Sergei Yeshkov on the Uzbek Domino

by Laurence on 3/29/2005


All the same, a riot – spontaneous and merciless – is a distinct possibility. It will not even take much to spark one. A single episode of, say, lawlessness on the part of the police will suffice to initiate a bloodshed.

The situation being what it is, the Ferghana Valley is particularly vulnerable. Birth rate there is high, jobs are catastrophically unavailable, and the population relies on chance and sporadic jobs more than on anything else. By the way, I’m still convinced that the uprising in southern Kyrgyzstan also aimed to disrupt stability in the nearby Andizhan and other regions of Uzbekistan. It’s just that the masterminds behind the uprising failed in what had been regarded as practically accomplished.

Why? Because the discontent notwithstanding, here we have fairly powerful illegitimate religious structures. They are not controlled by Uzbek secret services, and construction of a secular state is the last thing they want. Everything necessary is present for promotion of the ideas of Islamic communism – impoverishment and absence of civil rights and freedoms for the majority, luxury and permissiveness for whoever is close to the powers-that-be. President of Uzbekistan cannot help knowing it. No wonder particularly corrupt officials, first and foremost the ones in law enforcement agencies, were ousted precisely in the Ferghana Valley not long ago.

Yes, the possibility of deterioration of the situation in Uzbekistan exists, but it has existed for years – as long in fact as political scientists of all calibers have been predicting the collapse of the Uzbek regime. Many of them repeat again and again that Uzbekistan is the next country where a revolution “from below” will happen in.

Perhaps, it is. Or perhaps, it is not. Everything depends on exactly what lessons president of Uzbekistan learns from the Kyrgyz events because it is the president and nobody else who sets the domestic policy in this country. Even a simple and unimportant step in the direction of true liberalization of society on his part will promptly endear the president to the majority of the population again. It does not matter that it will be just a game and not bona fide democracy. The people will want to indulge in wishful thinking.

Should Karimov prefer harassment, it will only backfire. The outcome will be much worse than in the small Kyrgyzstan with its 5 million citizens. The Uzbeks outnumber them five to one…

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