Books on Uzbekistan
351 - (25/03/10)
Diplomacy to the fore
The Uzbek leadership have a very difficult
and tortuous role to play in world
politics. Uzbekistan may be the central
state of Central Asia; but it lacks the
allure of the abundant resources of
However, it does have a long border with
Afghanistan. That gives it a special
geopolitical significance today. Its top
priority at first was to remain on good
terms with Moscow; that remains important
indeed. But its prime goal now is to be on
good terms with Washington, a passport to
a wider world than Moscow can offer.
Its star diplomat, former Uzbek Ambassador
to Russia Ilkhom Nematov, will head
Uzbekistan's diplomatic mission to the
United States, the Uzbek diplomatic
mission in Washington has reported.
Nematov replaced Abdulaziz Kamilov, who
was in office from October 2003 to January
In January 2010, Kamilov was appointed
first deputy foreign minister. Previously,
Nematov served as first deputy foreign
minister. Under Uzbek law, before
presenting his credentials to head the
diplomatic mission, the individual
nominated as the ambassador must be
approved by the upper house of the Uzbek
A house revolution taking place
When Hitler came to power in Germany
in 1933, there were people from the
communist left to the free market right
who saw him as a stooge of mighty
capitalism. Schacht and Krupp were deemed
the real rulers of Germany. A cartoon of
the time showed finance maestro Schacht
sitting in the lap of ultra-capitalist
Krupp and Hitler in the lap of Schacht in
a vast armchair. This was a cruel
illusion, as events in 1934 and
henceforward were to show.
Something not altogether dissimilar is
going on in Uzbekistan right now. Karimov
is no tool of the new Uzbek haute
bourgeoisie. He is a ruthless dictator. He
has his own interests at heart, not
Some of the wealthiest people in
Uzbekistan have reportedly been arrested
or detained over the past several days, or
are being hunted down by Uzbek
authorities. They include the president of
one of Tashkent's premier football clubs,
the owner of the country's largest
wholesale market, construction magnates
and bankers, according to media reports.
Others with ties to big business have
reportedly fled the country.
The crackdown appears to have its origins
in a speech President Islam Karimov gave
in December. According to the UzMetronom
website, the president said the
authorities would not accept material
inequality. "There will be no oligarchs in
our country. If anyone has yet to
understand this, they should bear it in
mind," the website quotes Karimov as
Uzbek officials are portraying this
campaign as a sort of anti-corruption
drive in a country that rarely allows its
"dirty laundry" to be aired in public, but
some sources believe there is more going
on than officials are saying.
The country's media isolation makes it
difficult to pinpoint what is happening.
Reports refer to financial crimes having
been committed, but details are sketchy.
An Uzbek government official, speaking
under condition of anonymity, confirmed
reports that some leading business people
are being investigated and some have been
arrested. The official denied that
business elites in general are being
targeted, just criminals.
'Events are alarming'
Galima Bukharbaeva, a journalist who has
covered events in Uzbekistan for many
years, tells RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that
the reported arrests show that even those
among the wealthy who thought they were
immune to prosecution are fair game.
"The events are alarming and at the same
time closed off [to publicity],"
Bukharbaeva says. "Taken together, these
rumours and unconfirmed information about
a wave of arrests going on among the big
businessmen of Uzbekistan show that no one
in Uzbekistan is 100% protected."
Independent websites that report about
Uzbekistan, including uzmetronom.com,
uznews.net, and ferghana.ru, have named
names. According to the reports, Dmitry
Lim, owner of the Karavan Bazaar,
Uzbekistan's largest wholesale market, was
detained along with more than 50
high-ranking employees of the market. Alik
Nurutdinov, who heads the Bekabad cement
factory, has reportedly been detained.
Also said to be detained are Batyr
Rakhimov, businessman and president of one
of Tashkent's premier football clubs (Pakhtakor).
His brother, Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, is also
wanted but reportedly fled the country on
learning about Batyr's arrest. Also
reportedly on the run are Alp Jamol-Bank
owner Mukhiddin Asomiddinov and
Kyzylkumtsement Works director Rajabbai
Jumanazarov. One of the two Uzbek owners
of the Swiss-registered company Zeromax,
which is involved in Uzbekistan's oil and
gas industry, have reportedly also been
brought in for questioning.
Media outlets that cover Uzbekistan abound
with theories on the reasons behind the
crackdown. Aleskei Volosevich of
ferghana.ru says it could simply be that
the state needs money. "Generally, the
people talking about these [arrests]
believe that the state coffers are empty,
and because the state coffers are empty
the authorities are forced to find new
means of generating revenue," Volosevich
says. "And these means are well known -
take over an established and successful
business or threaten legal action to get
the rich to put huge amounts of money into
Sergei Ezhkov of uzmetronom.com says this
wave of arrests and detentions could be
the start of a deeper investigation
targeting people much higher up.
"Those who are wanted for money laundering
or avoiding paying taxes or having ties to
corruption, they are needed as sources of
information to get at those corrupt people
at the top."