Islam Karimov (Ĭsläm´ kärē´môf) 1938–, Soviet and Uzbekistani political leader, president of Uzbekistan (1991–). He joined the Soviet Communist party in 1964, rose steadily, and became head of the Uzbek SSR party in 1989. He was elected president of an independent Uzbekistan in 1991 and soon led a crackdown against his political opposition, Islamists, and others. His term was extended by referendum in 1995, and he was reelected in 2000. but international groups questioned the fairness of both elections. A 2002 referendum extended his term to 2007, when he was again reelected in an election criticized as undemocratic. One of the most autocratic Central Asian leader, he maintains complete control over the media and has stifled any attempt at criticism of him or his regime.