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Obshestenniy Reiting Public Rating

Obshestvenniy Reiting
Public Rating

A couple of ‘shorts’ caught my eye this week as I was looking through the latest issue of Obshestenniy Reiting – Public Raiting – one of Bishkek’s leading newspapers … which is definitely a Broadsheet and not a Tabloid – despite the fact that it’s Tabloid-sized.

Published weekly, it’s one of the ‘heavyweight’ newspapers with long, tightly printed articles … usually on politics and economics, social issues and Op-eds and interviews.  The also publish long and detailed annual reports of companies as advertising features.

It is read, or at least seen, by a wide range of ‘decision takers’ in business and government circles … and one of my acquaintances, who had written articles on a variety of topics, was amazed at the response he received when he wrote one for OR, (as it is sometimes referred to).  He commented that he got virtually no feedback or comment from the other articles … but so many people commented on the one published here, that it really caught him unawares.

Over the years they’ve run a number of campaigns (… such as remembering the victims of Stalinist purges); related features on a given theme (… such as the story of different Streets in Bishkek over the years; the Seven wonders of Kyrgyzstan; Endangered species;  Currently they are running a series of stories about Letters from the Front – letters sent home from soldiers serving in the Red Army during the Second World War) and regular columns (… such as Blitz opros – where three ‘experts’ are asked a question and give their respective opinions; and the Day in History – listing some of the anniversaries of historic moments and birthdays for each day of that week).

There’s usually a two page spread of ‘shorts’ – a sort of In the news or What the press says – brief reports taken from different sources across a range of topics … and it was three of these stories that caught my eye … maybe because they were quoting statistics.


The first reported that: Since the start of the Summer Season, 22 people have drowned” featuring a report from the Turmush news agency – a division of AkiPress.

In Kyrgyzstan, since 2012, some 383 people have drowned, according to the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

In 2012 there were 66, (7 of them children), in 2013 – 84 (including 22 children), in 2014 – 82 (but there were no figures for children); in 2015 – 120 (84 men, 9 women … and 27 children); and in 2016, (to date), already 31 (18 men, 4 women … and 9 children).

If that wasn’t bad enough … there was a sting in the final sentence – which had provided the item with its headline: “Of these, 22 people have drowned since the start of the Summer Season

What surprised me about was not the overall figures … the trend … or the number of children that lost their lives … but the phrase “since the start of the summer season“.

Here, Summer is considered to start on 1st June … although this year Issyk Kul tried celebrating the opening of the Tourist Season about a month before that …

although I doubt if that will help boost their economy … they can declare the season ‘Open’, but if there are no tourists it is a bit of a wasted effort.  Usually the tourist season is from the middle of June until the end August … when the kids go ‘Back to School’.

Of course, not all of these drownings involved tourists up at Lake Issyk Kul – the statistics covered the whole of the republic … nor were they all holiday makers relaxing – it will include people who fell into rivers or canals, caught up in flash floods, perhaps in swimming pools … or even having an accident at home.

Bearing in mind, however, that this issue had a published date of 23rd June … which means that the story would have been written sometime in the previous week … when was the start of the Summer Season?:  the traditional 1st June – which means that something like one drowning per day; the nominal end of the school year – 25th May – which would give an extra seven days … which is slightly better but still getting close to one drowning per day; or maybe 1st May – which means about one drowning ever other day.

A couple of years ago, in August 213, I wrote a similar postcard about the number of deaths by drowning … and, at that time, it was reported that there had been 80 drownings that year (including 21 children) … which makes the final year end figures (of 84 and 22 respectively), from the middle of August to the end of the year, apparently there were only three drownings, one of which was a child.

That postcard also included a summary of the advice given by the Ministry about Water Safety … being safe in and around water … and would be appropriate reading even now.


The second quoted a report from AkiPress and reported that in half a year, 68 veterans of the Second World War had died.

The report cited information from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, that there were 68 fewer surviving veterans of the Great Patriotic War, (as the Second World War is known here) than there were half a year ago.  In January 2015, it reported, there were some 639 surviving veterans, (250 of them being invalids); in February – also 639, (but the number of invalids had inexplicably fallen to 242 ?!); in March – 611 and 237 respectively; in April – 595 and 232; in May – 583 and 228; and on 1st June 2015 – 571 and 223.

The story comes as a timely reminder of the dwindling number of veterans … although we are still a long way, hopefully, from commemorating the last survivors of the conflict, that moment is getting closer.  It’s a natural process.

Although not actually a combatant, in that she never saw action, the last survivor who served during the First World War, Florence Beatrice Green, passed away in 2012 at the age of 110 – just days before her ‘eleventy-first’ birthday, (as Tolkein put it in the opening pages of the Lord of the Rings).  Although she was serving in the Women’s Royal Air Force, at the end of the War in November, 1918, she never actually saw combat.

As I read the story, I couldn’t help wondering why the statistics were for 2015? … after all, we are now in 2016.  I wondered if it could have been a simple a misprint.  The statistics quoted seem to be for the number of survivors on the first of the month for the six months … and we are now in June, 2016 … but 2015 is quoted once more in the final statistic – for June.


If those two were about trends over time … the third story was about something much more recent – from the Government run Kabar news service: Farmers have lost 120 sheep due to a lightning strike, but no state aid is to be provided.

A representative of the Ministry of Emergency situations commented that Kyrgyz legislation makes no provision for compensation to citizens for the loss of livestock in emergencies. referring to an incident in the Aksy district of Osh oblast where a lightning strike killed 120 sheep … although the local authorities can consider options for providing support, such as support in granting loans (… and, incidentally, the same is true with respect to crops in the fields and not just livestock – for example, in the event of flooding destroying crops before harvest).  In what seems to be a familar argumnent, the spokesman made reference to the avavailability of insurance from one or other of the 13 private companies that are based in the capital of Bishkek.  that can insure livestock.

This story, (although not the always the issue of compensation and insurance ),  received quite a lot of of coverage all around the world … and my various newsfeed channels were full of related stories for a several days.  I can understand why … 120 sheep is quite a substantial figure … to be lost in what was basically a single incident … and it seemed designed as a plea from the government to ecourage people signing up for insurance cover.

Now, it’s good to know that there is insurance cover available in the republic … and in recent years there have been inovations such as proposals for introduction of several types of compulsory insurance, … but these always seem to faces resistance from the public … indeed, among the demands of different protest groups, there have been alls to delay or abandon measures requiring copmpulsory ‘third party cover’ for mototists (which, in theory at least, is already required …  it’s on the statute book … but the measure has not been implemented because some of the necessary regulations have yet to be approved) …

In addition, … although the governments seek to get homeowners insure their property so that in the event of some disaster, such as an earthquake, then help would be available from sources other than just the government.  The scheme exists, the mechanism has been setup, the necessary regulations approved, tariffs set, and even a publicity campaign undertaken … but the take up has been, somewhat – to say the least – disappointing.  I suspect that the insurance of livestock is likely to suffer a similar fate …


Perhaps it was just the juxtaposition of these three stories, (they were placed together on the page, one after the other), but I couldn’t help noticing that the first two stories were allocated about six inches of column space between them, – including an inch and a half for a photograph – while the final story was allocated about eight inches …   I couldn’t help noticing that the 90 lives lost in the course of a half year (22 in one headline, and 68 in the other) merited less space than the deaths of 120 sheep.

To be honest, I can think of several reasons why this was so … perfectly valid reasons … and there is nothing wrong in this ratio in itself.  It does not reflect the value placed on human life, or a lack of respect for each and every one of the deaths recorded, or a lack of consideration for the families and friends of the ninety … every single one of them contained in that total concealing a ‘backstory’ that deserves attention, respect and sympathy  …

… however, I can’t escape the fact that this was the first thought that crossed my mind having read the items … my ‘first impression’ … and … a ‘lasting impression’.



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