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  • Rashid

Past in present: Uzbekistan

I gave a guest online lecture for history students at Kansas State University. The focus was on Uzbekistan and its various transitions. While preparing the lecture, I noticed the central theme that resembles the song 'Past in Present' by Feist.

There was so much Soviet in Karimov's rule who hated and criticised the USSR but maintained a one-man rule, obsession with cotton, exit visas, censorship, religious oppression, paranoia towards foreigners, and many other characteristics of the evil empire. Now the 'new' Uzbekistan is also followed by the shadows of both distant and recent past.

We did not record the lecture, but I will elaborate on some points in future posts. What I want to share is the list of questions I received from students prior to the talk. These questions are fascinating and I want to save them for future reference. There are enough topics here for a book or a special issue.

General: USSR and Uzbekistan then and now…

Are there any common misconceptions about the Soviet Union that are untrue based on your experience growing up there?

How much did the Soviet takeover of Uzbekistan impact the culture and the history of Uzbekistan? (Similar: In Uzbekistan, what were the social/community sentiments like in the latter years of the USSR and how did it compare to after the USSR collapsed? How did the culture within Uzbekistan change between those two time periods, if it did at all?)

When the Soviet Union was still around, did Uzbekistan desire autonomy from Russia and the Soviet Union, or at large, were they content?

What was the attitude of Uzbeks after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991? Was it one of enthusiastic liberation, uncertainty, dismay or something in between?

What is the biggest difference between living in Uzbekistan during the USSR and the present day?

Religion, language, and culture

Could you practice religion in the USSR?

Uzbekistan has a very rich religious history. How did that fare during and after Soviet times?

What are the different languages spoken in Uzbekistan? Do many people speak Russian as a result of the Soviet presence in Uzbekistan or Central Asia as a whole?

How would you compare everyday life in Uzbekistan to that in America such as routine and norms? How are Americans and American culture viewed in Uzbekistan?

What is something about Central Asia that you think America should adopt?

Propaganda / Media

How did the state-controlled media of the USSR portray Uzbekistan and its people, and how did this portrayal influence the narratives and identities of Uzbeks during the Soviet era?

As I was looking through the blog, I noticed several videos about Russian propaganda in Central Asia. I was wondering, what exactly is the role of Russian propaganda in these countries, and what purpose does it serve, both now and in the past?

Are there any common pieces of Western propaganda/preconceptions that we may have been exposed to here that you think should be addressed?

Foreign Policy and War

What were the effects of the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979-1989 on Uzbekistan (and other Central Asian countries)?

It has been mentioned that Putin wants to reunite the old Soviet states. You have mentioned in your blog that at some point the tensions in Central Asia are rising due to reasons such as lack of water. Therefore, is there a growing fear that, following the outcome of Ukraine, Russia might turn to Central Asia in order to "save the people" while also reuniting the old Soviet states? To go along with that, should we expect, or not, a Russian invasion into other countries and will they be able to put up the same resistance as Ukraine?

Are there any Central Asian countries that would welcome a stronger Russian presence?

How did the collapse of the Soviet Union shape Uzbekistan’s foreign policy later on?

There have been border issues for a while between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Why did those conflicts start, and did they begin right after the fall of the Soviet Union? What, if anything, is Russia doing to mediate these border conflicts, as all three countries are in the CSTO? Does Uzbekistan as a neighbor of both countries play any role?

Personal experiences

Dr. Rashid, you have a post on your blog about your childhood through the lens of photos. Most of the photos are of you in either military outfits or with soldiers. Obviously, you were young, but did fear ever cross your mind as to why there were always soldiers around? Or why there was so much emphasis on promoting the military? Even looking back now on your childhood, do you recall any moments that you may not have seen as terrifying then, but see in a different way now?

In your blog, you have an exceptional post about your grandmother. Have you ever thought about writing a book about her experiences? While reading through the post I was shocked at how much your grandma had gone through. I personally get more engrossed with a story when they are personal like the one you wrote about your grandma. I really appreciated the in-depth post about her life and the struggles she had to overcome.

What’s it like to experience the collapse of a superpower? How apparent were changes in government structure to you? If something changed, would you feel the effects of that quickly, or would it take some time? What were the kinds of changes you noticed?

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