Uzbekistan’s Tiananmen Square?

by Nathan Hamm on 6/9/2005

Patrick Moore and Daniel Kimmage have a discussion of whether or not Andijon can truly be considered Uzbekistan’s Tiananmen.

If Deng was arguing for stability above all even as the party daily was stumping for reforms, the official message in Uzbekistan has been unambiguous — stability above all. President Islam Karimov has staunchly advocated a policy of “gradualism” that virtually all outside observers have described as a refusal to carry out meaningful economic and political reforms. Subterranean rifts have long been rumored within the Uzbek elite, but they appear to follow clan lines, not policy divides. Consequently, as Uzbekistan’s ruling elite faces the fallout from Andijon, it does so without any evident policy alternatives under consideration.

This last point is salient in light of the single obvious similarity between Andijon and Tiananmen. Tiananmen Square was sufficiently momentous to determine the context for subsequent events, driving some into stunned silence even as the leadership eventually decided on a reformist course in 1992. And if the tensions of Tiananmen remain unresolved, the impact of reforms has been significant enough to sustain an ongoing debate over the perils and promise of “the Chinese way.”

For Uzbekistan, Andijon is a similarly momentous event, and one that is likely to dominate the domestic context for some time to come. Yet the crackdown comes against a backdrop of official domestic policy that betrays no sign of reformist inclinations, and the Uzbek government’s initial reactions point only toward a hardening of an already hard line.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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