The More Things Change…

by Sarah Kendzior on 4/8/2010 · 13 comments

Today I made the mistake of turning on CNN to hear the latest about the conflict in Kyrgyzstan. Clearly I should have remembered what happened the last time CNN — specifically, Kyra “Kyra-stan” Phillips — attempted to explain Central Asia to the masses…

CNN, March 24, 2005

Miles O’Brien: Well, it looks like we’re talking about another revolution in a country some of us can’t pronounce. We’re not mentioning any names, of course. It’s kind of like Kyra-stan, but it really isn’t. We’re calling it ‘The Tulip Revolution’: People power in the ‘stans, coming up.

Kyra Phillips: I love tulips… Hey, Miles, is that a new portable PlayStation?

CNN, April 8, 2010

Kyra Phillips: You know I remember when the war first broke out, and we all said to each other, OK, we have to learn the “stans.” You know? It’s not just Kyrgyzstan, but you’ve got all the other stans in that area.

Josh Levs: All the one — that’s right.

Phillips: Yes, bordering each other.

Levs: (inaudible)

Phillips: Yes, why “stan” at the end of the names?

Levs: Yes. This is actually really interesting about that suffix. There’s two different reasons for that going on in the same place. And it has a lot to do with what’s going on there. I was looking at this from About.com. In Persian, the suffix “stan” means place of. And in Russian, it meant “settlement.”

So you have a lot of these — many of these were former parts of the Soviet Union. But also as you know, you have Persian influence as well in that whole region. So “stan” became a summary there. And you’ve got seven nations, but you also got little areas like Waziristan that we talk about, hence, the need for a guide to the “stans,” Kyra.

Phillips: Thank you so much.

(LAUGHTER)

CNN, April 8, 2010 (promo)

Kyra Phillips:  Kyrgyzstan, impossible to spell, hard to say, good luck finding it on the map, so why should we care that its government is now gone, swept away by armed protesters? Well, we’ll tell you.

No, Kyra. Please don’t.


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This post was written by...

– author of 21 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Sarah Kendzior is an anthropologist who studies politics and the internet in the former Soviet Union. She has a PhD in cultural anthropology from Washington University in Saint Louis and an MA in Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University. Her research has been published in many academic journals and media outlets, including American Ethnologist, Central Asian Survey, Demokratizatsiya and the Atlantic. She is currently an instructor at Washington University, where she teaches a course called "The Internet, Politics, and Society." Follow her on Twitter.

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{ 13 comments }

Brian April 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I guess it would be too much to ask a news organization to, you know, take news seriously.

Michael Hancock April 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Disgust.

DePetris April 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm

What, you expect CNN to actually understand the unique political and social dynamics of Central Asia? Your lucky to find an American citizen who can locate Pakistan on a map, let alone accurately discuss what is currently going on in Kyrgyzstan (if it wasn’t for Registan’s contributions, I would probably be ignorant in Central Asian affairs as well).

Sarah Kendzior April 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Oh believe me, I wasn’t expecting anything in the way of nuanced reporting. I’m just impressed that Kyra Phillips’ moronic commentary is so consistent. Five years and going strong!

DePetris April 9, 2010 at 1:06 am

Can’t rebuff you there. It’s sad to see a major media outlet like CNN- which is probably the most watched cable news network in the United States- reporting in such a passive way. If CNN anchors and reporters were speaking like this when some event in the Middle East was a top story, I guarantee they would get some lip from their bosses. But this is Central Asia, an area few Americans and westerners understand. If it wasn’t for the existence of a U.S. air base on Kyrgyz territory, Washington probably wouldn’t care either way.

KZBlog April 8, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Watching AndersonCooper 360 earlier this morning/evening in US. Talked about how on Family Feud someone said Ellen Degeneres hates America. Teased with this story several times throughout the broadcast. But Kyrgyzstan? I saw nothing on it. And this is CNN International!

M.E.R. April 9, 2010 at 12:07 am

I also heard that this morning and I was just telling my husband about it, and then decided to look it up to see if anyone else had heard it. Thank goodness there are other people in the world who were disgusted by that nonsense. It was horrifying on so many levels, the least of which is that even a small child should be able to guess what stan means by noticing the pattern … but thankfully about.com was there to help those miserable fools.

Thank you for your nice website.

Ian April 9, 2010 at 5:42 am
Ian April 9, 2010 at 5:44 am

Oh, and keep posting, Sarah! Very much enjoying your writing.

Josh April 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm

What really irks me is that she went to about.com to look up the meaning of “stan”. Way to go, Kyra. That’s some real in-depth research and reporting you’ve done there. How much are they paying you for this? Because it’s clearly not enough >.>

jonathan p April 12, 2010 at 2:13 pm

…must have been a pre-paid plug for About.com.

reader April 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Well, if she did, which I doubt, or her researchers did any indepth research they still got it wrong. Russian doesn’t even factor into the “stan” discourse.

But, Sarah, it’s pretty trite at this point to say most Americans don’t know these things. But does that stop wouldbe policy makers? You can bet your bottom dollar, no. Look at Iraq: shias? sunnis? what’s them things?
I’m sure Sam Brownback goes to bed each night with a dog-eared, well-worn tome on Central Asia. And that’s why he feels the urge to get involved in C. Asian politics. It seems like a fun place, they have roads made out of silk after all.
(BTW, anyone else here tired of the term “silk road” ?)

reader April 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm

meant to say “stan” etymology not discourse, sorry.

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