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Uzbeks Rewrite History

The Uzbek authorities are rewriting the history of their country's relations with the Russians to such an extent that independent scholars fear it may undermine ties between the two countries.

Uzbek president Islam Karimov told parliament in August that "the shadow of the USSR", which continued to weigh down on parts of Uzbek society, was a major reason for its problems. He hailed the new generation growing up free of "the totalitarian heritage" of the Soviet Union.

"Having visited one of the schools, I asked adolescents, if they knew who was Brezhnev? They answered, 'No, we don't'. Then I asked them, 'Who is Gorbachev?' They again said that they didn't know. And I told them that they are doing great," Karimov told parliament.

The Uzbek authorities are right about one thing. The legacy of Russian and Soviet rule is holding Uzbekistan back. An economy based on cotton monoculture, abysmal health standards in Karakalpakistan (the region near the Aral Sea), state control of farming, and an authoritarian government made up of ex-Soviet cronies are all crippling the nation. It would seem like the solution would be things like economic reform and democratization. But clearly, blaming the Russians and ignoring their past is the way to go.


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