The Republic wants to have the right to withdraw, but the position is in the way
Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and now also Uzbekistan… Unrest has not subsided since the end of last week in the autonomous Karakalpakstan, which is part of the Uzbek Republic. Thousands of people took to the streets of the region's capital, Nukus, demanding not to deprive them of their sovereign rights. Friday's peaceful rally by Saturday turned into an attempt to seize the authorities, and on Sunday aggressive people from the villages began to move into the center of Karakalpakstan. With the approval of the parliament, President Mirziyoyev introduced a state of emergency and a curfew in the republic. Moreover, the demands of the protesters have already been satisfied, but will this stop those who call people to the streets?
Photo: Frame from video
Since the beginning of the year, the countries of Central Asia, one after another, began to fall out of the long-term “comfort zone”, facing pockets of internal resistance. And although all these conflicts were triggered by internal problems (in Kazakhstan, the reason was the increase in gas prices, in Tajikistan, law enforcement lawlessness), the authorities of these countries assure that there was no external interference.
They are talking about the same thing in Tashkent now. Although the reason for the “outbreak of separatism” is quite transparent: the upcoming changes to the Constitution of the country. In the proposed amendments regarding Karakalpakstan (Articles 70-74), the autonomous status of the republic remains, but the word “sovereign” has disappeared somewhere. In addition, the article was removed, speaking about the possibility of Karakalpakstan to secede from Uzbekistan through a referendum. And although the Karakalpak autonomy has not yet expressed an intention to leave somewhere, but apparently the very sight of the “closed door” caused unrest among the people. Although it is clear that this is only the “tip of the Iceberg”, and the subsidized region has enough reasons for dissatisfaction. This is indirectly confirmed by the fact that President Mirziyoyev, who arrived in the rebellious city of Nukus, seemed to remove all contradictions by evening, saying that the sovereign status of autonomy in the Constitution must be left. However, the rally activity did not subside, on the contrary, people from the region began to pull up …
How the current situation can be resolved, Stanislav Pritchin, an expert from the Center for the Study of Central Asia and the Caucasus of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told MK:
– So far, there are no traces of foreign participation in the events. Here, nevertheless, it seems to me, an internal factor played a role – an underestimation of the socio-economic discontent of the population of the republic. No one has analyzed how important the issue of the autonomous status of Karakalpakstan is for the population and how much it is coordinated with everything else. As it turned out, this issue became a good mobilizing factor, the organizers were able to bring several thousand people to the streets.
– There is a certain inertia of events. It is clear that people were mobilized, they were ready to take to the streets and even clash with law enforcement agencies. Everything is much deeper here. Therefore, the decision of the authorities to abolish these norms can play a role in the long term. But in this particular situation, it's unlikely. Remember, in Kazakhstan in January, gas prices were also immediately reduced, but this did not stop anyone. In fact, the Uzbek authorities are facing a very serious task – not only to quickly stabilize the situation in Karakalpakstan, but also to prevent this spark from spreading to other regions. Probably for the entire presidency of Mirziyoyev, this is the first such serious crisis for him. And his further tenure as president will largely depend on how his team will now cope with this situation.
– On a national scale, this is still a rather “peripheral” issue. Karakalpakstan in terms of area, of course, occupies 37% of the territories of Uzbekistan. But in terms of population, this is less than 6%, 2 million inhabitants, with a total number of citizens of the country of 35 million. In addition, the motive of the protesters is not entirely clear. Because the preservation of the norm on secession from Uzbekistan in the general absence of inclinations towards separatism in the region is a complete formality. There is a mixed population, the region is deserted, has no resources, no water supplies, completely dependent on subsidies from the state. This is not a Kurdistan that can stand on its own. In addition, the republic borders on Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. In fact, she simply has nowhere to go. In my opinion, Uzbekistan now just needs to offer some social programs to the republic in order to stabilize the situation there.