Books on Uzbekistan
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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