I recently travelled to the Uzbek capital Tashkent to research the local music scene, but instead found myself pre-occupied by the omnipresence of the country’s security forces, and the sense of a young country negotiating its identity nearly two decades after gaining independence.
Uzbekistan may have only been independent for 18 years, but they’re keen to show off the country’s accomplishments. When I arrived at the end of the August the country was celebrating 18 years of independence, and in the same week Tashkent had its 2,200 year anniversary. While the Uzbek government styles itself as a modern democracy, in practice it is complicated by Soviet legacies—such as entrenched bureaucratic corruption, nepotism, and personality cults. Iconography of Lenin is now substituted for statues of Amir Temur, otherwise know as Tamerlane the Great, the 14th century conqueror of much of western and central Asia, patron of the arts, and the character (or caricature?) at the heart of the new Uzbek leadership.