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Beda.media and the research group ВЗВЕСЬ / SUSPENDED MATTER: on the environmental consequences of the Soviet colonial project invite everyone interested in the topic to the online conference on December 23, 2023.
The conference will be translated on the “Beda“ YouTube-channel. Working language: English (simultaneous translation from English into Russian and from Russian into English will be organized).
The research group has been meeting for two months, discussing and learning about racism in USSR and racialization as medical, social, and discursive practices; interrelations between “postcolonial” and “decolonial”, “post-soviet” and “post-socialist” terms and thoughts; eco- and feminist activism in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Armenia; disability justice movement as the movement against colonial and capitalist never-ending suppressions, and many more.
The participants of the group, coming from and/or based in different countries of Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and South Caucasus, shared their memories, family and local histories, activist practices, and research interests with each other, and, as we hope, could understand and feel interconnectedness of their localities and struggles. We believe that a common past requires multiple reflections.
We see the conference as a resulting event of the group’s work. It will include a series of presentations by the research group participants and a round table with them and invited speakers.
Section 1: Round table “Relations with the land”
|15:00—16:10 Yerevan, Tbilisi
|17:00—18:10 Bishkek, Astana, Almaty
|14:00—15:10 Kyiv, Minsk
The discussion will be dedicated to the political dimension of decolonization in terms of human and non-human interactions and ecological policies. We want to problematize European political ideologies' growing influence in shaping the horizons of decolonial political imagination.
Decolonial movements from the region find themselves in a false choice between such political institutes as national states, liberal representative democracies, and an impossible return to the pre-modern or pre-colonial past.
We are interested in thinking about what alternatives decolonial thought can offer. What policies of relations with the land, the environment, and communities can resist Russian colonial politics and the heritage of Soviet imperialism? What decolonial and environmental solidarities can look like in the context of a so-called post-soviet region?
Ruthia Jenrbekova is an interdisciplinary post-studio artist and cultural organizer. Co-founder of Krёlex zentre (together with Maria Vilkovisky). Fields of interest: queer ecology, material semiotics, arts-based methodologies, trans*feminism. Currently is a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Caterina Pîslari is an independent decolonial researcher and activist, focusing on the analysis of the colonial relations involving the Republic of Moldova. She is the editor and author of Beda.Media platform that studies the Russian imperial project, its historical and contemporary strategies, influences and consequences on the countries of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and Central Asia and within the current borders of the Russian Federation.
Round table participants
Hanna Paniutsich is a multimedia artist and researcher. Their work is a collage of personal stories and histories, video footage, physical devices, and biomatter. This is usually assembled into installations using different software and hardware. Their current research interests are nuclear technologies, chemical pollution, and the effects of radioactivity on living systems.
Alisher Khassengaliyev is a Qazaq decolonial anti-nuclear activist and emerging political scientist currently pursuing an international relations degree at the Kazakh-German University. His focus lies in applying a decolonial lens to Qazaqstan's foreign and nuclear policy. Alisher is one of the founding members of the Steppe Organization for Peace (STOP): Qazaq Youth Initiative for Nuclear Justice, also a member of CTBTO Youth Group and YOUTH4TPNW.
Aigerim Kapar is an interdependent curator, interdisciplinary researcher, decolonial practitioner, and eco-art activist. Currently, Kapar curates a hybrid reality project Steppe Space, the place for contemporary art and culture of Central Asia, and initiated projects of care for lake ecosystems SOS Taldykol and Care for Balkhash in 2020. Her key previous works include Re-membering: Dialogues of Memories, an international intergenerational project in memory of survivors and victims of 20th-century political repressions in Kazakhstan (2019), and Time&Astana: After Future, an urban art research and engagement project (2017-2018).
Yana Tannagasheva is a Shor (indigenous people of West Siberia) from the Kemerovo region (Kuzbass), activist, political refugee in Sweden, member of the organization International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia.
Section 2: Presentations
|16:30—17:30 Yerevan, Tbilisi
|18:30—19:30 Bishkek, Astana, Almaty
|15:30—16:30 Kyiv, Minsk
Anel Rakhimzhanova is a graduate student in the interdisciplinary field of Performance Studies (NYU) with a background in Comparative Literature and Economics. She is currently working on her dissertation “Precarious Routes and Logistical Topographies: the Episteme of Mobility in the Making of Central Asian Modernities”. Her research dives into the histories of railway construction and operation in Central Asia driven by the geographic expansion of resource extraction and movability. In those topographic and logistical interventions, she is invested in the politics, practices, and memories of people’s mobilities in the reconceptualization of environment, labor, and sociality.
Interests: everyday performance; mobility studies; labor; logistics, and infrastructure studies; human geography; transnational turn; ecocriticism.
Topic: Constructing TurkSib and human (im)mobilities: when a transit materializes in the environment, episteme and method
In this presentation, we will revisit the construction and conceptualization of the TurkSib (Turkistan-Siberian Railroad) as a forging of soviet modernity – the framework widely represented in the late 1920 – early 1930s cinema and media. However, the margins of this transit will be extended to its wider context and influence on the changing politics of environmental use and human mobilities (expedited sedentarization, collectivisation, and resettlement) along its tracks.
Navigating between archival, visual, and performance-oriented research, human geography and infrastructure, the speaker proposes to unpack the repertoires of precarious mobilities as an episteme – a way of knowing and understanding – Central Asian modernities and its logistical drives.
Shakhrizoda Ergasheva studies Computer Science and is a part of the team working on increasing accessibility of the underrepresented languages. She is passionate about applying her knowledge to create apps that are oriented towards facilitating conscious consumption and inclusive society.
Topic: Origins of the Aral sea crisis: effects of the soviet politics and consequences for the water resources of Uzbekistan
The presentation will elaborate on the history of the Aral sea crisis, showing its connection to the Soviet irrigation and water direction project. The crisis has severely affected local ecosystems and agriculture, and decreased accessibility of the fresh water in Uzbekistan. Presentation will review contemporary initiatives within the country, which work towards strengthening water resources, introducting ecologically sustainable agricultural methods, and protection of the public health.
Overall goal of the talk is to improve the understanding of historical grounds, as well as repercussions of the Aral sea crisis, and the current struggles in creating a more sustainable future for the region.
Section 3: Presentations and overall discussion
|18:00—19:30 Yerevan, Tbilisi
|20:00—21:30 Bishkek, Astana, Almaty
|17:00—18:30 Kyiv, Minsk
Hanna Paniutsich is a multimedia artist and researcher. Their work is a collage of personal stories and histories, video footage, physical devices and biomatter. This is usually assembled into installations using different software and hardware. Their current research interests are nuclear technologies, chemical pollution and the effects of radioactivity on living systems.
Topic: Exclusion zone: entanglements of nuclear technology and long-term legacies of waste colonialism.
The focus of this presentation lies in the exclusion zone — a 30 km zone around the Charnobyl nuclear reactor that was established by Soviet Armed Forces in 1986. The view into the zone helps to show an advanced laboratory of the consequences and long-term legacies of irradiated waste colonialism. In the contaminated zone there were 3,678 towns and villages, where 2.2 million people lived.
It is expected that it will take 300 years for all the elements that were released during the catastrophe to decay. But the alienation zone was established long before the accident. Years after the explosion, traces of the Charnobyl catastrophe are found in soils and through supply chains spread around the globe.
Alisher Khassengaliyev is a qazaq decolonial anti-nuclear activist and emerging political scientist currently pursuing an international relations degree at the Kazakh-German University. His focus lies in applying a decolonial lens to Qazaqstan's foreign and nuclear policy. Alisher is one of the founding members of the Steppe Organization for Peace (STOP): Qazaq Youth Initiative for Nuclear Justice, also a member of CTBTO Youth Group and YOUTH4TPNW.
Interests: international relations, nuclear politics, decolonial studies, soviet nuclear colonialism.
Topic: Soviet Nuclear Colonialism in Qazaqstan: From Testing Ground to Global Advocacy for Nuclear Disarmament
This report delves into the historical narrative of Soviet nuclear colonialism in Qazaqstan. It examines the country's role as a primary testing ground for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The study explores the concept of nuclear colonialism, shedding light on how the Soviet Union exploited Qazaq land and resources for its nuclear ambitions, leaving a lasting impact on the environment and the local people.
It also highlights Qazaqstan's pivotal role in leading the global movement against nuclear tests (Nevada-Semey) and the nation's courageous stance in closing the Semipalatinsk Test Site. Qazaqstan is also subsequently championing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).