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Historical Perspective

The area of Uzbekistan goes back many years despite only having become independent in 1991. It is throughout these early, as well as later years, that the current Uzbekistan conflict can be put into perspective historically. The historical perspective of the Uzbekistan conflict is a chief part of the roots of its problems.

Timeline of Significant Historical Events

1924

Uzbekistan becomes a part of the USSR

1950s-80s

Cotton production receives a boost from irrigation projects that eventually dry up the Aral Sea.

Late 1980s

President Mikhail Gorbachev's policy allows for more open freedom of religion; Islam flourishes.

1989

Islam Karimov becomes the leader of the Uzbek Communist Party.

1990

Islam Karimov becomes president when the Communist Party of Uzbekistan claim economic and political command.

1991

Karimov is officially elected as president.

1992

Political parties Birlik, and Erk are banned. Members of opposition groups are arrested and convicted of anti state activities.

1999

Bomb blast in Tashkent leaves a dozen dead. The IMU is blamed.

2000

Karimov re-elected with 91.9% of electoral vote.

During the time of the Soviet Union Uzbekistan became a major cotton producer because of massive irrigation projects that helped contribute to the drying up of the Aral Sea and the disappearance of most of the fertile land in the country. The Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev during this time relaxed curbs on religious practices, which ended up leading to an increase in Islam and a greater sense of ethic pride and history. In 1989 Islam Karimov becomes the leader of the Uzbek Communist Party and attacks take place against Meskhetian Turks and other minorities in the Fergana valley. Shortly after in 1990 the Communist Party of Uzbekistan declares political and economic rule over Uzbekistan and Islam Karimov becomes president.

In 1991 they declare themselves independent with Islam Karimov being officially elected president with few opposition groups allowed to enter candidates. Karimov’s first term was characterized by harassment and repression of independent political parties and in 1995 he outlawed the opposition party Erk, charging them with conspiring to overthrow the government. He also won the general election that year with 99.6% of the electorate, granting hum a five year term, and opposition parties being effectively barred from the 1999 elections.In trying to stomp out opposition, this also included many Muslims in the country. While Gorbachev had curbed religious practice laws, Karimov repressed independent expressions of Islam, or sections of Islam not supported by the state. This intensified in 1997 after two policemen were killed in the Fergana Valley, after which Karimov framed his anti-Muslim efforts as being about fighting terrorism. In 1999 there are a series of bomb blasts in Tashkent that leave over a dozen dead. Karimov blames this blast on the “fanatics” of the IMU and accuses they are trying to kill him and destabilize his country. In 2000 Karimov is reelected, and Human Rights Watch accuses Uzbekistan of the widespread use of torture.

Currently the situation with the Uzbekistani government and independent Muslims continues. The change of power from Soviets to Karimov’s period in office has not changed the style of government, but has changed some of the ways situations are handled. The growth of the Muslim religion all across Central Asia and the Middle East has caused for much alarm for countries such as Uzbekistan, and Uzbekistan is not alone in their goals to stamp out radical Islam around the world.