Vera Zaporozhskaya – Scholar of Siberia, by Elena Okladnikova, (Herzen University) translated by Richard Bland (University of Oregon)

Editor’s introduction:

This special blog post was translated and shared with us by Dr. Richard Bland, currently a Research Analyst the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, who has translated a wide variety of volumes and materials related to Russian and Soviet archeology, including the biography of Aleksei P. Okladnikov, well-known archeologist of Soviet Siberia.  The material presented here was written by Dr. Elena Okladnikova, the daughter of Okladnikov and herself a Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia in St. Petersburg.

This blog presents an excerpt of Okladnikova’s original biographical article “V.D. Zaporozhskaya: Scholar of Siberia: The Gendered Aspect of a Personal History” – the original Russian version was published in 2017 in Women in Russian Society 3 (84): 80-92, and was translated by R. Bland in 2019.  That full text details the professional biography of Vera Dmitrievna Zaporozhskaya, the wife of Okladnikov, and mother of Okladnikova. Zaporozhskaya was herself a prolific archeological researcher, scientific artist, and photographer, who documented many Russian archeological expeditions in Siberia and Central Asia in the 1930s and 1940s, and who provided illustrations and design for the many volumes published on those projects (several of which are listed here below).  It is important to recognize that while certain scholars were credited for those works, in fact these are the efforts of teams of talented individuals.

We would encourage our readers to consider this personal biography in understanding the rich tradition of historical archeological research in Soviet Central Asia and Siberia, and to read alongside contemporary research on similar Paleolithic sites from Altai to Transbaikal, which informs our understanding of hominid migration across the region.

Kolobova, Kseniya A., et. al. (2020) “Archeological Evidence for two separate dispersals of Neanderthals into southern Siberia.”  PNAS 117(6). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1918047117

Kuzmin, Yaroslav V. (2007) “Chronological Framework of the Siberian Paleolithic: Recent Achievements and Future Directions.” Radiocarbon 49(2): 757 – 766.

Li, Feng, et. al.  (2019)  “Heading north: Late Pleistocene environments and human dispersals in central and eastern Asia.”  PLOS 14(5).  doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216433

Rybin, Evgeny. (2014).  “Tools, beads, and migrations: Specific cultural traits in the Initial Upper Paleolithic of Southern Siberia and Central Asia.” Quaternary International 347(1).  DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2014.04.031

***

Vera Dmitrievna Zaporozhskaya was born (30 September 1912) in Chita, Russia, her childhood and youth was spent in Irkutsk. After graduation from high school in 1928 she entered the Irkutsk Art College, which at that time was directed by the well-known in Siberian artist and teacher I. L. Kopylov, who first noticed her artistic talent. As early as her years of study at the college, Vera Dmitrievna felt her mission was to become a theater artist. She settled into work at the Irkutsk Regional Museum, where her father worked as a glazier. She worked in the museum from 1932 to 1933 as deputy director of the art gallery (Fig. 1). It was in the museum that she met a talented archaeologist, head of the Paleolithic Department, A. P. Okladnikov. Their wedding took place in June 1932. To her mother, who was then staying with relatives in Donetsk, Vera Dmitrievna sent a brief telegram: “Married, bless me, Vera.” [i] (Fig. 2).

Figure 1. Personal data sheet of V. D. Zaporoshskaya in the account of personnel. Yakutsk, Science-Research Institute of Language, Literature, and History. (Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017).

Figure 4. V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov. Irkutsk, 1932. (Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017).

In 1933 she went to Leningrad with her husband, who entered graduate school at the State Academy of History of Material Culture (GAIMK) oriented toward “The History of Pre-Capitalistic Societies.” She was able to do much in these years: she entered the Academy of Fine Arts, then went to the school for lab work at the State Hermitage under the direction of the outstanding archaeologist M. P. Gryaznov; she also worked as a laboratory technician at the State Academy of Material Culture (GAIMK). At GAIMK Vera Dmitrievna finished courses for bookkeepers and accountants, as well as learning the art of documentary photography. From 1933 she worked in the Hermitage in the Department of the History of Pre-Capitalistic Society, and from 1936 to 1941 at the Institute of Material Culture. She completed archaeological courses at the Academy of Sciences and received the rank of Junior Researcher. As an artist in those years she helped to design scientific works and journals.[ii]

All spring-summer-fall seasons in the 1930s she and her husband spent on expeditions, organized at first by the Irkutsk Regional Museum, then by GAIMK. The materials from these investigations were the basis of work in the archaeological study of regions for future construction: the Angara, Ust’-Ilim, and Bratsk hydroelectric stations. The archaeological materials obtained were the basis of the books that were written then by V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov. [iii] In 1939 she and her husband discovered the presently world-famous Buret’ site. There they found the unique image of Paleolithic Venus—an anthropomorphic bone figurine in fur coveralls. It was Vera Dmitrievna who sketched the finds at Buret’, drew the plans of the dwellings, and conducted photographing of this unique Paleolithic site (Fig. 3).


Figure 3. V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov at excavations in Buret’, Angara, 1939 (Author’s archive, 2017).

Zaporozhskaya took an active part in field work for the study of Neolithic and Eneolithic burials in the Angara region, that is, in search of the “first Americans,” as called by the American anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička, who met V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov on the Angara in 1939.That is where the artistic talent of Vera Dmitrievna and her sharp scholarly intuition were useful. In those years she masterfully executed the now classic reconstruction of the clothing of peoples of the Angara Neolithic period, included in all the textbooks on the history of the culture of peoples of Siberia. Its reconstruction is a brilliant example of integrated historical-artistic research: in costume are represented decorations of nephrite and mother-of-pearl fangs of Siberian deer, complementing the cut of the clothing, which combined the “Tungus frock” and the Tungus apron (Fig 4).

Figure 4: “Reconstruction of the decorated costume of a female shaman”, found at the burial site, published as drawing #175 in Okladnikov, 1955b.

The 1938 field season, and also seasons of the first post-war years, Zaporozhskaya spent in Central Asia, on the archaeological crew of her husband. The purpose of the work of this crew of the interdisciplinary archaeological expedition of M. E. Masson was the study of the Stone Age. It was in this expedition that the burial of a Neanderthal boy was discovered by Zaporozhskaya and Okladnikov. Publication of this find became the stellar hour in the scientific career of A. P. Okladnikov. In the post-war years Zaporozhskaya took part in archaeological study of the Turkmen deserts, in the discovery of a Mesolithic burial near Kailyu Cave, in the Neolithic “jewelry workshop” near Kuba-Sengir Mountain, and in excavations at Dam-Dam Chemshe Cave.

From 1941 to 1943 she worked in Yakutsk in the regional museum, and then from 1943 to 1945 in Yakutsk in the Science-Research Institute of Language, Literature, and History (Fig. 5). In her autobiography dated to 1945 she wrote that she participated in eleven archaeological expeditions (Fig. 6). On 8 March 1945, by order No. 46 of the Science-Research Institute of Language, Literature, and History, as an artist and archaeologist of the Lena Archaeological Expedition, she was awarded acknowledgment “for good production work.”[1]

Figure 5. V. D. Zaporozhskaya. Yakutsk, 1945 (Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017).

[insert Figure 6.  These expeditions and sites were described in Okladnikov and Beregovaya, with forward by Okladnikova and translated by Richard Bland (2008).

In the 1940s, V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov conducted field work in the Arctic. She spent six years on expeditions on the Lena River. This delicate woman “with a classic figure and long braid”[iv] paddled thousands of kilometers, that is, all the way from Kachuga village on the upper Lena to Tiit-Ary Island on the lower Lena. She learned to manage the sail, to feel the flow of the great Siberian river, to withstand bad weather and the “nizovka”—a treacherous wind that drags the boat not down but up the river. She infused much spiritual and intellectual force into her husband’s major work, Istoriya Yakutii [The History of Yakutia]:[v] she sketched, drew, photographed, made plans of excavations, and kept a field log. She and her husband jointly studied the winter camp of the first Russian mariners on Cape Baranov (Taimyr 1948), where she, as usual, participated in the excavation, was occupied with photo-recording the finds, and fearlessly carried out field processing of the finds while being constantly watched by hungry polar bears.

Zaporozhskaya was occupied with archaeological research in Kolyma and Tadzhikistan (1948), again returning to the Angara and Lena (1951), and working in Zabaikal’e [Transbaikal] (1947–1951). Up to the last days of her life, she was immersed preparing for publication of the large, now classic investigations of the rock art of Siberia and the Far East—Petroglify Srednei Leny [Petroglyphs of the Middle Lena], Petroglify Nizhnego Amura [Petroglyphs of the Lower Amur], and Petroglify Zabaikal’ya [Petroglyphs of Transbaikal]. On New Year’s Eve 1959/60 in the Leningrad apartment on Nevsky Prospect, V. D. Zaporozhskaya inscribed a dedication on the title page of the joint (with her husband) monograph Lenskie pisanitsy [Lena’s Writings]: “This book, Alyosha, I give to you—your inexhaustible creative flame, brilliant thought and boldness. Everything that I did in archeology, all this was done only for you. The pages of this book contain so much that is so dear to me, and to you. Preserve it. Vera. 31/12/1959.” [vi]  These lines can become the epigraph to this article. In them openly and clearly rings the declaration of this bright and talented woman in her love for her husband, archaeology, and sites of the ancient art of the peoples of Siberia.

In the 1970s and 1980s she became one of the leading organizers of the Museum of History and Culture of the Peoples of Siberia, Institute of History, Philology and Philosophy, Siberian Branch, Academy of Sciences, USSR.

References:

Michael, Henry N. 1970.  Yakutia Before Its Incorporation into the Russian State(A translation of A.P. Okladnikov’s History of Yakutia 1950[1955].  McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Okladnikov, A. P. 1955a.  Неолит т Бронзобый век Прибайкалья. Издательство Академии Наук, СССР.

Okladnikov, A. P. 1955b.  Материалы и Исследовании по Археологии СССР.  Издательство Академии Наук, СССР.

Okladnikov, A.P. and N. A. Beregovaya. 2008.  The Early Sites of Cape Baranov. (translated by Richard L. Bland).  Shared Beringian Heritage Program.

Endnotes

[1] Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017.

[i] The materials described through this excerpt are contained at the time of writing in the author’s own archive in St. Petersburg, and are cited here with permission.

[ii] Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017.

[iii] These texts were usually published with Okladnikov as author (e.g. 1955a, 1955b).

[iv] Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017.

[v] Okladnikov’s Istoriya Yakutii [The History of Yakutia was published in 1950, republished in 1955, and was translated into English and republished as Yakutia Before Its Incorporation into the Russian State by Henry N. Michael in 1970.

[vi] Author’s archive, 1980s.

Rural women in Kazakhstan: double vulnerability, by Kamila Kovyazina (Independent Scholar)

This blog presents some of the results of the study of rural women’s economic possibilities in Kazakhstan, conducted by the Applied Economics Research Centre in April 2019. The basic method of research was a mass survey of the target group;  the number of respondents amounted to 1400 women in five mega-regions, including southern, northern, western, eastern and central parts of the country. The study used a stratified multistage territorial randomized sample, representing the target group by age and region. Additionally, in-depth interviews were held with rural women from different social groups, such as independent workers, housewives, businesswomen.

The main hypothesis of this study was that rural women are extremely limited in their economic possibilities (including labor possibilities), compared to rural men as well as to urban women. In Kazakhstan on the whole, the average woman is poorer than the average man. This is proved by the size of average salary – women are paid 38% less than men. At the same time, the rural population has less income on average than the urban population. The Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of Kazakhstan provides the following data: in the fourth quarter of 2019, city dwellers’ had a monthly income per capita on average  67 971 tenge, while rural population received on average 47 306 tenge per capita. The difference is almost 20 000 tenge! This all brings us to a conclusion that rural women may face a double economic vulnerability, because of their gender and place of living.

The results of the above-mentioned study confirm the hypothesis. Rural women tend to be in poor economic situation and have low labor opportunities. A quarter of rural women are housewives, and around 29% of respondents have only secondary education. Half of the respondents report to have a household income per capita less than the normal living wage. There are two significant factors contributing to women’s limited economic possibilities which should be considered:  on one hand, this is associated with the narrow labor market in the countryside. On the other hand, rural women are the ones who take care of the household chores and infants or children, which predetermines their lower opportunities to get education and better job.

Economic conditions

The survey showed that half of rural women have less income per capita than the normal living wage in Kazakhstan in 2019, which was 29 698 tenge.

Graph 1. Household income per capita of respondents

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

The survey also demonstrates that most rural women have a low level of purchasing power – only about 18% of them are easily able to buy durable goods, such as utilities or a TV.  Only 49% of rural women get enough income for food and clothing. Every fourth rural family faces challenges to buy clothes, including those 4% of respondents, who don’t have enough income even for food.

Table 1. Purchasing power self-assessment

                                                                              Purchasing power Share
We do not experience financial difficulties and, if necessary, we may acquire a car or apartment Higher than the average 3,2
We get enough income for everything, except very expensive acquisitions, such as a car or apartment Higher than the average 14,5
There is enough money for food and clothing, but buying durable goods is difficult Average 49,0
There is enough money for food, but buying clothes is difficult Lower than the average 22,2
Not enough money even for food Lower than the average 4,1
N/A 7,0

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Economic conditions differ according to the number of family members in a household, but one general rule applies: the bigger the family, the worse the situation. A larger family size presupposes more children, including infants, which causes forced unemployment of rural women. Because they are primarily responsible to look after children, as well as for household chores, women are limited both in work and education possibilities, which leads to durable unemployment.

Graph 2. The purchasing power of respondents, according to the size of family

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

However, according to the results of the survey, rural women can not be rightly called dependents. Only 37% of rural families have a man as a main earner. This is true mostly for the previously-mentioned large-sized families. Husbands are named the main earner in families with bigger number of children. Respondents, who chose this option, are mostly Kazakh-speaking, with secondary education only. In another 21.1% of homes,  both spouses contribute equally to the total household income. In every fifth rural family, the main earner is a woman, and another 10% of families live off their wife’s allowance or pension.

Table 2. Sources of income

                                                                              Share, %
Husband’s earnings, income (works in the countryside) 25,6
Husband’s earnings, income (works in the nearby town/city) 11,2
Equally, my husband’s earnings and my earnings 21,1
My earnings, income (work in the countryside) 15,6
My earnings, income (work in the nearby town/city) 4,3
Husband’s pension, social benefits 1,7
My pension, social benefits 9,8
We are financially helped by relatives, adult children 3,5
The main income comes from our farm, etc. 3,2
Parents’ earnings 1,1
Other 1,9
Difficult to answer 1,0

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Rural women may serve as a main earner before getting married for their natal families and/or before the birth of their first children, usually, after getting education in the city. Respondents at the age of 18-24, who have higher education, and are usually bilingual, more frequently report that their earnings are the main source of income for their household. Respondents at the age of 35-44, who are bilingual and who have a higher education, tend to earn at an equal level with their husbands. After their children got old enough to take care of themselves, educated women get a chance for self-realization later in life.

Lower labor possibilities

According to the survey, two key features of rural women’s employment can be distinguished. Firstly, the proportion of those who are not part of the workforce is high: a full quarter of the respondents are housewives, and 12,4% are retired. Secondly, women tend to work in a limited number of spheres; wage employment prevails in organizations funded from the state budget (23% – state employees, 5% – civil servants). These are mostly schools, medical institutions, or akimats of rural districts.

Graph 3. Type of employment

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

The leading sphere of employment of rural women is, apparently, education (27% of respondents work as tutors, or teachers, 5% of rural women are preschool workers). Around 30% of employed rural women, on the whole, earn their money providing services (financial, cleaning, social, beauty services and other).Another popular sphere for the employment of rural women is trade and warehousing; 16% of respondents are engaged there. In traditionally agricultural spheres only about 6% of the women surveyed are employed: 5,3% of respondents are engaged in growing seasonal crops, 0,9% – are raising sheep, cattle, pigs and rabbits. This is the sign of crucial changes in rural economy, which becomes, on one hand, more complex, on the other – more urban-like.

Table 3. Field of activity

  Share, %
Tutoring, education 27,2
Wholesale and retail trade, warehousing 16,0
Financial services, consulting, marketing 7,0
Cleaning services (room cleaning) 6,0
Medicine (traditional and non-traditional) 5,6
Government worker 5,5
Growing seasonal crops – vegetables, fruits, gourds 5,3
Preschool worker 5,1
Production of bakery and confectionery products 3,9
Beauty industry (cosmetology, hairdressing, manicure, etc.) 3,0
Tailoring 2,7
Private carriage – taxi and cargo delivery services 2,7
Social services (caring for children, the elderly, sick people, etc.) 2,0
Construction, repair of premises, interior design 1,3
Self Employed Entrepreneur 0,9
Livestock – breeding sheep, cattle, pigs, rabbits 0,8
Unemployed, temporarily not working, maternity leave 0,8
Photographers, artists 0,7
Repair of clothes, shoes 0,4
Other 2,9
No answer 0,1
Difficult to answer 0,1

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Taking into account that in 15% of rural families either husband or wife earn money outside their village (see Table 2), the countryside provides an extremely narrowed labor market.

Opportunities for education

As mentioned above, women can participate in the workforce and serve as income earners when they are educated enough. However, rural women assess their education possibilities as being quite low. Answering the question on how much time they may spend on education, almost every second woman says she has no time at all. What’s more, the less educated women are, the more rarely they are ready to spend time on this type of activity.

During in-depth interviews rural women also exposed the problem of a poor education infrastructure in villages. While in villages with the status of district centers there are several schools, colleges and even development centers, in remote smaller villages there are no school and colleges at all, not to mention development centers.

Graph 4. How much time per day can you devote to yourself?

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

 One of the barriers for rural women’s higher education and training and, as a consequence, worse labor possibilities, is their basic level of education. Almost, a third of them obtained only secondary education, and around 40% have vocational education.

Graph 5. The level of education

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

According to the study, trend is changing. Among younger rural women the share of respondents with higher education is 20% bigger, than among the elder ones.

Table 4. Level of education, by age

Secondary education Vocational education Higher education Not finished higher education N/A  Total
Aged 18-24 20,8% 34,0% 31,9% 12,5% 0,7% 100,0%
Aged 25-34 17,2% 36,6% 42,5% 1,9% 1,9% 100,0%
Aged 35-44 31,4% 36,7% 29,3% 0,8% 1,9% 100,0%
Aged 45-54 32,3% 39,8% 25,2% 1,6% 1,2% 100,0%
Aged 55-65+ 42,4% 44,3% 12,9% 0,4% 100,0%

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

However, their style of life doesn’t seem to give them a chance to self-develop and build new opportunities, which creates a new level of problems, as outlined here below.

Awareness and effectiveness of state programs

In recent years Kazakhstan’s government has created a number of labor programs, one of the main target groups of which was the country’s rural population. Most of these programs were merged into one complex State Program “Enbek” (2017-2021), which included program for relocation citizens from labor-deficient to labor-surplus regions, business development, providing micro-loans, and other measures.

However, the survey shows that these measures don’t have any effect on rural women for three primary reasons. First, all of the state measures require spare time and full involvement, which rural women don’t have.  Second, most of the rural women were not informed about the availability of these programs, due to a narrow circle of information sources. Almost every second respondent had never even heard of state employment measures. Though the target groups of employment programs are unemployed and self-employed people, the level of awareness about these programs among such women is even lower than among other groups of rural women. Third, even those who participated in state programs were not sure about their purpose or effectiveness. Among the 4-9% of respondents who participated in some of state programs, only half of them think they were useful. In-depth interviews show that most of the trainings were designed for people with higher qualifications. Rural women simply didn’t understand some of the themes they were taught.

Graph 6. Did you participate in the following measures to improve employment?

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

One of the key directions for governmental programs, the implementation of which is expected to improve employment in rural areas, is the development of entrepreneurship. In this area, it is planned by State Bodies to educate those who wish to do the basics of business and to provide microloans. However, as rural women report during in-depth interviews, business start-up trainings, conducted by employment centers, are not adapted to their needs. Recall that almost 30% of rural women have only secondary education!

As for loans for opening or developing a business, 40% of rural women are interested in them, but only 13% of them believe that they would actually be able to obtain a loan.  Over a quarter – 27% – believe that these opportunities are very small or that they do not exist at all.The more educated and wealthier are respondents the higher they assessed their chances to get a business-loan. The main reason why banks are most likely not to give them a loan, in respondents’ perception, is that women have low income and In this regard, self-employed and unemployed rural women, who have the highest demand for a loan for business development, are less likely to get one.

Graph 7.  Self-assessment of their chances to get a business-loan

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Conclusions

The study conducted by the Applied Economics Research Centre in 2019 demonstrates that rural women, on the one hand, are very poor. On the other hand, they are extremely limited in terms of opportunities for education and employment, although they show a high willingness to work.

However, in my opinion, women can become a new driver for development of rural area, and this perspective is supported by several factors from the data.  The study shows the inevitable changes in gender roles and primary earners for households. There are many cases in which a man ceases to be the main earner in the family; he plays such a role only when a woman is busy caring for young children and doing domestic labor. As soon as a woman is freed from these obligations, she often seeks to find a paid job. Additionally, in the countryside there is a changing perception of the value of education, a change which led to the fact that among younger respondents the share of respondents with higher education was larger. This is one of the main factors, which affects the labor opportunities of respondents, their earning potential, and the perception of their chances to get a loan for the business.

Rural women also demonstrate their ability to adapt to the changes in rural economy:  around 30% of employed respondents work in service sphere, including financial, beauty, social services. Thus, rural women need to be considered as one of target groups for  labor programs, which presupposes a more specialized and narrow approach when creating state measures. Further research is required for understanding the business-potential of rural women in each region and for developing such employment and business measures, which would correspond to their needs.

Framing the Impact of Remittances from Labour Migrants in Central Asia, by Jakhongir Kakhkharov (Flinders University, Australia)

Labour migrants’ remittances are a rapidly growing phenomenon in the countries of the former Soviet Union (please see Figure 1). The size and growth of remittances in the countries of the recipients have brought the issue under the scrutiny of both researchers and policymakers alike. How can we use economic research to contribute to a deeper understanding of the interaction between the financial system, investment, remittances, household and firm behaviour, and migration? A focus on the determinants and economic impact of remittances from labor migrants allows us both to generate insights to inform theory as well as to inform real world decision makers in the areas of public policy. There may be a number of reasons why migrants send remittances, such as  ‘pure altruism’, ‘pure self-interest’, and ‘tempered altruism or enlightened self-interest’ (Lucas and Stark 1985). The case studies show that in various regions and countries different motives for sending remittances may dominate.

Figure 1. Inflows to Central and Eastern Europe, Mongolia, and the former Soviet Union (% of GDP), 2001-2012

Data source: World Development Indicators (World Bank)

The New Economics of Labour Migration (NELM), developed by Stark (1991) and others, links remittance behaviour to migration decisions. According to the NELM, migration decisions are a ‘calculated strategy’ of households aimed at improving the well-being of the whole family, and not an ‘act of desperation or boundless optimism’ (Stark, 1996, p. 26). According to the NELM, by sending a member of a household to migrate, the household aims to maximize joint income and status, and minimize risks. Thus, the NELM offers an important insight into migration decisions by linking labour migration with public policy and capital market failures in the labour-source countries. In making the decision on migration, households design their own strategy to cope with the absence of appropriate credit, insurance instruments and public protection. Remittances from a family member abroad provide an additional source of funding, insurance if the main source of family income falters, and financial protection in case of a rainy day. As such, migration and remittances associated with it can be viewed as a result of risk aversion on the part of a household that has insufficient income.

Applying NELM and testing its conclusions is difficult because frequently data on remittances is not segregated in terms of sources/origins of remittances. Therefore, having data on bilateral remittances flows from the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) is helpful. This CBR bilateral remittances dataset provides detailed information on remittances originating from Russia and flowing to countries receiving remittances from Russia. How can data on bilateral flows help us to understand the Central Asian remittance economy?  In order to answer this question, it is possible to analyse the relationships between formal remittances sent via Money Transfer Operators (MTOs), e.g. Western Union, MoneyGram, Contact and etc. alongside the fees for remitting money for a number of years using various empirical econometric approaches. In addition to macroeconomic, demographic, and financial data from World Development Indicators (World Bank), World Governance Indicators (World Bank), International Financial Statistics (IMF), and Balance of Payment Statistics (IMF) frequently employed in this area of research, this hand-picked dataset[i] used by Kakhkharov, Akimov, and Rhode (2017) includes statistics on annual transfers from Russia via MTOs to each of the remittance recipient countries, the flows of labour migrants from each country in the former USSR to Russia, the number of branches of money transfer operators in Russia, and money remittance fees charged by MTOs.

The econometric estimations show that the main factors behind the growing volume of remittances in the post-Soviet space are an income differential between Russian and post-Soviet states, a reduction in remittance transfer fees, and a depreciation of the Rouble in Russia The inverse relationship between remittance transfer fees and official remittances suggests that migrants switch from informal channels of transferring their hard-won earnings to formal/official channels to send remittances when remittance fees are low. Thus, lower remittance fees may help curb the proportion of informal flows (private, unrecorded channels) and lead to increased use of remittances in the formal/official economy. In contrast, if remittances flow through informal channels, the likelihood that they will end up in underground/informal economy increases. This is not beneficial to the society as most businesses that operate in underground economies are concealed from authorities to avoid paying taxes and meeting official market standards (e.g. safety, minimum wage) (Abdih and Medina, 2013; Buehn, Andreas, and Schneider, 2012). In addition, part of the shadow economy involves illegal activities, such as narcotics, prostitution, smuggling, and trafficking.

Despite trailing behind the top regions in the total volume of total remittances, transition economies of Europe and Central Asia lead the world in terms of remittances per capita as illustrated in Figures 2 and 3.

Figure 2. Inward remittances per capita, 2014

Source: World Bank, Migration and remittances factbook 2016, third edition.

Figure 3. Inward remittances per capita, 2014

Source: World Bank, Migration and remittances factbook 2016, third edition.

It is also important to understand the link between remittances and the financial system in transition countries, in particular, the link between remittances on one side, and bank credits and deposits on the other side. This issue is important for the region, as economic and finance theory documents the growth-enhancing and poverty-reducing effects of financial development. Recent research demonstrates a robust, significant, and positive link between remittances and financial development, a link that is especially strong in the Central Asian countries. This means that remittances do facilitate positive changes in the financial systems of migrant sending countries (Kakhkharov and Rhode 2019). In order to understand the broader national economic context of which remittances are a part, it is also important to consider the performance of financial systems in the less developed post-Communist economies of the former Soviet Union in fulfilling their vital functions, and to  compare this performance with more advanced transition economies, such as Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia as it is done by Bonin, John, and Wachtel (2003). In general, there is significant progress being made toward building contemporary financial systems in all groups of transition economies across Central Asia, although the gap between financial systems in the less-developed post-communist countries which include Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and their above mentioned advanced counterparts in Eastern Europe remains very large (Kakharov and Akimov 2018). Given these results, the governments in the region should undertake further actions to strengthen the ability of financial systems to deliver their core functions. This will aid the economic growth in Central Asia and close the gap between the levels of development among transition economies.

Another major question related to the consequences of remittances on Central Asian economies is how remittances impact entrepreneurship in the region. As a matter of fact, transforming the remittances and savings of labour migrants into a source of financing for entrepreneurship and other development projects is the focus of many governments’ policies in migrant-sending countries. In the case of Uzbekistan, labour migrants’ remittances and savings facilitated the development of the country’s financial sector, but the degree to which these flows finance the needs of business enterprises is unclear (Kakhkharov 2018). This is a crucial issue because access to finance remains one of the most daunting obstacles to the growth of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the developing world. Inquiries into this issue show that financial constraints are one of the biggest obstacles to the development of entrepreneurial activities among remittance-receiving households in Uzbekistan (Kakhkharov 2019).  The empirical investigation shows that households receiving remittances invest in family business only when this inflow is supplemented with sufficient income or savings (which remittances can provide) as illustrated in Figure 4. This graph shows that, at low levels of income, receipt of remittances does not increase the probability of a households’ engaging in a family business, possibly because household savings are not sufficient, and remittances must be used for necessities. This effect becomes statistically significant only at higher levels of income. In addition, a comparison of households with similar financial constraints at higher levels of income shows that remittance-recipient households are more likely to own a family business than are those that do not receive remittances. A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that remittance senders target their funds to be invested in a family business. This serves as evidence that part of remittance income goes to finance entrepreneurship. Therefore, by financing small businesses, remittances also facilitate for job creation and economic growth in Uzbekistan. Since other Central Asian countries share many of the economic conditions and parameters of Uzbekistan, perhaps this conclusion is relevant at the regional level as well.

Figure 4. Interaction effects of remittances and income vis a vis probability of having a family business in Uzbekistan at marginal means of control variables.

To sum up, one of the attractive characteristics of remittances is the fact that these transfers are unilateral and do not require an explicit payback. However, another broadly accepted consensus – that remittances are a relatively stable source of foreign exchange flow – may not hold. The recent drastic cutback in remittances as a result of the Russian economic slowdown hurt Central Asian economies that were dependent on the Russian remittances especially badly. This observation should warn against complacency among economic policymakers in the transition economies. As remittances might be rather volatile, policymakers should support remittances with sound macroeconomic policies and a favourable business environment in order to maximize the potential benefits of this inflow.

Another policy implication is that governments in transition countries of Europe and Central Asia may want to focus on financial sector development impact of remittances instead of viewing remittances as a survival strategy for households. Particularly, policymakers may consider facilitating and encouraging the flow of remittances to enhance their positive impact on development of the financial system. This could be done by encouraging further decreases in transactions costs associated with transferring remittances through financial system. Finally, given the noted weaker effect of remittances on deposits compared to credit instruments, policies that seek to improve institutional development and depositors’ trust may improve how recipients use the benefits of remittances in deposit expansion.

Framing the impact of remittances in Central Asia shows that remittances have the potential to be a vital investment source for MSMEs if they augmented with bank credit and/or an increase in the amount of remittances. To increase the positive effect of remittances, policymakers should consider strategies to reform the banking sector to boost its role in financing micro- and small businesses, encourage migrants’ families to invest remittances into MSMEs by educating them on how to run a business, and improve the business environment.

Dr Jakhongir Kakhkharov during the Research Seminar on “Remittances and Informal Sector” at Westminster International University in Tashkent in January 2020.

References

Abdih, Yasser, and Leandro Medina. (2013) Measuring the informal economy in the Caucasus and Central Asia. No. 13-137. International Monetary Fund.

Bonin, John, and Paul Wachtel. (2002) “Financial sector development in transition economies: Lessons from the first decade.” Financial Markets, Institutions & Instruments 12.1 (2003): 1-66.

Buehn, Andreas, and Friedrich Schneider. (2012) “Shadow economies around the world: novel insights, accepted knowledge, and new estimates.” International tax and public finance 19.1 (2012): 139-171.

Kakhkharov, Jakhongir. (2019) “Migrant remittances as a source of financing for entrepreneurship.” International Migration 57(5): 37-55.

Kakhkharov, J. (2018) “Remittances as a Source of Finance for Entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan,” in M. Laruelle, & C. Schenk (Eds.), Eurasia on the Move. Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Dynamic Migration Region. The George Washington University, Central Asia Program, 150-159.

Kakhkharov, J., & Akimov, A. (2018) Financial development in less-developed post-communist economies. Problems of Economic Transition60(7): 483-513.

Kakhkharov, J., Akimov, A., & Rohde, N. (2017) Transaction costs and recorded remittances in the post-Soviet economies: Evidence from a new dataset on bilateral flows. Economic Modelling 60: 98-107.

Kakhkharov, J., & Rohde, N. (2019) Remittances and financial development in transition economies. Empirical Economics, 1-33. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00181-019-01642-3

Lucas, R.E.B., Stark, O. (1985) Motivations to remit: evidence from Botswana. Journal of Political Economy 93 (5): 901–918.

Stark, O. (1991) The Migration of Labor. Basil Blackwell, Cambridge, MA.

Stark, O. (1996) On the Microeconomics of Return Migration. Universität Wien, Vienna.

[i] The research presented here uses data from the World Bank, IMF, Central Banks, and household surveys to test the impact of remittances and migration on various economic and financial parameters in the context of transition economies of the former Soviet Union and Central Asia.

Announcing the publication of Vol. 17 (2019) of The Silk Road, an open-access online journal published by the Silk Road House.

All articles for the latest issue can be accessed at: https://edspace.american.edu/silkroadjournal/volume-17-2019/

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Did Richthofen Really Coin “the Silk Road”?
Matthias Mertens

An Interview with Roderick Whitfield on the Stein Collection in the British Museum

Sonya S. Lee

Faces of the Buddha: Lorenzo Pullè and the Museo Indiano in Bologna, 1907-35

Luca Villa

Knotted Carpets from the Taklamakan: A Medium of Ideological and Aesthetic Exchange on the Silk Road, 700 BCE-700 CE

Zhang He

Some Notes on Sogdian Costume in Early Tang China

Sergey A. Yatsenko

An Analysis of Modern Chinese Colophons on the Dunhuang Manuscripts

Justin M. Jacobs

Camel Fairs in India: A Photo Essay

Harvey Follender

BOOK REVIEWS

Robert N. Spengler III, Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Food We Eat

Susan Whitfield

Thomas T. Allsen, The Steppe and the Sea: Pearls in the Mongol Empire

Samuel Rumschlag

Roman Hautala, Crusaders, Missionaries, and Eurasian Nomads in the 13th-14th Centuries

Charles J. Halperin

István Zimonyi, Medieval Nomads in Eastern Europe

Charles J. Halperin

Baumer and Novák, eds., Urban Cultures of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Karakhanids

Barbara Kaim

– Justin M. Jacobs, Editor (jjacobs@american.edu)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: The Central Asian Economies in the Twenty-First Century: Paving a New Silk Road, by Richard Pomfret

In this post we welcome Alfinura Sharafeyeva (University of Adelaide), who interviews Professor Richard Pomfret (University of Adelaide) about the course of his work and career, including his most recent book, The Central Asian Economies in the Twenty-First Century: Paving a New Silk Road, where “Pomfret considers the enhanced role of the Central Asian nations in the global economy and their varied ties to China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States. With improved infrastructure and connectivity between China and Europe (reflected in regular rail freight services since 2011 and China’s announcement of its Belt and Road Initiative in 2013), relaxation of United Nations sanctions against Iran in 2016, and the change in Uzbekistan’s presidency in late 2016, a window of opportunity appears to have opened for Central Asian countries to achieve more sustainable economic futures” (Princeton University Press).

This is the third book where you provide analysis of the economic transition in Central Asia.  Do you remember how you started your work on Central Asia?

In July 1992 the new independent states of Central Asia joined the United Nations and had to elect which of the UN’s regional bodies they would participate in.  The Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan joined the UN Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).  The ESCAP Secretariat had little idea how to interact with these formerly centrally planned economies and appointed me in December 1992 as a Regional Advisor.  The story that I was told was that, because I had worked on Poland and on China, I should be able to understand economies halfway in between.

In 1992 the Central Asian economies were unexpectedly in transition from central planning but had little conception of what they were transitioning to.  There were no economists with training in or experience of how market-based economies functioned.  Governments received advice from international bodies, but ministers and officials had little capacity to evaluate the advice.

In the fifteen months that I was with the UN, my role was often as an educator rather than as a policy adviser, and with more success when talking to younger policymakers than to ministers and deputy ministers.

Professor Richard Pomfret and his class during the course on Economic Development of post –Soviet Central Asia organized  by the Structured doctoral programme on Sustainable Agricultural Development in Central Asia (SUSADICA) in Tashkent, June 2019. Photo credit ©SUSADICA

 As an example, on the 1992-3 big issue of the ruble zone, it was difficult to convince senior policymakers, who believed that hyperinflation was due to monopolies increasing prices, that monetary policy was the driver of hyperinflation.  Either the ruble zone had to be reformed so that monetary policy could address the hyperinflation or countries should issue national currencies.  Only Kyrgyzstan learned this lesson in early 1993, while the other four countries did not control hyperinflation until the second half of the decade.                               

What was the most challenging aspect of researching and writing about the Central Asian economies? There are some statements in your book that probably may not sound plausible to the officials of these countries. Have you ever received any criticism with this regard?

My biggest challenge has been linguistic.  Having to conduct most meetings through an interpreter creates an inevitable element of incomplete communication.  It also emphasizes outsider status fuelling the criticism that I do not understand the special circumstances/history/culture of a country.

Good economics applies to all economies.  However, on almost all issues application needs to take into account the particular setting.  The criticism that I misunderstood the setting is hard to refute because it may be true on many points.  However, that does not justify the extreme position that “foreign” economics does not apply to country x.  Too often that criticism is used to justify bad economic policies.  To return to the money example; it was much easier to blame monopolists for hyperinflation than to work seriously on avoiding budget deficits that could be covered by creating more money – reducing budget deficits meant higher taxes or lower government spending, either of which would trigger opposition.

The key questions you attempt to answer in the book are related to the economic systems adopted in the newly established states of Central Asia after the collapse of Soviet Union and their consequences, as well as the challenges of development for resource-rich countries. Have you found a unique answer for all five countries to the questions you pose in your book, or each country should be treated individually? How does your work on the Central Asian economies contribute to our understanding of broader theories and themes in the development economies studies?

After returning to academia in 1994 I wrote my book The Economies of Central Asia, which introduced the five countries, their economic background and the initial construction of national economies after dissolution of the Soviet Union.  In 1992, they could be treated as components of a common region with minor variations, although already in 1993-4 economic differences were strengthening.  By 2020 national differences are much stronger, although shared geography, history and culture continue to provide a common background.

The 2006 book The Central Asian Economies since Independence took the story up to the early 2000s.  A big issue in the 1990s had been the choice of transition strategy: shock therapy or gradualism, sequencing of reforms, and so forth.   The Central Asian economies had been seen as a natural experiment with five countries starting from similar initial conditions and adopting different transition strategies.  An important lesson from the 1990s was that successful transition was not simply a matter of creating a market economy, privatizing and restructuring state enterprises, having good trade and macroeconomic policies and so on. It also depended on institutional factors, widely defined.  Uzbekistan benefited from Tashkent having been the administrative centre of Tsarist and Soviet Central Asia.  The Kyrgyz Republic introduced good reforms, but suffered from lack of the institutions needed for markets to flourish (property rights and rule of law more generally, and limited trust of third parties) as well as a paucity of efficient uncorrupted administrators.

The natural experiment was never completed because, more or less coinciding with the completion of basic transition in 1999 and before long-term consequences could be observed, the resource boom began.  Kazakhstan’s economy pulled away from the rest and the countries that were poor in oil and gas, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, fell behind.

The title of the book mentions the new (ancient) Silk Road. Do you find the answers why, being a cross-roads of Eurasia, and liberalizing their markets by joining WTO and other trade agreements, the countries’ trading potential remain realized not in full? Do you agree with the common believe that it is a landlockedness that prevent countries from boosting their trade, or there some other factors that potentially play a greater impediment rather than the region’s geographical position? How do your findings support the active involvement of Central Asian states in the China’s One Belt One Road initiative? What are the key policy recommendations you could draw based on your findings?

Landlockedness can be a boon or a bane depending on a country’s neighbours, and its own policies.  After independence the Central Asian countries were suspicious of trade and of global markets, apart from as outlets for their cotton, oil and gas, or minerals.  Most importantly, this applied to Uzbekistan, which is potentially the major transit country but until 2016 imposed large transit costs.  The situation appears to be changing after the end of the resource boom as the countries seek economic diversification and, given the small domestic and regional markets, exports are a promising destination of new goods.

My 2019 book The Central Asian Economies in the Twenty-first Century: Paving a New Silk Road  discusses the prospects for export diversification, emphasizing the need to reduce policy-imposed costs of international trade.  There is a “window of opportunity” as Eurasian rail connections have been improved, which predates the Belt and Road Initiative but can easily be linked to the Belt and Road Initiative.  Chinese investment is helping to upgrade infrastructure, although there remains an element of anti-Chinese sentiment in the region that could easily be triggered.

A PhD student at Adelaide University is working on the reason why the costs of doing international trade are especially high in Central Asia.  Such research is important to understand the nature of the main trade costs before making policy recommendations for governments to facilitate trade and hence encourage the economic diversification that they wish to promote.

The road from Nukus.  Fieldwork photo credit R. Pomfret.

Would you agree that the economies of Central Asia receive relatively little attention by researchers? What are the remaining unexplored aspects of the Central Asian economies? What sorts of research do you see being done in the near future on this subject?

Yes, although this is changing, especially with the increasing number of Central Asian scholars now producing good research.  Coverage remains patchy and incomplete, but I am constantly positively surprised by seeing a specialized article, thesis or monograph on a previously unaddressed topic.