Back to Almaty

After a flight from Almaty to Dushanbe, in Tajikistan, where I gave a talk to the researchers and directors of the Center for Strategic Research of the office of the president, met with businessmen, and had a seminar with a large group of graduates of foreign universities, I took a flight to Khudjand (in the Fergana Valley), where I spoke at the central library to a group of entrepreneurs and leaders of youth organizations. Then back on the same day to Dushanbe, for more meetings with officials and with some businessmen who are trying to establish private pension plans (and were very knowledgeable about the work of the Cato Institute). Then up early this morning to get to the airport (a very chaotic matter in Tajikistan; as I told my audiences, Tajikistan is a very high transaction cost society, with a lot of needless transaction costs imposed imposed by the state) and fly back to Almaty, where I managed to get a transit visa a the airport and a room at the Hotel Kazakhstan in central Almaty, where I am now working during the long period until my flight to Germany.

Tajikistan has a lot of quite interesting people and a rich culture, but a lot of work needs to be done to reform institutions here. Local people tend to just be slightly amused and shrug their shoulders. They’re used to the inefficiency. As a simple example, when my friend from Kyrgyzstan and I got off the airplane from Khudjand, we walked over the runway with the other passengers to the gate where we could be let out of the airport. But there was a big padlock on it and the airport security officers didn’t have or couldn’t find the key. So, in the illumination provided by the cell phones of the passengers, they started smashing the padlock with a huge rock. After more than 20 minutes of unsuccessful smashing of the padlock, someone managed to open a door into the terminal and let us through and out to the muddy parking lots, where taxi drivers were waiting. (On the first landing in Dushanbe, a fight among drivers broke out, with one grabbing my suitcase and taking it to his car and starting a fight with the driver we had chosen. We had agreed with that driver on ten somoni to drive to the Hotel Tojikistan, where we had rooms reserved. After getting into his car, another guy got in — his friend. Then they said it was really eighty somoni, and we argued with them in the car, which is less than comfortable when there are two of them. We called a local business contact, who argued with them on my cell phone, and we ended up paying twenty somoni…ten each, which was what the driver who tried to take my bag had offered. Very high transaction costs, but less than the costs of boarding the flight this morning in a remarkably chaotic, stressful, disorganized, and unpleasant manner, with thuggish plain clothes Soviet-style police officers pushing some to the front — it was unclear whether they had paid for it, or were friends or family members — and being very aggressive with others, including me, as one big lug in an old Soviet-style black leather jack and cap demanded my passport and hassled me. My Kyrgyz libertarian friend was rather brave and demanded to know who he was, to see his badge, etc., which made the fellow a little less aggressive.)

Anyway, it was a great trip and we mets lots of good friends of liberty in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan — and I hope got lots of new readers for!

*Note: I’ve flown on lots of airlines, including the old Soviet Aeroflot and a variety of old Communist Airlines (I recall an especially memorable 1990 Tarom flight from Tirana, Albania, to Bucharest, Romania, on the weirdest plane on which I’ve ever flown, next to the only other passenger, a chain smoking Transylvania-German lady from Hermannstadt [Sibiu], Romania) but I must say that my travels on Air Scat (no kidding) and Tajik Air were memorable.

3 Responses to “Back to Almaty”

  1. In the former USSR, when hassled by police, always ask for their names, and badge numbers. It’s a holdover from Soviet times, that one always had the right to do this, and they had to comply. I have no idea why it works with these lawless thugs, but I’ve done it in situations where it almost seemed like a magic spell.

  2. One of the bad things about the former USSR is exactly the planes.
    In the Soviet Union there was only 1 huge monopolistic airlines – Aeroflot. During the early 1990-s with the collapse of the coutnry the Industry almost collapsed as well. Aeroflot sold all of the oldest aircrafts to the “new” airlines of the new independant states. As being unprofitable till late 90-s there was no investment into the security and park of airplanes in general.
    Aeroflot decided to become the part of the Sky Team Alliance, which required a huge adjustment to the systems of control, security, etc.
    The best part of that was that Aeroflot was forced to buy the new planes both on the international and domestic flights.
    That’s why nowadays Aeroflot is the safest airline in the post-SU space. But a huge park of airplanes Aeroflot possessed before is spread over the whole CIS territory.
    Our sad reality…

  3. Cool. I drove a Ural sidecar from Moscow to this area. Gave away a number of copies of Bastiat to the local English speakers. Perhaps one attended.

    Keep up the good fight, Tom.

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