New York Times article on Uzbekistan three years after the uprising in Andijon

Friday, May 30, 2008

Good to see an article on Uzbekistan with some depth in the New York Times. It's hard to summarize in one or two sentences, so I'll just include the most interesting parts:

Nor is Uzbekistan quite the prison colony it is reputed to be. Despite the political arrests and brutality in prisons, the overwhelming majority of citizens are more concerned with making ends meet than with fears that the secret police will knock down their door.

“You can’t compare Uzbekistan and North Korea,” said a European who has lived in Tashkent for years, and who was not identified for safety reasons. “Not every right is violated all the time. It’s not that systematic.”

In Tashkent, a glittering city of clipped lawns and fountains, an Uzbek in his 20s, who is expanding his fashionable nightclub in central Tashkent, noted that there were long lines of Uzbeks in banks to apply for credit cards, and construction was booming. He said he did not read newspapers, but believed that Uzbekistan had press freedom because “there are fresh newspapers every day and they seem to be writing something.”

But good mojitos are far easier to come by than independent political articles. By the end of 2007, after Andijon and the ensuing crackdown on civil society, a large portion of foreign nongovernmental organizations and news outlets were forced to stop their work. Ms. Innoyatova, the human rights worker, estimates about 900 organizations closed. In an Orwellian twist, government-controlled nongovernmental organizations sprang up.

Yet, with the economy outside the capital stagnating, wages below subsistence level and millions of people migrating to Russia and Kazakhstan for work, most Uzbeks do not count freedom of expression among their top concerns. “None of this will work until there’s a critical mass of people who feel they have rights and are ready to protect them,” said the ecologist turned human rights advocate, making the point that, under Soviet rule, no one had rights.


Uzbeks have become poorer, less educated and more isolated in the 17 years since the Soviet Union collapsed. At the same time, the most religious parts of society have been brutalized by the government. It is a combination that has proved poisonous in other countries, including Iraq.

Ms. Olcott argues that Uzbek society is much less inclined toward secular values than it was 10 years ago, a shift that could eventually lead to Uzbekistan’s becoming a religious state. “There’s a lot riding on transition,” said Ms. Olcott, who has researched the role of religion in Uzbekistan. “I think you’re going to get another Islamic state down the road. The question is whether it’s going to be tolerant or intolerant.”

See Wikipedia's page on the Andijan (Andijon) massacre for an overview.


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