Jun 25, 2009

20 years just FLEW by, didn't they?

I can't believe we missed this, but it turns out this month marks the 20th anniversary of Islam Karimov's selection as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic AND Nursultan Nazarbaev's election into the Kazakh presidency.

What have these Central Asian iron rulers accomplished in 20 years? RFE/RL tells us some tidbits.

Karimov AKA "Big Papa"
- Under his rule, Uzbekistan has emerged as the region's dominant military power.
- "If you don't have the will, give me a gun and I will shoot them in the head myself," he once famously announced to lawmakers, exhorting them to crack down on Islamic extremists.
- Early on, Karimov showed a fondness for overriding constitutional restraints in order to clean house, sacking a member of Uzbekistan's Soviet-era parliament after the country gained independence.
- And something about Andijan...you may have heard about it a massacre or something

- Before his rise to power, Nazarbaev had been a vocal critic of extended political terms, saying no leader should be allowed to stay in office for a long period of time. (a long period of time would be 80 years or so)
- Nazarbaev's critics say his political immortality has created a crisis of widespread corruption, nepotism, and suppression of the opponents in the media and political spheres.
- A number of journalists and high-profile opposition leaders have been arrested, beaten, and killed under Nazarbaev's rule.
- Still, Kazakhstan is undeniably the most prosperous and stable country in Central Asia, and has become so under Nazarbaev's rule. (so that makes eveything else okay?)

Congratulations, men!

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