Spy on your neighbors, work for free, and leave your prayers at home…

by Noah Tucker on 6/2/2010 · 58 comments

Much to the annoyance of a few who like to defend the status quo, regular readers will know that I tend to be inspired to post by stories that demonstrate the sometimes funny, sometimes tragic absurdities of everyday life in authoritarian post-Soviet Central Asia. It’s not that these are the only things I pay attention to, or that I think they are representative of what people actually care about most in their lives. I’m usually the first one to argue that, as I once heard Bill Clinton say, people are much more the same than they are different, no matter how much variation there is in cultures and situations.

The more time, though, I spend on this big ball being carried by the giant turtle across the sky —and I’m 30 and still remember how to use DOS, so that’s like a pensioner in blog age—the more I begin to accept that the legal and social institutions that set the rules of the game really do make a great deal of difference in shaping our experiences, our expectations, and the way we can imagine our lives as they relate to others.

The Ferghana Valley, as much as it has disappointed so many crystal-ball pundits by not exploding in boiling ethnic fury, may still be something of a laboratory for experimenting in the way that variation in institutions shape the rules of the game that then affect the field of choices for groups and individuals to navigate their way through life. In a sort of historical accident, we have the same basic ethnic populations sharing territory in three very different nation-states (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan). Brent Hierman, Matteo Fumagalli, Nick Megoran, and our own Christian Bleuer have published some very interesting work on border and cross-border issues or comparative politics between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (Hierman in particular). Because of the difficulty of doing fieldwork, though, since 2005 we have a lot of great research on Uzbeks in the Ferghana Valley everywhere except in Uzbekistan.

All the same, now and then we get a bit of a peek into what it’s like to navigate life for people on the Uzbek side of the border, where the government seems to really enjoy tweaking the rules of the game pretty frequently, and where it tends to arguably interfere in local cultures, society, and situations perhaps more often than anywhere else in the region (except of course anywhere in Turkmenistan, which is outside our sample).

With that oh-so-thin theoretical context, let’s take a look at some new rules for the game: it’s hard to tell what the rules are at any given time (and they vary tremendously in detail and enforcement), and when not formally legislated they can be difficult to ascertain. Sometimes, though, the government is very helpful in that regard by coming around door to door with a list of “pledges” that you have to sign. Well, actually, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of this (anyone else? The article mentions this sort of thing has happened quite a bit in the past three years), but, as I said above, you never quite know what to expect. Interestingly, many of the examples given are targeted to specific professions and social roles, and many of them are designed to co-opt the person being forced to pledge to monitor or control the behavior of their neighbors or co-workers.

So, according to Uzmetronom, if you live in Ferghana City you may recently have gotten a knock on your door and opened it only to be volun-told to put yourself up for prosecution—er, sign your name—under some of the following statements:

Я, …………, ознакомлен с запретом в рабочее время и на рабочем месте совершать намазы, в том числе и пятничный намаз. Обязуюсь придерживаться этого запрета, в противном случае согласен с наложением на меня дисциплинарного взыскания вплоть до увольнения.

I [your name here], have been made familiar with the ban on performing namaz during work hours and on the territory of my workplace, including Friday (Juma) prayers. I will be accountable for keeping this ban, and in the case of failure [to observe it] agree to be subjected to disciplinary action up to or including termination.

Прежде чем выйти в положенный мне по графику трудовой отпуск, обязуюсь снять показания газовых счётчиков с 3-х многоквартирных домов. Ознакомлен и согласен с тем, что пока я этого не сделаю, положенные мне отпускные выплачены не будут.

Before taking vacation time to which I am entitled, I commit myself to collecting invoices showing full payment of gas bills from three multi-room residences. I have been informed, and agree with, the fact that before performing this task I will not be released to take vacation time.
[Frankly, I’m not sure what this means, it appears that you have to go collect gas bills from your neighbors].

Я, ……….. , как председатель махаллинского комитета обязуюсь ставить в известность органы МВД и СНБ о лицах представляющих оперативный интерес для этих служб и проживающих в зоне ответственности вверенного мне махаллинского комитета, согласно предоставленному мне реестру. Особо буду обращать внимание на иностранных граждан из Киргизии, Таджикистана, Турции, России, ОАЭ, проживающих на территории махаллинского комитета временно или п\м. Списки с установочными данными на этих граждан обязуюсь своевременно сдавать в правоохранительные органы.

[If you ever wondered what mahalla committees do…]
I [name here], as a representative of a mahalla committee, commit myself to reporting to the organs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Security Service on persons who may fall within the operational interests of these services and who live within the zone of responsibility of the mahalla committee on which I serve, according to the registers which were presented to me. I will pay special attention to foreign citizens from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Russia, and the UAE, who reside on the territory of the mahalla committee either temporarily or as permanent residents. I commit myself to submit a list with relevant information on such persons promptly to law enforcement organs.

Я, ………., как сотрудник(ца) обл. информационно-ресурсного центра, обязуюсь не выдавать читателям иностранную подписную литературу – газеты, журналы, в которых имеются статьи порочащие правительство Республики Узбекистан и её граждан. Буду внимательно просматривать всю иностранную периодику, и в случае обнаружения деструктивных статей, немедленно изымать номер, ставить в известность и сдавать его зав. ИРЦ.

I [your name here], as an employee of the regional information-resource center [library], commit myself to refusing to give readers foreign periodicals—newspapers or journals—which contain articles which defame the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and its citizens. I will attentively review all foreign periodicals, and in the case that I observe destructive articles, I will immediately remove the issue from the shelves and make a report, submitting [the periodical] to the leadership of the IRTs [Center for Evaluation of Information, yeah, it exists].

Я,…….…, обязуюсь выйти на общереспубликанский двухдневный субботник и добросовестно отработать весь свой рабочий день. А в случае моей неявки на субботник прошу лишить меня премии.

I [your name here], commit myself to participating in the all-republic two day volunteer work holiday and work my entire day in good conscience. And, in the case of my failure to appear for the work holiday, I request that my awards be revoked.

В преддверии основного праздника Республики Узбекистан – «Дня Независимости» обязуюсь улучшить свои производственные показатели, относиться к работе творчески, целеустремленно. И вносить свой посильный вклад в достижении независимости.

In preparation for the most important holiday of the Republic of Uzbekistan—Independence Day—I commit myself to improving my work production quotas, to work creatively and ambitiously. And make my own significant contribution to the attainment of independence.

Я, …….., как начальник отдела обязуюсь подписать на газеты «Марифат» и «Халк Сузи» на весь 2010 год всех сотрудников своего отдела. И для повышения духовных качеств своих сотрудников проконтролирую изучение ими полученных газет. …… …… Я также обязуюсь организовать в эти газеты статьи, в которых мои подчиненные дают положительную оценку деятельности правительства Республики Узбекистан.

I [your name here], as a department director commit myself to subscribing my entire department to the newspapers ‘Marifat’ and ‘Khalq Suzi’ for the whole of the year 2010. And for the improvement of the moral character of my co-workers, I will monitor their reading of the newspapers they receive…. I likewise commit myself to collecting the articles from these papers which will present my subordinates with a positive evaluation of the activities of the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Я,…….. …, обязуюсь в своё рабочее время, а также в обеденный перерыв не использовать служебный ПК для просмотра Интернета, кроме как по поручению руководства. Я согласен с тем, что за просмотр вредных сайтов буду наказан в дисциплинарном порядке, вплоть до увольнения.

I [your name here], commit myself during my working hours and my lunch break not to use work resources for viewing the internet, except as directed by my superiors. I agree with being punished with disciplinary measures up to and including termination for viewing harmful sites. [Registan.net, btw, is banned in Uzbekistan, so you’d better not be reading this at work!].


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This post was written by...

– author of 54 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Noah Tucker is managing editor at Registan.net and an associate at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs Central Asia Program. Noah is a researcher and consultant for NGO, academic and government clients on Central Asian society and culture. He has worked on Central Asian issues since 2002--specializing in religion, national identity, ethnic conflict and social media--and received an MA from Harvard in Russian, E. European and Central Asian Studies in 2008. He has spent four and half years in the region, primarily in Uzbekistan, and returned most recently for fieldwork in Southern Kyrgyzstan in the summers of 2011 and 2012.

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{ 58 comments }

Christian June 2, 2010 at 11:12 pm

But don’t worry. For the low, low fee of [insert whatever the going rate for low level bribes are] you can be exempt from all of the above requirements.

Reader June 3, 2010 at 1:07 am

1. Soviet Union still exists by degrees, as I have always said.
2. The above rules sound Stalinesque but I would prefer it to being beheaded by the volunteers of Department of Prevention of Vice of the Emirate of Ferghana on rumors of adultery.
3. Time flattens everything.

Turgai Sangar June 4, 2010 at 4:00 am

“but I would prefer it to being beheaded by the volunteers of Department of Prevention of Vice of the Emirate of Ferghana on rumors of adultery.”

Brother, educate yourself.

Islam: Justice for All
http://www.khilafah.com/index.php/the-khilafah/judiciary/8698-islam-justice-for-all

An introduction to the Islamic Social System
http://www.khilafah.com/index.php/the-khilafah/social-system/387-an-introduction-to-the-social-system

Metin June 3, 2010 at 1:37 am

pledges above are most likely required from public sector employees (government servants), not from everyone. If so, it is understandable – each office has its code of conduct. I guess any employer won’t be happy its employees being addicted to internet and as result of it failing do their job well.

Registan is not banned, though some internet providers (including the one I use) block it.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Metin,
It would appear you are willingly committing a crime by visiting Registan. This site regularly publishes texts that qualify as “articles which defame the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan.” In consequence, you are in contempt of the laws and regulations of the Uzbek government. Simultaneously, you argue with people who criticize that government. Can you comment on that?

I wonder if you are ever afraid of getting caught and being persecuted? Can you comment on that. Thank you.

Metin June 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Phoenix,
didn’t think about that. Though, I am here primarily to practice writing in English and to try to improve critical/analytical skills.
Moreover, I don’t work for the government and nowhere signed a commitment/pledge not to visit any websites.

By the way you are contacting someone from the region know for islamic terrorist. Are you not risking spotted by Homeland security in your country? can you comment on that?

Phnx June 3, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Everyone,
Apologies, if this is a repost. My comment is not going through. Keep seeing “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

Metin,
Thank you. Us coming to this site and reading what you write is not a crime in our respective countries. It is not even a basis for a prosecutorial action. You coming to this site and reading what we write is a crime in your country. Are you not afraid of getting caught and being persecuted? Do you feel your argument “I am here primarily to practice writing in English and to try to improve critical/analytical skills” would win Uzbek government’s criminal case against you? Do you feel English practice is so important that it is worth the risk? Can you comment on that?

Can you also comment on this contradiction. As noted, by reading this site, you are in contempt of the laws and regulations of the Uzbek government. Simultaneously, you argue with people who criticize that government

Metin June 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm

You coming to this site and reading what we write is a crime in your country

Phnx, intentionally or not you misinform. Can you prove it is a crime to access this website in my country? Even if believe what’s written in original article at Uzmetronom is true, one can conclude that a written commitment will be a basis for disciplinary measure by employer. If you comprehend it as criminal persecution – well it’s your problem. One thing is clear – you’re not sympathetic for Uzbekistan and wish see it as country of darkness. Obviously you don’t like if someone challenges your view – otherwise why to discuss my personality? ad homonym comments and attempts to frighten?
that’s weakness of your argument, and again that’s your problem.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Metin,
Just to avoid confusion: this response should be below. Your latest comment has no “Reply” button. I’m not saying it’s your fault.

First you didn’t argue with the “crimes” idea. Now you area asking me for a legal proof. Reading “articles which defame the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan” is not allowed in Uzbekistan. We know that without reading Noah’s article

I didn’t discuss your personality. I didn’t make any ad hominem attacks. I only wondered why you are willing to take risks to practice English. Also, I pointed out a contradiction in your behaviour. And you didn’t respond to that.

Michael Hancock June 3, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Replies only nest so far. I’ve often cursed the lack of a reply button, but it’s for the best – each reply is indented, and if we allowed that many replies, all the text would be off in the right margin somewhere.

Part of the design of a blog, you see. It’s Not A FORUM. You’re SUPPOSED to be REPLYING to the text of the post, not mixing it up in the comment mosh pit. We’ll see about getting you guys some place to take off your shirts and wrassle in the mud.

Nathan Hamm June 3, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Though, I am here primarily to practice writing in English and to try to improve critical/analytical skills.

Metin, this is why I am really glad you read and comment, even if I often disagree with you. You’re sincere, and I appreciate that.

Eyebrows raised June 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Ok, I’ll bite, isn’t this not too much different from what some folks would like to see here in the US? With a little tweaking, and an appropriate patriotic title, I think we could get Lieberman, McCain and their little pooch Graham, not to mention Mr. Sunstein and E. Kagan to advocate something like this. Greetings from the land of warrent-less wire-tapping, preventive detention, and a soon to be kinder-gentler internet! Come on guys, you’ll have to do better than this to impress. Until Uzbekistan has a state of the art, multi-billion dollar NSA, they will still just be amateurs.

Eyebrows raised even higher... June 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Really? So because–not to defend any of the things you listed above–you can be surveilled for up to 72 hours on good suspicion of terrorist activities before a court has to issue a warrent, you think you actually have it WORSE than people in Uzbekistan? Because the NSA has better technology, your life is worse than people who can at any time be thrown in prison and sent to a sham show trial, where no one ever wins appeals, and where prisoners are regularly tortured, starved, denied medical treatment, and sometimes boiled to death?

I’d love to see you stand in front of Yusuf Juma, the poet who has been in a maximum security death camp for two years now (even though he was sentenced to a minimum security prison) because he wrote POEMS that the Uzbek government didn’t like , and tell him that you have it worse than he does because some Republicans (who just left power peacefully after they were defeated in elections) have some bad ideas about how to run the country.

Shrugging your shoulders and trivializing the situation by saying “well, we’re not as free as we should be here, either” is stunningly disrespectful to people who have to live in that dictatorship every day, or to the great numbers of those who have had to flee Uzbekistan for their lives and whose families remain behind under constant threat. You have every right to complain about US policies that you disagree with–but the fact that you have that right at all makes the gulf between you and the citizens of Uzbekistan wider than you seem to be able to imagine.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Noah, great post!

Reader, you are saying no dictatorship = beheadings. Can you comment on Muslim countries where no dictatorship = functioning democracy. Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey?

Eyebrows raised, in the US nobody is proposing imprisoning poets. How long would Noam Chomsky survive in Uzbekistan?

Eyebrows raised even higher, good points made

Metin, you have access to the sites banned in Uzbekistan. That didn’t turn you into a behadings-eager violent extremist. Why not lift the blocking of the websites? At least, secular ones, like Ferghana.ru or Uznews.net?

Reader June 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm

No, I cannot. And, I try not to get into comparisons. I hail from the school of qualitative learning. However, I understand the temptation of comparisons is strong and people tend to try to put one country in the same frame as others conveniently (Oriental, tribal, Muslim Arab – we’ve all heard those terms).

And the reason why we should not compare (illustrated by this comparison – okay, you made me do it! 🙂 is
1. Practice of Islam is far different in those countries from the little that I know (Taliban a’ knockin!)
2. Character of the people (hotly debatable point) of those countries is far different from the little that I know (Uzbeks are generally conservative)
3. Geopolitical realities of those countries is far different from the little that I know (Great Game)
4. Economic realities are far different from the little that I know (Mineral resources)
5. and so on…

And if you press me more for elaboration, I will not go on, because that’s not how I like to debate. That bit up there was simply to show you why I don’t like to compare.

If you want to discuss why no dictatorship = beheadings in Uzbekistan, well, that can be answered if you live in Ferghana for a good few years and see the level of fanaticism among some of the people. Don’t forget the two British officers who were thrown into snake pits in Bukhara in 1919. You can’t blame that on the Soviets either, because the Emir of Bukhara was later killed by the Russians.

That was Central Asia under Muslim rule. Of course not all the people are that way. There are liberal progressives among them and there are plain old ordinary masses, too. But the people with the most zeal have always won leadership roles because they are a-holes who know how to bully. And a bully needs a strong principal to keep him/her in check.

There is also the matter of women’s rights! That’s more than 50 percent of the population. Soviet Union helped the women of Central Asia shed those hijabs and be able to walk to work, now it is a pivotal point in history for Central Asian progressives (you call them dictators) to keep the women liberated.

Noah June 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Wow, do you really know Central Asian history that badly? First of all, Stoddart and Conolly were in Bukhara in the early 1840s, not 1919, wrong century even. Second, they were thrown into a dungeon and later executed (you can go see the dungeon with the little fake Stoddart and Conolly in the Ark in Bukkara), not into a pit of snakes. Third, it was Nasrullah Khan, I think the grandfather of the last emir Alim Khan, who did it. Fourth, the last emir, Muhammad Alim Khan, died of obesity and old age in Kabul in the 1944, he was not killed by the Russians.

(You don’t have to look any further than Registan for most of this information: http://www.registan.net/index.php/2007/03/13/into-russian-turkistan/)

I’m not going to say anything at all about all the rest of it… but really, if your conclusions are based on your understanding of history, then maybe you need to spend a few minutes learning it in the first place before you make broad conclusions about whether secular authoritarianism is really necessary to keep the Taliban from mysteriously taking over Uzbekistan.

They certainly weren’t very welcome among the Uzbeks in Afghanistan, I’m not sure why you conclude that the better educated, wealthier, better connected, and more secular Uzbeks north of the Amu Darya are more likely to welcome the Taliban than all of their cousins who fought to the death against them in Mazar-e Sharif and Taloqan, etc.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Noah,
Excellent, well-argued, fact-based response.

Reader June 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Well, okay, Noah, you got me on the details of the dungeon! I didn’t think I was writing a school paper here, but my point remains Muslim rulers before Soviet Union were ruthless and backward and there is no reason for today’s Central Asia to go back to that.

Afghanistan’s Uzbeks have been ruled over by Tajiks and Pashtuns for so long, they have had enough of it. I don’t want to go too far into comparisons now.

Uzbekistan’s fundamentalist few Uzbeks such as that terrorist in Pakistan however want to create a Caliphate. Whoever is funding them probably have strategic interests in Central Asian resources. So if the current leadership of Uzbekistan blinks, it can be replaced by a terrorist. The masses don’t have any way to fight back. They will just persevere as they always have.

Michael Hancock June 4, 2010 at 2:49 am

Isn’t anonymity great? You can sound like a complete idiot while remaining a stranger. On the other hand, it’s best if you remain a stranger if you’re so into categorically putting all pre-Soviet Central Asian rulers into the “Ruthless and Backward” basket. Get a clue.

Phoenix June 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

As an equal opportunity atheist, I do agree with Reader on a couple of things. It’s a shame the Soviets didn’t finish the job. Making the society secular and emancipating women. Yes, and all religions should be separate from politics. Sorry, Turgai Sangar.

I also agree with Reader that Central Asia was always a mess statehoodwise. Take the last 1000 years. The only effective state was Timur’s. But it didn’t last beyond his lifetime. So, Central Asia had an effective governance for 30 years out of 1000. All other times, little, small-minded, venal rulers ruled the place. Kind of like today. But many other places used to be a mess.

And I don’t understand Reader’s dismissal of simple facts. I did search on Osh province and Andijan province. They have the same demographic composition, culture, languages, etc. Osh has been under a liberal political system for 20 years. It has not become more radicalized, violent, religious than Andijan province. Is then this conclusion totally illogical? That Uzbekistan can live under a liberal regime and nothing terrible would happen?

And saying that the Uzbeks will go back to what they did in the 1840s at the first opportunity is laughable and insulting to the Uzbeks. I think, it would be insulting to say that the Southerners in the US will go back to the 1840s lifestyle at the first opportunity. And strangely, Metin doesn’t jump in to defend his people.

Turgai Sangar June 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm

“equal opportunity atheist”

🙂

No need to be sorry, mate. We feel sorry for atheists and for those who don’t see the failure of neo-liberal capitalism.

Phoenix June 4, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Turgai Sangar,
Don’t get me wrong. I learn a lot about the region from your comments. They are detailed. I also agree with your criticisms of the governments there.

But I disagree with your solutions. They give me a deja vu. You say:”Here is a teaching that is 100% correct. If you just follow it, all problems will be solved eventually. No, I can’t give you an example in the world where my idea is working. But trust me, it’s going to work. Just believe in it.” Sounds very much like Communism. We know how that teaching worked out.

And why do you use Reader’s “either-or” method? If one is not religious, the only other status is a neo-liberal capitalist fan? Is Bill Maher a lackey of Wall Street? OK, this is a minor note. As I said, I do learn about life in Central Asia from you.

Turgai Sangar June 5, 2010 at 12:22 pm

@Phoenix

Thanks for your kind reply. I don’t think that I propose a one-size- fits-all thing. What I do appreciate with the Khilafah Movement is, that it is a vector for Islamic analyses and approaches of very modern-day challenges and issues.

Whether Khilafah will insha’Allah be restored in its ideal form one day, I leave in the middle. But in the meantime, it offers an intellectual and political alternative at times when Communism, neo-liberal capitalism and nationalism all failed.

The idea of a Khilafah Islamic State stretching from Tanger to Mindanao is, well, quite ambitious and somewhat challenging. But the concept is not completely absurd and science fiction. First, Khilafah States did existed an many coincided with the heyday of Islamic civilisation including in science (Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba). Second, the idea is not less absurd than that of a State of Israël when Theodor Herzl proposed it back in 1896: a pole power which defends its coreligionaries.

It doesn’t even has to be a Westphalian entity.

Communism had good sides but two fatal flaws: first, its atheism and materialism paved the way for accelerated social degeneration; second, it’s economic concept was bollocks. Islam, by contrast, is not anti-market and encourages enterpreneurship.

Islam does not need revolutions or guerilla groups to come back into Eurasia. In fact, it is slowly trickling back into society the natural way.

@Reader

“Uzbekistan’s fundamentalist few Uzbeks such as that terrorist in Pakistan however want to create a Caliphate. Whoever is funding them probably have strategic interests in Central Asian resources.”

Why should they automatically be sponsored by one or another maecenas?

Groups like the Taliban, the Tahir Yuldash group, the IJU, … fight asymmetric wars, operate much more low-budget than their opponents, and largely on their own resoucres. Also, that story that they are all lavishly paid mercenaries and only fighting for money is what it is: tabloid stuff. Can’t it be that many of these blokes are sincerely angry and disgusted at what they saw in Uzbekistan and other places?

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Reader,
You say”I hail from the school of qualitative learning.” But your arguments are quantitative. Your “either-or” argument is not qualitative at all . Can you comment on that. Thank you.

You say:”that’s not how I like to debate.” Can you elaborate on how you do debate. Thank you.

Reader June 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm

So, Phoenix, between Islamic extremism and secular authoritarianism, which would you choose?

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Reader,
I choose secular democracy. You will say that’s not part of the choice. You will say secular democracy can develop in Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia. But not in Uzbekistan. Noah has just shown you have a weak grasp of history. How can we be sure your understanding of the present is any better? In consequence, why should we accept your “either-or” menu?

Reader June 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Well, I would love secular democracy, too, but unfortunately it is not on the menu. I did not write the menu, I am just reading it. You must be holding another menu which includes dessert. Well, I would like to eat before having my dessert otherwise my appetite might get spoiled and I might forget to balance my nutrition. Bad nutrition leads to ADD you know.

You do not have to accept my “either-or.” In fact you can ignore my posts altogether because Noah trumped my knowledge of history. You are now free to demonstrate for civil liberties of religious Uzbeks in front of the BP press office. Let them know, Reader has poor knowledge of Central Asia history and that makes the case for secular democracy in Uzbekistan all the more pressing.

Oldschool boy June 3, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Reader,
There is quite a big number of Uzbeks working in Russia and Kazakhstan, reportedly about one million. Also, there are Uzbek diasporas. Those people are in, to some extent, more liberal societies, far away from Karimov and his rules. For some reason, they do not turn into Islamic terrorists and do not try to establish extremist regimes.

Reader June 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm

No, as I have said in my earlier posts there are large masses of ordinary people minding their own business. I am not making generalizations about all Uzbeks abroad as being extremists.

But, we have to worry about the small groups that are! The ones who have attacked posts and blown up stuff and are helping insurgents in Afghanistan. They are pure evil. And it’s just a fact of history that such people sometimes end up taking the reigns especially when portions of the population sympathize with them or relate to them.

Is the Karimov regime’s authoritarianism fueling this extremism? Maybe to some degree. But they surely are getting support from somewhere which has no interest in Uzbek citizens welfare. Does Karimov care about Uzbek people? I think he does. Is he corrupt? To some degree. But like everything else, everything is in degrees. But imagine the struggles he is facing trying to get the tax revenues to services before they get sucked up by rank and file of the bureaucracy. Would a secular democratic state be able to manage much better at this point in Uzbekistan’s development stage? I don’t think so. I think it would get ripped to shreds. You know, if you have ever driven in a third world country and you see a car on your left do a right turn across in front of you at a traffic light, and then you see it again and again, it gives you some idea of how much respect people have for the rule of law in that country. How could a secular democracy exist in such a place?

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Reader,
You never explained your rules for debate:”that’s not how I like to debate.” Can you elaborate on how you do debate. Thank you.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Oldschoolboy,
Excellent point. But at some point, one in a million of those migrants will turn to violent ideas. That’ll be a proof the Uzbeks can’t have a democracy. Reminds me of an old joke.

Various intelligence agencies gather in Kyrgyzstan for a training session. And to see who’s the best. The task is to find a bear in the forest. German BND does in with their German shepherds. After three days they come out empty-handed and exhausted. The French end up with the same result. The CIA goes in with all their ultra-high-tech apparatus. Three days later they come out frustrated. The KGB goes in and radioes:”The bear has been located.” An hour later, suddenly a cat streaks out of the woods and screams:”OK, OK, I’m a bear. Just stop beating me!”

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Reader,
You are being unfair to the people of Ferghana. The Uzbeks in the Kyrgyz part of Ferghana, under the liberal Kyrgyz governments, have had 20 years to turn violent. They are no more violent or religious than the Uzbeks who live in the Uzbek part of Ferghana, under the strongman.

I would like to ask you a question, using your “either-or” method. Do you believe facts? Or are you a member of the faith-based community?

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm

This is off-top. Apologies.

Oldschoolboy,
This is your expertise domain. Could oligarch Shodiev be the next Uzbek president? Gazeta.ru writes this:
И компромат-молва, и доброжелатели связывают бизнес господина Шодиева с Казахстаном, и потому некоторые ошибочно называют его казахом, но на самом деле Патох Шодиев — узбек. Впрочем, отношения как раз с Узбекистаном, с его лидером Каримовым и наследной принцессой Гульнарой у него настолько натянутые, что господин Шодиев старается туда лишний раз даже не въезжать.

A rough English-language summary: Patokh Shodiev is a billionaire oligarch. Many think he’s Kazakh because he’s done business in Kazakhstan. But he’s an Uzbek. His relations with Gulnara Karimova are tense and he tries not to visit Uzbekistan unnecessarily.

Questions:
-Tense relations result from rivalry. In this case, a rivalry for what?
-Russia would prefer Uzbekistan to be less independent. More like Kazakhstan or even Kyrgyzstan.
-Gazeta.ru says Shodiev is a former GRU or SVR officer. Would Putin like the idea of such a man running Uzbekistan?
-If not Shodiev, can it be some other Russia-based Uzbek oligarch? Alisher Usmanov, as an example? Usmanov is a MGIMO graduate. MGIMO was a hiring place for the GRU and KGB back then. Would Putin like an MGIMO alum?
-Those oligarchs stay in touch with their country. Gazeta.ru says 600 guests from Uzbekistan attended the wedding of Shodiev’s son in Monaco. He married into a family of a famous Uzbek writer.

What are you thoughts? The Gazeta.ru article is here: http://www.gazeta.ru/column/rynska/3369097.shtml

Reader June 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm

“Uzbeks in the Kyrgyz part of Ferghana” is a very good argument. First of all, I don’t see Islamic extremism as an exclusively Uzbek disease. Uzbeks just happen to have a nation encompassing the well-known Islamic shrines and cities such as Bukhara and therefore are bigger targets, because fundamentalists want to bring back the glory days. This is common knowledge. But also, that former leader of Uzbek terrorist group had a personal issue with Karimov which made Uzbekistan more of a target. As for Uzbek population of Kyrgyzstan living peacefully without becoming radicalized, well, majority are probably not radicalized as are majority not radicalized in Uzbekistan. But some may be. We don’t know. I would think Uzbekistan’s closing of its borders is some indicator of that.

I am the farthest thing away you will find from faith-based anything. What are you trying to get at? Is this some kind of word play trap? Are we wasting other readers time by discussing unrelated matters to Noah’s original post?

BTW, Noah, I appreciated it very much.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Reader,
So, you would agree that the Uzbeks could live under a liberal government like Kyrgyzstan’s and nothing terrible would happen?

You are right, we should stay on topic. I’ll just explain my question briefly. You insistence on “either-or” reminded me of Team B back in 1974. A group of US experts believed their own idea and dismissed all the facts. They said:”The Russkies have much better weapons. Our spooks can’t find them? That can only mean the Russkies have hidden the better weapons real well.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_B

phnx June 3, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Apologies if this is a repost. My comments are not going through again.

Reader,
So, then you would agree that the Uzbeks could live under a liberal government like Kyrgyzstan’s and nothing terrible would happen?

You are right, we should stay on topic. I’ll just explain my question briefly. You insistence on “either-or” reminded me of Team B back in 1974. A group of US experts believed their own idea and dismissed all the facts. They said:”The Russkies have much better weapons. Our spooks can’t find them? That can only mean the Russkies have hidden the better weapons real well.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_B

Reader June 3, 2010 at 8:40 pm

“So, then you would agree that the Uzbeks could live under a liberal government like Kyrgyzstan’s and nothing terrible would happen?”

Progressive and secular Uzbeks can live anywhere and flourish and nothing will happen. You agree, right?

Fundamentalist Uzbeks would like to establish rule in the former Turekstan region. You agree, right?

So, You cannot separate Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbeks of Uzbekistan and say Kyrgyzstan’s liberal policies prove Uzbek group behavior as peaceful. Give me a break, dude! There are Uzbek fundamentalists in Kyrgyz jails as well.

To begin with, Kyrgyzstan’s supposed liberal democracy is something everyone raves about, but guess what, Kyrgyzstan is not nearly as free as Switzerland. So everything should be measured by degrees, not absolutes.

To be respectful to Noah, and to acknowledged I have wasted my whole day on proving nothing to no one I know, I will discontinue this thread. Apologies to those of you who didn’t find my posts particularly interesting.

eyebrows raised June 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Wasn’t trying to imply that Westerners had it as bad as Uzbeks, ebrhigher took that idea and ran wild with it.

And regarding Uzbek rights, or the rights of anyone in oppressed countries, the only countries that do tend to support civil society in oppressed Muslim nations, but without war on terror/Anglo-American petro scheming /geo-political strings attached are the Scandinavian nations. Correct me if I am wrong, but this blog some months ago criticized Craig Murray for coming out in condemnation of the Uzbek government on his own and not going through “proper channels”. My point is, any American or British person who condemns the Uzbek government for going ahead in a far more brutal and assinine manner the same moves that his/her own government advocates and ever so slowly puts into place is a bit of a hypocrite.

Metin June 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Eyebrows raised made interesting points. Its true that people tend to see the world as they wish it were. Anything which might have been accepted as normal in US or any other country enjoying positive reputation would sound perversive if done in a country with negative reputation. For example, recent Israeli attack on Gaza flotilla was received with understanding by Joe Biden; though it is very doubtful that reaction would be the same if similar thing was committed by Iranians.

Phoenix,
blocking is ineffective, as sites can be accessed using anonymous proxies. Though I do not like tabloid like websites you mentioned. Funny though, from my provider websites of eurasianet.org and rfel.org can be accessed with no problem, registan.net not.

Noah June 3, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Phoenix–
Frankly I wouldn’t waste your time trying to argue with “Reader,” who for some reason has stopped using his name. He only has one thing to say–the same thing he’s saying here–and he doesn’t ever seem to get tired of saying it, though he rarely adds any new insights or details.

Metin,
You’re right of course that Uzmetronom is openly biased. But you and I have had this debate before–without a free press, anyone who wants to print anything other than state-sponsored news ends up becoming part of the opposition. Still though, I appreciate that you find Registan.net at least somewhat more balanced and feel that it’s worth the time to read and participate here.

I would suggest that this would all be more fruitful for everyone if we get off the tit-for-tat arguments and get back to the larger issues.

Noah June 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Also, let me clarify what I wrote above for those who don’t read Russian–there seems to be some confusion and it’s become an argument that isn’t really leading anywhere.

The points above that require signatures aren’t laws–and as Metin correctly says, they don’t legally bind you to any more punishment than is volunteered or prescribed within the text of each one. So, unless he’s signed that particular one about not using the internet at work, it doesn’t affect him legally in any way.

There is a law, however, that restricts the access of “anti-government” websites from internet cafes, which each cafe manager is required to publicly post. I don’t frankly remember what the punishment stipulated is, but it was probably a modest fine. Metin is right that I should have said “blocked” and not “banned.” Though the two are functionally the same (it’s the government that decides which sites have to be blocked), unless you access in an internet cafe, I’m not sure that using an anonymizer to get around the block is technically illegal in and of itself. However, the trick is that, as we see pretty often, the letter of the law is not as important as the “spirit” of the law, or whatever the law is supposed to be once you’re already arrested (usually for something else).

When I said people who have to sign these statements “volunteer themselves for prosecution” I was being sarcastic, not making a legal assessment. It’s not the law itself that is as important as who has power–they’ll make the law whatever they want it to be. These rules are interesting to me more in the way the show how power is displayed and applied than for the substance of the rules themselves.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Nathan, Joshua, Michael,
Three of my comments didn’t go through. I keep seeing the waiting moderator’s approval message. Did I break any rules? Or exceeded a daily limit? It’s probably a glitch. I’ll be happy to resubmit the comments. Please advise me. Thank you.

Nathan Hamm June 3, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Phoenix/KTR/Just a mutual friend/Phnx — What happens is that when you suddenly post a million comments when you haven’t posted much before is that the program monitoring comments flags your IP as suspicious and holds you in moderation.

Since I hold the keys to this place, I get a notification. Josh, Michael, and Noah may not ever get the notification. When I’m able to get around to approving comments — which sometimes is days because of work and family demands on my time — I do. Or I don’t. It depends on my mood. Right now — and this is for the entire audience — I’m really unhappy with how off-topic, tangential, meta, and surreal comments are getting. Sock puppets speaking up on behalf of or fighting with sock puppets at the same IP isn’t what I like to see. Registan.net is not a public square. All your comments are belong to me. All your rights to comment here are belong to me. As much as I like seeing ~50 comments on a post, I’d rather have five on-topic, good ones. I have let some authors know that I am but an instrument of their will to be used to police comments as they see fit. So, please do comment. I love comments. But please keep it clean. If your stuff doesn’t show up or your comments start getting kicked back, don’t worry about appealing to Michael, Noah, Josh, or any of the others who write here. I am easy enough to reach, so feel free to drop me a line.

Phoenix June 3, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Nathan,
Thank you for your detailed explanation. I didn’t realize you manage this site as a public service. Doubtlessly, you do this in addition to a million quotidian things that require your attention. Those things are certainly much more exigent than what we write here.

I hope I can say this on behalf of all visitors. Your service is much appreciated. The opposite impression may form when your visitors get carried away by the debate.

Certainly, that’s no excuse. As a tenderfoot, I have broken your unwritten rules. I have also tried to learn and adapt. Now my comments are more compliant (I think). I promise to minimize their number.

Your only problematic commenter has seen his mistaken ways. I hope that solves the problem once and for all.

Still, I apologize for any and all inconvenience my presence may have caused. I wish I could buy you a beer. Thanks again.

phnx June 3, 2010 at 11:56 pm

My sincere apologies if this is a repost. I feel I have to respond to Nathan asap.

Nathan,
Thank you for your detailed explanation. I didn’t realize you manage this site as a public service. Doubtlessly, you do this in addition to a million quotidian things that require your attention. Those things are certainly much more exigent than what we write here.

I hope I can say this on behalf of all visitors. Your service is much appreciated. The opposite impression may form when your visitors get carried away by the debate.

Certainly, that’s no excuse. As a tenderfoot, I have broken your unwritten rules. I have also tried to learn and adapt. Now my comments are more compliant (I think). I promise to minimize their number.

Your only problematic commenter has seen his mistaken ways. I hope that solves the problem once and for all.

Still, I apologize for any and all inconvenience my presence may have caused. I wish I could buy you a beer. Thanks again.

phnx June 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I’m trying to repost my comments. Apologies for duplicates.

This is off-top. Apologies.

Oldschoolboy,
This is your expertise domain. This is about a Kazakh oligarch. Could oligarch Shodiev be the next Uzbek president? Gazeta.ru writes this:
И компромат-молва, и доброжелатели связывают бизнес господина Шодиева с Казахстаном, и потому некоторые ошибочно называют его казахом, но на самом деле Патох Шодиев — узбек. Впрочем, отношения как раз с Узбекистаном, с его лидером Каримовым и наследной принцессой Гульнарой у него настолько натянутые, что господин Шодиев старается туда лишний раз даже не въезжать.

A rough English-language summary: Patokh Shodiev is a billionaire oligarch. Many think he’s Kazakh because he’s done business in Kazakhstan. But he’s an Uzbek. His relations with Gulnara Karimova are tense and he tries not to visit Uzbekistan unnecessarily.

Questions:
-Tense relations result from rivalry. In this case, a rivalry for what?
-Russia would prefer Uzbekistan to be less independent. More like Kazakhstan or even Kyrgyzstan.
-Gazeta.ru says Shodiev is a former GRU or SVR officer. Would Putin like the idea of such a man running Uzbekistan?
-If not Shodiev, can it be some other Russia-based Uzbek oligarch? Alisher Usmanov, as an example? Usmanov is a MGIMO graduate. MGIMO was a hiring place for the GRU and KGB back then. Would Putin like an MGIMO alum?
-Those oligarchs stay in touch with their country. Gazeta.ru says 600 guests from Uzbekistan attended the wedding of Shodiev’s son in Monaco. He married into a family of a famous Uzbek writer.

What are you thoughts? The Gazeta.ru article is here: http://www.gazeta.ru/column/rynska/3369097.shtml

Oldschool boy June 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Phnx,
You are definitely mistaking me for an expert in the Central Asian politics. My specialty is different.
I can only share with you my speculations.
I do not really know anything about Shodiev, but from what I’ve heard or read, he does not have ambitions or enough leadership to be the next president. Mashkevich, Shodiev, and Ibragimov have been considered Kazakh because they do business in Kazakhstan. They are also called Eurasian Trio, group of oligarchs (billionaires) who own mining and smelting companies, media and some other resources. Both Shodiev and Ibragimov are shadows of Mashkevich. Since the main condition to do business in Kazakhstan is loyalty to one particular man only, the group can be considered, if not Nazarbayev’s creation, then his tool. Nazarbayev lets them be for two main purposes: (1) Mashkevich (President of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress) is his medium to the Jewish world, and (2) they are his counter-balance to other powerful groups (Kulibaev, “Koreans”, etc). So, if Shodiev decides to run for Uzbek presidency, he will, most likely, be considered Nazarbayev’s/Putin’s or even Israeli puppet.
I do not think Russia really cares whether Uzbekistan is independent or not. I wouldn’t if I were Russia:). How can a country be independent, if up to 12% of its GDP is formed with the money earned by its citizens on seasonal works in Russia and Kazakhstan? I noticed that when most people say “independent foreign policy” in CIS they usually mean opposition to Russia, whether it is real or pretended. So far, it only can be achieved by brandishing ties with the US. Uzbekistan has “independent” foreign policy as long as the NATO’s counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan goes. When it ends, Uzbekistan will lose its Afghanistan leverage and will be no longer interesting to the West. Foreign investments in Uzbekistan are still too small to consider that foreign nations have some economic interests in the country. So, I think it is inevitable that Uzbekistan will eventually turn to Russia (what they seem to do now with the Rogun development). There is also China, but the Chinese government so far has been very wary about stepping on Russia’s toes.
But, these are just my speculations.

Metin June 5, 2010 at 10:17 am

if up to 12% of its GDP is formed with the money earned by its citizens on seasonal works in Russia and Kazakhstan?

brief clarification:
Uzbekistan’s GDP – 27.9 billion USD current prices (year 2008).
Remittances from migrants – estimated at close to 2 billion USD c.p. (y.2008), which equals 7.2% of country’s GDP.

Oldschool boy June 5, 2010 at 10:56 am

You may be right, my apologies. I found the number on Ferghana.ru

Phoenix June 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Metin,
Just a few days ago you said the remittances were $2.4 billion. That’s close to 10%. Now you are saying it’s $2 billion. What happened to almost half a billion dollars in the last few days?

Turgai Sangar June 5, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Let’s make a guess: syphoned off to GooGoosha’s culture fund? 😉

Metin June 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Phoenix,
you’re as always distorting facts. Show me where I wrote $2.4!

Turgai,
don’t get too excited 🙂

Metin June 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm

latest data on remittances I found on internet:
GDP – $30.32 billion (2009 est.)
Remittances from Russia to Uzbekistan – $2.052 billions (2009 est.)

Phoenix June 5, 2010 at 8:45 am

Oldschoolboy,
You’ve refuted that conspiracy theory that reading a Russian site put in my head. Your opinion is very plausible.

Phoenix June 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Metin,
You’re right and I’m wrong. I’ve just looked at old posts. You never said $2.4. Mea culpa. You said:”volume of remittances were at more than $2 billions.”

That’s still different from what you are saying today:”close to 2 billion.”

I may be getting my facts mixed up again. You can correct me again.

But what Oldschoolboy is saying is essentially correct. Remittances are a big deal. They are essentially equal to Uzbekistan’s GDP growth. How can a country be independent of Russia if its economic growth depends on remittances from Russia?

Metin June 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Phoenix,
it was not an attempt to challenge what Oldschoolboy said; it was just clarification of facts.
Russia is important for economic growth in Uzbekistan indeed. The same is true for the rest of Central Asia. Say Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan where remittances are up to 50% of GDP.

Phoenix June 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Metin,
That’s correct. You were clarifying facts. That’s what you originally said. And that’s what you essentially did. I just wanted to be sure we can see the big picture. It’s easy to get lost in details.

TBK June 6, 2010 at 8:03 am

In this one: “А в случае моей неявки на субботник прошу лишить меня премии,” by “премия” rather than “awards” in Soviet parlance it means an entitlement bonus, i.e. a part of salary (From БЮС: Премия (2) в трудовом праве денежная выплата работнику (как правило, в рамках премиальной системы оплаты труда), стимулирующая заинтересованность в результатах труда).

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