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: 277- (01/02/04)
The struggle against terrorism has transformed the prospects for Uzbekistan. From being a Central Asian backwater, it is now one of Washington's most valuable allies in the new fight. Hence why it has been the recipient of massive US aid, despite an appalling human rights record.
The Uzbek regime gave the US full support in its war in Afghanistan and let it use a base, Khanabad, on the frontier with that country. Operations are by no means over. Washington has given Tashkent $500 million in aid in return for use of the base. The Tashkent-Washington axis remains firm.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) did the regime of Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president, a greater favour than it knew by calling itself a movement operating in the republic. It is actually operating throughout Central Asia, although it takes Uzbekistan as its prime target. This is understandable for an organisation with a long sense of history. Uzbekistan was the heartland of the empire of Tamurlaine. Indeed it was the furthermost point reached by Alexander the Great in his adventures into the heart of Eurasia. It then became the key stage of the ancient Silk Route. Samarkand, Bokhara, Oxiana are names evocative of a great, if vanished, world. When Imperial Russia moved in, Tashkent was the seat of the military government they installed to rule all of the current 'stans,' - the Central Asian FSU Republics, in what was then called, Turkestan.
The IMU took a fearful drubbing in the war against the Taleban and lost its leader. Its role as the scourge of the regime has been taken over by the underground radical Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HUT). There are indications that internal differences over strategy and tactics are threatening the cohesion of the HUT. Internecine rivalries could hasten the emergence of violent splinter groups. Hizb-ut-Tahrir has so far used non-violent methods, in particular the distribution of anti-government leaflets, in promoting its proclaimed aim; the overthrow of the existing political order in all Central Asian states.
Information on the inner workings of the organization is thin, but there is evidence that dissatisfaction with the non-violent approach is growing within the HUT leadership. HUT is being persecuted by the authorities, with the effect of driving younger Uzbeks to reconsidering the option of violence. Says one 30-year old member, naturally preferring anonymity: "Our authorities are so strict, it can force us to resort to violent ways of reaching our goals. Islam doesn't prohibit use of armed violence if one is attacked." He would prefer a peaceful route, but "if an uprising happens first, I'll join that." A new period of Islamic fundamentalism might then be opening up, incited by the regime.
Factionalism within Hizb-ut-Tahrir could cause the organization to adopt more confrontational tactics, or result in the creation of new groups that embrace terrorist methods akin to al-Qaeda and the IMU. The US-led military occupation of Iraq has helped fuel the internal tactical debate within HUT. Two dissenting, though largely peaceful groups that trace their origins to HUT have emerged in recent years - one is called Hizb-an-Nusra and the other is labeled Akramiya. Experts believe other, more radical splinter groups may be in the early stages of development.
Hizb-an-Nusra leaders believe that non-violent tactics will never be sufficient to bring about the collapse of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's administration. HUT's main tactic of distributing leaflets caused the arrest of "a significant proportion of HUT's younger membership," Babadjanov wrote. As a result, the Hizb-an-Nusra leaders decided it "was time for more radical efforts."
Meanwhile, Akramiya was founded in 1996 by Akram Yuldashev, a former HUT member from Andijan, Uzbekistan's third largest city. In a pamphlet entitled Yimonga Yul (Way to Faith), Yuldashev argued that HUTs non-violent tactics were devised for Arab states and were ill-suited for success in Central Asia. In splitting with HUT, Yuldashev argued that Islamic governance should be established on a local level, rather than on a national level.
According to Babadjanov, Yuldashev attempted to develop tactics suited to the Ferghana Valley's specific social and economic conditions. The region is Central Asia's breadbasket, but suffers from overpopulation. Yuldashev based his tactics on the formation of cells that grouped individuals from the same professional background. Yuldashev also urged that his organization seek legalized status so that it could operate openly on the grassroots level.
Today, Yuldashev is reportedly languishing in an Uzbek prison - caught up in the Uzbek government's far-reaching crackdown on unsanctioned religious activity.
UK Ambassador takes a stand
It is not clear then that the repressive policy of the regime helps at all. Indeed, these developments show that it is exacerbating it. The US is uneasily aware of that likely fact, but sees no alternative to giving the regime its broad support. Yet there is scope for 'the good cop, bad cop' routine here.
For the UK does see the point of protesting, at least in the shape of a Scot, the UK ambassador, Craig Murray, who has openly condemned the practices of the regime. He upstaged the US ambassador last year by openly denouncing the regime at a public address, just after the American had been studiously moderate in criticism.
There are 10,000 political dissidents detained in prison and every year numbers of them are tortured to death. Murray has cited the horror of boiling people alive practised in its jails. He points out that nearly one fifth of the $500 million aid has been for 'law-enforcement and security services,' who are doing the torturing.
He had the backing of Clare Short, UK Minister for International Development until recently. Her departure from the government made his position more exposed at home.
The Foreign Office called for his resignation on the grounds of his being depressed. In a rather patheticwhispering campaign against him he has been accused of drinking heavily with Uzbeks, womanising at social functions with them and ordering his embassy vehicle down some steps to get to a picnic. The ambassador has denied that any "inappropriate behaviour" took place.
He has had the support of a 15-strong group of British businessmen based in the capital, who wrote to UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to praise him. One of them James McCrory, a development consultant, said that Mr Murray has promoted "British culture and ideals to an extent not previously known here.. Mr Murray is being sacrificed to the Americans. The US Embassy makes no effort to conceal its dislike of the way he repeatedly slams (Uzbekistan's) human rights record."
The authorities in Tashkent have let it be known that they have not asked for his recall and it appears that he will not be disciplined after all. He refuses to quit his post and may yet remain as ambassador.
The IMF is critical of trade policy
The IMF is taking a critical line on the restrictive practices of the regime in its commercial policy, which is inhibiting growth, says the international organisation. The IMF is always in a cat-and-mouse game with Uzbekistan, sometimes contributing funds and sometimes not, but forever ready with advice.
The economic record is not so bad for all the regime's heavy-handed methods. They may be crude, but they can be effective. The republic avoided the worst fall-out from the collapse of the rouble in 1998 because of tight exchange controls. Inflation is low and growth slowly positive. Uzbekistan is likely to go on in an independent way, whether politically or economically.
Ilyushin buys two Candids from Tashkent Aircraft Plant
The Ilyushin Aircraft Corporation, Russia, has signed a contract on the acquisition of two IL-76MF Candid cargo aircraft from the Tashkent Aircraft Plant, Uzbekistan, Ilyushin CEO Viktor Livanov told Interfax-Military News Agency.
"The two IL-76MFs we acquired will be involved in joint state trials and then they will move to experimental operation with military transport aviation units," Livanov said. According to Livanov, both aircraft are to be delivered in 2005- 2006.
He said that these two aircraft would be the second and the third ones in the joint state trials program for the IL-76MF. The trials are to be completed in late 2005. Livanov recalled that the MF index designates modernized ("M") and extended fuselage ("F").
The IL-76MF has a high degree of unification with other Candids (for example, it uses the wing of the IL-78 refueling aircraft). The derivative has a larger cargo compartment - 400 cubic metres compared to the 320 cubic metres of the baseline version - to meet the requirement of the military "to let in another IFV." It can airlift up to 305 paratroopers or three IFVs with landing equipment, or up to nine UAK-9 containers, up to four UUK-20s, two Ikarus-250 buses, up to 23 motor cars (on a double deck), or one fuselage of the IL-114 aircraft. The demand of the Russian Air Force for the IL-76MF until 2015 is estimated at 100 to 120 pieces.
Uzbekistan and Germany brainstorm Aral solutions
What the future holds for the Aral Sea is something that concerns Uzbekistan and Germany. In an effort to promote the ecological recovery of the region, scientists from the two countries have teamed up to plant a new forest on the former bottom of the sea, UPI said in a special report.
The Aral is an inland sea between Kazakstan and Uzbekistan to the east of the Caspian Sea. In its glory years, the Aral was the fourth biggest inland body of water across the globe, after the Caspian Sea between Europe and Asia, Lake Superior in North America and Lake Victoria in Africa. Problems started more than three decades ago, as the sea started to dry when humans began using the water for the irrigation of cotton crops.
During the 1960s, nearly 76 billion cubic yards (58.11bn cubic metres) of water flowed from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers into the Aral each year, the report said. However, it has been receiving very little since 1986 due to irrigation off take. It also loses 39 to 45.5bn cubic yards a year to evaporation, Zinovy Novitsky, the project's scientific adviser, told UPI.
All these factors have drive down the sea's volume of water by 60 per cent to 520bn cubic yards. The Aral's surface area has dwindled by over a third to 17,000 square miles. The sea also has split into two lakes - the Big Aral and the Small Aral. A total of 10m acres of its former bottom have dried up, Novitsky was quoted as saying. The loss of water has caused many major problems. A new desert called Aralkum has surfaced that already has consumed 5 million acres of arable land. More than 82 million tonnes of dust, sand and salt are blown into the atmosphere each year, and then settle within 600 miles.
"Wind erosion of the former bottom of the Aral Sea has increased greatly - 0.5 to 3.5 times - in different points around the lake," UPI quoted Genady Golubev from Moscow State University as writing in an article entitled "Systems View of the Water Management in Central Asia."
The unpopulated Vozrozhdeniye island is also a problem factor for the Aral. The area is a former USSR bilogical weapons test site. The island has become a peninsula that is shared by Kazakstan and Uzbekistan.
There is a possible link between the site and the poor health of many people in the region. Cholera, typhus, gastritis, blood cancer, asthma and bronchitis afflict the population, and infant mortality is high.
Until now, the scientists have planted 55,000 acres with high shrubs, including Haloxylon aphyllum, Salsola richteri and Galligonum caput medusae. "These shrubs have acclimatised themselves to arid deserts," Novitsky said. "They can stand very high temperatures and high salinity and take water from low underground levels," he added. The roots of the shrubs grow parallel to the ground and fasten to the mix to sand, dust and salt. The new planting project should be much cheaper than other possible solutions, project manager, Frank Hufler, told UPI. It costs about US$152 to plant one hectare - 2.5 acres - he said, adding that he is seeking US$40m to plant all 662,500 acres.
Uzbekistan announces privatisation tenders for 2 chemicals, 1 cement plant
Uzbekistan's state property committee is offering foreign investors state stock holdings in two chemicals and one cement plant, Interfax News Agency has reported.
A committee administration source told Interfax that 49% of chemicals plant Elektrokhimprom (Tashkent region), starting price US$15.68 million, and 57.7% of Dzhizakplastmassa (Dzhizak region), starting price US$3.13 million, will be on the auction block. So will 25% of the stock in cement company Akhangarantsement (Tashkent region), starting price US$4.5m Bids for the three will be accepted until March 10th. This is the second time Akhangarantsement has been offered, since an auction last September for the 25% stake attracted no bidders.
Elektrokhimprom produces around 35 different chemical products, including liquefied technical ammonia, nitric acid, ammonium nitrate and carbamide. The government will retain a 51% stake in the enterprise. Britain's Maxwell Stamp PLC is the financial consultant for the company's privatization
Dzhizakplastmassa makes polyethylene film and polymer pipe, producing up to 30,000 tonnes a year. The government will hold onto 25%, the company workforce 8.9% and small stockholders 8.4%, aside from the potential foreign investor. The financial consultant here is the Russian audit-consult firm, BDO UniconRuf.
Akhangarantsement, Uzbekistan's second largest cement-maker, can turn out 1.736 tonnes of the product annually. The government will retain 25%, the company workforce 24.4%. Switzerland's Holderbank Group owns 25.6% of the stock. The financial consultant for this outfit's privatisation is European Privatisation & Investment Corporation of Austria.
The Akhangarantsement stock sale is part of a program for privatising major Uzbek enterprises with the support of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The IBRD extended Uzbekistan a US$28 million credit to this end back in 1998. The official exchange rate on January 8 was 980.18 sum/$1.
Our analysts and
editorial staff have many years experience in analysing and reporting
events in these nations. This knowledge is available in the form of
geopolitical and/or economic country reports on any individual or grouping
of countries. Such reports may be bespoke to the specification of clients
or by access to one of our existing specialised reports.
For further information email: