Central Asia: Aspects of Transition

By Tom Everett-Heath | Go to book overview

11

THE UZBEK MAHALLA

Between state and society

Elise Massicard and Tommaso Trevisani


Uzbekistan since independence

There is a temptation to exaggerate the extent of the structural changes that occurred in Uzbekistan after independence in 1991. The dissociation of Uzbekistan from the Soviet Union, often over-emphasised by politicians as ‘an epochal’ event, has in fact induced relatively few changes in the state apparatus. The evident survival of political élites, established and consolidated before independence, has meant that Uzbekistan’s turning point has been characterised by an astonishing degree of continuity with the former Soviet period. In view of this marked continuity, it is hardly surprising that political practices current in Soviet times have survived. Regardless of whether this political élite, which grew up within the Soviet system, wishes now to reconsider this tradition or not, pressing domestic issues are likely to force the agenda.

All states born and nurtured by the Soviet system have been forced to reexamine their orientation and their political structure: Uzbekistan is no exception. Founded and shaped by the Soviet regime in 1924, the Uzbek Republic was, until 1991, characterised by the Soviet political structure and Marxist-Leninist doctrine. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which catapulted Uzbekistan into independence, ripped away many of the pillars propping up the state. In such a context, the search for new supports was inevitably launched within Uzbek culture and traditions. The ‘Mahalla’ is just such a tradition. But the increasing importance of the Mahalla it is not merely a question of ideological surrogacy; this institution conceals an entire political programme.

Despite the apparent conflict between local and national constructs, the youth and immaturity of the political structure in Uzbekistan lends itself to the adoption on a national scale of sub-national forms of identity construction. Since independence, a pre-existing form of local neighbourhood community has become increasingly important in Uzbekistan. The concept of the Mahalla has captured the attention of President Karimov, and it has been expanded to assume national proportions.

This newly awakened state interest in the tradition of the Mahalla must be viewed as an indicator of the transformations characterising the post-Soviet

-205-

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Central Asia: Aspects of Transition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Turkfront 5
  • 2 - The Kokand Autonomy, 1917-18 30
  • Notes 44
  • 3 - Ethno-Territorial Claims in the Ferghana Valley During the Process of National Delimitation, 1924-7 45
  • 4 - Land and Water ‘reform’ in the 1920s 57
  • 5 - Nation Building in Turkey and Uzbekistan 80
  • 6 - Nation Building and Identity in the Kyrgyz Republic 106
  • 7 - The Use of History 132
  • 8 - Soviet Development in Central Asia 146
  • 9 - Environmental Issues in Central Asia 167
  • 11 - The Uzbek Mahalla 205
  • Notes 217
  • 12 - ‘Fundamentalism’ in Central Asia 219
  • Notes 240
  • 13 - Water 244
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 283
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