In the mid-1990s, it wasn’t easy communicating or getting around the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. The telephone switching system was antiquated and overloaded. There was also no city map--or at least no one I asked could remember ever having seen one. Even if it had existed, it would have likely featured Soviet-era street names which were fast disappearing as the city authorities dug into history and changed them to the politically correct names of Kyrgyz leaders and literary figures.
Statues of Lenin, while not yet on the endangered species list, are not as common in the former Soviet Union or Communist bloc as they once were. As the Soviet political and economic system fell apart, reformers made sure that its founder took a symbolic fall too. However, Lenin still stands tall in what was once a distant outpost of the Soviet empire--the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. In the broad, fertile Fergana Valley, Lenin looks out on a sprawling, multi-ethnic city still struggling to adjust to the post-Soviet world.