Dr Shuhrat Baratov's public lecture on Uzbekistan delivered on 16 May 2018 attracted a sizeable audience from the public service, universities and the wider community. His detailed and enlightening account of the unprecedented reforms since the election of Uzbekistan's new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev captivated the audience. The extended Q&A session following the lecture, demonstrated there was a great interest of the audience on the topic.
Dr Baratov outlined the changes President Mirziyoyev has been attempting to implement since his rise to power. The reforms that have been conducted so far include the IMF-backed economic liberalisation, sweeping changes to the ranks of senior bureaucrats, the release of political prisoners, a more lenient approach to the media and reorganisation of the omnipotent secret police. Consideration has also been given to the reform of the education sector and the judiciary system. Under this new leadership, regional relationships have been pursued as Mirziyoyev throws off the isolationism of his predecessor. Broadly, a more outward-looking nation is emerging - one not afraid to seek the advice of NGOs on human rights issues and other difficult reforms.
Dr Baratov noted that the people of Uzbekistan are dazzled by the pace of change and are gladly rallying behind the new reformist leader. Hopeful of a new all-inclusive democratic political system, the Uzbek political groups in exile are expressing their optimism about the new government. Some Western observers have already dubbed the changes as the ‘Uzbek Spring’. Despite the optimism, there are still many indeterminate factors that have yet to be played out such as the role of major powers (mainly, Russia), the long-term arrangements for the succession of the presidency and the ability of the mid-level bureaucrats to keep adapting to the fast pace of change.
Dr Baratov is a Lecturer in Government and Politics, in the Faculty of Government, Business and Law at the University of Canberra, where he teaches Politics and Security in the Asia-Pacific as well as International Relations units. He graduated with a doctorate from CAIS in 2017. He is currently working on a book on the ontological security issues in the Tajik-Uzbek relations (to be published with Palgrave Macmillan).