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UZBEKISTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,949 9,713 11,300 91
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 420 450 550 173
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

Books on Uzbekistan

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
447,400 

Population 
26,410,416

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Uzbeks 71.4%
Russians 8.3%
Tajiks 4.7%
Kazaks 4.1%

Capital 
Tashkent 

Currency 
Uzbek Sum

President 
Islam Karimov


Update No: 305 - (30/05/06)

Anniversary of a tragedy; journalists hounded
It is one year on from a horrendous event - the bloody uprising in the town of Andijan in May 2005. Uzbekistan, an authoritarian Central Asian state, has a long history of vicious repression. The president, who has crushed political opposition to his 16-year rule, is in the grim tradition of Central Asian despotism.
Independent journalists were targets of systematic repression in the later months of the year in the wake of the tragedy. President Islam Karimov's witch-hunt featured the arbitrary arrest of many opposition journalists and the hounding of foreign media for supposedly provoking the rebellion.
Seven journalists were physically attacked over six months and four of them arrested and threatened for no reason. Seven others were threatened and forced to flee abroad.
More journalists received prison sentences for bogus reasons during the year. Sabirjon Yakubov, of the weekly Hurriyat was arrested in Tashkent on 11th April for "challenging constitutional order" and "belonging to an extremist religious organisation" (article 159 of the criminal code) and faces up to 20 years in prison. Nosir Zokirov, correspondent for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Namangan province, was sentenced to six months in jail for "insulting a government official" (article 140 of the criminal code) after reporting on the 13th May storming of Andijan prison.
The regime keeps a very tight grip on the media and any sign of independence is punished. The four nationwide TV channels are under presidential censorship and the only criticism is to be found on a few Internet websites. Independent journalists who covered the events in Andijan were called "traitors to the country" and "liars" by most media outlets.
All impartial news has been blocked since the Andijan uprising and cable relay of the US, Russian and British TV networks CNN, NTV and BBC have been cut off. Access to independent Russian websites www.lenta.ru, www.gazeta.ru and www.fergana.ru, as well as several Uzbek sites, has been blocked inside the country.
All foreign and local journalists were expelled from Andijan during the night of 13-14th May and two Russian TV crews, from REN-TV and NTV were turned back.
The government then accused foreign media, during a nationally-televised sham trial, of organising the rebellion. The 15 presumed leaders of the uprising claimed Western journalists encouraged them to "stage a peaceful revolution so as to create chaos." (Remember that this is a regime that has been know to boil alive recalcitrant prisoners).

Uzbek Government Closes Office Of U.S.-Based Humanitarian Group
Uzbekistan, increasingly hostile toward Western-funded entities, on May 4th shut down the local office of Counterpart International, a US-based nongovernmental organization that runs humanitarian projects, the group said. Uzbekistan has cracked down on foreign aid groups and media since Western countries criticized the bloody suppression of the uprising in Andijan a year ago.
"Today a Tashkent civil court issued a judgment that called for the liquidation of Counterpart International's representative office in Uzbekistan," said David Holiday, head of the organization in the country. He declined to say why the court had decided to shut the office and did not say whether Counterpart planned to appeal.
The authorities have closed the local offices of at least three other US nongovernmental organizations as well as the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the US-funded broadcaster Radio Liberty. Britain's BBC shut its office last year, citing official harassment.
Karimov has said that foreign nongovernmental organizations want to stoke a revolution in Uzbekistan. Russia and other former Soviet states blamed such groups in other words, NGO's and the independent media for the "people's revolutions" that swept Ukraine and Georgia.

Succession problem
President Islam Karimov has been around for decades. He was head of the Uzbek communist party in the 1980s and just remade himself as a nationalist in typical post-Soviet style. The Karimovs of this world have no shame and brazenly exemplify Dr Johnson's dictum that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
In the middle of March one of the web sites of the opposition reported on curious attempts to make Karimov lifetime president, curious because they seem so far to have failed. Reports from other sources imply that his dreaded elder daughter, Gulnara Karimova, put into motion a PR campaign encompassing Russia as well as Uzbekistan, with the idea of her succeeding her father, who, according to certain earlier reports, is unwell and has a fatal disease.
Personnel shuffles in the corridors of power are under way in the republic itself, indeed have been under way for some months. They are believed to be in connection with the presidential election in Uzbekistan scheduled for 2007. Once in the periphery of public attention, the subject of state power succession is moving back into the spotlight again.

A sycophant goes too far
A lawmaker sitting on the upper house of the parliament allegedly put on the floor an amendment to the Constitution stipulating lifetime presidency for the national leader, but the Senate torpedoed the idea. The oppositionist web site that posted this report reckons that the idea belongs to some senior state officials. The web site assumes furthermore that whole labour collectives will begin suggesting lifetime presidency for Karimov one after another, soon.
The attempt to check the report out resulted in some unexpected discoveries. According to a source in the upper house of the parliament, it was not lifetime presidency that the Senate discussed. The idea on the floor concerned the status of the first president of Uzbekistan, the title that may be granted Karimov should he step down and that will remain his for life.

The grooming of a dauphin?
If this is true, then it certainly puts in a different light the latest events concerning the president's elder daughter. Bella Terra, a glossy magazine Karimova publishes, ran an extensive interview with her in January. Some excerpts from the interview appeared in other publications even before the magazine itself could be found at newspaper stalls. Prominent Russian publications Profil and Evrazia published the interview afterwards. Evrazia for example did its honest best to present Karimova in the best possible light - with numerous photos of her and a portrait on the cover. All of that was quite revealing to an attentive reader. It is an indication, for example, of the importance attached to the interview (respectable journals do not usually print someone else's stories, they prefer exclusive materials from their own correspondents).
An interview with one of the Karimovs is not exactly a commonplace occurrence. They usually give interviews for a specific reason. What kind of reason is it? Answer to the question can be found in the text of the interview itself.
For the president's daughter who is an independent politician herself, the interview is certainly unusual. Not a single word is said on politics. Karimova speaks of her children, her friends and colleagues she throws parties for every now and then, her schedule, her hobbies (design). Karimova even mentions in passing a certain episode that directly concerned her: the episode involving a planeful of Uzbek gold allegedly detained by Russian customs. All web sites of the opposition had a field day with the story once, but neither Russian nor Uzbek officials ever offered a word of comment on it.
What takes shape in the course of the interview is the image of a business-lady with numerous commitments and a doting mother who nevertheless finds the time to write poetry. The text is thoroughly edited. Not a word is said on Karimov the president or on the relations among the Karimovs in general. The authors of the interview know better than to go against the taboo concerning publication of any data on relations within the president's family.
Hence the conclusion: publication of the interview was supposed to create a maximum "human" image of a young, poetic, and simultaneously practical woman. And consequently dispel the widespread opinion of Karimova as a successful businesswoman ruthlessly absorbing business ventures of the weak.
Karimova herself deployed the tactic of "closeness to the people" soon afterwards when she became the head of the Centre of Youth Initiatives. The ceremony of its establishment was certainly informal which is unusual for Uzbekistan. Wearing a T-shirt and jeans like others, Karimova climbed the podium, asked for a couple of minutes of everyone's attention, and gave a gist of what the Centre was about. Her speech done away with, Karimova sang in chorus with some popular performers and the audience. This I'm-one-of-you style has never been tried in Uzbekistan before. It follows that Karimova intends to rely on the youth. Smart of her because it is this stratum of society that supplies revolutions with combustibles. According to official statistics in the meantime, people under 30 years account for 60% of the population of Uzbekistan.
Carefulness with which the PR campaign is carried out should be commented on. Only one interview was given - with carefully selected questions and answers - and it was printed by other publications afterwards. The friendly Profil may count on an exclusive interview with Karimov whenever it feels like it because 50% of the Rodionov's Publishers (Profil is its publication) belongs to Iskander Makhmudov, Karimova's business partner. Should it come to that, however, it will certainly look like PR, pure and simple. The way it has been arranged, however, makes it different. Some Moscow magazines decided to reprint an interview that initially appeared in an Uzbek publication. Why not?

Leaving to remain
Only two successful means of a smooth transfer of state power to the necessary pair of hands are known in the post-Soviet zone - and not one of a replacement of an authoritarian regime with other than the nomenclatural opposition. Uzbekistan is unlikely to become an exception to this rule, says Sanobar Shermatova of Bolshaya Politika for Ferghana.Ru.
The weakness of the national democratic opposition and its patent inability to consolidate and offer a realistic project of modernization of the country are common knowledge. Leaders and activists of Birlik [Unity] and Erk [Will] have lived abroad since the early 1990's, their rapport with the electorate all but lost for good. Had an opportunity to come back presented itself, they'd have rallied the so called protest electorate of course. In the meantime, it is a sheer impossibility, and not only because of Karimov.
Groups of influence entrenched all around the president, with initial capitals in their possession, would not give ground. Installation of a new elite in a revolution in the meantime will inevitably result in a rearrangement of the spheres of influence. Even should the nomenklatura step down for some reason, there are serious doubts in the capacities of opposition leaders to run a country with the population amounting to 26 millions. They lack the experience. They were never trained for it; it's as simple as that.
Once it is in the corridors of power, the opposition will inevitably encounter one other problem. Legitimacy of the new regime will require acknowledgement by nearby countries and Russia. Revolutions in Tajikistan in 1992 and Kyrgyzstan in 2005 are a vivid example. President Rakhmon Nabiyev forced to resign, the Tajik opposition sought Moscow's friendship. Russia and other neighbours of Tajikistan chose to back the Popular Front and their support eventually elevated Emomali Rahmonov to presidency.
The future of the new authorities of Kyrgyzstan also depended on recognition, and they knew it. They became legitimate only when Russia, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan seconded revolutionaries. The principal argument President Vladimir Putin offered was like this: we know these people, they've done a lot to advance cooperation between our countries.
This is not what can be said about the Uzbek opposition. One day power-hungry Erk leader Muhammad Salikh promotes American military presence in the region claiming that the US military base should return to Uzbekistan while Russia and China (imperialists as they are) must vacate Central Asia, and the following day he promotes close relations with Moscow. Even discounting the aforementioned arguments, a policy like that cannot bring about any positive results. Predictability is what is valued in politics above all. Novices in politics are uniformly feared.
As a matter of fact, one of the two means of a smooth transfer of state power will apparently be used in Uzbekistan. The son inherited state power from the father in Azerbaijan. In Russia, it was a charismatic successor to an unpopular president. Both candidates for president in these countries spent some time as prime ministers first. As far as political technologists are concerned, it is the position of prime minister in charge of economic and social matters the population is so sensitive to that is the best possible jumping board for career-seekers.
Along with everything else, the prime minister is inevitably the focus of attention of TV channels and newspapers, and that's a surefire way of boosting one's popularity. In fact, Ilham Aliyev was to become chairman of the parliament in Azerbaijan at first. This option was reconsidered at some point and Aliyev Jr. became the prime minister.
Should the Uzbek regime decide to follow suit, Karimova will become the prime minister soon. (For starters, she may become a governor to accumulate experience.) The role played by the prime minister in Uzbekistan will be inevitably boosted in this case. Let us now recollect the events of more than three years ago when Karimov met with journalists in the course of a session of the national parliament. Karimov said then that he intended to step down one fine day but first he would reorganize the government and the parliament. Some of the presidential powers would be invested in these structures. By the Constitution, it is the national leader that appoints all ministers of the Cabinet nowadays. In the future, he will but recommend prime minister to the parliament leaving formation of the government to the premier himself. Security ministers traditionally handpicked, appointed, and supervised by the president will be appointed by the Senate.
According to Karimov, Uzbekistan is to be transformed into a parliamentary-presidential republic with a strong prime minister. The same report of Deutsche Welle dated December 13, 2002, quoted the president as saying that the reforms in the country would begin in 2005 when the parliament of two houses was elected.
This promise was kept. The first election by party lists took place in Uzbekistan last year. The Liberal Democratic Party associated with Karimova's name won a majority of seats on the lower house of the parliament. The Liberal Democratic Party presents itself as a political force backed by the middle class, but it is essentially the ruling party in everything but name (Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziayev sits on its Council).
By the way, Putin and Aliyev Jr. had political parties of their own on the way to the pinnacle. The United Russia was established literally on the eve of the 1999 parliamentary election. Yeni Azerbaijan [New Azerbaijan] was reanimated after six years of dormancy by Heydar Aliyev and turned over to Ilham who became chairman of the Political Council.
In the meantime, there were other forces these two successors ultimately counted on. It was the Family comprising some oligarchs in Russia, and Aliyev's clan (the Family, in other words) in Azerbaijan.
Nothing even remotely similar exists in Uzbekistan. Relations between the powers-that-be and groups of influence (clans) have a different nature in this country. Certain rules of the game were established in Russia and Azerbaijan in accordance with which the nomenclature and oligarchs (members of the clan in Azerbaijan) serviced each other's interests and saw to mutual security, but Uzbekistan lacks this regulator. Senior state officials are traditionally faithful to presidents (the strongest of them all) but live in the state of permanent fear. That they will second the president's daughter is not a foregone conclusion at all. First and foremost, they will be afraid of losing the administrative resources that ensure security of their capitals and, even more importantly, their own security.
And since the president cannot secure the elite's loyalty and faithfulness to the successor, we cannot afford to rule out the possibility of his return. It may take the form of the status of the first president permitting his participation in political processes. It may even take the form of election the chairman of the Senate (this possibility is whispered about in Tashkent nowadays). Outwardly, democratic procedures will be observed, and someone formally independent of Karimov may be elected the president with the enormously restricted powers. The leverage and the state power as such will remain where they have been for years.

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Tashkent to attract US$8 billion in 2008
 

Uzbekistan plans to attract US$ eight billion of foreign investments in 2008, Uzbek Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade, Alisher Shayhov, said at the Uzbek-Russian Business Forum, Interfax News Agency reported.
Uzbek-Russian Business Forum was organised by chambers of commerce and industry of Uzbekistan and Russia. It considered wide-scale issues, including interregional economic cooperation and monetary-financial integration within Eurasian Economic Community. During the forum, Shayhov said that this year the country plans to involve investments for US$ one billion and from US$ two billion to US$ four billion in near two-three years. Last year Uzbekistan attracted over US$500 million to its economy. Shayhov said payment balance of Uzbekistan is strengthening and it reached to high level, which allows to attract foreign direct investments instead of investments attracted under guarantees of the government. Uzbek minister said this is small amount of money for Russia in view of volume of country and its economy, but for Uzbekistan it is important as the country are moving to new level of development. Russia is one of the largest trade partners of Uzbekistan. Bilateral trade turnover increased from US$1.6 billion in 2004 to US$ two billion in 2005. The share of Russia in foreign trade turnover of Uzbekistan makes up almost 22 per cent. Besides, Russia and Uzbekistan have signed for the first time in the history of inter-parliamentary relations, an agreement on cooperation between the two countries' upper houses of parliament.

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MINERALS & METALS

Interros eyeing Uzbekistan gold
 

The Interros holding, which controls MMC Norilsk Nickel and Polyus Gold, is interested in companies that mine precious metals and uranium in Uzbekistan, a source on the CIS metals market said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The source said Interros was interested in buying a stake in the Zarafshan-Newmont joint venture, which recovers gold from tailings at the giant Muruntau field, from world's second gold producer Newmont. The source said the Russian holding's ultimate goal was not the tailings, from which the joint venture produces several tonnes of gold per year, but access to the uranium and gold that the Navoi Mining and Metals Plant, one of Central Asia's biggest gold producers and Uzbekistan's uranium monopoly, produces. Interros Holding head Vladimir Potanin said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin last week that Interros is expanding cooperation with a number of CIS countries, particularly Kazakstan and Uzbekistan. "The group is going through a new phase of its development due to favourable market trends for various raw materials on which we specialise, which enables the company to expand its activities," Potanin said.

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