As I noted in an earlier post — which you should read if you’re interested in Uzbekistan — I have been studying Uzbekistan extensively for over a decade. Islam Karimov, its first and only president, has died. I will likely be writing more about this in the days to come. For now, an excerpt of my op-ed for The New York Times:
Uzbeks who loved Mr. Karimov — and there are many who did — will mourn his passing. Others mourn because they fear for a greater loss of stability in a country already troubled by widespread poverty and a scarcity of gas, food and water. But some Uzbeks have already been mourning for years — for the Uzbekistan that Mr. Karimov never allowed to exist, and for the promises that were never honored in practice.
For 25 years, Uzbeks were told they lived in a “future great state.” That slogan, still ubiquitous, never came with a timeline. Previously, when one would ask Uzbeks when they thought Uzbekistan would change, they would always say, “When Karimov is gone.”
That day, both longed for and dreaded, may be here. What is Uzbekistan without Islam Karimov? For the first time in independent Uzbekistan’s history, the future has arrived.