Uzbekistan: Poet Speaks Out Against Karimov Cult

Uzbek Poet Jamol Kamolov, who wrote an appeal to the president criticising the burgeoning personality cult devoted to the late leader Islam Karimov. (Photo: Facebook account, Otamurod Rahmon)

One of Uzbekistan’s best-known poets has made a bold statement criticizing what he sees as the creeping post-mortem cult of personality devoted to the late leader, Islam Karimov.

In a Facebook appeal addressed to the new president, Jamol Kamolov dwelled on the recent adoption of an official resolution recognizing Karimov as the founder of the nation who “liberated the motherland from totalitarianism.” 

“For a person who ruled the country for just 25 years and, as you called him, was ‘the builder of the democratic foundations of the state,’ it seems rather excessive to be naming museums, parks, colleges and streets after him, and to be putting up monuments in his honor,” Kamolov wrote.

Kamolov was particularly concerned by proposals to name the airport after Karimov.

“Our state has a millennium of history behind it. On this land we have had many states and rulers. We had the great Amir Timur (Tamerlane). So it is by rights his name that should given to the international airport,” he wrote.

Kamolov, 79, holds the honorific title of People’s Poet of Uzbekistan, which lends his words a certain implied authority, although they clearly go against the official line. His best known works are collected in the the anthologies “Poems” (1982) and “World of Hope” (1988). In addition to writing poetry, Kamolov has also translated numerous foreign classic works of literature, including some by William Shakespeare and Bertolt Brecht, into Uzbek. In 2014, he rendered the Koran into a poeticized Uzbek translation, but that work was not published over objections of the state religious committee.

As exiled Uzbek poet Yadgar Obid told EurasiaNet.org, the practice of installing a post-death cult of personality is a holdover of Soviet custom — most notably Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

"If the lending of Karimov's name to many things, including mosques, provokes irritation with Jamol Kamolov, who himself assisted in bolstering Karimov's power, then it should be noted that this cult of personality will not last very long. We all remember how the name of Usman Yusupov (First Secretary of the Communist Party in the Uzbek SSR during World War II) was also given to collective farms, districts and factories. But this was later all erased,” Obid said.

Karimov is officially said to have died on September 2. His passing gave rise to days of ostentatious and largely state-generated mourning. On January 25, the government adopted a decree on “perpetuating the memory of Islam Karimov” — in essence forming the bureaucratic cornerstone for the personality cult. That document mandated that two higher education institutions in Tashkent, the GM Uzbekistan automobile factory and streets in the capital and regional centers be named after the late leader.

Uzbekistan: Poet Speaks Out Against Karimov Cult

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