by Yasha Hoffman

Published: December 30, 2020