CSIS: Of Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan – A recent podcast from an American think tank, looking at Mirziyoyev’s reforms since he came to power in 2016. They focus that while the reforms have not transformed the country overnight, they have been significant – especially economic and politically. They look at how Mirziyoyev’s reforms are being balanced with the need to keep the country and existing power structure stable, how these reforms are seen in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing, and how Uzbekistan fits in the current situation with neighbouring countries, especially Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera – Uzbekistan reforms: Activists demand more changes – A bit more colour on reforms in Uzbekistan, reporting by Al Jazeera on both the recent progress (foreign journalists were rarely allowed in before 2016) and on places where reform has stalled or has only been incremental – especially for dissidents. Recent elections have not had genuine opposition parties, and the pandemic has set back much economic growth – so it will be seen in future years if the reforms continue.
Deep Fried: Uzbek Kimchi – A Dubai-based food podcast that goes into the culinary connections between Uzbek and Korean cuisine. They go to local restaurants and compare the Korean and Uzbek versions of kimchi and kuksi (a summertime noodle soup served chilled), and also touch a bit on why there is so much Korean influence on Uzbek cuisine. There is a surprisingly large Korean population in Uzbekistan – many Koreans who fled the Japanese occupation into Russia were resettled by the government to Uzbekistan.
BBC – Uzbekistan: Searching for Googoosha – A slightly breathless BBC investigation from 2014 about Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of then-President Islam Karimov. Karimova has been a fascinating figure – immensely powerful, she controlled huge assets and state companies during her father’s life, was very public on the international NGO scene, but also acquired great wealth through graft and was connected to violent repression of critics. She also had a career as a pop star in Uzbekistan, under the stage name Googoosha. Her star began to dim as international corruption investigations started circling, and as of 2014, she was falling from grace as part of an internal power struggle within her own family and others positioning themselves to succeed the ailing Karimov.
BBC – Unravelling an Uzbek Mystery – If you listen to the above podcast, you’ll want this as a part 2. This episode is from 2016, shortly after Karimov’s death and Mirziyoyev coming into power. Karimova made global headlines at that time – she had disappeared, and rumours circled that she had been killed. The BBC’s Uzbek journalists had made contact with her son, and got the scoop that she was alive, but being held under house arrest. It’s clear that she had lost the succession struggle and the new government needed her out of the public eye.
This was all only five years ago – so where is Gulnara Karimova now? In 2017, Uzbek courts convicted her of corruption, extortion, and money laundering – both due to genuine crimes but also likely as a convenient scapegoat for corruption in the Karimov era. She was sentenced to jail, commuted to house arrest, but in 2019 she was returned to jail – where is where she currently is.
Much was made over her pop career – I’m reasonably sure that this was the music video mentioned in the 2014 podcast.