Sanjar Umarov on Uzbekistan’s Squandered Resources and Unclear Future

by Nathan Hamm on 11/16/2012 · 3 comments

Sharnoff’s Global Views recently published an interview with Sanjar Umarov, the former political prison, presidential candidate, and founder of the Sunshine Coalition. I have long found Sanjar to be one of the most knowledgeable and realistic voices in Uzbekistan’s opposition, and it is always worth reading his analysis of Uzbekistan’s political situation and future prospects. In this interview, he describes very well how circumstance — almost an accident — is responsible Uzbekistan failing to take advantage of the many advantages it had at independence.

If only for one (the most important!) thing – circumstance. As the Soviet system was waning, the first secretary of the Communist Party came to power, then as president – Islam Karimov. Karimov, a man with a “Napoleon complex,” sees himself as the direct descendent of the great warrior of the Middle Ages, Amir Temur (Tamerlane). One could understand this if not for his narcissism and his usurping of power, his sickening disgust for any independent thought. He has deprived Uzbeks of all basic rights and has forced the majority to live on the edge of poverty and extinction, and that same thoughtful intelligentsia has mostly all emigrated abroad, or is hidden behind bars, or have become a disciplined herd of scared law-abiders. But the “great leader-ism” of Karimov is also dangerous in that over the years of his reign, the small group of his closest relatives and cohorts have hoarded all the country’s national treasures. They have become immeasurably wealthy while millions of the work-inclined population has to search for work, under slavish conditions, outside of their homeland.

Be sure to read the entire interview.

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

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Aftab Kazi November 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Many folks sem to have personal opinions, which I respect. However, Mr. Umarov Sanjar seems to learn more about the nature of political and geopolitical culture of Uzbekistan and the processes of multinational nation-building in Uzbekistan. Honorable President Islam Karimov has achieved a great deal during his presidency. Inspite of the lack of large foreign investment in the country, despite such rhetorics coming from our western countries, he has relied on his own resources, and whatever little investment coming from regional countries, and developed Uzbekistan considerably. Mr. Umarov will be surprised, if I said, Pakistan or some other developing countries in Asia and Africa have not achieved as much in approximately 60 plus years of independence and nation-building, as Uzbekistan has under Honorable Islam Karimov in approximately 20 years. Poor income levels, caused by the sudden Soviet dismantling caused havoc in all former Soviet countries. In 20 years time or so, personal income levels in Uzbekistan have grown from 10 to 30 dollars per month to approximately 200 to 750 dollars per month by now. And, Uzbekistan is the largest exporter of cars in Eurasia. Political reform is going on and several new laws have been enacted, however, having laws to become a norm is a cross-generational matter, not an overnight venture. Uzbekistan is going forward and will remain stable under the visioinary leadership of President Islam Karimov. Our Western media has left no stone unturned to dehumanize him, only criticized Karimov even if he did something great. Coruption is not only the problem of Uzbekistan, but all over the world. We in the West also are suffering from white collor corruption. A country, which was a part of the former USSR without an established middle class, in the evolutionary years some levels of coruption are bound to take place, but are likely to stratify in cross-generational terms, just as the history of evolution informs us. I wish, Mr. Umarov Sanjar had also taken a look of the achievements of Uzbekistan under the leadership of President Islam Karimov, than simply making personal value judgments. In terms of politics, he needs to learn a lot. With kind regards.

Nathan Hamm November 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Seriously? My first impulse is to rebut every point and false equivalence. But I’ll just stick with one point of fact. Even using the official inflation rates, real incomes have fallen dramatically. If incomes were at $200 in 1999, they’d need to be over $1000 to have kept pace. And even then, per capita income comes out t0 $275 per month.

More important than the points of fact though is who this is saying these things. It’s not as if Dr. Umarov is just some random oppositionist. He has plenty of experience with Uzbekistan’s economy, formal and informal power structures, and, unfortunately, the consequences people face for not lining up to kiss Karimov’s ring.

minhas rizwan farid November 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm


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