Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cain Rising

The salons and lavabos of Europe have trilled with talk of riot and revolution in Kyrgyzstan, a country close to the kidney of all Welshmen if only for proving that there is life without consonants.

I once provided readers with a sheath-bursting tour d'horizon of Central Asia, in which I characterised the Kyrgyz thus:

The Kyrgyz are the Welsh of Central Asia. They're jolly, profoundly democratic, and inhabit a beautiful, mountainous country that no one visits and which has no natural resources at all except for some gold and clapped-out mining.

They are divided north and south in lifestyle and geographical orientation, and are widely associated with sheep-related activities.

They still practice droving, and have the worst cuisine in the world. Their southern valleys are home to heroin connoisseurs.

They have never ruled anything, not even Kyrgyzstan, and don't really seem to care. They think their neighbours are soft and that they secretly wish they too were Kyrgyz.

Their neighbours rarely think of them at all, except in a comic context, but if pushed will say they distrust them as sly and two-faced.

Russian spittle-licking suits them just fine, and hey, Ivan, why don't you buy some of our lovely smack while you're here?

Prophetic words, you'll agree, and compassionate too. But not, I'm ashamed to say, entirely truthful. For there is another political factor at play in Kyrgyzstan beyond the Russo-American strategic rivalry, beyond the scheming Uzbeks of the South and the patient Han of the East.

Some chap from Dubai took time out from driving his Mercedes round and round to pen a few hundred cheerily uninformative words for The Guardian's web-based Comment is Free rubric on why the bold ouster of Kyrgyzstan's tawdry Mr Bakiyev was not likely to be repeated with the Arab world's sullen satraps.

It's difficult to read past his endorsement of Noam Chomsky, but Mr Al-Qassemi deserves praise for not indulging any of the conspiracy theories common in his part of the world - for that you'll need to read the remarks on his article by the Jocelyns of the Comment is Free crew.

The fact is that the Assads and Al-Sa'uds can rest their rectangular heads, for they do not have to contend with the most occluded factor in Kyrgyz politics - the Yeti Lobby.

Some background: The Soviet conquest of Central Asia only really took off after the various inept and insane White Generals had been dispatched to the four corners of emigration, execution, incarceration or promotion.

Commander Mikhail Frunze, a native of what is now the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, took the Red Army with him on his trip back home. The corpulent pederast Alim Khan sought to shore up his Bukharan throne by casting gaggles of gap-toothed dancing boys before the advancing Bolshevik hordes, only to see the bacchás shorn, shod and shown how to shoot sodomites.

(The Emir himself fled to Afghanistan, and his pragmatic decision to transfer his affections to young girls prompted peasants to cake their daughters' faces in dung as he passed. A fashion that has not died out entirely in the Zaamin area, I can testify.)

While Frunze was shriving Tajiks at the head of the terrier-shaped tyranny that would soon become Uzbekistan, one of his officers was busy sorting out the Khan of Khiva's troops under its Khwarezmian tail.

Divisional Commander Morgunov's method, in an eerie pre-echo of Comrade Stalin's quondam Nazi allies, was to line up the captured mingbashis and fit their skulls into types of fruit - a round, watermelon match marked the bearer as a subtle urban Sart, while a Mr Punch honeymelon profile meant a Turcoman desert nomad.

The latter were instructed in the ways of Leninism, given fresh horses and sent against the British Dunsterforce on the Caspian. The former were drowned in buckets or something.

This policy of gourd-based divide and kill took on a new, hairier dimension in High Badakhshan, where the questing Bolshevists faced Alim Khan's last line of defence - the sepâhe 'âliye kojâkân (the Noble Host of Abominable Snowmen).

Yetis remain elusive in the Himalayas, as they resent being scalped by monks, tracked by Germans or mounted by lonely sherpas, but they rub along nicely with the chilled Isma'ilis of the Pamirs.

Alim Khan's ancestor, the debased martinet Nasrallah Bahadur Khan, had regimented these loping vegetarians into a fearsome phalanx in return for their exercising droit de seigneur over the monobrowed maidens of Soghd. Frunze's commissars, however, persuaded them through the media of mime and crude surgery that Socialism offered a chance to build a new world, one fit for all bipeds.

The Yetis donned the Red Army budenovka and drove the Last Manghit across the Jaxartes. Stalin granted them regional autonomy, an alphabet, and the right to send delegates to the Grand Soviet in Moscow, but as ever there was a catch.

In order to prevent a powerful Yeti presence in still-volatile Central Asia, the Bolsheviks partitioned their historic uplands between the emerging Kyrgyz republic and Tajikistan.

On the Kyrgyz side of the frontier was the Lower Abominable Snowman Autonomous Region (Нижняя cнежнe-человеческая автономная область), and on the Badakhshani plateau stood the less-developed Upper Abominable Snowman Autonomous District (Верхний cнежнe-человеческий автономный округ).

The result was that the Yeti of Tajikistan were subject to institutional speciesism, and soon embarked on the Great Lollop (Yettish: Tümőnt'z Nyi'ařl) - a mass migration across the cordillera to British India. Their spiritual leader, Yebhamoth the Marmot-Slayer, shaved closely and enlisted in the 5th Baluchi Lancers, with anti-Soviet vengeance on his single-lobed mind.

He quickly rose to the rank of corporal among the mainly Welsh troops, but General Sir Anthony"Bracing" Shower had him court-martialled and shot for sloppy kit. The whereabouts of his grave are unknown, although his manhood was used as the parade-ground flagpole in Quetta until it vanished after a visit by Lady Mountbatten in 1947 (see Maj Gervaise "Neither Know" Nacquere: "The Abominable Snowman - A Frightful Consequence of Miscegenation", HMSO, Quetta, 1947).

Meanwhile, the Yetis of Kyrgyzstan embarked on a long shamble through the institutions of Soviet power. Their position was strengthened during the Great Purges of the 1930s - not through collaboration with Stalin and his henchmen, but because Russian-made bullets merely bounced off the back of their heads. Uncle Joe admired that, and promoted Yetis to all major party and government posts in the republic.

Khrushchev's policy of de-Stalinisation eclipsed the Abominables who, in an exquisite example of Marxian anti-thesis, then became the literal backbone of the dissident movement. On the fall of Soviet power, the ethnic-Kyrgyz and Russian party leaders were swept away by a liberal faction led by a close-shaven Yeti physicist who used the nom de l'homme of Askar Akayev.

The new Yeti elite ran independent Kyrgyzstan better than their human peers managed in the other Central Asian states. As cryptozoological creatures they were able to rise about the seething ethnic, religious and musical divisions of the land, but tensions soon emerged that doomed their hirsute hegemony:

  • The Kyrgyz in their bigoted way thought a country called "Kyrgyzstan" ought to be run by Kyrgyz;

  • Russian men complained that their russet-haired, slatternly wives were discarding their greasy housecoats and running off with sober, upwardly mobile and downwardly endowed Mi-Go;

  • Tajikistan complained that their own downtrodden Yeti were seeking secession in order to create a Great Yetistan astride the Ferghana Valley; and

  • Muslim clerics were appalled at the staunch secularism of the Snowmen and the prospect of anyone having a good time.

This coalition of the insulted and injured toppled Akayev from his eminence, and ushered in the recent Time of Troubles where crowds of men in piss-stained brown flares struggled to find the keys to the presidential drinks cabinet.

The Yetis bided their time. They quietly built alliances, promising Uzbek irredentists, Russian militarists and cosmopolitain drug barons a fair deal. And now they're back.

I shall not speculate on the likely policies of the second Yeti administration, although the abolition of VAT on hair-removal products, nail-clippers and extra-strong mints is a fair bet.

I will only suggest that we cast our eyes southwards. The success of the Snowmen of Bishkek may galvanise the Yetis of Tajikistan - where they largely work as street cleaners - Kashmir and Ladakh.

Above all, we ought to consider Nepal. The fall of the monarchy and the recent outbreak of Maoist syndicalism have created an atmosphere in which the mountain men may decide to intervene. A Yeti-led state literally atop the world and on the borders of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan is not a matter that Russia or China can regard with equanimity.

I leave you with this item that I translated from Vatanparvar, the entertaining organ of the Uzbek Armed Forces (16 September 1995, p 4).

The border-violator was a yeti

An unusual occurrence took place at the M. Strelnikov border outpost. At night, a border patrol saw a two-metre-tall creature, moving ahead on two legs, similar to descriptions of the yeti - the abominable snowman.

Its eyes gleamed in the dark. The leader of the patrol there and then made a report by telephone to the outpost. A search party, sent promptly to the scene, found half-metre-long human-like footprints. A dog caught the trail, which crossed into the border demarcation zone.

And on they lope, like Wells's tripods, towards the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, there to bathe their steaming extremities and comb out their matted hair with the rib-cages of our upstart race.


Gyppo Byard said...

Informative as always.

I always thought "Bracing" Shower was a Percy. In both senses of the word.

No Good Boyo said...

You may well be right, Gyppo. There is a reference in "The Wounds of Capt Scot 'Scotty' Scott: Vol XIX - abrasions; below Plimsoll Line; involuntary; masonry; wager", but I took it as a typographical slip for "pumice".

Do you have any other sources?

Gyppo Byard said...

I believe that a "Lieutenant-General Percival 'Bracing' Shower" appears as the deicatee of Major N.M.E Adthy-Gates's "Thirty Years in Shorts - Reminiscences of a Life Spent Thrashing the Petulant Wugga-Wuggas" (HMSO, Nairobi, 1942).

Was there more than one of the blighter?

No Good Boyo said...

No, that must be the man. He recruited Chitrali devil-worshippers to "guard" Shia mosques in the tribal areas, and conducted the highest-altitude keelhauling ever - on a Havildar Prakash, in Leh.

He'd have taken recent defence cuts in his stride. He once invaded Siam and put their border regiments at India's service. Their daughters, too.

Gyppo Byard said...

Do you have the details of the keelhauling? Addled memory suggests it involved the Assamese Order of the Longboat (which consisted of a an actual longboat, attached to a length of ribbon).

Gorilla Bananas said...

I am ideologically and biologically pro-Yeti, as you would expect. Yet I cannot banish from my mind a vague memory of Grouty (the honarary Welshman of Citizen Smith), using the word "yeti" as a perjorative nickname for Wolfie Smith, the dilettante revolutionary. Do I remember correctly?

Brit said...

I think it's fair to say there's nothing else quite like this on the web.

Sauti Ndogo said...

"The Kyrgyz are the Welsh of Central Asia."

A theme worth developing. The Luos may well be the Welsh of East Africa, just as the Somalis are the Irish and the Kikuyus are the Jews of that region.

No Good Boyo said...

As it happens, Gyppo, there's an account of the keelhauling in the unpublished memoirs of Col Peter B.D'A Deakin, late of the Baluchi Lancers, who conducted it.

He was on a mission to present an ornamental boat to Meidingngu, king of Manipur. Deakin had noted down the measurements and directions incorrectly "through an unfortunate set of circumstances", and had a platoon of Jain holymenhaul a full-size replica Viking longboat hundreds of miles up the Himalayas into Ladakh at the other end of India.

He was mortified by the response of the local maharajah, Hari Singh, and sought to impress upon him the utility of the longboat by the aft-to-stern, high-altitude keelhauling of the "volubly insolent" Prakash.

A nervous Singh readily agreed that he was indeed the ruler of Manipur, but insisted that none of his lakes could accommodate the craft.

Deakin, "in a move of which I alone remain proud", then announced that the longboat was in fact some sort of medal, and pinned it to the maharajah's uniform "by a means of my own devising".

There are folk tales among the local Buddhists as to the nature of the ribbon used.

Deakin reported to Gen Nacquere that "matters were settled to the advantage of the Crown" and was duly court martialled. This was the first application of the "Deakin Defence", I gather.

I've a feeling you're right about Grouty, GB, although Smithy must have misconstrued his Cambrian compliment. Yetis and other simians are honoured in our valleys, with one having narrowed escaped being elected to parliament in Hawarden in the late 1890s - in the Unionist interest, I believe.

Thank you, Brit. I seek to cast light on current events that would best not be shone.

Ndogo, always good to hear your insightful analysis from the Horn. Your Kikuyu and Somali analogies are well taken, but how do the Luos measure up being Welsh? Is it truculence, a misplaced sense of grievance, or something to do with Neil Kinnock? They're suspiciously rich in vowels.

No Good Boyo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think you've flipped.

No Good Boyo said...

Sigh, so the Yetis have got to you too, Dewi?

Gorilla Bananas said...

Hey Dewi, the last thing you should be doing is stabbing a fellow Welsh in the back. If you are acquainted with Boyo personally and are referring to an incident from his private life, I withdraw my remark.

Unknown said...

Boyo, looks like someone is having a go at you...

No Good Boyo said...

Indeed to goodness, Macsen, and I've given him a piece of the coarse rubber tubing that is my mind.

Sauti Ndogo said...

"Luos being Welsh": I must confess that this is somewhat whimsical on my part, and at first glance the Nilotic Luo, being generally tall and slender (Obama is a stereotypical Luo), do not match the Welsh image.

But consider the following:

The Luos of Kenya live in the far west of the country, an area associated with two things: high rainfall and poverty.

Their Nilotic language is unrelated to the (Bantu) vernaculars spoken by most of their fellow Kenyans, and peculiarities of their pronunciation (e.g. the absence of the "sh" sound) are a source of amusement to others.

They have the gift of the gab, and despite only making up around 10 per cent of the population, are very prominent in the gabby professions of law and trade unionism.

They are also enthusiastic politicians, but tend towards failure, or at best being king-makers rather than kings. The Neil Kinnock of Kenya is current Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a likeable windbag, though unlike Kinnock he speaks German, having studied in the GDR.

(You have to like him once you learn that after being taught mechanical engineering by the East Germans, he returned to Kenya and set up the Standard Processing Equipment Construction and Erection Company Ltd.)

The Luos are also well over-represented in the singing arts (see Suzanna Owiyo, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, Wycliff Omondi, Princess Jully...)

They are not very good at business. In military matters they are more heroic than successful. The only half-serious coup in Kenya (in 1982) was led by a Luo private (sic) but failed despite most of the pro-government army being hundreds of miles away on exercises at the time.

No Good Boyo said...

Looks like you've found our long-lost African brothers, Mr Ndogo. If they changed the spelling to Lluo they would form the root of the Welsh word meaning "plural", for we would thus be legion.

I like the sound of this private coup buffoon, and trust he was treated leniently.

Odinga speaks German, eh? That's makes two Germanic languages more than Kinnock can manage.

Gareth Williams said...

The Soviets naming the capital of Kyrgyzstan Frunze is one of my favourite examples of colonial insensitivity as I understand there is no 'f' in the Kyrgyz alphabet.

Shame about the disappearance of the Welsh yetis of Eryri. I'm sure they'd make superb second rows, a position the vertically-challenged Welsh have always struggled with. Though rumours do swirl around the descent of the Quinnells.

Sauti Ndogo said...

Private Hezekiah Ochuka and his co-conspirators were the last persons to be hanged in Kenya before the de facto abolition of capital punishment.

No Good Boyo said...

Another exquisite Soviet detail, Gaw. The Turkic languages of Central Asia tend not to distinguish clearly between "p" and "f", with the latter prefered by Uzbeks and the former by Kyrgyz. Indeed, so fond of "p" are the Kyrgyz that they often pronounce the modern name of the capital, Bishkek, as "Pishpek", which has a Glaswegian ring to it.

As for the Welsh Yeti, or "Cofi", he can still be found if you know where to look. They can shave carefully and don human apparel, but the nasal accent and immunity to smack always gives them away.

Hezekiah?! These Lluo even share our taste for Old Testament monickers. They are duly admitted to the International League of Welshness.

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