It?s not likely that the current dictator of Uzbekistan will be overthrown by a
popular "flower" revolution, as has recently occurred in several of the former
Soviet Republics, including neighboring Kyrgyzstan. There are two reasons for
this. One, the internal security troops are willing to be ruthless and brutal.
But perhaps more important, there are no sizable dissatisfied minorities which
might serve as the basis for large scale opposition. The population is about 80
percent Uzbek, plus five percent Russians and another five percent Tajiks. The
remaining ten percent are split among five or six other groups. About 90 percent
of the people are Sunni Moslems, with the balance Russian Orthodox.
addition, President Islom Karimov (in power since 1990, when the country was
still part of the Soviet Union) has been particularly careful in distributing
power, and money. The country's most important military and paramilitary forces
are all in the hands of loyal supporters. If one of the President's principal
supporters defected, taking with him his forces, that might make a difference.
But even there, Karimov has protected himself by distributing the security
troops so that no one commander could pull off a coup.
are divided among four agencies:
Interior Ministry. About 13,000 troops,
which are a reserve for riots or uprisings. Most of the Interior Ministry
personnel are police officers (300,000). That?s a lot of cops for a population
of only 26 million, but it shows how the government payroll is used to keep
Karimov in power. A job as a cop is much sought after in a country with high
unemployment and much poverty.
Border Guards. About 10,000 troops, who
guard border crossings, but mostly patrol long, lonely borders. They can be
called in to take care of troublemakers.
Security Service. About 10,000
special agents and other personnel who basically keep an eye on the other three
services, and the security situation inside the country. These guys are the
secret police, many of the senior officials are KGB veterans.
Ministry. About 45,000 troops. Note that less than twenty percent of men under
arms belong to the ?armed forces.?
The Interior Minister has some control
over the Border Guards and Security Service (more or less the heirs to the KGB),
but the heads of these agencies are directly responsible to the president. Thus
it is clear that the main mission of the security forces is to keep Karimov in