• Название: Uzbekistan: Transition to Authoritariansim on the Silk Road
  • Описание: Social Sciences
  • Автор: Neil J.Melvin


Postcommunist States and Nations
Books in the series
Belarus: A denationalized nation
David R.Marples
Armenia: At the crossroads
Joseph R.Masih and Robert O.Krikorian
Poland: The conquest of history
George Sanford
Kyrgyzstan: Central Asia’s island of democracy?
John Anderson
Ukraine: Movement without change, change without movement
Marta Dyczok
The Czech Republic: A nation of velvet
Rick Fawn
Uzbekistan: Transition to authoritarianism on the silk road
Neil J.Melvin
Romania: The unfinished revolution
Steven D.Roper
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Neil J.Melvin

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Map of Uzbekistan



History and Culture



Contemporary Politics



Economy and Society



The External Policy of Independent Uzbekistan










7th century
13th century
16th century

30 April 1918
September 1919
February 1920
September 1920

Arab conquest and conversion to Islam within the
ancient provinces of Sogdia and Bactria,
particularly the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.
Mongol conquest of the region.
Rule of Uzbeg, after whom the Uzbek tribes were
Reign of Timur (Tamerlane), who established an
empire centred upon Samarkand.
Uzbek tribes settle in core areas of Transoxiana,
establishing dominance over the region,
particularly Kokand, Samarkand, Bukhara and
Area of Karakalpakstan seized by Russian
Emirate of Bukhara and Khanate of Kokand fall
to the Russians and become protectorates.
Khanate of Khiva becomes a protectorate of the
Russian Empire.
Abolition of the Khanate of Kokand.
The Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist
Republic is formed including much of the
territories of contemporary Uzbekistan.
Soviet forces establish control over much of the
Khiva falls to the Red Army and Khorezm
People’s Socialist Republic is founded.
Emir of Bukhara flees in the face of the Red
Army’s advance. Declaration of Soviet Republic
of Bukhara.


December 1922

Bukhara and Khorezm become founding units of
the Soviet Union.
27 October 1924 The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (UzSSR) is
The Tajik ASSR, previously part of the UzSSR,
becomes a full Union Republic of the USSR. The
Khojand region of the UzSSR is also incorporated
into the Tajik SSR.
Karakalpakstan, formerly part of Kazakhstan,
passes to the UzSSR.
A Cyrillic script is imposed upon the Uzbek Latin
script established in the late 1920s.
The Muslim Board of Central Asia is founded in
Tashkent, later a number of religious colleges and
mosques are opened in Uzbekistan.
Sharaf Rashidov becomes leader of the UzSSR.
Death of Rashidov and exposure of a widespread
fraud based upon the cotton crop of Uzbekistan.
A group of Uzbek intellectuals founds Birlik.
June 1989
Ethnic rioting in the Fergana Valley between
Uzbeks and Meskhetian Turk community. Islam
Karimov becomes First Secretary of the Uzbek
Communist Party.
October 1989
Uzbek becomes the state language.
24 March 1990 Islam Karimov is elected to the position of
executive President.
20 June 1990
Uzbek declaration of sovereignty.
31 August 1991 The Supreme Soviet votes to declare the UzSSR
independent and the next day the country
becomes the Republic of Uzbekistan.
29 December 1991 Karimov is re-elected as President and on the
same day 98.2% of voters support independence
in a referendum.
November 1993
Uzbekistan introduces its own currency and
leaves the Russian ruble zone.
January 1994
Uzbekistan signs an agreement with Kazakhstan
and Kyrgyzstan to form an economic union.


Autumn 1995
January 1998
August 1998
January 1999

First of several poor cotton harvests that leads
to re-orientation of Uzbekistani economic
Uzbekistani authorities launch campaign
against ‘radical Islam’.
Taliban forces in Afghanistan seize the
territories in the north of the country previously
controlled by Tashkent’s ally.
Bomb blasts in Tashkent prompt extensive
crackdown against Islamic and opposition


With the demise of the Soviet state at the end of 1991, Central Asia has
emerged from a hundred years of relative obscurity. From being
something of a backwater within the Soviet Union, within a few years
Central Asia has been transformed into a region at the heart of the
rapidly changing political, economic and social landscape of Eurasia.
Uzbekistan lies at the core of Central Asia itself, a country bordering all
of the other states of the region. Uzbekistan is the most populous
country within Central Asia and is potentially the most powerful of the
area’s states. With the region’s largest armed forces and strong ethnic
and historic ties to territories in all the neighbouring states, Uzbekistan
functions as the lynchpin to the whole Central Asian region.
The current volume is intended to serve as a broad introduction to
Uzbekistan for those who have little experience of Central Asia but
wish to learn more about the critical events and processes that have
affected the territories and peoples of contemporary Uzbekistan. The
book is divided into four chapters, each of which outlines a principal
theme: history, politics, economics, and foreign relations. A short
section at the conclusion of the volume entitled ‘Further Reading’
directs the reader to a selection of materials that offer a more in-depth
treatment of the themes explored in the current study.
Chapter One examines the history and culture of Uzbekistan.
Although Uzbekistan is a relatively new state, created as an
administrative unit by Soviet planners in the early part of this century
and achieving independence in 1991, the territories of contemporary
Uzbekistan have played host to a rich past. Historically, the lands of
modern Uzbekistan have been the home for a variety of important
civilisations and empires. Powerful cities grew up across the region, fed
by the trade of the Silk Road, the rich agricultural lands and the ability
of the region’s rulers to establish viable political and economic systems
to harness the region’s resources. The population of the area embraced


Islam and in certain periods the region became a centre for advanced
learning and culture.
Through the centuries, migrations, conquest and trade brought the
population of the region into contact with a wide variety of peoples from
Europe and Asia. The legacy of this historic mixing of peoples was the
development of complex societies, built around a myriad of languages,
communities and traditions. In the sixteenth century, Uzbek tribal
groupings began to move into the region and soon emerged as powerful
ruling clans across the region. In the nineteenth century, Russian
colonisation of the kingdoms of Central Asia led to important changes
in the geopolitical situation of the region, although much of the social
and political structure of the area remained intact. In the 1920s, the
establishment of Soviet control over the core territories of Central Asia
led, however, to a fundamental transformation in the region.
Soon after seizing control of the area, Soviet planners undertook a
series of policy initiatives that would reshape the region in many basic
ways. The central element of the Soviet project in the region was the
creation of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924, the forerunner
of the contemporary Uzbekistani state. Under Soviet tutelage,
Uzbekistan and the Uzbek nation were forged as a single entity, linked
to each other through language, a common history and, increasingly, a
single economic and political infrastructure. In the final decades of the
Soviet era, the Uzbek leadership was able to establish considerable
autonomy from Moscow in the everyday running of the republic. More
than any other factor, it was the changes introduced into Uzbekistan
during the Soviet years that have shaped developments following
Chapter Two of the volume is devoted to an examination of
contemporary politics. The demise of Soviet control in Central Asia led
to important changes in the political order in Uzbekistan. Critically, the
role of the Communist Party has been supplanted by the emergence of
an authoritarian executive system based around the person of the
president, Islam Karimov. The ruthless suppression not simply of
opposition forces but of all independent organisations and voices in
Uzbekistan has provided the basis for a powerful centralised state to
emerge based upon the unchecked use of coercion.
A leading figure in the Uzbek Communist Part before independence,
President Karimov subsequently embraced nationalism as the
justification for his rule. Consolidating an independent Uzbekistan and
establishing stability within the borders of the state are the twin pillars of
the new official orthodoxy. Uzbekistan, however, is home to a variety


of peoples and cultures, and official nationalism has frequently appeared
to threaten the position of the non-Uzbek residents of the country.
Despite fears amongst the Uzbekistani elite about a political threat from
democratic and human rights groups or the possibility of unrest
amongst minorities, it is radical Islam that has emerged as potentially
the most serious challenge to the post-independence order.
Since the late 1980s, Islam has become the single most difficult issue
for the Karimov government. Islam is a thread that runs throughout most
of Uzbekistani society and this has made the destruction of ‘unofficial’
religious groups problematic. Recognising the importance and power of
Islam, the Uzbekistani government quickly embraced a ‘moderate’ form
of religion in the early 1990s. Subsequently, however, the Karimov
regime has had to engage in a delicate balancing act to prevent the
emergence of more radical, or at least anti-government, forms of belief
and religious organisation. The destruction of secular forms of
opposition and the fusion of Islam with much of Uzbekistani society
suggests, however, that Islam is likely to remain a problem for the
current leadership and a potential block to the regime’s aim of complete
supremacy within the country. Critical to the ability of Karimov and his
government to retain control will be its success in establishing a more
prosperous society.
In Chapter Three of the book, the development and future prospects of
the Uzbekistani economy are examined. The Soviet economic legacy in
Uzbekistan is a mixed one. On the one hand, during the Soviet years
Uzbekistan acquired elements of an advanced scientific and
communications infrastructure, while on the other hand, the republican
economy was developed primarily as the supplier of agricultural
materials, and particularly for the production of cotton. The economic
inheritance from the Soviet period has heavily constrained the ability of
the Uzbekistani authorities to pursue economic development. The
Karimov regime has, however, also failed to launch the range of
reforms necessary to break free from the dependence on agricultural
production previously established by Moscow’s planners.
In the first years of independent existence, Uzbekistan seemed to be
making important progress, particularly in relation to the economies of
other former Soviet republics. The Uzbekistani authorities even seemed
prepared to contemplate some limited forms of liberalisation in the
economy. The poor harvests and low prices for cotton in the mid-1990s,
however, exposed the fragile commitment to change in the country and
set Uzbekistan on a path of autarkic economic management. Since
1995, the Uzbekistani economy has struggled to make any serious


progress and instead has become increasingly harnessed to the
overriding goal of establishing political stability in the country.
The failure to undertake the reforms necessary for the transformation
of the Uzbekistani economy has stemmed from the ways in which
Karimov’s regime has developed. The emergence of a powerful
authoritarian system has relied to a significant degree upon the elite’s
ability to manipulate the economy to its own advantage through
corruption, advantageous government contracts and privileged access to
financial and other resources. In order to construct this system, the state
has not simply retained control of the Uzbekistani economy but has
extended its reach into new types of business activities. While the
Karimov political economy has provided the basis for the consolidation
of an elite and its interests, a range of social pressures building up in
Uzbekistan raise questions about the sustainability of this system. Rapid
demographic growth, rising unemployment and increased competition
for resources point to a future in which political unrest is likely to
intensify around economic concerns.
Chapter Four of the volume is concerned with the external policy of
Uzbekistan since the collapse of the Soviet system. Although the
territory at the core of Central Asia has historically been a site of
contest between competing kingdoms and empires, the engagement of
Uzbekistan with the international system is a fundamentally new
development. Since 1991 the Uzbekistani government has sought to
build a set of relationships to the outside world that could help
consolidate independence and the position of the Karimov regime. The
primary driving force of external relations has been a search for links
that can accelerate economic development in Uzbekistan. Reflecting
this goal, Western industrial nations became the subject for the initial
thrust of foreign policy. Building a relationship with the West was also
perceived as the main means to establish political and security ties that
would help consolidate the independent status of Uzbekistan.
Despite the goal of forging links to the West, particularly the United
States, Tashkent has had to develop a variety of other relationships in
response to a range of local and inter-regional issues. While the economic
imperative remains the central thread of Uzbekistani external policy,
security concerns have required a reorientation in some aspects of
Uzbekistan’s foreign relations. Significantly, the original strategy of
promoting Uzbekistan as a country with little interest in close relations
with the other former Soviet states has been supplanted by an increased
stress upon co-operation, particularly in response to the rise of the
Taliban in Afghanistan. Relations with other Central Asian states have


grown more significant and the Russian Federation has re-emerged as
an important security partner for Tashkent.
Since independence, Uzbekistan has succeeded in establishing a
complex set of relationships to other states and also to a variety of
interstate organisations. In many respects, the continual maneuvering by
Tashkent has been successful in achieving many of its aims, however,
the Uzbekistani leadership has yet to face a major international crisis.
Moreover, in recent years Karimov’s strategy towards Tajikistan and
Afghanistan has collapsed prompting a redirection of external policy.
The significant shift in Uzbekistan’s external policies suggests that as
the country faces increased external challenges in the future, Tashkent
may struggle to retain a strong independent position.
In writing this book I have incurred a number of debts. Firstly I
would like to thank those in Uzbekistan and Central Asia who have
offered me help in collecting material for this volume and who have
shaped my understanding of developments in the region in general and
Uzbekistan in particular. For reasons of safety, individuals cannot be
mentioned. I would also like to thank an anonymous reviewer who
suggested many important revisions to an earlier version. Finally, I
would like to dedicate this work to E.


Chapter 1