Roghun Rage

by Asher Kohn on 2/10/2010 · 4 comments

Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been feuding over energy rights, gas rights, and other natural resources for a bit now. Over the weekend, though, things took another step in the direction towards weird. Shots were almost fired, reportedly, over a cow.

By its actions, the Tajik side severely violated generally accepted international norms and bilateral agreements to keep the inviolability of the state borders. The intrusion could have been described as an armed invasion…

The detainee admitted that he must have stolen cattle from Uzbek citizens under his commanders’ instructions. According to him, they had to do this because they had not been supplied with food for a long time.

That is, in case you couldn’t gather, the Uzbek National Security Service’s official presser. The Tajik version is much more along the lines of “A cow wandered over the border, a Tajik guard ran to grab it, and they both were detained.” And Alpharabius asks “Has a war ever started like this?” to which I can only answer, “Yes. Sorta.”

The truth is obviously somewhat clouded and somewhat irrelevant. Both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are running out of the sorts of resources they want, and if they’re not cow-stealin’ desperate, they’re still looking at things as a zero-sum game.

Tajikistan’s attempts to move forward with Roghun, ~40 years later, through nationalization is bold, sure. And even if Rahmon only wants to get two turbines done with, that’s still likely two turbines-worth more than the people of Tajikistan are able to spend.

It’s a tough line to walk. I’m sure he’s getting tired of reading stories like David Trilling’s year-in, year-out no matter how good the pictures (and reporting) are. I’d like to think he earnestly believes that if Tajiks just tighten their belts a bit more and put in the money, they’ll be able to go ahead without outside funding, at least for a bit. At least until Uzbekistan’s self interest gets quieted, I suppose.

At the same time, Roghun funding makes a convenient excuse/scapegoat any time Rule of Law questions come up, as they have from time to time. The outside world historically doesn’t like a nationalizing state leader, whether or not the country is less than 15 years past a civil war. There’s enough Tajik experts on the internets these days to let us know if the local reaction differs from how NewEurasia puts it.

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are both trying to build themselves up and want to use all of their resources to do it. They just happen to have issues over whose resources are what. But the squabbling seems more to save face and instill pride than it does to solve issues. I don’t mean this as a prayer for mutual understanding and cooperation, but rather a statement of fact. The best foot forward for both countries is with each other. There’s no Party Boss for ’em to impress anymore.


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This post was written by...

– author of 33 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Asher is currently in law school at Washington University in Saint Louis. He is studying natural resource law in Central Asia and its intersection with different theories of jurisprudence. Besides Registan.net, Asher has written for The Los Angeles Times, Run of Play, İstanbul Altı, and Istanbul Eats. He has worked with the Natural Resource Law Center and the International Crisis Group, where he studied legal and political traction over a variety of issues.

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{ 4 comments }

Sam February 10, 2010 at 10:11 am

Regarding the cow: the same thing happened in Kyrgyzstan in early January: “The incident is second this year. On January 2, two Kyrgyz border guards were detained by Uzbek police in the Ala-Buka area of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border after allegedly trying to steal a cow from an Uzbek village. They were released on January 6.” –RFE/RL.

I think the cow represents a power struggle between the two countries: Uzbekistan wants what all of the other republics have. It is a game of dominance for Uzbekistan, and if they can’t have it, no one can. Uzbekistan has attempted to paint Tajikistan as the “bad guy” by accusing them of being greedy with water resources by constructing the Rogun Dam.

Amira February 15, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Growing up in Tashkent as kid. i loved it. That was a perfect place actually. Karim is a good president he does ridht by his country. Uzbekistan should not give nothing to Tajiks they don’t deeserve it. They are greedy, selfish, liars, and backstabbers. I know from life experince. I hope everything goes well for uzbek people. One day i will love to go back and visit. Because of Tajik people I lost my mom and left my family in uzbekistan while i got adopted and got separated from Lebedev Vitalik Ivanov who is my step brother and has hard time in life with his disability surveving after my moms lost her life. As life goes you learn how to do just whats right by others. I saw that during my life time allot growing up over there. Living in USA now makes me miss the Manners that I grew up there by. I’m not saying it’s bad here “No” It has good apportu nties for life. I hope Karim builds economy for our people and keep all the bull shit out of there. We deserve happiness. At the same time we cant forget where we come from and what we here to do. I try to do right by others and by life.

Michael February 10, 2010 at 1:47 pm

The truth is obviously somewhat clouded and somewhat irrelevant. Both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are running out of the sorts of resources they want

Huh? What resources are being depleted? Why? And who is at fault? These are meaningful questions that can, and have been, answered… Overuse of water that is not regarded as a natural resource (according to intl law), though plentiful in Tajikistan, and food and fuel from the Uzbek side (as well as shutting down of border transit points)…

And if matters are zero-sum, or viewed as such in those two countries, how can they be expected to cooperate more fully?

Sam February 10, 2010 at 11:12 pm

I believe water is a natural resource. Last year, Tajikistan went to great lengths to jumpstart discussion on the creation of a water consortium to deal with water issues. The CA countries are literally fighting over water.

I don’t think the countries will cooperate on a large scale. I think they will release press reports to save face and to hide obvious and overt hostilities towards one another. Uzbekistan wants the water which leads to control: “Whoever controls the water, controls Central Asia.” I don’t think Tajikistan would give it up. Both are to blame.

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