The Cost of Freedom in Uzbekistan

by David Walther on 12/22/2005 · 23 comments

Though it apparently works on a sliding scale based on how important one is, how rich, or how much media attention one is likely to gather, apparently the cost of freedom in Uzbekistan is $200,000.

This caught my attention yesterday, but I was too tired to translate it and today I saw that RFE-RL’s Daily Russian Report had already done it for me (DK is Daniel Kimmage).

“Nigora Hidoyatova, the sister of jailed Uzbek opposition leader Nodira Hidoyatova, told on 21 December that investigator Ramazan Pulatov told her that her sister can go free if she pays a fine of $200,000. The fine would go toward compensating material losses prosecutors allege Nodira Hidoyatova caused through tax evasion. The report noted that Nodira Hidoyatova, coordinator of the opposition Sunshine Coalition, has refused the deal and continues to assert her innocence. DK”

The article also mentions that Nigora Hidoyatova, the sister to whom the
“fee” was proposed, is the acting secretary of the Free Farmers party in Uzbekistan.

The most interesting question about all of this is the same one that pops up so often for me when trying to find some kind of logical pattern in actions of the Uzbek government–did they actually think no one would find out about this (which seems incredible), or is this a media plant that is supposed to send some kind of message?

I suppose it’s always possible that this investigator, Mr. Pulatov, meant for this to be a private conversation and was actually trying to make the $200,000 (in my experience, larger bribes, though of course I’ve never seen anything like this, are a cooperative effort, and all the people who will have knowledge of the transaction agree together for their “take”) to ‘compensate’ himself and the rest of the office for their hard, hard work on the Hidoyatova case. It’s also quite possible that they intended to implicate Nigora in a corruption sting of some kind.

Most incredibly of all, this might be some kind of backwards attempt to make Uzbekistan look more “democratic.” By suggesting a flat “fine” to cover the alleged “economic crimes” of Nodira Hidoyatova, maybe they think this is supposed to show that they are on the up and up, kind of like the first round of Andijon show trials was supposed to prove the government’s assertions about what really happened and show that people were getting due process.

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Dave has lived in Tashkent for two years, and has no idea when he will be able to leave...

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Rustam December 22, 2005 at 5:13 pm

It is Wonder World.
Just think about it Nathan, no laws, no principles, no logic, no ethics, no values and no Judeo – Christian or Islamic, Buddhist or whatever traditions; don’t You wish to become the tyrant of this kind of the country and to be the master of more than 26 million slaves with whom You can do whatever You want to do, at the end of the day they are nothing, not even a thing because a thing has a value, they are emptiness.
How can You fight this idiot, despot, this dictator and his totalitarian regime in peaceful and constitutional way, how Laurence????
One slight hope was connected with the Germans. Hope that they might arrest Almatov, now we know that despite the calls of UN’s Special Repertoire on Torture Novak Germans let him go away, he is in Tashkent, and already retired and we have other killer as a Minister of Internal Affairs, also former KGB officer, and former Ambassador in Pakistan, former head of the Foreign Spying Operations Department of the SNB and I suspect this is the one of the smart guys who offered to use Uzbekistan as a safe haven to undertake “extraordinary rendition” and assist US Department of Defence and CIA in their “fight against terrorism”.
What next?! No idea, one thing for sure that they must keep on holding tight or unless it will blow for sure, until we will get to the classics – “when the upper classes can not continue to rule the way they were used to and lower classes can not be ruled anymore”, unfortunately no solution other than this.
Would really like to take part in organizing well financed and thought after coup d’état, maybe could have been called as “Adolat” (justice) but will be a lot of blood, much more then in Kyrgyzstan, because the scale of criminal activities of the regimes is incomparable, they have a lot to fear.
Hope to be in Tashkent when it does, really look forward and it will; no choice.

Djana December 22, 2005 at 6:33 pm


Your frustration is understandable, and God knows how the events will turn out in Uzbekistan when the regime will finally collapse. However, I don’t think that calling for a coup d’etat that will have bloods of innocent people spilled is a good thing. You and I well know, that Karimov budet otstrelivat’sya do poslednei puli.
Still, lets have hope, that Uzbek people and Uzbekistanians in general will be wise enough, not to start the bloodshed, and brother will not go against the brother, and we will not have a civil war in our beloved country.
Now, Karimov ending up like Ceausecu is another thing. But innocent people should not go through the civil war.
It will definitely not be like Kyrgyzstan, becuase Karimov is not Akayev, who I have to give him is a noble person in comparison to Karimov. Akayev left. Yes, he fled the country like a coward, but he did not order the troops to shoot at his own people.
One thing I am always afraid of is the civil war in Uzbekistan, but I really hope that it will not happen. I don’t know if you still have relatives in Uzbekistan, I do, and I don’t want them to go through this.

Nathan December 22, 2005 at 6:53 pm

Just a reminder, I don’t write all the posts around here! David gets credit for this one.

David Walther December 22, 2005 at 9:25 pm

I didn’t want to include this in the regular post, because it would sound irreverant or something, but I guess I am not very important at all because I bought my own freedom for $15 once, and I think I could have gotten away with only half that.

Nathan December 22, 2005 at 10:19 pm

The amount of irreverence I leave out of posts would fill up a whole ‘nother blog.

That being said, I’ve never had to purchase my freedom. I’m just lucky that way I guess.

Azjon December 23, 2005 at 4:02 am

Djana how can you say that coup d’etat is not a good thing. as far as blood spilling goes,Karimov probably killing innocent people right now.I think that unless Kyrgyzstan type revolution happens, I do not see how my poor contrymen can change things in Uzbekistan. i just can’t see anymore how Karimov gets away with murdering my people.I hope that bastard burns in hell.

Brian December 23, 2005 at 10:33 am

Well, that’s the thing… no one knows for sure if a coup d’etat would be a good thing or not. Most of us here understand the anger and frustration, however what makes many people worry is what would come out of a coup. I think that a coup d’etat in Uzbekistan would most likey come from some other insider or government misister. I don’t think you will have a Kyrgyz Akeyev style coup… Karimov would simply have everyone shot.

So who would take over, and would they be any better? And would a coup turn into a bloody civil war? Thousands could die and millions could be homeless; it’s dangerous for sure.

For my part, I think any peaceful coup _might_ be a good thing… at the very least it would stir up the pot a bit.

David Walther December 23, 2005 at 11:48 am

For my part, “not to give anyone ideas” or anything, I still think non-violent resistance is the answer. I honestly think you could at least wrest some meaningful concessions out of Karimov and his government with labor, transport, media, and police strikes.

There is something fundamental, though, about the midset of peoples in the whole of the former USSR that is very different from societes where they do things like that–take for example the NYC transit strike that forced the mayor of New York, responsible for a budget larger than that of most countries and himself one of the richest men in the world, to walk to work across a bridge. I don’t know a lot about the details of the strike, but I can promise you it didn’t have to do with people being genuinely poor, hopeless, or abused.

On the other hand, in Uzbekistan and in many other parts of the world people are poor and abused by their governments or employers and will still show up to work on time every day… and this has been a puzzle for me for a long time. Why do people continue to work when they don’t get paid? (as is often the case in parts of Uzbekistan, and only ten years ago was a common case in Russia as well).

On one hand, this type of, well, toughness and commitment is laudable and I have always respected it about all the people I’ve known who behave this way—but on the other hand, when you are working in a corrupt and increasingly hopeless system like the one in Uzbekistan, by continuing to go to work every day in spite of low/no wages, you also help perpetuate the system.

I know this is a very debatable point, and again, I have tremendous repsect for people who continue to do their jobs (especially jobs that benefit the community in some way) even if the work under an unnaceptable contract or in dismal conditions.

So I’m just throwing that out there… there is more than one way to change a government or foce a government to change. There is the top-down, ‘regime change’ type, and then there is the bottom-up ‘new government by popular demand’ type.

Jonathan P December 24, 2005 at 12:48 am

I, too, have always wondered why people in Uzbekistan continue to go to their non-paying jobs, pick cotton for nothing, etc.

IMO, any labor, transport, or media strike would be largely innefective unless it were coordinated … but is such coordination at all realistic? I hate to say it, but I think definitely not. …And a police strike will happen in Tashkent when pigs fly.

If something happens in Uzbekistan, don’t look for it to start in Tashkent. Too many people there have too much to lose. I’d bet on the countryside or the medium-sized cities (i.e. Jizzakh).

But, then again, the farmers in Uzbekistan have probably never, ever in the history of Transoxiana gotten paid fairly for their work. So many of them seem not to expect anything different now. They do the work that they are compelled to do and, in the time left over, they do what they can to get by and just live. To be sure, some of them long for more. But it truly seems that many are just fine with their lives. …And who are we to say that they’re wrong to be content with their lives the way they are?

Azjon December 24, 2005 at 6:14 am

This is for Jonathan.”But it truly seems that many are just fine with their lives.” Are you really that ignorant or just misinformed? They are not “fine” with their lives and they do want things to change. The problem is that Karimov murders everyone just like Stalin did in the past.You don’t have to go to far to find evidence of Karimov’s brutal killings, just look at what happened in Andijon.

David Walther December 24, 2005 at 9:15 am

Hi Azjon,

I think I have established pretty good precedent that it’s okay to say “fuck” on here–although I guess we’d have to check with Nathan to be sure, so you can express yourself as you wish.

Anyway, you bring up a valid point: no one rebelled openly against Stalin either–they didn’t have the chance. That said, however, people in fact did rebell against Stalin during the collectivizations (indirectly through resistence) by holding back their quotas, killing their livestock, and sabatoging machinery. These were simple peasants, not organized in any way and not motivated by any revolutionary leader.

Not to refute you, because I also agree that plenty of people are angry (maybe he will expound on this), but I think that while perhaps they are not happy, or even very unhappy, I have rarely in Uzbekistan met anyone as passionate as you are. Maybe there are all kinds of reasons for that, but a lot of people seem to be kind of stoically resigned to their fate.

This is also a puzzle to me. I’m not that patient. And clearly there are plenty of Uzbeks who are not either, but I agree with you that there is not a lot that anyone could safely do about their impatience. So what would you like to see happen?

Azjon December 25, 2005 at 2:18 am

Hi David it looks like we all like history here.
However,among three of us (David,Myself and Jonathan)I happened to have the “Insiders LOOK”
Now about this “That said, however, people in fact did rebell against Stalin during the collectivizations (indirectly through resistence) by holding back their quotas, killing their livestock, and sabatoging machinery. These were simple peasants, not organized in any way and not motivated by any revolutionary leader.” You are absolutly right about that.Then again they were all dead within a short time. As Mr. Yavlinski once told this to reporters during his election campaign “Communist party during 70 years of their rule murdered anywere from 60-100 million soviet citizens.” Just think about this numbers for a second.I belive that Karimov will kill as many people as he needs to stay in power. And I’m sure that population of Uzbekistan knows that. You see I was told here many times (The US)that people need to get together and protest. I wander why no one ever think of that in Uzbekistan? Well I don’t really wonder about that I’m just being an ass here but let me get back to the point here. The simple fact is that people want to live!

Nathan December 25, 2005 at 11:11 pm

Azjon, if we want to be picky on the facts, I’m gonna have to call bullshit on your “they were all dead within a short time” remark on dissent under Stalin. After the Teikovo strikes, for example, there were few, if any (I can’t recall exactly), executions afterwards. The leaders were exiled.

And I’m going to have to stand by Jonathan’s observation that many are fairly content with their lives. I noticed much the same thing. That assessment doesn’t mean I think those folks who seemed more or less content didn’t want change–they told me they weren’t entirely happy. Content doesn’t mean happy.

[And as a note, if you’re going to be so vehement and say your perspective trumps Jonathan’s (which I think you’re misreading) because you’re the “insider,” I’m gonna be quick to jump down your throat if you ever notice some kind of quality in non-Uzbek societies. But it’s important to remember that sometimes outsiders have an interesting and valuable perspective that insiders fail to mention.]

Azjon December 26, 2005 at 8:16 am

Dear Nathan let’s avoid confrontational lingo here. We are not talking about our personal issues. According to you if only few people were killed means that I’m bull shitting you? So in another words if 100 people protest and only 4 are killed than the whole thing about Stalin’s regime is bullshit? How about concentration camps? Are they bull shit too? To me the concentration camps or (labor camps as communists like to call them)is the cynical way to kill people. Some of my family mebers are from Norilsk if you know anything about that place you should know about labor camps there. Trust me, if my path ever crosses Karimov’s his health will be in a very sorry state after that meeting. But since it is unlikely to happen I will not say more about that matter. As far as your comment about non Uzbek societies goes, I can see you or Jonathan talking about my sosiety and describing my people as content(In a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction according to Electronic Pocket Oxford English Dictionary) with their lives under Karimov’s regime makes me somewhat not so “content.” And do not tell me what to say. Last time I checked freedom of speech was still in place in this country. Hovewer, I can’t disagree with your comments about other people’s perspective on Uzbekistan you are right about that one. Going back to the real issues: you asked me about what I would like to see happen in Uzbekistan? Well I would like to see Karimov in the court room. And than I would like to see him hanged or killed by lethal injection (or any other method)for his crimes. That would be a very good first step.

Azjon December 26, 2005 at 8:35 am

Dear Nathan
After writing my last comment I spent some time on this site looking around, and I would like to thank you for what you do here. Sometime my hate of Karimov’s regime and communism in general blinds me. And I simly overlooked the fact that people like you are providing an information that otherwise would not be there. I belive in what I say, but I wish that I could say these thing in less confrontational manner. Again thank you.
My best regards,

Nathan December 26, 2005 at 1:13 pm

No, I’m not saying you are bullshitting me, but I’m calling bullshit on your blanket statement. The Teikovo strike was actually very large. The leaders were exiled to Kazakhstan, but no one really suffered like those imprisoned and killed for individual dissent (or utterly imagined charges of being a state enemy). The situation seems somewhat similar to me in Uzbekistan.

Neither Jonathan nor I are saying you or all Uzbeks are content. Plenty that I knew came off as such though. It surprises me, but that’s what I observed. I also knew many who were pissed off, so I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that all Uzbeks are content, let alone happy.

And yes, please do try to be less confrontational. It’s about the only way you’ll really piss me off in the comments. If you disagree, please do so in a civil manner. (I will stick to my guns in telling people what they can or can’t do around here. I pay the bills. is property 100% owned by Nathan R. Hamm. And last time I checked, property rights still trump speech rights–or, do not obligate property owners to honor 1st amendment speech rights to be more accurate–in this country.) My only rule is that commenters behave as if they were guests in my house. Part of that is treating other commenters with respect.

Djana December 26, 2005 at 3:02 pm

I’ve been away from the computer for a few days, and must say its very refreshing.
Anyway! Azjon, if you read my post carefully one more time, you will see why I am saying that the Kyrgyzstan-style revolution will not happen in our homeland. I think that currently, the hope is in people. The simple folk, the masses. Civil disobedience a la Ghandi style.

Azjon December 26, 2005 at 9:46 pm

Hi, Nathan as I told you in the past insiders view is going to differ from outsiders. I don’t know if you can read russian? If you can you should be familiar with the term CHSEIR(chleni semey izmennikov rodini). I’m not familiar with the Teikovo strike in all of it details but I do know that in Stalin’s SSSR once an enemy was allways an enemy.So when you say that people were sent to Kazakhstan can you actually trace someone who came back? My grandfather was arrested with Akmal Ikramov, Faizulla Khodjayev, during the “Trial of the Twenty One” and he was probably one of the few who survived his imprisonment.As far as I know he only survived with help of his comrads such as Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Also,after nine months in a single cell I’m just speculating here he probably told them what “they”(NKVD) wanted to hear from him. I don’t blame him if he did what I think he did. After all not all of us can survive nine months of torture by “NKVD.” So the last time I was in Tashkent people were calling fucking Karimov Stalin. That’s why you see so many people that appear to be happy. Fear is the strong instrument dear Nathan.

David Walther December 26, 2005 at 11:35 pm

Hey Azijon,

I thought you were going to tone it down? I think we’ve gone way past constructive dialogue here. I understand that you have a lot of hate and anger, and you are very entitled to that–but you know, the fact is this is probably one of the only english-language dialogues out there where you can even have this conversation, much less find a whole group of Americans who have spent significant parts of their lives in Uzbekistan and care very deeply for its people… we all value your opinion, and each of us wants to be part of this dialogue with you. So let’s please not ruin it here.

This discussion has gone pretty far out of context, and you’re taking your anger out on things that people never said, having arguements against opinions that don’t exist.

No one here (in this string, anyway) argues that people in Uzbekistan are happy, or that Karimov is not a criminal. No one here thinks the people of Uzbekistan are all happy. No one is defending Karimov, no one is arguing on his side.

I’d be very interested to hear more from about what you think should be done–you obviously think that strikes or passive resistence can’t work, so what is the solution? You mentioned a criminal court, you mentioned a trial, but who should put him on trial, how should it happen?
If we’re going to continue this disussion (I feel kind of responsible for this one since this was my post, however unrelated this all has become to the original article), maybe we can get it back on track a little bit.

Azjon December 27, 2005 at 9:25 am

Hi David.
I agree with you about me being angry. And as you rightfully noted I should get our dialog in to more constructive tone. I also want to apologize for offending you guys. As I said before you are doing a great service to all of us. I’m not an angry person in general but I just like most of the people have a button that one can push. And just like you I care greatly for my country. Anyways this whole thing about Uzbeks being content pushed my button. As I said in the past I’m from Uzbekistan and surly know more people more intimatly than any of you ever will. So my point is that we (me and my friends) talked about issues and I didn’t hear any of them being “content” with regime. We (me and my friends)had a nicknames for our president one of them was Prezik(short for condom in Russian).
Well I think I have apologized enough for my behavior here. Now back to real issue of Karimov and his trial. I can’t see his regime ending without an external push.I think that Karimov’s hold on Uzbekistan is too strong at this time especially after his renewed friendship with Russia. As you all well know at Present Russia is moving back towards semi- communism rapidly. At the same time Uzbekistan never really moved away from former regime in the first place. So with Russia’s backing Karimov’s regime will only grow stronger. There is also issue of China that also supports Uzbek president.So right now Karimov is pretty safe as long as he has his new friends.I talked to my brother in-law(Who is a Russian citizen) and He told me that Russian TV was describing the Karimov’s dealing with Andijon situation as positive. I personally would like to see something like the trial of Saddam in Uzbekistan. However,if it ever happens I also would like to see a better control of public safty siuation. As much as I like to see Saddam in a court room let’s face it Iraq is a mess. At the same time, in a long run Iraq is better off without Saddam. Well going back to Karimov: 1.There have to be some international help to end his regime. 2. I personaly would like to see the US overseeing Karimov’s trial. 3.His possible trial has to be public.Unfortunatly if anything ever happens Karimov most definitly will run to Russia just like Akaev did.

Rustam December 28, 2005 at 4:36 pm

David and Nathan – as always thank you for comments and no doubt on my part that often outsiders have an interesting and valuable perspective on issues taking place inside. Actually do agree with what you said about people being content. It is partially true because of many reasons:
1. Karimov always tried, and continues to do so, to look good in the eyes of pensioners and elderly in general, by raising minimum pensions and always showing himself embracing them on the TV. Why it is important – because in the Uzbek family, as You guys have seen You have real traditional family structure with proper grand father and grand mother, who if they hear You in the BBC Uzbek Service giving an interview, talking about how disgusted you are with the IshAK and his government, or say anything negative on the table or when they want to watch Uzbek news on the TV, will tell You not to mess with the politics and tell You to be patient and the peace is the most important thing and all economic hardship is only temporary;
2. The character of Uzbek people, patience and belief that tomorrow things will improve.
However I think this is changing and changing very fast. This generational difference is apparent, younger generation is not planning to wait another 10 years, as well as those who have seen the worst of 15 years, now pensioners or in their mid 40’s. The values like – “the peace is the priority, everything else, even the dictator and miserable living standards, are in the second place is not there anymore.
Azizjon – Was glad to read Your comments. I hope that Yong Uzbeks like You and ME will get IshAK, some of his ministers and his daughters anywhere they try to hide,(Moscow, Abu-Dhabi, London) as he did of so many people that we come to know during almost 15 years.
Djana – a la Ghandi style is the second and the third days of the civil disobedience, if it will survive and will grow to such a mass and all the TV correspondents will be there from CNN, DW, RFE/RL and IWPR. First day it is blood bath, eye for eye, anger, revenge. IshAK will do everything to crush it as soon as it comes up, in a particular kishlak, district, city before it spreads to the neighbouring areas, even until the news spreads to Tashkent.

Azjon December 28, 2005 at 7:31 pm

Dear Rustam I’m happy to see someone who is as fed up with FUCKING regime and FUCKING Karimov as myself. You made a very good point when you wrote
“First day it is blood bath, eye for eye, anger, revenge. IshAK will do everything to crush it as soon as it comes up, in a particular kishlak, district, city before it spreads to the neighbouring areas, even until the news spreads to Tashkent.” And I do like what you call Karimov too. He is Ishak with the big I. And yes, they have to pay for their crimes regardless of where they hide.
My best regards

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