All you sheep, come forth and receive your passports!

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by Noah Tucker on 1/29/2010 · 7 comments

Okay, I’m not going to translate this Ferghana.ru/AKI Press article because, well, you’re not really missing all that much if you can’t read it in the original.

The highlights of “In Kyrgyzstan every sheep could be given a passport and disaster insurance” are mostly related to the single idea of giving passports to sheep and other livestock. The point is to make them identifiable for insurance purposes. And I don’t mean to imply in any way that allowing Kyrgyz herdsmen and farmers to buy insurance for their herds/flocks is a bad idea in any way.

But… what I love about this is that you take a good idea and then run it through the Soviet institutional methodology for implementing them in a way that appears to use “high technology” and is also complicated, elaborate, and would require a large bureaucracy to oversee. Here’s a nice quote from First Vice-Prime-Minister Akylbek Japarov: “We’re prepared to make a passport for every single sheep. That is, from birth to the slaughterhouse you could learn its entire its entire genealogy from a laser scan.”

So you’ve got a) Gathering a large volume of centralized information about the individual, b) issuing identity documents that have to be presented for all purposes from birth to death, and c) lasers.

For sheep.

I’m not disciplinarily predisposed to be an institutionalist, but wow.


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This post was written by...

– author of 54 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Noah Tucker is managing editor at Registan.net and an associate at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs Central Asia Program. Noah is a researcher and consultant for NGO, academic and government clients on Central Asian society and culture. He has worked on Central Asian issues since 2002--specializing in religion, national identity, ethnic conflict and social media--and received an MA from Harvard in Russian, E. European and Central Asian Studies in 2008. He has spent four and half years in the region, primarily in Uzbekistan, and returned most recently for fieldwork in Southern Kyrgyzstan in the summers of 2011 and 2012.

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{ 7 comments }

Nathan January 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

The US has something similar. So does the EU and Australia. New Zealand is working on one. I think the weird thing about it is the use of the word “passport,” which, I guess, just seems like the most appropriate term for “record” for someone steeped in Soviet administrative techniques.

Ian January 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

But then again, who are we to talk.

Ian January 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

By the way, nice dumba.

Noah January 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm

So delicious!

Noah January 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

This is really a nice example of the way large modern bureaucracies function in more or less the same way regardless of their theoretical ideology. One trip to the DMV is enough to prove that… I just love the passports and lasers. Also it seems like the KG government might have other things to do.

David Degner January 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm

That reminds me, why don’t we have any fat tailed sheep in North America.

It’s times like these I wish I had another life just to spend it breeding sheep.

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