13:04 GMT +322 September 2019
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    President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov holds talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. (File)

    Between East and West: Islam Karimov’s Death Leaves Uzbekistan in Limbo

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    The death of Uzbekistan’s veteran President Islam Karimov signifies the end of a whole era in the history of this former Soviet Central Asian republic, Gevorg Mirzayan, an assistant professor at the Financial University in Moscow, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

    “During his 25 years at the helm, Uzbekistan’s first president managed to preserve the country’s territorial integrity and even salvage some of its Soviet-era economic potential,” Gevorg Mirzayan said, adding that now it all depended on what Karimov’s successors are going to do.

    “The personality cult that has existed in Uzbekistan, of a great leader steering the nation to prosperity and progress, is the backbone of the country’s political system, but with the Arab Spring, information technologies and the great deal of popularity enjoyed by anti-state ideologies, the new Uzbek leaders will need more than just this cult to stay in power,” Mirzayan added.

    To exploit the credit of public trust left behind by his predecessor, Gevorg Mirzayev noted, the new Uzbek leader will have to focus on the country’s socioeconomic development, including through the continued use of the Russian labor market as a point of destination for young Uzbeks who fail to find a job in their own country.

    “He will also have to allow the free sale of dollars, because now people in Uzbekistan have to buy from banks at a rate which has nothing to do with reality, and also to crack  down on corruption, including grass-root corruption. We know from Georgia’s experience how a clampdown on low-level corruption can send the authorities’ popularity sky high.”

    The new leadership will also have to reform the country’s foreign policy.

    “Islam Karimov loved to rule and firmly resisted any outside attempts to influence his decisions. That’s why he avoided close military and economic ties with either the US, Russia or China,” Mirzayan continued.

    Always trying to underscore his independence, Islam Karimov stayed away from any integration projects with Russia and he even opened a museum of Russian occupation, the only such museum in Central Asia.

    It wasn’t until very recently that, realizing that the  threats posed to his country by Daesh and the situation in Afghanistan, appeared way  more real that his fears of falling under Russia’s influence, Islam Karimov started turning to Russia.

    “It looks like the new Uzbek leadership will speed up this process especially if the domestic situation deteriorates and if the Kremlin proves that its Eurasian integration concept is not an attempt to bring back the Soviet Union,” Gevorg Mirzayan said in conclusion.

    Related:

    Karimov Contributed to Establishment of Allied Russia-Uzbekistan Ties - Medvedev
    US Remains Committed to Partnership With Uzbekistan Amid Karimov’s Passing
    Tags:
    independent policy, personality cult, legacy, Limbo, security concerns, Moscow Financial University, Daesh, Gevorg Mirzayan, Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan
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