What was supposed to be a gala celebration of Uzbekistan’s 25th anniversary of independence ended up being a crisis-management exercise. Yet the Uzbek leadership’s awkward efforts to project an air of continuity only seems to have heightened the sense of intrigue and mystery gripping the capital Tashkent.
The cause of all the uncertainty, of course, was the absence of President Islam Karimov, who, authorities acknowledged on August 28, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Since then, Uzbek officials and Karimov family members have insisted the president is alive, but no one has produced conclusive evidence to that effect.
Karimov, who came to power during the late Soviet era, is the only leader independent Uzbekistan has ever known. Thus, he was to have played a central role in Independence Day events held on August 31 and September 1. His inability to participate induced authorities to scale back the celebrations.
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