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Uzbekistan Modern History

The Soviet sub-republic of Uzbekistan became an independent state when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. In a contentious presidential election that year, former communist leader Islam Karimov won big. He remained the president of Uzbekistan, with far-reaching powers, until his death in 2016. All real opposition was forbidden. Armed Islamist guerrillas began around the turn of the millennium to try to overthrow the regime. In May 2005, the riots culminated as the military opened fire on a crowd in Andizan and many hundreds were killed.

After Islam Karimov declared Uzbekistan independently on August 31, 1991, he allowed the Communist Party to transform the People's Democratic Party with himself as leader. In December of that year, the first direct presidential election, which Karimov won with 86 percent of the vote, was held. The only other candidate who was allowed to stand was the poet Muhammad Solih, leader of the opposition group Freedom.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Uzbekistan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The same day, in a referendum, Karimov's decision to proclaim independence was approved. In 1992, Uzbekistan was given a new constitution which stated that the country is a secular, democratic republic with an elected president (see Political system).

Political oppression

Contemporary History of UzbekistanIn 1992, student ravages broke out in the capital Tashkent, at the same time as several protesters were killed in protest actions against price increases and the government's increasingly tough stance on the opposition. Regime critics were beaten, arrested and brought to trial. The leaders of the two opposition groups Unity and Freedom were abused and forced to flee abroad.

While real regime critics went underground or left the country, new "opposition parties" were formed, which were in fact support parties to the regime. The ruling People's Democratic Party won big in the 1994 elections, but according to foreign observers there were extensive irregularities. A year later, a referendum was held in which 99.6 percent of participants approved that Karimov's tenure be extended to 2000.

Several political prisoners were released in an amnesty in 1996, when other measures were also taken in an attempt to improve the country's reputation in the outside world. Political parties were allowed, provided they did not stand on religious or ethnic grounds. A human rights conference was held the same year in Tashkent, and when Karimov visited the United States, a former refugee prisoner of conscience was given the right to return to Uzbekistan.

But soon the pendulum turned again. In 1997, new riots arose in the Fergana Valley, leading to harsh convictions against Muslim activists. Two years later, at least 15 people were killed in an explosion in Tashkent. The attack was followed by six death sentences and 14 long prison sentences for attempted murder on Karimov. In 1999, the suspected leader of the banned Islamist movement was also arrested the Islamic Liberation Party, which had attracted many unemployed youth in the Fergana Valley.

Islamic guerrilla

In the 1999 parliamentary elections, the People's Democratic Party became the largest again, and in 2000 President Karimov was re-elected for a new five-year term.

The guerrilla group Uzbekistan's Islamic Movement (IMU) made raids from Afghanistan via Tajikistan in 1999 and 2000 into the Fergana Valley with the goal of overthrowing the regime and establishing an Islamic state. The raids created tension throughout the region and in early 2001, Central Asian leaders held a crisis meeting to wage a joint fight against the IMU (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, Uzbekistan was given a key role in the US-led war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Saudi terrorist leader Usama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network had supported the IMU, which had bases inside Afghanistan. Karimov left Uzbek territory for the US-led forces that drove the Taliban regime away.

Massacre in Andizhan

The cooperation with the US strengthened Karimov's position abroad, while at the same time the eyes of the world were directed at the regime's oppression of dissent. It may have contributed to Uzbek policemen being sentenced in 2002 to prison for the death row abuse of prisoners.

That same year, Karimov presented a proposal to extend his own term of office from five to seven years and to extend Parliament to two chambers. The proposal was approved by a large majority in a referendum.

In 2004, Uzbekistan was shaken by a series of blast attacks and firefights that cost around 50 people. Several of the deaths were committed by suicide bombers. An outbreak group from the IMU guerrilla - the Union of Islamist jihad - took on the death. About 20 people were sentenced to prison for up to 18 years for the attacks.

The tense situation in the Fergana Valley culminated in May 2005 when the military opened fire on several thousand protesters in the city of Andizhan. According to the regime, 187 people were killed, but eyewitnesses and human rights groups stated the number of victims to at least 500.

Contested choices

In November 2005, 15 men were sentenced to prison for 14-20 years for participation in the protests in Andizhan. The trials were referred to as judicial proceedings and claims were raised on an international investigation. By the end of the year, over 150 people had been sentenced in partially secretive trials for alleged crimes in connection with the Andizan violence. There were no military or security police among the convicted.

Contrary to the Constitution, President Karimov was re-elected for a third time in December 2007. Parliamentary elections in December 2009 and January 2010 were preceded by human rights groups by new proposals against oppositionists. Assessors considered that the election was used by the regime to give the impression that there was multi-party democracy in Uzbekistan. The OSCE sent only a few election observers, as it considered it pointless to send any large group. Regime-loyal parties won as expected a big victory.

By now, the Karimov family had developed into a political dynasty. A small elite linked to the family decided how power, wealth and business opportunities should be distributed. President's daughter Gulnara Karimova has long appeared as a possible successor to the father.

The fall of the president's daughter

However, Karimova was accused of using the family's power to crush competitors in business. From 2012, she was linked to a series of corruption scandals, including one in which the telecom company TeliaSonera was involved. The companies paid large sums to Karimova and her circle to gain access to the Uzbek market.

In 2013, Karimova fell out of favor and lost her influence. Her TV channels were closed and an investigation into financial crime was launched against her media company. She herself accused the security services chief of wanting to crush her.

In 2014, Karimova was placed under house arrest and a criminal investigation against her was initiated. Several of her closest associates were sentenced to long prison sentences for extensive financial crime. In December 2017, Gulnara Karimova was sentenced to ten years in prison for corruption. The sentence was converted in July 2018 to five years in house arrest, but in March the following year, she was returned to prison after violating the house arrest rules.

A new presidential election was held in March 2015. Since Karimova was out of the game, and no other clear heir to Karimov had appeared, Karimov was once again elected presidential candidate. He was nominated by the Liberal Democratic Party, which gradually took over the role of state-bearing party from the People's Democratic Party. As expected, he won by and large his fourth straight presidential election - completely contrary to the constitution that only allows one re-election.

2005

November

Military agreement with Russia

Uzbekistan signs agreement with Russia on closer military cooperation.

Jail sentences for riots

Fifteen people are sentenced to 14 to 20 years in prison for being behind the riots in Andizan in May of that year. The convictions of the convicted are believed to have been enforced through torture. In the autumn, another 58 people are sentenced to long prison sentences after secret trials.

October

EU sanctions against Uzbekistan

The EU is imposing sanctions on Uzbekistan, including, among other things, arms embargo and a ban on entry into the Union for a series of high-ranking Uzbeks. The sanctions will be phased out gradually in 2008 and 2009.

July

Cooperation agreement with the US is terminated

President Islam Karimov (1991–) terminates the military cooperation agreement with the United States. The US soldiers are forced within six months to leave the military base in Khanabad (Xonobod) which they used for operations into Afghanistan.

May

Hundreds of protesters are shot to death

Andizian prison is stormed by armed men who release all prisoners, including the extremist-accused small businessmen. Regimental-critical demonstrations erupt, and police and military kill an estimated hundreds of protesters as they shoot straight at the crowd.

February

Pointed Islamists in court

A number of small business owners are facing trial in the city of Andizhan (Andijon), accused of membership in Islamist extremist groups.

 
 

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