Uzbekistan, Relations with


Uzbekistan, Relations with
   The historical area of Transoxiana, which comprises modern-day Uzbekistan, was adjoined to the Russian Empire in the late 19th century. Portions of the country were annexed outright, while the Khanate of Khiva and the Emirate of Bukhara remained nominally independent under Russian suzerainty. The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was created in 1924 with the dismemberment of Soviet Turkestan; Tajikistan remained an autonomous region within the republic until 1929. With the new borders, the republic became the most urban of Central Asia, possessing the Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Kokand, and Khiva, as well as Tashkent.
   Soviet rule saw significant industrial development, but an overreliance on the cotton monoculture continued from tsarist times. During the 1980s, Moscow purged much of the republican leadership and renewed its anti-Islam campaign, sparking an upsurge in Uzbek nationalism. Ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and ethnic minorities increased during the period, culminating in mass violence against Meskhetian Turks in 1989, a crisis that rocked the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to the core. In the incident’s wake, First Party Secretary Rafik Nishanov was replaced by Islom Karimov, who would steer the country toward independence and win election as its first president in December 1991.
   Karimov’s rule became increasingly authoritarian throughout the 1990s, banning the main opposition party, Birlik (Uzbek: “Unity”), and taking a particularly harsh approach toward political Islamist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb utTahrir. Karimov had a tempestuous relationship with Boris Yeltsin, whom he saw as a threat to Uzbekistan’s rise as a regional power in Central Asia, particularly after 1994. Doubly landlocked, but possessing the region’s largest population and significant deposits of oil and natural gas, Uzbekistan must rely on its neighbors (including the Russian Federation) in order to conduct foreign trade. This situation has created a number of problems in the region, which are often compounded by Tashkent’s proactive “protection” of its co-nationals in neighboring states.
   Although Karimov backed Yeltsin’s 1996 bid for reelection as the lesser of two evils, he also sought to undermine Russian influence in the region (particularly on military cooperation within the Commonwealth of Independent States and in the Tajik Civil War) and courted an alliance with the United States during the late 1990s after the Turkish economic crisis eviscerated the nascent program of panTurkism (Uzbekistan joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] Partnership for Peace program in 1994). Karimov’s strident nationalism and rapid Uzbekification of the public sector and military prompted an exodus of some 2 million ethnic Russians in the wake of independence, further damaging Russo-Uzbek relations. In 1999, Uzbekistan left the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and joined the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, a collection of postSoviet states wishing to distance themselves from Moscow’s embrace. When Vladimir Putin took office, foreign relations between the two countries were at their nadir. However, Tashkent continued to pursue a multivectored foreign policy that included Russia; the republic joined the Shanghai Five in 2001, causing it to be renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Tashkent rapidly expanded cooperation with the United States, including the creation of an air base at KarshiKhanabad (K2) for operations in the Afghan War. However, the partnership with Washington quickly created two problems: the need for democratization and a spike in Islamist ire at the Karimov regime. The U.S.-sanctioned color revolutions in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004) weighed heavily on Karimov, who felt that America might be more of a liability than an asset. On 12 May 2005, a prison break in the Ferghana Valley city of Andijan sparked protests that were brutally repressed by the security forces. The loss of life was roundly condemned by the U.S. and the European Union, while the Russian Federation and China backed Uzbekistan’s actions. At a July meeting of the SCO, the group demanded that a timetable be established for all U.S. soldiers to leave Uzbekistan, which occurred by November.
   In the wake of the Andijan crisis, Tashkent rapidly renewed ties with Moscow. Joint ventures flourished, the Russian language retuned to Uzbek schools, and counterterrorism efforts expanded. On 14 November 2005, the two countries signed a Treaty of Allied Relations providing mutual defense guarantees. In 2006, Uzbekistan rejoined the CTSO and became a member of the Eurasian Economic Community.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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