Education and Development?

As you may already know, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan implemented series of reforms in its higher education. Currently it follows the four and two year bachelor and master degree formats (Bakalavr and Magistr), in addition to Specialist Diploma (five years of study), and Doktor Nauk (doctor of science; six years after the Magistr degree).

imagesUnlike Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan is not a member of the European Bologna Process, the goals of which are “compatibility and comparability of higher education qualifications, programs and courses; academic and workplace mobility across international borders.”

_70129960_cotton144355002We learned from one of the earlier posts that it is still mandatory for high school and college students to help with cotton harvest and they miss up to two month of schooling each fall. That is an equivalent of two academic semesters in four years! 

uzb gerb

In this week post I would like to write about two decrees, banning the cell phone use in schools and teaching political science. Yes, you read both correctly.

In a decree of May 2012, students were prohibited using their cell phones at schools and universities in order “to ensure the constitutional rights of students in getting a quality education and professional training, as well as to lower youth health risks for the interests of the nation and society.” In addition, the students and school employees are not allowed to use their phones to take pictures or videos at school that can “damage the image of the educational facilities.”


According to Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia Human Rights Watch, this decree serves as the government’s “well-documented campaign to restrict freedom of expression and stifle civic discussion in the country.” Whose interests this decree is protecting, the students’ or the government’s? How far will the state go to control what’s going in schools and on university campuses?

banned books

In 2010, all political science departments were closed at the universities putting a stop to students’ enrollment in this major. In August 2015 a decree was issued, which banned the teaching of the political science and the words “political science” from the course offerings and all library holdings. Because of this ban, all literature related to political science will now require a special permission to access it.

The reasons for the ban are as follows:

  • an irrelevant Western import;
  • does not follow a scientific method;
  • a duplicate of history, psychology and sociology;
  • “a pseudo-science” because it does not take into account the Uzbek model of development.

A group of Uzbek political scientists posted an open letter against the decree but no response was received.

According to the decree, the last remaining course on “political science” was renamed as “The Theory and Practice of Building a Democratic Society in Uzbekistan.” Can anyone guess what’s in the course syllabus?





Evgeny Kuzmin, Uzbekistan: Karimov Decree Makes Schools, Universities Cell-Free Zones (June 14, 2012), EurasiaNet’s Weekly Digest. Retrieved from

Nick Clark, Bologna-Inspired Education Reform in Central Asia (May 4, 2015), World Education News & Reviews. Retrieved from

Alec Luhn, Uzbek president bans teaching of political science (September 5, 2015), The Guardian. Retrieved from

Uzbekistan, The European Education Directory

Uzbekistan Doesn’t Believe in Political Science (September 2, 2015), Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. Retrieved from

Disclaimer: images on this blog are taken from various internet sites and used for non-commercial purposes

From “Intourist” to “Uzbektourism”

During the Soviet Union, all domestic and international tourism was handled through the Moscow-centered “Intourist” (abbreviation of “international tourist”) company and its branches dispersed throughout the 15 soviet republics.


Intourist promotional brochures


In 1992 following independence, Uzbekistan established its own national company, “Uzbektourism” through which it implemented “a unified state policy in sphere of tourism.”

Uzb tourism RUSUzbek Tourism logo main

Uzbek transportation system went through a series of important upgrades in infrastructure of its airports, railroads and roads. In order to develop the tourism and service industry, the companies providing tourist services were granted tax exemptions and other benefits. The “Uzbektourism” developed its own logo and brand.

The company also developed its official website, where currently visitors can search for information in six languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Korean and Russian (Chinese, Italian and Japanese are in progress).

Uzb tourism web ENGL

In 2013 the company created an advertising campaign to attract more tourists from Europe by running special promotional one minute videos about Uzbekistan on Euronews channel.


According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the number of tourists to Uzbekistan has increased from 92,000 in 1995 to almost 2,000,000 in 2014; and it predicts the number of visitors to increase two-fold by 2025. Based on WTTC 2014 country report, “direct contribution” of tourism sector is 0.9% of total GDP, with “total contribution” of 3.0% to the GDP and total contribution of 387,500 jobs (2.6% of total employment). In the WTTC world ranking, Uzbekistan is placed 119 in absolute and 178 in relative GDP contribution out of 184 countries.

Uzbekistan ranking in the WTTC 2014 country report


Uzbekistan is making a steady progress in its tourism industry but remains low in the world ranking. One of the suggestions to attract more visitors would be to introduce visa free regime to its closest neighbors. However, because of security concerns and territorial  border disputes between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, access to roads and railways across borders is not permitted and blocked (even mined) in some areas. The unresolved issues hinder not only the growth of travel and tourism industry and the overall economic development but also the integration efforts in the region leading to isolation and mistrust between the states.


Sources used:

Aleksandra Kim, Analysis and Perspective of Tourism Development in Uzbekistan (May 2014) University of Santiago de Compostela. Retrieved from

Roman Muzalevsky, Border Disputes in the Ferghana Valley Threaten to Undermine Regional Trade and Stability (August 1, 2014). Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 141. Retrieved from

National Company “Uzbektourism”

Postcards from Uzbekistan playlist

World Travel & Tourism Council, Travel and Tourism Economic Impact 2015: Uzbekistan. Retrieved from


East-West Culture and East-West Diplomacy

This week’s blog post has two parts. First one is more personal and related to language and culture, and second one is more connected to this week assignment.


Representatives of different Soviet Union nationalities in the Red Square in Moscow

Growing up in the Soviet Union we took pride in being truly ‘multicultural’ (it is an American term; and I am using it not being able to find a better equivalent).  In my school and among our neighbors and friends we had Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Koreans, Greeks, Chechens, Georgians, Tatars, Armenians, Kalmyks. The common language that everyone used was, of course, Russian. The Soviet propaganda worked very well in “Russification” of the entire USSR.

Vladimir Mayakovski

Vladimir Mayakovski, a Soviet proletariat poet wrote in his poem “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin:”

 “I would have learned Russian just for the fact that Lenin spoke it.”

This quote was used as a great propaganda tool. We were all proud to be able to speak and use the the same language that Lenin spoke and used for writing his books.


Soviet propaganda poster. The text above is a quote from Lenin “We promise to the workers and peasants to do everything for peace and we will.”

Using the periphery and center reference – the farther away people lived from the major cities, they used less Russian and more of their native language; and vice versa. In our family, my parents used Uzbek to converse with neighbors, Kazakh between themselves and Russian with me as we lived in a city. When we visited our relatives in rural areas, we used mostly Kazakh.

The Kazakh culture that my parents grew up in was instilled in our home. The children were taught to respect their elders, and were to address their parents and grandparents using ВЫ – formal (plural) “you” only, even when using Russian language. I could never imagine addressing my parents using ТЫ – an informal “you” as it would be considered a grave insult.

Interestingly enough, my best friend who was Russian, addressed her parents using informal “you” and we had these interesting conversations on how differently we perceived the usage of ВЫ/ТЫ addressing our parents. To her the informal “you” was an expression of closeness and family ties to one’s parents and the usage of formal “you” was an indication of as if being strangers with one’s own parents and therefore, inability to have a special family bond. To me, however, the usage of the formal ‘you’ was an expression of my respect and love for my parents; and it never stood in the way of having close relationship with my grandparents and my parents.

When going to the open air market, “bazar,” my mom often spoke Uzbek, addressing different salespeople as “auntie,” “uncle,” “older brother/older sister,” “younger brother/younger sister” depending on their age. And that is exactly the way Uzbek family members address each other in their own families. I found it fascinating that you could address people you don’t know as if they were your family members. Think about closeness of ties on different levels in a society.

Uzbek tradition of tea drinking with your close neighbors was our family tradition as well. We celebrated big family milestones with our relatives as well as our neighbors.  I consider myself lucky growing up in an environment that was culturally and traditionally family oriented. People were friendly and hospitable because of their culture. And I mistakenly assumed that it was like that in any part of the USSR. However, when I visited Moscow and St. Petersburg in my early 20s, I encountered my first very big cultural shock with the seemingly cold Russian culture. On the brighter side, once you get to know Russian people, they are quite warm and hospitable. But that probably is the same everywhere.

BTW, the term”nationality” in Russia is not the same as it is in English. In America, one’s nationality is determined by citizenship. In Russia, a person’s nationality is different from his/her citizenship. Your nationality can be Ukrainian but you could be a citizen of Georgia. 


To stay on the topic, I am writing on President Karimov’s applauded “multi-vector” diplomacy through which he is successfully able to maintain good relationship with the European Union, the United States (stationing US military base 2001-2005 and currently serving as one of the points in the US and NATO backed Northern Distribution Network), Russia and China (both members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization), maneuvering carefully and always looking out for the Uzbek interests.

(pictures above are Islam Karimov’s meetings with Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, John Kerry, Jose Manuel Barroso)

The EU and the US imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan based on human right abuses (following rejections of their inquiries for independent investigation of Andijon massacre of 2005) but the sanctions were gradually lifted due to the country’s important geostrategical position in the region resulting in better diplomatic relations and outcomes for each actor involved.

Uzbek leader keeps his distance with the immediate neighbors especially Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan due to water, border and interethnic conflicts. However, he does not ignore them and looks for solutions, although indirectly “via multilateral or international engagement” (Karimov keeps bilateral relations with the global partners).

Karimov with Japanese PM Naoto Kan


Uzbekistan also has good relationship with South Korea and Japan. Japan has pursued its own version of “Silk Road Diplomacy” toward Central Asia since 1997, focusing on “education, economic development, political reforms, as well as energy resources.”

Karimov and Akihito
Japanese Emperor Akihito and Islam Karimov













In the words of M K Bhadrakumar, former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan, Karimov’s “multivector diplomacy” allows him to get ‘what he wants out of big powers like the U.S., Russia and China, without giving up its sovereignty in return” and that deserves a proper recognition. However, given the president’s age, what steps are being taken to groom the next person that succeeds him?



Younkyoo Kim, Fabio Indeo, The new great game in Central Asia post 2014: The US “New Silk Road” strategy and Sino-Russian rivalry. Communist and Post-Communist Studies 46 (2013) 275-286.

Umida Hashimova, East-West Diplomacy of the Uzbek President (February 17, 2011). The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 34 Retrieved from

Zabikhulla Saipov, Uzbekistan Seeks to Reinvigorate Its Diplomatic Clout in the Region (December 5, 2014). The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue 217. Retrieved from

Pictures are from various internet sites and used here for non-commercial purposes

Uzbekistan: The Introduction

For centuries, Central Asian region served as an important connecting point between China, India, Persia and Europe for Silk Road travelers. In the 1800s Russia expanded its territory making Central Asia a part of the Tsarist Empire. After the Bolsheviks came to power, Central Asia was made a part of the Soviet Union and was divided into the five “stans:” Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with artificially created borders which to this day still divide the region and contribute to many unresolved problems. After the collapse of the USSR, each of the Stans gained their independence.

central_asia_map uzbek_map

Islam Karimov

Uzbekistan is a double landlocked country in Central Asia with largest population in the region (about 29 million people; 80% of the population are Uzbeks. Other ethnic groups represented are Russian, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Karakalpaks. Main religion in the country is Sunni Muslim).

It is an authoritarian regime ruled by Islam Karimov who has been in power since 1989.

Flag of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a member of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC), Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation Initiative (CAREC), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) among others. Karimov’s concern about country’s security due the growing threat of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and ongoing conflict in Afghanistan led to the closure of some borders with Tajikistan and served as a main reason to join the SCO.

After 9/11, Uzbekistan hosted the U.S. Military Base until 2005 (following the events of Andjijan massacre – video below) and currently plays an important role in NATO run Northern Distribution Network providing access to Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan largest export partners are China, Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan. It has no significant export/import relations with neighboring Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, two of the poorest countries in the region.


Uzbekistan has many ongoing issues with its close neighbors, so called “water wars,” inter-ethnic conflicts, border demarcation disputes. It is also dealing with one of the biggest environmental disasters in the region, the Aral Sea 90% of which has dried up as the water flow from the two main rivers was diverted to irrigate the cotton fields (cotton was and still remains as one of the main export products).

Aral Sea “before and after” pictures

The United Nations Environmental Program has initiated numerous projects to address different issues stemming from the Aral Sea disaster. The United Nations Development Program and the European Union support a number of various initiatives and projects in Uzbekistan related to health, human resources, agriculture, business, education and law.

Uzbekistan’s main areas of concern are human rights issues, corruption, freedom of expression, lack of democratic efforts, to name just a few. Uzbekistan is placed 166 in both, Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (out of 176) and 2015 World Press Freedom (out of 180).

Culture and Traditions

TeaUzbek people are very hospitable. Any visitors coming even for a short visit must have tea – tea pouring is a very important part of the “tea ceremony.” The less tea poured in the tea cup, the more respect is shown to the guest.


Respect for elders/seniors is ingrained from the childhood. It is even reflected in the language. Personal pronoun “you” has two forms, informal – used only for youngsters and close friends; and formal – used for older siblings, parents, educators and elders.

Major life milestones are always celebrated with one’s family, relatives and friends, such as a birth of a child, boy’s circumcision, wedding (which has several steps) and passing.

Uzbek Traditional Dances accompany many of the important events, weddings and many other special ceremonies.

Uzbek Traditional Fabrics,

Icat and Suzani are known worldwide

Uzbek Cuisine

is influenced by China, Persia and Russia


Silk Road Connection

Ancient historic monuments of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are protected by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.


Disclaimer: Pictures posted here are from various internet sites and used here for non-commercial purposes


Video Links:

Uzbekistan’s culture

Uzbek Traditional Dance

Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva – Silk Road

UNDP projects in Uzbekistan

Aral Sea disaster (BBC)

Forced Child labor in cotton fields (CNN)

Uzbek Human Rights Abuse Report (CNN)

The Andijan Massacre of 2005 (trailer)