Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Islam Karimov
The first lines of today's Guardian story are:
As in life, so in death: Islam Karimov’s regime was one of the world’s most secretive and opaque for a quarter of a century, and now his apparent demise is equally shrouded in mystery.
The first lines of a sidebar story, originally run July 22, announce:
The murky, Shakespearean world of Uzbekistan’s ruling family has never been easy to track from outside. The dictatorship of Islam Karimov, the only president the country has ever had, is second only to North Korea's in the secrecy stakes. But in recent months, the family's extraordinary feuds have begun to seep into the public space.
Reading about Uzbekistan, if these stories are to be credited, is a bit like reading about the politically-ravenous times in Rome when family members prospered and advanced by poisoning their kin. Everybody seems to be after everyone else's hide, but the facts are so tenuous as to make afternoon soap operas look like Ph.D. theses.

I know, I know -- this is not a topic about which anyone is likely to give a shit. I mean.... quick! pick up a world map and put an index finger on Uzbekistan.

The reason the West cares about Uzbekistan seems to be the country's cheek-by-jowl proximity to Afghanistan, the place where America pursues its longest war. The reason I am interested is that it never ceases to amaze me how many things I know nothing or next-to-nothing about.  Do I know more about this country of 31-plus million people because I get some sense of how much less I actually know?

I doubt it. But it may act as a minor encouragement to humility, if such exists.

Still, these are 31 million people who, no doubt, live and love and die and are completely outside my consciousness. How long do I get to claim ignorance as my excuse?

1 comment:

  1. In the 20th century, the probable reason why the West cares at all about Uzbekistan as well as the neighbours are because Adolf Hitler felt that he could get to Afghanistan on Tiger tanks.

    Mention Rome and I remember Hannibal on elephants. Mention Kabul and I remember Americans on Humvees. The next big scale war has to be near Dalian, or at least that's what my Prime Minister seems to suggest when He felt that it's time we consider a non-Chinese presumably a Malay Muslim or Hindu Indian President.

    I know nuts about Uzbekistan, but the Ukraine warfront has been quite a non-event in Singapore as well.

    Islamic State has posed a major threat, yet it does not leave the sort of impression that Somalia and Rwanda did many years ago.