CIVILIAN MOVEMENTS AND PARTIES IN UZBEKISTAN: DEVELOPMENT TRENDS AND PROBLEMS
Bakhodir Fakhritdinov, Ph.D. (Philos.), expert at the “S-Monitor” Center (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)
One of the most important conditions in the democratization of any society is the presence and functioning of a pluralistic system of political parties which act as mediators between the people and the state. A political party expresses the interests of certain groups and social strata, unites the most active representatives of society and helps them to achieve their political goals. These goals include forming a political platform and free competing for the electorate’s votes to gain political power by democratic means and implement their program provisions. This particular concept of parties and their place in the political system is the foundation of contemporary political science. The Uzbekistan leadership, which has chosen the path of democratic development, recognizes the need to create a multi-party system. An analysis shows what a difficult and contradictory process this is during the current transition period in our country and identifies the special features inherent in it.
The history of building a multi-party system in Uzbekistan began during the second half of 1988 when political groups and trends began arising in the republic. Then they began to form into movements, unions, and parties under various slogans.
The Birlik movement (1988), the Democratic Movement of Uzbekistan (1989), Turkestan (1989), the Free Youth Movement of Uzbekistan (1989), the Samarkand sociocultural association (1989), the Erk sociopolitical movement (1990), the Tumaris women’s movement (1990), and the Movement for Democratic Reforms in Uzbekistan (1991) constitute far from an exhaustive list of the sociopolitical unions that arose on the wave of glasnost and the transition perestroika period in the U.S.S.R. when social relations in the republic developed during the economic, environmental, and sociodemographic crisis.
The founders of the Birlik (Unity) movement, who are Uzbek writers and scientists, demanded that the state language be Uzbek, and were in favor of resolving environmental problems and eliminating the cotton monopoly trend in agriculture.
The organization’s first founding congress was held on 8 November, 1988. The appearance of a national movement was logical at a time when the fight to retain the country’s national identity and revive the nation was the predominant feature of the historical process.
Since the day the movement’s platform was adopted and its board of directors (consisting of more than 90 people) and Council (the organization’s brain center consisting of 19 people) were elected, Birlik has been rapidly growing. The national movement has attained specific features. In 1989, it held several mass rallies which demanded that Uzbek be made the state language, while at the beginning of the 1990s, a campaign against tyranny over young Uzbek soldiers in the Soviet Army unfolded, and so on. The dynamic revival and development of national dignity, self-awareness, and national psychology gave the movement immense stimulus and strength.
The movement’s program provisions and slogans have inspired if not most, at least many of the republic’s residents by calling for the creation of a law-governed state. In order to realize this humane goal, the movement considered it necessary to introduce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into public life, as well as other international agreements and acts on civil and political rights.
By promoting the creation of a democratic society based on the principles of protecting human rights in light of the breakdown in basic reference points and values in people’s consciousness and behavior, Birlik, in its thrust to gain power, has slowly but surely been going the “Baltic route.” But recognizing that the Communist Party of Uzbekistan is a significant force, the organization’s leaders bided their time with respect to gaining political power. They merely maintained that a “vacuum” had formed between the party apparatus and the people. During this period, the movement saw itself as “filling in this vacant spot” and became a powerful social force, uniting tens of thousands of people (according to its leaders, by the middle of 1990, the movement had approximately 300,000 members). Largely under the influence of Birlik’s demands, which were also put forward at mass rallies, Uzbek was declared the state language. The movement was responsible for putting an end to the service of young Uzbek soldiers in the Soviet Army beyond the boundaries of the republic. Its growing influence in society and its striving to gain political power aroused active opposition in the Uzbekistan leadership.
It should be noted that in 1990-1991, Soviet society was characterized by a clash among various social and political organizations. The question of which route the country would take concerned every Soviet citizen. “There is no way to remain beyond politics and beyond life during great upheavals. We are currently faced with precisely this situation: everyone’s vote, everyone’s will hangs in the balance, where our common future is at stake.”1 These are magnificent words which accurately reflect the state of the mass consciousness “from Moscow to the very peripheries.”
By this time, the region had not yet recovered from the social disasters that shook the Ferghana Valley, Osh, and Uzgen. They were followed by the threat of an escalation in international conflicts, the building and eruption of the irrational fervor caused by the violent acts in the Bukinsk Region, and the highly explosive situation in Akkurgan, Pskent and other population settlements in the Tashkent Region.
Errors in social management, the tardy action of social institutions and political structures, the acute shortage of justice and democracy, and the sense of being humiliated and having no legal rights caused social upheavals which entailed a multitude of human victims. It should be noted that at that time the “national theme” had not been adequately explained. Along with the conceptual provisions which showed that the people’s discontent and rebellions could, according to experts, be used by the command system from the Center as a tool of national instigation and discredit of the positive trends in society’s sociopolitical development, unflattering epithets also appeared with respect to specific nationalities. People began writing about the “national fanaticism” and “blood-thirstiness” of the Uzbeks. For example, well-known political scientist and sociologist Leonid Ionin noted in his article entitled “Apology to Gorbachev:” “The pogroms in Ferghana are an example of the ‘maturity and democratization’ of national self-awareness in the Central Asian republics.”2 These lines not only harbor sarcasm and inappropriate irony, but also a totally unjustified attempt to create an image of aggressive nationalities in the public consciousness.
The opinion of scientists and journalists who frequently provided the national press with “regulated” negative information about criminal facts in ethnic conflicts as typical, that is, supposedly characteristic of a particular national community, has drawn attention to itself. By making isolated facts universal, minorities have been accused of being intolerant, aggressive, nationalistic, chauvinistic, and so on, whereas the misfortune was caused by a paralysis of power, the political demagogy of the local leaders, the thriving of the diehard bureaucracy, etc.
The situation was also complicated by the fact that Uzbeks reaped the fruits of a policy whereby enormous centralized investments were made in the republic’s economy without taking into account its regional features and national interests. Our land became impoverished and the nation’s physical and moral health was undermined. There were breaches everywhere: in the economy and in the social sphere. For example, the research studies conducted by the Sociology Center (Tashkent) in the Tashkent Region at the beginning of 1990 showed that in 60% of the respondents (1,000 people were surveyed) the average monthly income per family member did not exceed 75 rubles, and more than every third citizen lived on the brink of poverty.
The people began losing their trust in the official political structures. Many turned to Birlik in search of justice. The movement sensitively and opportunely perceived the spirit of the people and set itself the task of arousing the consciousness of the Uzbeks and other nationalities of Uzbekistan from its mass indifference and fear of the totalitarian system.
According to its platform, Birlik was a sociopolitical movement of like-minded people which united all citizens under voluntary conditions, regardless of social and national affiliation, people who cared about the future of Uzbekistan, its natural resources, and its spiritual and material values.
It is pertinent to note that singer Dadakhon Khasanov, poet and journalist Mohammed Solikh, cybernetic engineer and Dr. Abdurakhim Pulatov, writer Zakhir Alam, and poet Edgor Obid were the originators of the movement. Among the activators and generators of its ideas were cinematographer Abdulaziz Makhmudov, mathematician Shukhrat Ismatullaev, journalist Anvar Usmanov, poetess Gulchekhra Nurullaeva, patent expert Kakhramon Gulomov, and literary critic Akhmad Agzam. A little later, national poet of Uzbekistan Erkin Vakhidov, biologist academician Bekzhan Tashmukhamedov, well-known writer Adyl Iakubov, and poet Usman Azim joined the movement and played a role in it up to a certain time.
Thus, the leading figures of Birlik were Uzbeks convinced that a mass, genuinely democratic movement could develop exclusively on a national basis by stimulating the indigenous people and mobilizing national self-awareness. It is important to note that support from students and rural residents gave the movement significant strength. Birlik counted on them when establishing strong ties with the dehkan strata of the population. Slogans about national revival found a response in all the social strata, particularly among young people. With respect to the national question, the movement was against great nation chauvinism and for establishing and developing ties with fellow countrymen abroad.
A retrospective view shows that during this period society was reminiscent of a boiler (for want of a better comparison) in which something is boiling, and the fire burns all the hotter. This was fraught with catastrophic social consequences since the movement’s headquarters had no parliamentary democratic work methods. This requires a comprehensive and separate discussion. New civilian movements and political forces which are personified in the form of their leaders usually do not have the slightest idea or any knowledge about the nature of society and man. In reality, the nonsense ingrained as a consequence of victory of the “democratic” forces in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan has shown that the leaders of the mentioned forces brought to life such negative aspects of public consciousness as rebelliousness and faith in the absolute righteousness of man himself. This led to immeasurable suffering and created a threat to the foundations of social existence and human life.
In actual fact, a methodological comment made by Rustem Zhanguzhin with respect to the political elite of so-called national fronts applies in a certain sense to Birlik. “The movements were mostly headed by people without previous experience of public or administrative work. More often than not, they used politically biased poetic metaphors that had nothing in common with reality and were meaningless from the point of view of political science, sociology, or the economy.”3
“Their attempts at a dialog with the powers that be leave much to be desired,” continues Mr. Zhanguzhin, “massive and noisy rallies at which the ruling elite hurled accusations at the people can hardly be considered a proper method.”4
The growing confrontation between the movement’s leaders and the powers that be led to some of Birlik’s loyal members headed by Mohammed Solikh announcing their departure from the organization. They created the Erk Democratic Party, the founding congress of which was held on 27 April 1990. Apparently, this party did not arise as a result of the differences in opinion among the Birlik leaders. It was initiated by the national movement’s attempt to create a structure for ultimately ensuring a successful struggle for political power in the country, whereby no longer under the slogan of national revival, but under the banner of gaining political independence for Uzbekistan. This is also shown by the preparation of the first Declaration of Independence within the party, that is, Erk was the only one to declare a fight for Uzbekistan’s political independence in its platform and emphasize that it was a parliamentary party using political methods. Its main purpose was to create an independent democratic law-governed state. In order to achieve it, Erk, by relying on the will of the people, would try to strengthen its foothold in parliament and the government. But as further development of the political processes in the country proved, its attempt to cooperate with the powers that be was unsuccessful.
Such a feature of the party’s program as the need for self-government of the executive power structures in the cities, regions, settlements, and villages was also worth noting. Erk rejected state regulation of the economy and advocated “shock therapy,” private ownership of the means of production, including land, that is, the foundations of a market economy and a secular democratic state, but at the same time gave religion a major role in reviving morality and the moral-ethic principles of Uzbekistan’s Muslim peoples.
On 3 September, 1991, Erk was registered at the republic’s Ministry of Justice. The prehistory of this fact speaks volumes. During the days of the August coup, the party wanted to hold its third congress. But the republic’s leadership put its convocation on hold. A few days after the coup ended in a fiasco, the Uzbekistan authorities stepped up convocation of the congress (it took place on 25 August, 1991). And a week later, Erk was registered. On 11 November of the same year, the Birlik movement acquired an official status. But after Uzbekistan announced its state independence (31 August, 1991), significant changes took place in the power system which were in no way conducive to the Birlik movement and the Erk party.
Two months passed, and the upper echelons of power headed by Islam Karimov held an extraordinary congress of the Communist Party at which its self-dissolution and the creation of the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDPU) was announced. At this congress, a program document was adopted in which the PDPU declared that it was in favor of “the absolute provision of the right of the sovereign people of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the independent choice of its path of state, legal, economic, cultural, and political development, in favor of full-fledged use of the state language … and of achieving a political and state social structure which guarantees people free choice of their political, economic, and social lifestyle,” and does not permit “...ideological interference in economic and administrative activity.”
In the sphere of economic policy, the PDPU was in favor of introducing market relations without “shock therapy,” of “renting out land or granting life ownership with the right of inheritance,” and put forward the slogan, “a prosperous family means a prosperous state.”
Looking at what has been achieved, it must be admitted that the party has managed to consolidate a large majority of the people, as well as the former party and economic elite, on its platform. It is significant that the communists’ organizational structure and material-technical base has been retained. Their cells still function in essentially all enterprises and institutions. While the PDPU was just forming, it already had 350,000 members. The actions of the Uzbekistan Communist Party (with respect to the history of creation of the People’s Democratic Party) are worthy of careful study as an example of the art of implementing a strategy and tactics of gaining and strengthening power in extreme conditions.
The PDPU seized and reprocessed the entire ideological property of the Birlik national movement, as well as some of the principles and goals of Erk.
In this situation, there was not a political organization in Uzbekistan that could have competed with the PDPU in terms of the discipline of its members, possession of managerial skills, and intellectual potential. It implemented a flexible policy and had an acutely developed sense of the current situation. The PDPU’s incorporation into the makhallia, which is the traditional social institution of community self-government and self-regulation of the development of the social processes of human vital activity, should be considered a truly innovative step in assimilating the social realities under the new political conditions.5
Many phenomena exist for centuries and millenniums in a living society. Makhallia is such a phenomenon in the history of Uzbekistan. It is a kind of microcosm of our society, an institution of community-type self-government. According to the author of this article, the makhallia makes it possible to describe the genotype of society from which modern-day Uzbekistan originated as an ethnocultural and social system. It appears that analyzing the nature of the makhallia and its functional and goal-oriented designation with the aid of certain scientific approaches will make it possible to penetrate to the core of this phenomenon in which specific codes, cultural, intellectual, and behavioral matrices, and lifestyles “function.” That is, the matter concerns a social institution which contains written and unwritten rules of open and latent changes in the life of the people of the East. It is a well-known fact, for example, that the makhallia existed in the distant past in the Middle East and represented the regional division of cities.6
Of course, politicians, in our case the representatives of yesterday’s nomenklatura, have not asked whether the behavior of the people of the East is determined by genetic and historically precedent conditions, or whether it is more likely dictated by the current situation. But it can be maintained that the PDPU has precisely clarified that the makhallia today is a model which takes into account the actual situation in society since it uses group norms as internal regulators of human behavior. The authorities efficiently took advantage of this in a situation where the stabilization-destabilization balance began to waver.
It should also be acknowledged that the party managed to seize the moment when the level of politicization in public consciousness reached the critical mark. And at this point the PDPU used legal and illegal means to halt its further development, which was fraught with chaos, for the political culture of the broad masses (or to be more precise, its absence) aroused justified concern about maintaining peace and stability. It should be noted at this point that the only possible way to retain stability in Uzbekistan was authoritarianism. The lack of any alternative to it as a form of strict administration was dictated primarily by the sociopolitical activity of people within the framework of mass movements which did not have specific programs and appealed to emotions (primarily on national or religious grounds). This situation created conditions for sudden transitions from peaceful social confrontation to outbursts of violence. Here it is appropriate to state the elementary truth that in any society, maintaining some particular order, organization, or administration is pointless without power and legitimate coercion, subordination.7
It is precisely strict control by the state of all the main spheres of civil activity which curbs the fomenting of irascible feelings and excess politicization of the mass consciousness that prevents disastrous elements from being manifested throughout the whole of society.
A significant feature of authoritarian state power in Uzbekistan in 1991-1993 was that it was not entirely identical to the Asian despotism based on extreme clericalism and egocentrism of the provincial elite, although it will begin creeping toward this later. Therefore, it would be impermissible to reflect on the nature of power in Uzbekistan. It is easiest to declare the regime dictatorial and to show that the powers that be are returning to totalitarian forms, tools, and mechanisms of administration when, according to the pertinent expression of K.S. Gadzhiev, the state is almost a system of theocratic administration in which the supreme leader is an ideologue and superior ruler.8
We will repeat that during the first years of independence, the country had to be extracted from a severe and comprehensive crisis, which was possible only by achieving and retaining political stability, gradually eliminating the clannish fellow-countrymen structures which previously became successfully incorporated into the party power mechanisms, and neutralizing the Islamicized mass consciousness.
If we base our considerations on the listed aspects of the state’s everyday life and activity, at this particular time in history, it was precisely the mass consciousness that tried to express the national interest. In this respect, Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences Elgiz Pozdniakov is perfectly justified in writing: “We cannot always understand and comprehend the true reasons for major social movements and changes. They can be economic, political, religious, or national-ethnic, they can be based on, as Lev Gumilev believed, ‘an outburst of passionarity.’ No matter what they are, however, they always erupt in reality in the form of some ideas that unite, rally, and incite large masses of people to action.
“Let me remind you that the state is also the embodiment of two origins: ideas and force. It is only viable in this combination. While the state lives, the idea inherent in it permeates its entire environment, and all the aspects of its everyday life and activity. In turn, an idea which is not supported by the state’s force becomes wishful thinking. It is clear that state (national) interests also always act in the form of a predominating central idea which reflects the interests and demands of a particular state at a particular time in its development and is strengthened by the force it has at its disposal.”9
When developing this thought, the scientist notes in another of his works, “Each state structure is the product and manifestation of the spirit of its people and the degree of development of their consciousness.”10
Our slight detour, or, to be more precise, diversion, from talking about parties to the question of the state was also dictated by the fact that many key positions in the institutions of power and administrative structures (ministries, departments, etc.) are occupied by members of the PDPU. Returning to this party, we will note that it also has serious shortcomings. There is an element of stereotyped thinking, including political, in the deeds, actions, words, and work style of its members. We are talking about typical standards of consciousness with the help of which everything is collated, compared, and classified. Stereotypes exist since they retain their energy and do not require the effort to form ideas (they have been in existence for a long time, and are passed on). A stereotype is that prism, or psychological image, which regulates perception, emotions, and behavior, sifting out what does not belong to the standard of consciousness, and acting as a kind of protector of group values. Apparently, we will not err in maintaining that negative stereotypes in the political thinking of PDPU functionaries have served as a catalyst in raising the fervor around civilian and other movements.
It is not that specific people have made mistakes and hindered the development of positive processes, but it is the system of ties that has developed in society, which the party functionaries carry with them as they go about their business. Pierre Bourdieu’s definition applies perfectly to this type of authorized functionary: “A functionary who is obligated in every way to the apparatus is an apparatus that has become a person...”11
There is no doubt that intellectual skills, conscious interests and unconscious habits do not allow party functionaries to give up the psychology of the nomenklatura, the stereotypes of political thinking, and so on, inherited from the previous social system, which prevent them from actively adapting to the new political conditions and taking a creative approach to problem-solving.
In this respect, it should be noted that probably only during the first decades of the new century will a genuinely national government form in the republic, that is, a new generation of administrators and politicians will grow up who are not burdened with false stereotyped thinking, outmoded views of the world, and the nomenklatura’s work style. Today they are still young, and they do not have the thinking techniques necessary for administrative and political work.
The birth and access to power of a new generation of politicians and administrators can only go hand in hand with actual liberalization of the entire political system and society’s progress toward real institutionalization of democracy, which means with the strengthening of democratic mechanisms. This will create the prerequisites for observing human rights and freedoms in the main spheres of vital activity.
Unfortunately, the amorphous nature of our society’s social structure and the weakness of the middle class are leaving the question of establishing democracy undecided.
The PDPU was unable to work with the opposition, which, due to the efforts of the PDPU’s ideologues and its reliance on the power structures, society began to perceive as the same institution. It was with the help of forceful methods against the opposition that a deadly blow was dealt to the power regime’s image and, of course, primarily to the president’s authority on the international arena.
It turned out that depolitization of the population also has its negative aspect, since it led to apathy and an inert consciousness. A dearth of new ideas is also characteristic of the PDPU, as well as the absence of a precise ideological conception, religious populism, and populism in general. It does not have any feedback from various social strata, and it greatly restricts openness. This shortcoming curbs not only the creative strivings of social groups, but also of each individual person. It prevents people from freely exchanging information and thus having the opportunity to freely express their views, develop their ways of thinking, and search for the truth. There is no doubt that this puts a damper on initiative.
Immediately after declaration of the republic’s independence, social “self-structuring” was observed in society, and the energy generated by inspired hopes spurred the development of new political forces. Corresponding movements, associations and parties were created after various social groups and strata recognized their interests.
For example, historian and professor Faizulla Iskhakov, former administrator Ibraghim Buriev, academician Bekzhan Tashmukhamedov, and military journalist Vladimir Zolotukhin became some of the main organizers of the Democratic Reform Movement, the Social Progress Party, and the United Social Democratic Party. But these structures could not be registered with the republic’s Ministry of Justice, although at one time they prepared and held their plenary sessions and congresses, and gathered the required signatures. For example, there were more than 22,000 people registered as members of the Social Progress Party, and more than 37,000 in the United Social Democratic Party.
By the end of 1991, the Free Dehkan Party (Uzbekiston ozod dehkanlar partiasi) had announced itself, which was created by academician I. Mukhamedzhanov and people’s deputy of the republic S. Umarov. The first meeting of the initiative group was held on 23 November. One of the party’s program provisions was a secular path of state development, but in so doing it called for a revival in religion; and demanded that the Law on Religious Confessions be adopted, which should in particular contain an article “On Segregated Schools for Boys and Girls,” and envisage material support from the state for the building of mosques. In the economic part, “…free dehkans” were in favor of a multi-structural market economy, transfer of land to private ownership, and the elimination of collective and state farms.
In December 1991, the party’s founding congress was held. But the authorities’ reaction to the attempts to create this political formation with a specific social target was negative and harsh. Its registration was blocked, and its activity essentially halted. It is difficult to unequivocally appraise the actions of the authorities, since the appearance and legalization of this party would have immediately raised the question of conducting agricultural reform using radical methods. During this period, popularization trends and confrontation of political forces appeared in the sociopolitical structures, and there was also the threat of a split in the Muslim community.
The PDPU (which had cells in every enterprise and institution, as well in the makhallia) began fighting its political rivals, in particular the leading opposition organizations, Birlik and Erk. According to experts, the very fact of Uzbekistan’s independence led to a radical “shaking” of the entire political process taking shape and to a re-evaluation of certain entities of the political system. Some began to transform their essential nature. Others remained the same, having lost their influence and their foothold on the political arena. Still others, which had not yet acknowledged themselves as an independent political power, aroused the extreme concern of the powers that be.
The chaos that broke out in neighboring Tajikistan provided grounds for the Uzbekistan government to adjust the country’s domestic policy. Its course was expressed a little later in the formulation, “to set straight a hundred trouble-makers for the peace of mind of millions...”
Further events revealed that this price for political stability and establishing elementary public order would not reap any fruits. And experts Alisher Ilkhamov and Igor Pogrebov were right when they warned that stability could not be achieved without ensuring the development of society and all of its institutions. Stability which becomes an end in itself is more akin to lethargy which will sooner or later be interrupted by the thunder of the outside world.12
In order to make an unbiased assessment of the facts that reflect the content of those political events, it would be wise to pay heed to one of their main participants. According to chairman of the Erk party M. Solikh, the breakdown in political forces in the country was as follows.13
“After the August coup of 1991, the Uzbek democrats hoped that after it gained its independence Uzbekistan would become a genuinely democratic state. But after the presidential elections, the republic’s authorities put greater pressure on the opposition, in particular on the Erk (Freedom) party, which nominated its candidate for the presidential post. It was during the presidential campaign that Erk demonstrated its real political power, much to the surprise of the authorities. Only the imperfection of the election mechanism, the advertising of only one candidate on the radio and television, and all manner of falsifications during the voting prevented this party from winning.
“The political and social potential of the Erk party was opportunely noticed by the authorities and ‘assessed’ for what it was worth. Repression began against the members of Erk, an ideological attack was launched which defamed the party as a source of destabilization of society, economic pressure also intensified, and the party’s newspaper literally choked in the censor’s noose.
“At present, the breakdown in political forces in the republic is very ambiguous. We find it hard to call opposition parties Erk and the Birlik (Unity) National Movement leftist forces since we have always associated leftist with the communists. For this same reason, we cannot call the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDPU) and its parallel party Vatan Tarakkieti (Progress of the Homeland) rightist forces. For us these parties are state organizations.
“There is also a third force which has not yet formed as a political party. This is a religious group, the potential of which has unfortunately still not been analyzed by anyone.
“There is no center among these political forces. It may possibly be created among the opposition as a way of uniting all the small groups, including religious.
“The intelligentsia, which supported Erk at the beginning of the party’s activity, continues to support it today. Of course, the information isolation of this party’s supporters, and usurping the press, television and radio could create the impression that this party does not have a social base. However, this base exists, and it is expanding with each passing day. This is promoted not so much by love for this party, as by disillusion in the powers that be who are not fulfilling their promises.
“During the initial period, the Erk party upheld parliamentary methods of political struggle. But the current situation shows that in our day and age an opposition party cannot survive if it completely ignores methods of public pressure on the authorities—meetings, demonstrations, pickets, and so on.
“The Erk party has long actively supported stability in the republic, but it has not received its just deserts for this. On the contrary, the stability achieved in society is evaluated as the exclusive merit of the government, and, as if this were not enough, this stability has begun to serve not the reforms, as the opposition hoped, but is only reinforcing the old procedures and dictatorship of the authorities, and suppressing the economic and political freedom of citizens.
“In the economic sphere, the party’s program primarily sets forth precise priorities—urgent agricultural reform, including the right to private ownership of land, genuine economic freedom, a halt to price liberalization, and conducting it only along with the privatization of state property.”
Mr. Solikh’s view on the breakdown in political forces to a certain extent reflects the alarming state of the political situation in the country. The lack of demand for the political activity of parties, movements and their supporters is leading to political extremism. Moreover, it is thought that disregard for the political status of opposition parties and movements could escalate into acute uncontrollable forms. Our poverty is a factor conducive to this. Common sense and searches for ways to constructively settle political conflicts will inevitably lead to implementation of the idea of a “round table,” which is subversive from the authorities’ point of view, or to the creation of a Mejlis. This would make it possible to avoid the situation developing along confrontational lines and remove the conflict between the authorities and the opposition.
The results of sociological studies conducted recently revealed a tendency toward destabilization of the sociopolitical situation and the confrontational development of political processes. In particular, evaluations of the political situation by the leaders of the PDPU, the Erk party, Birlik, and the Democratic Reform Movement revealed that the republic’s power structures have an inadequate reaction to the striving of the opposition forces for cooperation and compromises.
An attempt to reinforce the executive power structures can be observed in the actions of the country’s leadership. The opposition sees this as a manifestation of totalitarianism or the revival of administrative-command work methods or bureaucratic tyranny. On the one hand, it is obvious that the reforms cannot develop without reinforcing the authority of the executive branches, which should put the corresponding laws into practice. On the other hand, it must be admitted that the opposition is justified in its concern. After all, the key questions of social development—democratization, building a law-governed state, observing human rights—are still at the level of former ideological cliches, slogans, and declarative statements by politicians of their adherence to democracy.
We believe that in retrospect there is no need today for lengthy arguments about whether Mr. Solikh was right or misled. We will note, however, that during this period the Uzbekistan people began acting in a quieter way earlier than the representatives of the “silent” majority of other republics of the former Union, avoiding the simplest passions, infatuations, and phobias.14
The turbulent years of perestroika and the dynamic development of events in the region at the beginning of the 1990s naturally tired people out, and they felt an ever greater yearning for order.
The public opinion poll conducted in 1992 by the Republican Center for Social Research (RCSR) in particular showed the following. To the question of how can normal living conditions be reached, 90.8% of the 1,200 respondents selected by a random national sampling indicated the need to strengthen public order and discipline. There is no doubt that the striving of the absolute majority of Uzbekistan’s citizens for order as a manifestation of the systemic quality in people should be directed along the lines of democratic self-organization and self-regulation of the social system by forming a civil society. In this respect, the statement of outstanding thinker of the 20th century Ludwig Frank comes to mind: “The political rights of the individual are not asserted by an anarchic thrust for freedom, but by that spirit of freedom which is formed by an individual’s moral feeling of dignity and respect for order and other people’s rights.”15
We will take the liberty of “grounding” this profound thought on our sociopolitical situation. Here rhetorical, but in no way futile questions rightfully arise. Were the attempts to create and achieve the real functioning of these parties not the spontaneous manifestation of people’s striving to put the so-called “instinct for power” into practice? Were these parties not a manifestation of civil self-consciousness, the natural desire of people to direct their lives along the lines of democratic self-organization and materialize their hopes for a better life, as well as reinforce their achieved freedom?
But when Uzbekistan’s periodicals publish “profound” information about current political parties and public movements in the context of arguments that supposedly most people not believe in them and in so doing utterly doubt the creative energy of people’s power,16 not only the demagogy of this type of assertion is obvious, but also its falsity is revealed. For it is a well-known fact that the multi-party system that has developed in Uzbekistan is artificial. The Vatan Tarakkieti, Adolat (Justice), and Fidokorlar (The Selfless) parties that arose in 1992, 1995 and 1998 (following the PDPU) do not meet the sociopolitical demands or express interests of very specific social groups of the population.
According to several Uzbek researchers, the program provisions and precepts of these political parties are almost identical, vague, and amorphous, which makes it difficult for citizens to identify themselves with a particular political party. Party activity in reform practice is also unsatisfactory.17 There is no point in expecting that such parties can become the basis for developing political pluralism and expressing different views on the current policy, and economic and social development of the country.
Each party on its own does not express the political interests of specific strata of the population. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to follow the lead of political scientist Igor Korenev, who asks, “...does the system of political parties meet the demands of political interests of various strata of the population?” “Does this system influence political stability?” “Does it correspond to the specific features of the national political mentality?”18
In this respect, the policy declared by the head of state of liberalizing political and economic life requires the presence of a secular and constructive opposition movement as a vital component of political reality.
1 S. Andreev, Odin god iz zhizni strany. Rezultaty i perspektiva, Moscow, 1990, p. 477.
2 L. Ionin, “Apologia Gorbachevu,” Novoe vremia, No. 27, 1990, p. 6.
3 R. Zhanguzhin, “Democratization in Central Asia: Several Comments,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, No. 4, 2000, p. 23.
5 According to the data for 2000, there are approximately 10,000 makhallia in Uzbekistan, in which the absolute majority of the country’s citizens live. Within these communities, the individual is immersed in the social environment which stimulates his adoption of the values, norms, and ways of behavior of the community.
6 See: Nauchnoe i kul’turnoe nasledie—tret’emu tysiacheletiiu. Speech topics at the International Symposium dedicated to the 2500th anniversary of Bukhara and Khiva, Tashkent, 1997, p. 26.
7 See: E.A. Pozdniakov, Filosofia politiki, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1994, p. 77.
8 See: K.S. Gadzhiev, Politicheskaia nauka, International Relations Publishers, Moscow, 1995, p. 216.
9 E.A. Pozdniakov, op. cit., p. 212.
10 E.A. Pozdniakov, Filosofia gosudarstva i politiki, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1995, p. 135.
11 P. Bourdieu, Sotsiologia politiki, Moscow, 1993, p. 287.
12 See: A. Ilkhamov, I. Pogrebov, “Stabil’nost i razvitie kak imperativy vnutrennei politiki,” Perspektiva, Tashkent, June 1992, p. 7.
13 What follows is the brief text of M. Solikh’s interview with sociologist B. Musaev, published on 12 January, 1993 in the Moscow publication Ezhednevnaia glasnost, which is a supplement of Ezhednevnaia gazeta.
14 Iu. Levada writes about quiet behavior as a condition of social stability (see: “Obshchestvennoe mnenie v god krizisnogo pereloma: smeny paradigmy,” Informatsionniy biulleten. Ekonomicheskie i sotsialnye peremeny: monitoring obshchestvennogo mnenia, Moscow, No. 3, May-June 1994, p. 7).
15 L.S. Frank, Dukhovnye osnovy obshchestva, Moscow, 1992, p. 102.
16 See: R.Z. Zhumaev, Politicheskaia sistema Respubliki Uzbekistan: stanovlenie i razvitie, Tashkent, 1996, p. 96.
17 See: B. Ergashev, “The Formation of a Multi-Party System in Uzbekistan: Problems and Prospects,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, No. 6, 2000, p. 57.
18 I. Korenev, “Perspektivy razvitia mnogopartiinosti v Uzbekistane,” Narodnoe slovo, 2 February, 2001.