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Uzbekistan: Next on the List of Revolutions?

While uprisings across Middle East and North African countries are turning into revolutions, many ponder over the question “who is next”?  What countries or even regions might next be hit by the rebellion wave, if any.

Last month, Alen Mattich at The Wall Street Journal produced and published an index of likely candidates ripe for an upheaval. The ranking is based on three equally-weighed criteria: social disparity; propensity to revolt; and the share that food makes up in a household's total expenditures.

Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. Image by Helene C. Stikkel for US Department of Defense, in public domain.

Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. Image by Helene C. Stikkel for US Department of Defense, in public domain.

According to Mattich, Uzbekistan is in the top 20 along with Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia. The fact that Uzbekistan (with index 76.4) is 15th on the list, while Libya (with 76.9) holds the 13th place, has provoked numerous articles in the local online media and in the blogosphere.

Sobit comments [ru] on the post on Uznews.net (the website is blocked in Uzbekistan and Uzbek citizens access it using through services):

A coup is possible in Uzbekistan, but not a revolution. Islam Karimov [the president of Uzbekistan] is getting older. The security services, army or Mirziyaev [the prime-minister] will lead the coup. And still, a dictatorship will remain in Uzbekistan.

There are some other comments [ru]:

Stig:

I have no idea, who will assume power in Uzbekistan, but I am absolutely sure the SITUATION WILL CHANGE IN JUST ONE (!) DAY.

Rustam

We must be realistic, a coup or revolution will not happen in Uzbekistan. There is no stable government yet in the countries, where revolutions happened.

a

The basis for stability in the Asian societies is a seduction of powerful opponents plus a destruction of weak ones. In such kind of system revolutions are pointless. In other words, why must one spend his energy for revolution, if it is possible to work in tandem? Eventually, it is always easier to buy something than to fight for it.

However, recent steps taken by the Uzbek government have been aimed at strengthening control over the citizens. They show that the authorities feel the danger of possible unrest in Uzbekistan.

Uznews.com reports [ru], that the Uzbek Agency for Communication and Information (UzACI) obliged the mobile operators and Internet Service Providers (ISP) to disconnect users at the first request from the authorities. From now on, mobile operators and ISPs have to report on any mass SMS distribution that has “shady content” and also to disconnect users from the web, if state bodies tell them to do so.

The UzACI have so far refused to confirm or disavow this information. The biggest ISPs in Uzbekistan – Sharq Telecom, Sarkor Telecom and TPS – said they have not received such instructions.

Blogger Grazy-gunner sees these measures as a tool of the government to secure itself against the possible urpisings, but he does not believe that revolution can happen in Uzbekistan. He writes [ru]:

Central Asian people lived in the USSR [Soviet Union] for many years and they forgot Sharia. There is no Islamic fundamentalism – the main weapon of revolutions in the Arab countries. Therefore, regardless of what the West is saying about the similarities, no revolution is expected here.

Referring to this news, Abdilfazal cites Vladimir Zharikhin, Deputy Director of the CIS Institute saying:

[...] there is no need to exaggerate the role of mass media. If revolution is destined to happen then it will happen anyway.

Although there is no Islamic fundamentalism and the role of mass media is not big, one can see many similarities of the political developments in Uzbekistan and in the MENA countries. Dictatorial regimes, corrupted economies, cronyism and absence of freedom of expression are few, but not the only examples.

However, Uzbek citizens are afraid of being shot in case they dare to ask for more freedom. As results of the online survey show [ru], nearly 85 per cent of the population is sure that the president would order to shoot people in case they go onto the streets. This assurance can be explained by the 2005 Andijan massacre, when the president Karimov ordered to shoot at the protesters – including women and children – who had been holding a peaceful rally.

User “a” thinks [ru] that even if revolution happens in Uzbekistan, it would hardly change the people’s life much:

Today the revolution should be arranged in everyone’s life – it’s about education, professional and personal development. Only then one can influence any long-term processes. And social upheavals that involve uneducated masses cannot solve problems. No crutches can help if a person doesn’t want to stand up and go.

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