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Why I Hold No Grudge Against Late Uzbek Dictator Islam Karimov

As Gaddafi said, “Tyranny of one person is the most miserable tyranny” but “tyranny of the majority is the cruelest.”


This post first appeared on Russia Insider

In May 1997, together with  a group of other National Bolshevik party members heading to Tajikistan from Almaty in Kazakhstan, I had the misfortune to be traveling by train across Uzbekistan.

The last Kazakh frontier guard had instructed us how to behave in Uzbekistan: “Don’t look at their face during the search, look at hands. Don’t contradict, give them everything they want. After coming to power, Karimov ordered police to shoot all criminals, and they did. It’s scary there, bodies are found in ditches. Good luck, hope you’ll be ok”.

<figcaption>President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov</figcaption>
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov

We were detained in Tashkent, where we needed to catch the train to Samarkand. The police locked us up briefly there, and eight more times as we crossed the country. Each time we thought our number was up.  

Today we learn that the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov has died, after ruling Uzbekistan with an iron fist since Soviet times. He doesn’t have a natural successor, and we don’t know who the candidates to succeed him are.  

In any case, I want to talk about Islam Karimov in the context of History,  Central Asia and “Oriental leaders”.

Karimov is the second Central Asian dinosaur who has passed away. The first was the exotic Father of the Turkmen Niyazov who transformed Ashkhabad into a city of gigantic, gold-plated statues of himself. The third great Central-Asian dinosaur, Nursultan Nazarbayev (a former Soviet ‘lord’ like Niyazov and Karimov, who also doesn’t have any successor), is anxiously shifting on his throne.   

Being former Soviet party bosses of their republics, they easily became presidents. But a quarter century passed and they couldn’t prevent the aging process that leads to the end of life's journey.

In terms of  Oriental leaders, Niyazov, Karimov and Nazarbaev are worthy of ranking among leaders like Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein who were tragically killed.

The head of the Turkmen with his freakish exoticism is worthy of Gaddafi – and both were good writers. Gaddafi is not only the author of famous Green Book, he also wrote a storybook, The Village, the Village, the Earth, the Earth. And Saparmurat Niyazov wrote Rukhnama (literally ‘Spirit Book’).  

Like Saddam Hussein, Karimov had a reputation of cruelty. The difference is that Saddam was overthrown by invading Americans, then hung by Iraqis while Karimov had a brain hemorrhage. From the point of view of history, there’s no big difference in their fate.

Observing the countries dictatorially ruled by Gaddafi and Hussein, I came to the conclusion that the chaos that has engulfed both is horrible, and in retrospect, the dictatorships of Qaddafi and Hussein look relatively benign compared to this chaos.  They ruled their respective countries the way they deserved to be controlled: without these Oriental tyrants and dictators they’re a bloody mess, a war of all against all.

The same thing is now being done to Syria. Just look at the ruins in Aleppo that once was a prosperous city.

Considering all this I forgive the regime of Karimov for those eight arrests we experienced in Uzbekistan in 1997. Power requires a bit of cruelty: its lack leads to apocalypse.

Here are several quotes from Gaddafi’s books and short novels. The first foresees his tragic end:

“They plotted against Hannibal by poisoning him. They burnt Savonarola at the stake; they brought their hero, Danton, to the guillotine; they smashed the jaws of Robespierre, the beloved fiancé, they dragged Mussolini's carcass along the streets of Milan, and they spat in Nixon's face as he was forced to leave the White House, where previously he had been ushered in ceremoniously. What terror! Who can talk the unfeeling entity into consciousness?”

This is what tyrants/eastern leaders reflect on at night: “Tyranny of one person is the most miserable type of tyranny, but tyranny of the majority is the cruelest.”

Think about that.  


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