Following days of uncertainty surrounding the fate of the septuagenarian strongman who ruled Uzbekistan for more than a quarter of a century, the suspense is over: Islam Karimov is dead. Uzbekistan’s government confirmed his death on September 2 after he suffered a stroke in late August.
News of the demise of the 78-year-old president — albeit far from unexpected — sends Uzbekistan into uncharted territory, with rival power groups apparently jostling over the succession. But one thing is clear: for Uzbekistan, the Karimov era is over.
Karimov was born in Samarkand in 1938, at the height of the Stalinist terror, but his childhood is shrouded in mystery. Most reports suggest he grew up in a Soviet orphanage. According to some accounts, it was because he was an illegitimate child of a woman whose husband was in jail, and who placed the child in an institution when the man was released.
The career path that ultimately propelled Islam Karimov to the presidency followed a trajectory typical for an ambitious young Soviet of the era.
To read the full story
Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.