Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 304 - (28/04/06)
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
at 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 in 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 getting 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 best to present Karimova in the most favourable 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 (such 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?
Answers to that question can be found in the text of the interview itself.
For the president's daughter who is a politician herself, the interview is
certainly unusual. Not a single word was 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 plane-full
of Uzbek gold allegedly detained by Russian customs. All webs site 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 also a doting mother, who nevertheless finds the time
to write poetry (some poems by Karimova are included). 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
Hence the conclusion: publication of the interview was supposed to create the
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 all the others, Karimova climbed
the podium, asked for a couple of minutes of everyone's attention, and gave the
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 an appeal to 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
The care 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. It certainly looks like PR, pure and simple. Some
Moscow magazines decided to reprint an interview that initially appeared in an
Uzbek publication. Why not be helpful to the possible next boss of this country?
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 none 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 a
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 ministries in
their possession, would not give ground. Installation of a new elite in the
meantime would inevitably result in a rearrangement of spheres of influence.
Even should the nomenclature 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 is as simple as that.
Once in the corridors of power, the opposition will inevitably encounter another
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 was 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 them. 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 sure-fire way of boosting
one's popularity. In fact, Ilham Aliyev was to have 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 only recommend the 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 a 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.
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 wealth and positions 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 honorific president with
enormously restricted powers. The leverage and the state power as such will then
remain where they have been for years.
R&D Express- Aussenhandels buys 40% of Savdogar bank
Germany's R&D Express-Aussenhandels GmbH has acquired 40 per cent of shares
in Uzbekistan's Savdogar Bank for two million Euro, the bank said recently,
Interfax News Agency reported.
The Central Bank of Uzbekistan gave its permission for the German company to buy
the stake in Savdogar, a spokesman for the financial institution said. A
shareholders' meeting was expected to discuss the arrival of the German company
as a shareholder in the financial institution by the end of April and change the
name of the bank. Savdogar Bank was set up in 1994 to service Uzbek trade and
commercial enterprises. Legprombank, which services enterprises working in light
industry, merged with Savdogar in 1998 and Mevasabzavotbank, which specialises
in financing enterprises for the processing of fruit and vegetable products,
joined the bank in 2000. The bank has 50 branches and 34 mini-banks. Savdogar
Bank had charter capital of six billion som (about five million Euro) on January
1st 2006, divided into 600 common shares with a par value of 10 million som
FOOD & DRINK
Austria's SEID buys only sugar plant in Uzbekistan
Austria's SEID Iandelsgescellschaft mbH has purchased a 99.43 per cent stake in
Khorazm shakar (the Khorezmsky Sugar Plant), Uzbekistan's only sugar plant, the
Uzbek State Property Committee's press service said, Interfax News Agency
The committee and SEID signed a buy-sell agreement on March 6th, the press
service said. In accordance with the agreement, SEID will invest a total of
35.2m Euro and 7.2bn som in the plant. In particular, the new owner paid 17.6m
Euro for the share package and took on additional investment liabilities to pay
off the plant's 11.6m Euro and 7.2bn som in accounts payable. SEID will also be
required to invest six million Euro in developing production of new types of
The State Property Committee announced a tender for the sale to foreign
investors of a 73.43 per cent stake in Khorazm Shakar for 26.35m Euro in 2004,
however the tender was annulled due to a lack of specific bids. In March 2005,
the Uzbek government decided to increase the package to 99.43 per cent.
Khorazm shakar has charter capital of 14.6m Euro. The company's employees own a
0.57 per cent stake in the plant. Khorazm Sugar Plant was launched in 1998. The
enterprise was initially planned to process sugar beet, from domestically
harvested beet however due to a low sugar beet yield, the plant was not able to
work at full capacity and the refinery was reconstructed at the cost of two
million Euro in 2002 to refine 1,000 metric tonnes of imported raw materials a
The US-Uzbek joint venture Shakar Investment provided the amount to upgrade the
plant to process raw cane sugar. The plant currently has capacity to produce
1,000 tonnes of sugar per day. Uzbekistan consumes some 630,000 tonnes of sugar
per year. Domestic sugar output dropped 24.4 per cent to 146,380 tonnes in 2005.