Books on Uzbekistan
Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1925. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves. Current concerns include insurgency by Islamic militants based in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, a non-convertible currency, and the curtailment of human rights and democratisation.
Update No: 283- (26/07/04)
The Uzbek case; the US loses its way
If the Turkmen regime is the balmiest in Central Asia, the Uzbek one is the most brutal. There are 7,000 political prisoners and any number of others have been killed, some by being boiled alive. Karimov, who is rumoured to have leukaemia, is following Dylan Thomas's advice and not going meekly "into that good night, but rage(ing) against the dying of the light."
He is in a position to take his rage out on the Islamic fundamentalists, who are the vast bulk of the political prisoners. As has been pointed out by many observers, the ferocious repression exercised by the regime is breeding the very enemy it is meant to extirpate. Young militants, who are being left with no hope, resort to terrorism out of desperation, as in a concerted series of bomb blasts in Tashkent and Bokhara in March, killing 47 and wounding many more. The militants of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the biggest group, may be linked to al-Qaeda, as Tashkent naturally claims, but their origins were in the stifling of moderate Islamic opposition in the immediate post-Soviet period of the 1990s.
The Americans have been publicly accommodative of the regime, officially accepting that it is all in the common cause against terrorism. But the UK ambassador, Craig Murray, has been anything but emollient, berating the government publicly for its human rights abuses. The UK does not have the clout of the US there, but its envoy's stand is perhaps indicative of what a future Democratic Administration's might be, so fear the ruling Uzbeks.
The Americans are more muted in public for a very good reason. They are dependent on Tashkent for a military base in the south to operate in Afghanistan. But there is evidence of exasperation building up all the same. US aid, which at over $100m has been extensive, may not be forthcoming indefinitely. The US is aware of the long-run risks of being associated with a murderous regime, as in Iran in the days of Savak and the Shah.
Certainly some very unpleasant propaganda is already emanating from Hizb-ut-Tahrir, as in this tract: "The criminal regime of the Jewish Karimov, known for his hate of Muslims, spreads terror and has adopted the methods of Israel in collaborating with infidel countries, notably the US." The tract goes on to predict a rise in the number of martyrs. "Hizb-ut-Tahrir will struggle for their liberation and for the establishment of a mode of life respectful of Islam."
It is difficult to evaluate the true extent of the penetration of extremism in the republic. It is strongest in the Ferghana Valley, which stretches right into Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, making it a regional problem. The government is trying to isolate the massive valley from the rest of the country, especially the capital, but it is in some ways the crossroads of central Asia, as it has been since the days of the Silk Road.
Tashkent is tilting back towards Moscow, with whom of course such matters as human rights would never be raised. Putin and Karimov understand each other's ways, neither being squeamish when it comes to the crunch. They meet frequently at the various summits of the CIS, the Shanghai Group Organisation and other forums and after all speak the same language - Russian.
SoyuzNefteGaz to develop fields in Uzbekistan
The SoyuzNefteGaz (SNG) group of companies has acquired a controlling stake in UzPEC, a subsidiary of Britain's Trinity Energy set up to carry out oil and gas projects in Uzbekistan, SNG PR Director, Yevgeny Yagupets, said, Interfax News Agency reproted.
He said that the SNG group acquired "a large stake" in UzPEC, involving a redistribution of shares among shareholders. "All of the partners are still there, but a Russian participant has appeared," Yagupets said. He said that SNG President Yuri Shafranik has been elected UzPEC chairman of the board.
"The cost of the deal and the size of the stake is not being disclosed," Yagupets said.
UzPEC signed a production sharing agreement (PSA) with Uzbekneftegaz in 2001 for the Central Ustyurt and Southwest Gissar licence zones.
This is the first production sharing agreement in Uzbek history. The document covers 40 years of cooperation with gradual investment of over US$400m, including US$200m in the first five years.
Asked whether SNG will participate in investing, Yagupets said that this would probably be the case. However, he said that this investment will be attracted and that the company will not use its own funds. "We are organizing investment," he said.
"This is the first PSA project in Uzbekistan. Our task is to launch this project, to show the viability of the PSA approach. Shareholders considered that Shafranik's arrival would bring new life. His authority will make it possible to resolve problems that usually arise at various stages of implementing a project," Yagupets said.
Shafranik said earlier that the structure of UzPEC capital and management is being renewed. The restructuring of the company should be completed this year. "We hope that the new structure of the company will be effective," Shafranik said.
UzPEC invested US$13m in the Uzbek oil and gas complex in 2003, including about US$1m invested in exploration work at Central Ustyurt. The rest of the funds were used to develop and explore oil and gas fields in South West Gissar. Production at South West Gissar fields in 2003 amounted to about 40,000 tonnes of liquid hydrocarbons, which is the same level as in 2002.
These hydrocarbons will be exported to Russia, Kazakstan and China. Yagupets said that "the most effective and economic" gas transport system will be used at the initial stage of the project.
Golden Telecom buys Buzton
Golden Telecom holding has acquired 54% of the stock of Buzton, the leading alternative communications operator in Uzbekistan, for €2.8m, said a company statement, Interfax News Agency reported on June 4th.
Buzton is the only alternative operator of stationary communications networks in Uzbekistan. The company is licensed to provide international and local communications, communications between cities, and data transfer services. It has approximately 10,000 subscriber numbers and 22 access points in Tashkent, and 10 other regions of Uzbekistan. According to the company's accounts, which have not been audited, Buzton made a profit of approximately €3.9m in 2003. According to the company's own evaluations, its share of the corporate and embassy communications market in Uzbekistan is 60%. Its main rival on the market is Uzbektelecom, a local communications operator. Uzbektelecom owns 43.52% of Buzton's stock, and private investors own the remaining portion.
Uzbekistan launch of five textile joint ventures
Five textile joint ventures, capable of exporting US$64m worth of products a year, were launched in Uzbekistan recently, the total worth of the joint ventures is US$56.3m, BharatTextile.com reported.
Uzbekistan plans to invest over US$1bn in the textile industry and increase the yield offinal products in the industry's total output to 50% before 2005.
Plans are laid to re-equip or construct forty enterprises in order to increase the amount of cotton fibre processed in 2005 to 469,100 tonnes and the textile exports to over US$650m.
Uzbekistan is the world's fifth largest producer of cotton fibre. It harvests 3.5-3.7m tonnes of raw cotton and makes 1-1.2m tonnes of cotton fibre a year.
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