Uzbekistan: Abnormal Cold, End of “Nirvana” and Genderwise Realpolitik

The abnormally low temperature that lasted in the region for a record-breaking long time seems to have its effect not only on Uzbek-Tajik relations but on the Uzbek blogosphere too — for the past several weeks it was not active at all. However, the topics covered there are still vital and deserve our attention.

Blog Khorezm comments on the climate changes in Uzbekistan and how this beastly cold changed the people’s daily life in Khorezm [ru] , which usually has a very mild weather all year.

As the region's infrastructure is not adapted to such extreme temperatures, the Khorezmians seriously suffered from the energy deficit, insufficient gas supply and heating. Schools were closed, as it was impossible to study at a below-zero temperature. The officials had only one answer to the people's alarmed questions: “we can't do anything, wait until it gets warmer”. Khorezm interviewed several people and learned about their experiences of surviving. Alisher, a young teacher, says:

People of Khorezm were not ready to such weather. During the presidential elections (December 23, 2007), we had gas, electricity and heating at homes. However, right before the New Year it's all suddenly vanished… Rural schools suffered most of all. The temperature inside the buildings was almost the same as outside.

However, not everybody was suffering from the cold weather – some people managed to earn some money on it. Two Uzbek rivers, Amu-Darya and Jeihun, were shackled by ice this winter, thus giving chance to the young people to make a buck by conveying the cargo across the frozen river.

“There are just three men like me on the river, but there are lots of people who want their things to be passed. I carry one sack of flour for 1 thousand sum (appr. 0.85 USD)… Of course, it is hard and not secure to work this way on the ice. But I have no other options. I can’t find a job in winter, and I have to provide my family”, Khorezm quotes the young man's words.

Meanwhile, the capital lives its own life – Registan writes an interesting post about the closure of “Nirvana” chain in Tashkent city. “Nirvana” stores were well-known in the city, because they were selling quality audio-and-video production at low prices. Registan opines that the end of “Nirvana” has nothing to do with the government's fight for copyrights.

While I was in Uzbekistan, “Nirvana” got shut down for a short period of time, and then, as now, many suspected that someone in power was trying to carve out a piece of a profitable business. (Maybe it’s the new deputy foreign minister for cultural affairs this time… This is her kind of business tactic.)

Even more interesting part of this post are comments, where the readers – both from and beyond Uzbekistan – were debating if it is necessary to criticize the Uzbek government and if there is rule of law and human rights in Uzbekistan. At the same time,
the Uzbek Women’s Blog cheerfully writes that for the first time in Uzbekistan the parliament's chamber will be led by a woman [ru]:

On 23 January 2008, a plenary session of the parliament's Legislative chamber took place. According to the results of secret vote, Dilorom Tashmuhamedova [ex-candidate for presidency in the December 2007 elections] was elected speaker of the chamber.

This is quite interesting, because usually presidential candidates competing against Islam Karimov never get promotions after the vote. For the Uzbek government, which is trying very hard to send good signals to the West, it is a step forward.

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