How Bishkek Gave the World Post Pravda
This story begins with a hilarious article about Bishkek, which quickly went viral in local social media. The headline said Kyrg Your Enthusiasm: From a Shitshow in Bishkek to the Birth of NO-YOLO. This is how Bishkek became related to the birth of a new magazine. The co-founders, Michael Fahey and Patrick Dooley, were teaching English in various countries after graduating from university and met in Georgia back in 2012. Michael, who develops websites professionally, now recalls, Patrick was based in the village next to his, so they would meet every weekend in Tbilisi to escape the despairing isolation of Georgian village life. Neither of two had any experience in media at all. Michael says he was working on a terrible customer service job in Dublin and Patrick was working as an education consultant in Saudi Arabia, which he also hated. They set up the magazine in early 2015.
Michael remembers it was hard to get into a rhythm initially as he hadn’t written anything significant since he was in school. He thought he would concentrate on the site design and maintenance, while Patrick would be the writer. However, Michael had a few ideas for topics and decided he would give it a go anyway. Generally, he starts with typing out some ideas and expanding on them. “A lot of editing occurs before publishing!” says Michael.
It was while they were in Bishkek that they decided to create something — a blog or a magazine based upon their experiences of travelling and working abroad, as well as their shared political ideals and love of football and music. Drinking in one of the bars on Chui Avenue at 3 am in the morning Michael and Patrick brainstormed topics they could address. This is how they ended up finding a lot of interesting avenues open to exploring. Both excited at having the opportunity to create something they’d be proud of, they made a decision. This is how NO-YOLO came to the world.
NO-YOLO was definitely not a traditional travel blog. Michael, who says he is more mellow than Patrick, also remembers they had a common passion for travel and there was a real lack of quality travel writing, writing of substance, out there. Bored with lots of self-indulgent ‘10 Best Spa Clinics in Luxembourg’, they were sure the world was far more interesting than that, and they wanted to produce interesting, funny and thought-provoking material they would want to read themselves. According to Michael, after too many ‘Baltikas’, they discussed some name options and NO-YOLO, their second suggestion, stuck. The name, NO-YOLO reflected the idea perfectly mocking the beaten acronym.
Having a team of only two of them, Michael says it’s tricky running the magazine, because, aside from maybe 10 days per year, both he and Patrick are always in different countries or even different continents sometimes. Despite Michael working his daytime job and Patrick travelling around a region that is either 4 hours ahead or 4 hours behind, they usually manage to keep in contact daily via social media and email. This is how they prepare their weekly plan of articles to be posted and exchange ideas. There is also a team of contributors who help the two.
In a response to a question about the article Michael is most proud of, he responded it was the piece he wrote about experiencing depression while he was living in Chile in 2011. “It was completely from the heart and it was cathartic to write about that period.” says Michael. “I received messages from people suffering the same pain who thanked me for sharing my experiences, which was amazing.”
Post-truth became the word of the year in 2016 reflecting some global change in the world. Michael and Patrick too felt that they had outgrown the idea behind NO-YOLO with YOLO being very outdated. This is how NO-YOLO became Post Pravda. With the re-branding, Michael and Patrick want to focus more on the political and cultural issues facing their generation rather than producing work that was slightly antagonistic, as was the case with NO-YOLO. Michael says they also think Post Pravda looks much better on a CV. Besides looking cool too, the Post Pravda logo has a nose and an eye forming 'P' and the red dot alludes to photography, which they focus a lot on.
“We’re living in chaotic times where anyone can create their own truths, where there are millions of voices competing for our attention,” says Michael. “One of the interviewees in Svetlana Alexievich’s book on the collapse of the Soviet Union, Second Hand Time, states that the Soviet people used to read Pravda for assurance, but once the Soviet state was dismantled, they found themselves destabilized by the various competing truths of the new media outlets. Post Pravda draws inspiration from this period of uncertainty and change.”
Now Michael and Patrick are busy creating a collective of young, talented writers, artists, photographers and commentators from around the world. They want to set up a platform where they can assess the collapse of the current truth regime through the intersection of art, culture, politics, and travel, and to document those young people, who are standing up and fighting in the face of injustice and inequality.
Patrick has visited Bishkek recently and Michael hasn’t been back to Bishkek since the time of the article. According to Patrick, there was a different, more positive air to the city. “I’d love to return at some point.” says Michael.