Mount St. Nicholas

by Joshua Foust on 12/23/2007 · 5 comments

Recently, a Swedish think tank realized that the most efficient starting point for Santa Claus—to best deliver presents to greedy little children with the least “dead time” in transit—was in the middle of Kyrgyzstan. Considering the many issues facing the country—from the worrying rise of Hiz-ut Tahrir in Ferghana to the rolling waves of arrests as the “I do not believe” protesters who (correctly, for the record) claim the recent election was corrupt and unfair—I thought welcoming Santa Claus would be a welcome distraction, a nice way to feel good and perhaps demonstrate not only the country’s central location to helping celebrate a commercialized Christian/pagan holiday, but also it’s stark beauty.

ala-archa mountains
Ala-Archa Mountains, courtesy Assel at

Well, Kyrgyzstan has adopted the “Home of Santa” idea whole-heartedly, and is now in the process of renaming one of its many beautiful unnamed peaks after him. On Wednesday, a team of climbers set off to scale the peak and drop a capsule containing the Kyrgyz flag, by Christmas Eve (appropriately enough) proclaiming this mystical summit “Mount Santa Claus“.

But why would a country that is 75% Muslim launch itself into a version of Christmas fever? It’s very easy:

  • They are not crazies! This is very important to remember.
  • Tourism. With no natural resources save lots of gorgeous Colorado-esque wilderness, Kyrgyzstan could make a killing on eco- and adventure tourism.

Next summer, there will be a Santa Summit of some sort. Who’s in?

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Ataman Rakin December 23, 2007 at 3:26 pm

🙂 LOL My goodness, are the Kyrgyz so desperate for investment and publicity that they need to play the clown and prostitute themselves to that exent?

Maybe they can at once turn the country into a Santa Claus-with-kalpak theme park where Chinese tourists can come and toss nuts and coins at the natives.

Brian December 24, 2007 at 4:32 pm

I think the term “marketing” sounds lot better than “prostituting” oneself.

Joshua Foust December 24, 2007 at 8:27 pm

I agree with Brian, though to be fair to Ataman the line between the two is often not very well defined.

Ataman Rakin December 25, 2007 at 7:15 am

🙂 Great one Joshua.

I think there is st. more going on beyond the’tourism marketing’ mantra. As an old Kyr hand, if I may, I noticed that this society is cuturally and socially uprooted to an extent that is comparable with the Native Americans or some African societies. Much of the establishment and part of the population tries to ‘be European’ by all means to an extent that it becomes caricatural if not outright sad. It’s much like the kid at school who does everything to fit with the popular crowd, not able or wanting to know that (s)he will never be accepted anyway and eventually ends up nowhere.

Ataman Rakin December 25, 2007 at 7:17 am

Besides, I don’t believe in that tourism eldorado approach.

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