In November ‘89 following the long-overdue collapse of the Berlin Wall, an unhinged Soviet Union unleashed a slow-motion bull in its own china shop. Over the next few years, what once was a fearsome empire of colossal strength and ruthlessness would dissolve into a stagnant puddle of dreary inertia.
After the meltdown, Russia, America’s loathsome Cold War archenemy, would be exposed to the world as a paranoiac serial flasher with a microbe-sized Johnson, a shabby trench-coated empire with no clothes. East and West Germany reconciled and became one. Poland, Hungary and the east Europe bloc countries wriggled out from the Soviets’ grip. Belarus, Estonia and the north Europe states told the Rooskies to f*ck off. By late ‘91 the Soviet Federation itself, the matrix of the Red madness, splintered into fifteen separate sovereign nations.
As former Soviet slave-states lowered lifeboats into the turbulent seas of economic uncertainty, the overarching theme was “Screw the ruble, we’ll take our chances.” And they did. During these years, some countries succeeded after finding their bearings. Others struggled just to get footing. Still others thrashed helplessly, dazed and confused without the smothering hug of a tyrannical overlord. Chaos reigned. Deception and cruelty prevailed. Governments were sleazy agencies of systemic corruption, populated by high-ranking thugs and mobsters on-the-take who pillaged and plundered with as much zeal as they did as high-ranking politburos on-the-take in their old jobs.
Hungary offered the best illustration of this era. They tolerated the Russians’ lawless strip-mining of bauxite from its native soil and were ecstatic when they left. They had good reason to resent the Reds, yet when little actually changed afterward, they found sardonic humor in noting that the same Ukrainian brutes previously dressed in Russian military uniforms, who drove T-34 tanks and carried Kalishnikov AKM side-arms, later became the Ukrainian mobsters with Armani luxury black leather jackets, Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans, and Walther PPK 380 conceal carry small-arms, along with the new arm-bling favored by fast-living thugs living low in the high life – stunning blond escorts of vacuous expression and factory-enhanced cannons.
During this tumultuous period nothing was safe. The sticky tentacles of theft, extortion and misappropriation snatched monetary assets for amusement, human lives for sexual slavery, and real property for new empire-building. All was fair game if it could be transferred from one to another without documentation or consent. Records were lost, owners’ rights and lives meant nothing, borders changed, people disappeared, whole countries vanished or traded hands. Business as usual, as usual. The Wild West redux, live, from the Wild East.
Eventually, in the same way planet Earth coalesced from the calamity of its own creation, post-Soviet states settled into new routines of their own, however unfamiliar or uncertain each might have been. All was good, for most part. But the new calm was short-lived, and as the twentieth century began setting the stage for the new millennium, something unusual occurred.
The Cold War ended, but spying and clandestine surveillance didn’t. Satellite imagery, the new mainstay in a spy-master’s bag of assets, began acquiring perplexing data tucked away in the shadowy chinks of central Asia’s rugged terrain. In the western tip of the north portion of Kyrgyzstan at the Uzbek interior corner border, a tiny land mass barely 6 square miles in area was found to be populated by citizens not native to the territory – Grizzly bears. Not just a handful of isolated strays, either. Close analysis of the imagery revealed nearly a thousand Grizzlies, in large and small groups, moving purposefully within the region. And as analysts scrutinized the data more closely, they were astonished to discover the bears carrying firearms and weaponry! The signature of the activities was unmistakable – live-fire training exercises, weapons maintenance and field maneuvers – leading analysts to conclude the bears were readying for warfare.
When this news arrived in Langley, Virginia, CIA brass immediately scurried into red-alert mode, not wanting to be blind-sided by a seemingly innocuous anomaly which just as easily could’ve developed into cataclysmic upheaval. Orders were sent to the Kyrgyzstan station chief, who dispatched intel-gathering assets to the region to sniff-out the G-2 to unravel the mystery. The answer came back in short order. The full report, paraphrased below:
“Subject land mass triangular in shape, 5.7 square miles in area. East boundary is original Uzbek-Kyrg border, SW boundary is Chatkal River, and NW boundary is the old uncompleted Soviet civil engineer water project. In mid-1980 Russia began first phase of 2.5 mile-long water diversion project, to create artificial tributary for diverting waters flowing from Charvak Reservoir 1 mile northwest, into the Chatkal River. Objective of new tributary was to relieve pressure on downstream Chatkal south banks during winter flooding, and create a water feed-source for the Besh-Aral State Reserve SW extension 5 miles northeast near Kotak…
“Project reached 40% completion milestone, then abandoned during U.S.S.R. break-up. Uzbekistan declared independence in 12/1991 but did not include subject territory in its reorganized charter, acting on (erroneous) belief the river project denoted an earlier redrawn border ceding the lands to neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Former high-ranking Soviet politburos (names redacted) familiar with the project took advantage of the geopolitical confusion and usurped ownership of the territory to claim as their own…
“To defend the region from marauding Uzbeks and Kyrgs, the new (illegal) Russian landlords sacked the Moscow State Circus of its prized asset, the Dancing Grizzlies. Several hundred bears were spirited away to the sanctuary where they were coaxed to parent new offspring, and equipped with automatic weapons, RPG’s and various small-bore field artillery which the easily-trained Grizzlies learned to use quickly. Observation of the ursine training exercises in the region indicates the Grizzlies work as an effective combat unit excelling at small-scale skirmishes…
“As of this report, no information was obtained that the Uzbeks plan to challenge the Russians’ claim. This situation is being monitored closely. When asked for details explaining their actions an unidentified spokesman reported that the Russians, superior in aggression but sub-par in cognitive skills, became hooked on the U.S. constitution, notably the 2nd amendment, which in their minds gave them sufficient justification to arm bears to protect their lands. Presently, this is a region with no name, although “Dyslexistan” is as good a name as any.
Tashkent Field Office
(name redacted), Case Officer