IBRAHIM ISKANDEROV's office as the vice president of the Uzbek
Academy of Sciences is decorated in the style of a successful
Communist official. Brocade drapes hang in the picture windows. A
long dark hardwood conference table stands to one side. A dozen
telephones crowd alongside his broad desk.
Above the desk, an oil portrait of Vladimir Lenin fills an entire
wall. The former head of the state planning agency and ex-deputy
premier of Uzbekistan peppers his conversation with references to
Karl Marx's "Das Kapital."
But Mr. Iskanderov uses Marxism to make an argument no Uzbek
Communist would even have whispered to his closest friends a few
years ago. Uzbekistan suffers from a "colonial relationship" with
the Soviet Union, he says. According to Marx's labor theory of
value, he carefully explains, Uzbek cotton is sold for a mere fifth
of its worth.
"We have remained a source of raw materials," Iskanderov says.
"Today 90 percent of our cotton is exported to the center and the
profit stays in the center."
New type of party emerges
Iskanderov is no dissident. He faithfully reflects the views of
Islam Karimov, who became Uzbekistan's party boss in June 1989 and
then republican president in March 1990. The former economic planner
represents a new brand of Communist in this stronghold of party
power - the "national Communist."
Here and in other parts of the Soviet Union, Communists are
finding that to survive they must shed the rhetoric of "proletarian
internationalism" and embrace the cause of nationalism. In the
Baltic republics, not unlike in Eastern Europe, the national
Communists have formally broken from the Soviet Communist Party,
even adopting a new identity as social democrats. Others, such as
Uzbekistan's Mr. Karimov or the Ukraine's Leonid Kravchuk, have more
cautiously endorsed the ideas of nationalist movements while
avoiding an open split with Moscow.
The nationalist cause was first championed in Uzbekistan by
Birlik ("Unity"), an anticommunist movement for democratization
founded in November 1988. Birlik advocated a broad program,
including democratization, providing land to peasants, ending
military service outside the republic, and solving severe ecological
problems. But it hit hardest by exposing the systematic distortion
of the Uzbek economy through the cotton monoculture.
Until recently, about 90 percent of Uzbek farmland was devoted to
cotton cultivation. Under the Soviet central planning system, cheap
raw cotton is shipped to mills in other republics, forcing
Uzbekistan to buy clothing from outside at greater cost.
"They were telling us that the motherland should be
self-sufficient in cotton," recalls Academician Tashmukhammedov, the
director of the Institute of Plant Physiology and a Birlik leader.
"But we lost bread and meat independence."
With a touch of bitterness, Birlik leaders say Karimov has
snatched many of their ideas. Karimov has opened the door to greater
private use of land, on a lease basis. Most important, he has
reduced cotton cultivation by about 20 percent in the last two years
and got Moscow to pay a higher price for it. And among republican
leaders, Karimov has emerged as one of the most forceful advocates
of republican control over resources and internal affairs, within a
Yet Karimov's role divides the ranks of the democratic and
nationalist movement. Some democrats say he is a Communist wolf in
nationalist clothing, one who suppresses the democratic movement to
retain a Communist monopoly of power.
"Karimov is a Stalinist," the bearded Birlik co-chairman Abdur
Makat Pulatov says angrily, replying in part to the less harsh views
of his colleagues in the poster-festooned Birlik headquarters. …