All That Glitters

Institute History


Feature length documentary film on the establishment of capitalism in a country where socialism has yet to end.

We are in Kyrgyzstan, one of the former states of the Soviet Union, specifically in the settlement of Barskon. During the time of the Soviet Empire, the people of Barskon did not fare very well. They lived under a totalitarian regime in which the value of a human life seemed negligible. Under the USSR, people lived in a totalitarian regime but they had at least everything they needed. The socialist system provided each and every inhabitant with work, a wage, free education, and good health care. Regardless of whether a person worked or idled away their time, the conquests of socialism were always at hand. After 70 years of socialism, everyone was used to it.

The USSR provided everything, even to the inhabitants of Barskon. It introduced people to collective farming, provided tractors and harvesting machinery, built fences in front of people’s houses, repaired roads, and built schools. Then everything changed. The USSR broke up, and democracy and capitalism came in. In Barskon, no one really knew what to do and how to act under democracy and capitalism. Habits remained the same and people waited to receive and take orders from above. What can you do with such a mentality? Is it possible to establish democracy in such a country?

After a period of chaos, the situation began to improve. Even the inhabitants of Barskon began to feel it, especially when a large investor from Canada began to mine for gold in the mountains above Barskon. People from Barskon saw a powerful neighbor in Kumtor and began to expect it to provide everything which the USSR used to provide.

In order to avoid protests from the inhabitants of Barskon, Kumtor begin to support the villagers and thus drew nearer to the role of the USSR. They became big brother.

The film Fall asleep poor, wake up rich is about how strange capitalism and democracy can be if it is introduced into a country with a Soviet tradition, i.e. in a country in which people have never had to make their own decisions. Is it possible to establish democracy in a country that has always lived under strict authority where people have always been afraid to think for themselves? How does such a concept of democracy look like? What does the new system give people and why do they remember socialism in such a nostalgic way? This film gives an opportunity to think outside our civilization and the export of democracy to the rest of the world.

This film shows how difficult it is to establish Western traditions like democracy and capitalism in a country without any tradition of democracy and its inhabitants have lived for centuries in autocratic regimes. We will show how the inhabitants of Barskon orientate themselves in a new situation—in a time of capitalism, democracy and freedom. In addition, we will show how much the Soviet era is imbedded within them.

Kyrgyzstan and the small village of Barskon provide a picture of the whole world and its fundamental powers. Kyrgyzstan is a crossroads of interests. On a political level, it is the rivalry between Russian and America influence; on a religious level, it is the rivalry between Christianity and Islam; and on an economic level, it is the predominance of China and Russia.


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