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Getting Uzbekistan Wrong

Two powerful trends cross paths in the Ferghana Valley.

2:25 PM, May 16, 2005 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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The bottom line in Uzbekistan is simple and obvious. The people of the Ferghana Valley have Kyrgyzstan next door, just as Wahhabi-ruled Saudi Arabia has newly liberated Iraq next door, and just as 25 years ago, the Soviet Union had Poland next door. Uzbekistan is the most populous and developed of the former-Soviet Central Asian republics. Of all these states, it has the most in common with Ukraine and Georgia, even more than Kyrgyzstan had. The appeal of radical Islam in Uzbekistan is highly overrated; the resentment of local bazaar merchants against unjust taxation and other abuses in the Ferghana Valley is not. It's time for the Uzbeks to definitively join the democracy movement and leave the Soviet era, with its bloodshed and lies, behind.

Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.