There is talk afoot that Uzbekistan is planning to rename a town near Samarkand in a tribute to the late President Islam Karimov in what would mark another progression in the leader’s post-death cult of personality.
Russian news agency Sputnik reported that rumors began circulating widely last week among resident of Kattakurgan, some 70 kilometers west of Samarkand, that their hometown of 100,000 people is set to get the name Islamabad.
Kattakurgan is best known in Uzbekistan for being the source of particularly prized Kishmish raisins and the site of an important reservoir.
Yulduz, a 50-year old resident of Kattakurgan, said that information about proposals to rename Kattakurgan in honor of Karimov first surfaced a few weeks ago.
“They are building roads and demolishing dilapidated houses and office buildings along the main road. The theater is being remodeled. A month ago, they fired the head of the city administration and he was replaced by the former mayor of a district of Samarkand,” Yulduz told EurasiaNet.org.
The re-designation of Kattakurgan, if it really happens, would come not a moment too soon. Only one factory there — a fat and oil processing plant — is still running. The cotton refinery, livestock breeding complex, meat and dairy processing plant and brick factory long ago closed shop.
“Unemployment levels are very high and young people go for work to Russia and Kazakhstan. What is more, the city suffers from chronic gas and power shortages,” one local journalist told EurasiaNet.org on condition of anonymity.
A deputy with the local council, who also asked not to be named, said there were representatives of the central bank in town handling the distribution of funds for reconstruction of the city.
“Acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev himself is controlling all the work and he has given instructions to resurrect industry in Kattakurgan,” the deputy said.
Yulduz said all these developments have been greeted with elation by local residents. Most importantly, nobody would ever think to cut off gas and electricity supplies to a town named after Karimov, she said.
Kattakurgan appears to have been chosen as it is the second town in size to Samarkand in that region and it already enjoys something of a historic status for its associations with ancient Silk Road.
If authorities do opt for Islamabad as a name for the town, as is being speculated, it would of course become the second such place to appear on world maps — the other being the capital of Pakistan.
Although Karimov notably eschewed any cult of personality during his lifetime, the elite now taking hold in Uzbekistan appear intent on creating one after death. Still, authorities have been beaten to the punch by foreign government in the renaming stakes. A small square in Moscow was renamed after Karimov last week on the decision of city authorities, who said they were acting at the urging of numerous petitioners from Russia and Uzbekistan.