Two years ago, I spent a few week scratching the surfaces of post-Soviet Central Asian states.
The most populous one, Uzbekistan, came out of the Soviet Union richest, and the most well-equipped country of the region. In the 90s, however, ill-advised forex controls, poor import-substitution policies led to an over-valued currency, and subsequent fall in standard of living.
I’m bringing it up now because Uzbekistan made the news recently, when the government decided those pictures taken by an Uzbek photographer give a negative image of the country.
I’d say those are pretty flattering, no?
Consider Robert Kaplan’s unforgiving portrait of Uzbeks in The End of the Earth:
[T]his generation were proles, without a history of a culture. While in the 1930s, Maclean could write that “life seemed easy” in Samarkand, “and the inhabitants seem to spend most of their time talking and drinking tea,” six decades of communism had taken their toll. Too many young men in the cities of Uzbekistan lived a skid-row version of A Clockwork Orange. Ignorance and alcoholism were partly responsible for a fatalistic public response to President Karimov’s dictatorship.
Attached, some Cole’s notes on those countries, highlighting the differences between countries that are with, and those without resources, following two decades of various attempts at economic development.