Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

Past Events

Taking Turkmen up a notch

Of all the countries where Transitions is active, it’s not often we have something to report out of Turkmenistan. Logistical issues and a closed society mean that being active there can be difficult at best.

But this month we’re excited to announce the completion of a WordPress localization into Turkmen through the support of Open Society Foundation’s Information Program.

As some of you know, we have worked to create local-language versions of social media platforms, especially in linguistically neglected Central Asia. We’ve mentioned our localization of WordPress into Kyrgyz by local journalist and former Transitions intern Ilya Lukash as well as various localizations of platforms such as Skype.

After having completed the Turkmen translation of the popular blogging platform, a team double checked the interface to make sure everything works properly and is now in talks with the WordPress team to have Turkmen included in the official list of language versions on the WordPress site.

The team will also be promoting the localization through various methods but felt it essential to have it on the official list of language versions on the WordPress site to help boost the prestige and visibility of the Turkmen language at a time when social media are creating an inundation of Russian, Turkish, and English.

A Turkmen version of the platform is also essential for people from non-urban areas who don’t speak English or Russian. As WordPress is easily deployable and can be used to build sites by people with minimal training, it was the most obvious choice of the resources to be localized.

Bringing it all together

Keeping a small international organization running smoothly is no easy task.  It takes a lot of coordination and communication (and a few digital tools) to make sure everyone is on the same page in each of our project countries.

But even with all the virtual meetings, shared documents, and CC-ed email chains, there’s no substitute for a face-to-face meeting to talk, plan, and review.

This month our team all met in Prague for Transitions’ second annual program managers meeting. Representatives from projects in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and elsewhere spent two days with our Prague staff reviewing the successes and challenges of 2012, and laying out goals for the rest of 2013 and beyond.

In addition to the clear organizational benefits that come from spending two days hashing it out in the same room, the team also came away with more perspective on what their colleagues are up to next door. For example, one program manager focusing on training journalists and activists on Internet security talked a little about the issue and about the resources that could be tailored to different countries. And a program manager from Moldova talked about the success of crowdsourcing and social innovation in his country.

On the second day of the meeting, we were lucky enough to get a visit from Alisher Siddiq, the social media editor for Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service, to talk about how his team uses various social media. Radio Ozodlik has one of the most forward-thinking social media strategies any of us has seen and rivals that of large-scale news operations such as the The New York Times or Huffington Post. Because their site is blocked in Uzbekistan, he and his team have had to think creatively about how to get information in and out of the country.  He told us his main goal is to be up and running on each new social network – even before the so-called early adopters – so they can use it as long as possible before authorities in Uzbekistan catch on and block it too.

Success Story

This month’s success story is David Birman in Georgia.

David, a self-described marketing 2.0 professional, is an alumni of our 2009 social media training for media and NGO representatives. Following the training, he went on with several other participants to found the Social Media Development Center, which focuses on social and new media development in Georgia.

Today, David is head of digital brand management at the Bank of Georgia, one of the biggest banks in the country, and a lecturer and trainer in online marketing at universities and training centers such as the University of Georgia, Management Academy, the Georgian American University, and the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs.  

Most recently, he led a training organized by Management Academy for editors of various media outlets on how to organize and brand a website to attract more visitors and achieve financial independence. Gela Mtivlishvili, the editor in chief of, was one of the participants in that training. If Gela or that site sound familiar, it’s because Gela and her news website are clients under our National Endowment for Democracy project.

Featured Content

Transitions Online ( often showcases the work produced through our grant programs. Some of the highlights from March include the following stories:

1 March 2013
Baku Crafts Handcuffs from Red Tape
Azerbaijani activists say a new draft law aims to silence them ahead of the October presidential elections and beyond.
By Arifa Kazimova

4 March 2013
In Macedonia, Dividends on Efforts to Keep Roma in School
Progress is slow but steady as the government puts an overdue emphasis on Roma advancement.
By Daniel Petrovski

6 March 2013
Out in the Street
TOL slide show: After getting thousands of disadvantaged kids out of Soviet-era institutions, Georgia faces an increasingly visible tribe of children living largely on the street.
By Onnik Krikorian

8 March 2013
A Diverse Bunch of Liberators
Journalist-turned-historian James Pettifer describes the KLA’s transformation from a scrappy band of zealots into a giant-killing. military/political force.
By Gabriel Partos

13 March 2013
Kyrgyzstan’s New Nomads
A generation of skilled and ambitious people pack their bags, leaving a talent vacuum back home.
By Dina Tokbaeva

15 March 2013
Red Light at the Crossroads
A ground-breaking Sotheby’s exhibition aimed to open new markets for Central Asian and Caucasus artists, but Uzbekistan’s art scene may not be ready to take the plunge.
By Dengiz Uralov

22 March 2013
Outside Looking In
Dozens of Belarusian opposition figures have fled Lukashenka’s crackdown and set up pro-democracy initiatives abroad, but their efforts aren’t always welcomed by peers back home.
By Katerina Barushka

27 March 2013
Fits and Starts
A high-profile court case, angry parents at the schoolroom door, and quiet, persistent efforts tell the story of Roma integration in Croatia’s schools.
By Barbara Matejcic

Current Projects

Azerbaijan and Moldova
Promoting the use of new media and social media among journalists, civil society organizations, and young people.
Central Asia
Promoting the use of Internet media and new media techniques to produce, promote, and distribute new forms of content.
Improving the quality of environmental investigative journalism while increasing the impact of the environmental movement in Russia.
Education Reporting
Using distance learning courses, workshops, and other resources to improve reporting on education-related topics.

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