Economic purge in Uzbekistan

by Dafydd on 3/16/2010 · 39 comments

A report in Asia times implies Uzbekistan has gone Mugabe-esque.

Seems that Karimov has ordered the arrest of a whole slew of Uzbekistan’s richest.

And what do you know –
“Uzbek officials are portraying this campaign as a sort of anticorruption drive”

Alternative theories are – “the crackdown could be connected to the president’s daughters. Such reports say Gulnara and Lola are furthering their business interests in Uzbekistan and possibly eliminating obstacles to any succession process ”

Or – “Uzbek authorities could be clearing out the old guard to make way for a new generation that would remain loyal to the Karimov family”

Whichever way you slice it, seems like the Karimov family is tightening its grip in the economic sphere.

This is not likely to be good for economic growth in Uzbekistan.

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AJK March 16, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I’m a little out of my depth when it comes to the Who’s Who of Uzbekistan, but it’s interesting that he’s going after new money: soccer, wholesaler, oil & gas. Not cotton, which is pretty much the whole export nowadays.

Turgai March 17, 2010 at 5:26 am

Well, as the article suggests, GooGoosha will have her pick of the confiscated assets, if she’s not actually behind the whole sweep that is. For the rest, the ‘corruption charges’ and anti-oligarch drives are for populist consumption.

If they say that behind great men stand great women it’s also true that behind many evil men stand evil women: Karimov, Milosevic, Ceaucesu, …

Metin March 17, 2010 at 8:53 am

I read some of your topics supporting imaginary ideal islamic rule. Do you think cutting heads and body parts for what your religious rule deems unlawful will be better for Uzbekistan?
all posts you write about Uzbekistan is full with hatred, so I start thinking that moslems like you are hateful.

Turgai March 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

Ah yes: cutting heads and chopping body parts… Long time no hear. You forgot the floggings, acid throwings, stonings, hangings, the mandatory burka and the OVIR registration.

Turgai March 17, 2010 at 9:26 am

BTW, Toryalai, this is another opportunity for another round of neurotic Islam-bashing: “Arab Islamo-Fascists ready to take over the world tatata…”

Turgai March 21, 2010 at 5:19 am

“all posts you write about Uzbekistan is full with hatred, so I start thinking that moslems like you are hateful.”

Alle comments that I write about *the Karimovs and their cronies* are full of hatred. For they are the ones who hate and despise Uzbekistan and its people. For the rest, people like us are driven by love and sense of justice.

Metin March 21, 2010 at 8:07 am

so you admit you’re hateful. Hate makes people blind. Like those full of hatred blowing themselves in places like London metro, train station in Madrid, pubs in Israel, Embassies in Tashkent, and so on.
I don’t think this is right way to express emotions. Better to stay cool and think balanced.

Turgai March 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I hate those who deserve nothing better. Or, in all balance, is there a reason to love the karimovites? No. There are only interests whose safeguarding depend on their survival. But nothing else.

In a wider field, can you blame people for hating after loved ones were killed in Srebrenica, Andijan or Gaza, to name but a few examples?

Metin March 17, 2010 at 8:47 am

seems to me that everything that happens in Uzbekistan gets negative interpretation in media. I don’t any solid argument supporting statement ‘This is not likely to be good for economic growth in Uzbekistan’. How can the arrest of some rich criminals affect economic growth?
It is very easy to be an ‘expert’ on Uzbekistan in West: use some active language like dictator, corruption, massacre, boiling alive, and compare Karimov with Milosovich, Ceacesu or whosoever. For being scenic about Uzbekistan you get paid (probably well paid, as they keep writing). Sober analysis as usual lacks.
Righteous decisions need to be acknowledged, not blasphemed.

Turgai March 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

Yes of course. In the best Stalinist-Brezhenvian mold, everyone holding dissident or rebel views is either a) insane or b) a paid agent provocateur. Yawn. Who says you are not on government payroll to work the blogopshere about Uzbekistan?

Nonetheless, Metin, there are a lot of people who are sincere about what they belief, say and do. In many cases, as with the Uzbek Muslims, they are even ready to take considerable personal risks. It’s not because GooGoosha and consorts worhsip the Mammon or because many liberal secular NGOs that operate in the region are mainly donor-driven that everyone does, Metin.

reader March 17, 2010 at 9:27 am

Perhaps it is both, Karimov and the yangi Uzbeklar being both at fault. You don’t get rich in the former USSR by being completely above board. While I don’t trust, like, or want to be ruled by the likes of Karimov or Putin, the former is a thug and the latter is venal, I still don’t know why Westerners are so dense when it comes to the noveau riche in those countries. For example with Khodarkovsky or the Ukrainian Orange Revolution bunch, those people were crooked period. But to listen to the Americans they are just victims of a vast Kremlin-led conspiracy. Maybe they are, but what is better a dictator or a cabal of corrupt businessmen who basically destroy a country. I’ll remind everyone that the lifespan of the average Russian began its decline in the 1990s. Oh well, we live in a land of TARP and Wall Street bailouts, so of course we know the US will side with the oligarchs wherever they find them provided they are willing to let multi-national corps rape their countries.

Turgai March 17, 2010 at 9:40 am

Thanks. Hm, I don’t know whether the choice in this case is one between a dicator or a corrupt business cabal. Most likely it is about a dictator anxious to keep control over the latter and replace it with a closer or more loyal business cabal probably once centered around his spawn. For the rest, if the jackals of the kafir ‘elite’ devour each other: all the better. But one should not be naive on what this will mean for Uzbekistan as a country and society.

reader March 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Well, for what it’s worth, most of the people mentioned in the article are Tashkent people. This might be a Samarkand mafiasi vs. Tashkentliklar kind of thing.

Dafydd March 17, 2010 at 10:27 am

I am not sure I really want to defend a corrupt business cabal, but I would make the following two points.

1) If the choice is between a dictator and a corrupt business cabal, ordinary people should always choose BOTH. It implies some sort of separation of and competition for power. Such societies have potential to improve. Where there is only one centre of power, very little improvement ever happens.

2) While I recognise the arrested are part of a corrupt business cabal (almost certainly to a man), I would also assert the only change that has been made is the corrupt business cabal in Uzbekistan is now smaller. I do not see that as an improvement.

reader March 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm


You are right, there isn’t an improvement. Karimov is a monster. But my point is, why does the West always rush to the defense of the oligarchs? I think it is a case of class interest. Marx got a lot of things wrong, but he was right about some things.

I wouldn’t let the “common” folk off the hook here. Societies tend to get the governments they deserve. There are external exceptions to the rule and as individuals people are victims. But Karimov didn’t descend from Mars. And while his rise to power is due to the Soviet past, there was never a pre-Russian Golden Age in Uzbekistan. Instead there were centuries of bad governance to put it mildly. Something is rotten in the society that allows these men to flourish. And for a variety of factors the West normally doesn’t help the situation that much.

reader March 17, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I would only add that the ecological disaster that is Western Uzbekistan is particularly depressing and I don’t see any real fix for that. It’s been a while since I heard/read any news, but when last I checked there was talk of having to evacuate whole communities. Just as in Belarus or the Ukraine, the Soviets leave a horrible mess and and horrible governance in Belarus combined with devastating neo-liberalism in the Ukraine means no cash to fix it.

Dafydd March 18, 2010 at 5:29 am

I don’t really see the west rushing to the defence of these oligarchs.

The west was much more keen to condemn Andijan than this.

My point is not about the Oligarchs, it is about a shift in Uzbekistan which is further reducing the circle of those with any sort of power.

This is something that I think will work to the disadvantage of Uzbekistan.

Regarding Marx, I always thought his analysis of capitalism and its problems (particularly unfettered capitalism) was pretty much spot on. We can see that in the current problems in the financial system.

The problem with Marx is his proposals for an alternative are even worse.

I would paraphrase Winston Churchill. ‘Capitalism is the worst form of economic management, apart from all the others’.

reader March 18, 2010 at 6:38 pm


Do you think this is simply Karimov vs everyone or is this a case of Karimov’s Samarkandi clique consolidating power?

Dafydd March 19, 2010 at 6:00 am


I would guess the clique.

After all, as pointed out by AJK, the cotton industry has been left alone.

dave March 23, 2010 at 7:51 am

pre-Russian Golden Age might not have existed exactly because Russians have written the history of that age. And what would be the Golden Age for you? I can only see that people were free to move to Uighuristan and India, and Turkey and Iran, and even Russia itself.
Talk to the 350.000 Uzbeks in Saudi Arabia or another 100.000 in Turkey they will tell you what their lives really were.
One example, Uzbek cuisine is so scarce today, just because Uzbekistanis could not travel as before, no spices from india and afghanistan. what you have today is what soviets pushed people to, an uncultured culture.

reader March 23, 2010 at 9:42 am

Oh you are right, you could travel, provided you had security for the trip. That’s the thing about the pre-modern world. Nomads and merchants could go anywhere, but you had to make sure you were armed. It was like a militia-man’s dream. I’m not saying the soviets were great, that’s why you have so many Uzbek refugees in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. They were the ones who fled the scene. But you can’t just say that anti-Uzbek Russian propaganda is the only sort of sources we have to go by. Plenty of sources exist to back up the claim that what is now Uzbekistan suffered under “bad governance” for centuries. Everybody did. Would you like to go back and live under the old khans, btw? Moreover, if you are remotely for the Western female empowerment policies in Afghanistan you had better look very closely at why some of those Ferghannachis left. It wasn’t just brutality they were running from, it was also from the Soviet modernizing project.

reader March 23, 2010 at 9:54 am

“what you have today is what soviets pushed people to, an uncultured culture”

Let’s go beyond the European zone, shall we? You might find it funny that the Safavids thought of the Russians as the “Uzbeks of Europe.” Also, the Mughals, who had an axe to grind, thought of the Uzbeks as rough-hewn rubes. Dude, o’qing, that’s all I’ve got to say. And make sure it is serious scholarship that you read. Just read and remember that everyone you have a conversation with about history has an agenda conscious or not. And don’t let emotions, or friendships cloud your view. For a native “Uzbek” look at their own history, you can find in English translation the Firdaws al-Iqbal. If you read Russian, there’s plenty more. You’ll have to assume, of course, that they didn’t mistranslate to serve the purposes of their ideology. Of course, it only covers Khorezm, but still. In the history of colonialism the truth lies somewhere between the self-serving claims of the occupiers and what the occupied have to say. And yes, Soviet druzhba narodov crap is tiresome, but so is nationalist craptrap.

Dafydd March 17, 2010 at 11:18 am

Oh and from a few days ago this.

Looksl ike you don’t have to be rich to be at the wrong end of things.

Has Mr Karimov had a fresh outbreak of socialist religion??

Metin March 20, 2010 at 9:18 am

the source of information is IWRP. In my view, the source is highly biased – it portrays everything in negative light. At least, I haven’t read anything with balanced analysis on this sight so far. Looks like, they have kinda internal censorship – only negative criticism is welcome.
Btw, does IWRP operate in your country as well (assume you’re in US or somewhere in west)? they might have have a very nice place to report about ‘racism’ in US towards mexicans/blacks, or ‘fascism’ and everyday ‘humiliation’ and ‘inhumane’ treatment of muslims accross Europe.
I remember Putin calling such reporters as ‘jackals feeding from foreign funded jackals who feed of foreign embassies’. He might have used to strong language, but he was right on essence. I don’t think these reporters are interested in peace/democracy building in their countries – it is very probable it is money what they’re interested. What I can’t understand, why institutions like IWRP spend money on this, they might have invested in education, helping poor, or whatsoever – they would have had better reputation, and better outcomes.

Nathan March 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Same would go for Xalq So’zi or Pravda Vostoka, right? Invest in education and helping the poor rather than polemics against whoever the latest enemy of the state is.

We do have plenty of journalistic publications that report on bad things that happen in the West and take a generally negative and critical tone. One of the wonders of having a free press…

But hey, nice attempt at diversion. What’s the positive spin about diverting trade from Qorasuv to Do’stlik? I’m sympathetic to a sovereign state’s need for border security and trade controls, but this will only make people’s lives more difficult and contribute to unrest near Andijon.

Metin March 21, 2010 at 8:02 am

well, you can’t expect from Xalq so’zi more than it does right now. It has no financial capacity like IWRP and is not in position to offer wages similar like IWRP. I am almost sure, if Pravda vostoka will be able to pay as much as IWRP does, not only local journalists but westerners like you (sorry for that) would be interested in writing for government media.

Qorasuv issue is not a new phenomenon – seems like IWRP is re-inventing America. I doubt if IWRP is doing a nice job, its articles never reach readers in Uzbekistan, have zero effect, but paying wages for own staff and some for local journalists. Well it’s money of taxpayers in West (maybe your money too) wasted.

I believe the the article posted here is a real attempt to diversion. Economic growth is very strong in Uzbekistan (want it or not), stronger than any other ‘democratic’ state praised by NGOs. Article just tries to apply wishful thinking for Uzbekistan, saying ‘economic purge might be for economic growth in Uzbekistan.

Last point: unrest in Andijan was not trade diversion issue, everyone agrees with that. However, NGOs have had some role in it – at least, in places like Uzbekistan and Russia they think so. I have no idea what ppl think in West. I just assume their knowledge is formed by IWRP or HRW – sources similar in effect to Pravda vostoka, serving different interest. So no wonder why many westerners are so scenic when it comes to news from Uzbekistan.

DE Teodoru March 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm

reader, why does the West rush to defense of oligarchs when the oligarchs when they are really balancing between SHANGHAI ACCORD and US oil co’s? Because we aleays think that we are STILL in our UNIPOLAR MOMENT and won’t learn until seriously hurt– and then we’ll act in panic.

Toryalay Shirzay March 18, 2010 at 12:04 am

Turgai, believing in islamic lies is real neurosis than exposing such lies and not being fooled by them.
Uzbekistan is rounding up corrupt and shady businessmen and yet Karimov gets hammered for this.I never see these bloody businessmen get rounded up in Afghanistan,other central Asian countries or even the USA.

Turgai March 21, 2010 at 5:21 am

And you think you’re not fooled? Dream on.

DE Teodoru March 18, 2010 at 12:29 am

Indeed, Toryalay Shirzay, the last time strategic interests motivated shadow moves it cost us plenty. You can’t be morally corrupt a la Bill Clinton dealing with Taliban for laying pipelines right and then enrage region where oil&gas lies. Chinese successes are reminding us of Capt. Kirk’s rule#1 of the United Federation: NEVER INTERFERE WITH THE INYERNAL SYSTEMS OF ANY PLANET YOU VISIT. The Shanghai Accord reminds us that old enemies fearing each other when ideological empires are now united against OUR imperialism. Americans are too hypnotized by TV commercials (including soft-sell commercials from a string of incited/convicted globalist corporations on PBS) to appreciate how corrupt has been the link between profit and security. I guess if US were as limited in what it could invest in its imperial operations as Russia it would be more obvious. But so far Pentagon runs on assumption that Congress has bought that Constitution insures Pentagon limitless budget. So all a corporation has to do is hitch its wagon to a four-star and American volunteer expeditionary forces become what they were for the Brit Empire in 19th Century. This is not our first encounter with moral outrage for profit. Try this: say, security, local crooks, profit over and over 1000x times, faster and faster; and soon enough they meld into one word: MIGHTY AMERICA FIGHTS FOR FREEDOM no matter what it does. As a kid of Cold War, I was in love with my adopted homeland, even after I finally got here. Unfortunately, as the Evil Empire died, UNIPOLAR MOMENT has become an accounting term used by bankers and entrepreneurs as well as generals and Congressmen. So don’t expect the US to rock the oil&gas companies’ boat unless someone powerful does very well form it.

Anonimus March 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm

A friend of mine works for one of the Gulnara’s company that deals with oil and gas, as usual officially company operated by another person. I was talking with him and he was concerned with the tension inside of the company, the guy who was running the company escaped as I got from his conversation.
the lack of interest in Uzbek cotton I expain myself as it is banned worldwide (except Russia) because of child labor. so nobody really needs it. plus it is too labor intensive.

Turgai March 23, 2010 at 4:30 am

“so nobody really needs it.”

Hm I wouldn’t say so. There’s a huge grey market mainly through middlemen, e.g. see this list of attendants at the last cotton fair in Tashkent:

Certain commercial flight routes operated by Uzbekistan Airlines, for instance that between Tashkent and Dhaka (Bangladesh) basically exist because of the cotton trade.

reader March 23, 2010 at 10:13 am

I find the ban on cotton because of child labor hard to swallow. If so, Uzbek cotton must be one of the few such banned crops and has more to do with politics in the West, and Karimov’s lack of international clout, than the actual use of child labor.

dave March 23, 2010 at 7:36 am

It is Gugi (and her Dad) again, putting her hand on the businesses not belonging to her. In the end she will steal all Uzbek resources and will start living in Barcelona with her Spanish lawyer boyfriend.

Admiral March 23, 2010 at 11:35 am

The posts of “Metin” are extremely enlightening in that they show a decline in the level of education within the SNB. Even the person now responsible for propaganda on English-language websites (1) doesn’t write properly in English, and (2) can’t really string together a coherent argument. I suspect that young and ambitious types in Uzbekistan are starting to anticipate the day when having the SNB on your CV is going to become a pretty serious liability . . .

reader March 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

Please Admiral, ad hominems are so passe. But since you opened up that door, I can’t see how the SNB is any more lackluster than the BBC, most major American broadcast corporations, H.R. Clinton, or Joe Biden. Moreover, before you start casting aspersions on people’s language skills, please keep in mind that if not for foreign workers and journalists, the Brits and the Americans would have almost nobody to operate their outreach programs to the non-English speaking world. How many fluent Arabic speakers, non-Iraqi natives mind, does the State Department have? If I recall, this is the reason for the lack of appearances by Americans acting in an official capacity on Arabic media. I don’t know if having the SNB will be a liability, KGB isn’t. It all has to do with who is top dog 10 years from now. Perhaps, CIA might be a liability? Blackwater certainly is.

Turgai March 24, 2010 at 4:18 am

Yes, Metin and I are ‘on different sides’ for a whole number of things but I have to say as it is: his English and niveau of comments are good.

reader March 23, 2010 at 11:52 am

should have said Metin instead of SNB in second line, my apologies

Metin March 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

thanks for reader’s post.
I am non-native English speaker; didn’t have English education as well. I take comments on coherent expressing sentences seriously, and will try to improve.
and I do not work for SNB, have never dreamed of it.

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