28 september 2020

Central Asia news

Where Uzbekistan is heading or Comments on the state of affairs in Ferghana kishlaks

24.10.2007 11:03 msk

Ferghana.Ru news agency

Ferghana Valley Uzbekistan

More and more letters come from Uzbekistan, and comments on the letters become more and more emotional. This state of affairs is caused by censorship in the Uzbek media. With the presidential election coming forth, the population does not even build vain hopes anymore. Without urging the reader to trust everything revealed by the authors, Ferghana.Ru does publish some of these letters because artless description from an ordinary man is sometimes more eye-catching than anything a professional journalist may come up with.

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Where Uzbekistan is heading or Comments on the state of affairs in Ferghana kishlaks

"A visit to the relatives on the Hait compels me to write this letter. There is no need to specify the kishlak because, I'm sure, the situation there is typical of all others.

First, all kishlaks crumble and actually begin to resemble auls in the steppes while all sorts of wholly unnecessary objects are built in cities. Kishlaks experience chronic problems with drinking water, power, and gas even though media outlets never miss a chance to boast that Uzbekistan is the country with the best gas-distribution system in all of the Commonwealth.

There was a time not long ago when every kishlak had its own club, public baths, library, and building of the local administration. All these buildings are either sold nowadays or else demolished and cannibalized for construction materials. Heaps of rubble mark the places where they stood once.

Mortality is going up, heart attacks being the cause of death more often than not. Suicide rate is increasing. Men with debts and unable to sustain their families take their own lives.

We had interred a family member six months ago. A visit to his grave now was a shock, caused by two rows of fresh graves nearby. How many died over the last six month when the kishlak population itself has never been particularly impressive to begin with... A girl's grave nearby had a plaque on it putting her year of birth at 1985. I asked around to try and find out what had happened. She had been the daughter of the teacher of geography from the local school and died of jaundice because there was absolutely no way for the family to raise the money for medical treatment.

The local mosque is only attended by old men and children. All youths and adults are away, earning the bread in Russia and Kazakhstan.

A neighbor had died of heart attack a short while ago. Working in Kazakhstan since spring, her son does not even know his mother passed away. His own family (wife with little kids) lived on the mother's pension and her death left it with nothing now. The wife's own family wouldn't accept her or even help because they themselves barely manage to make ends meet.

Women work fields, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for 3,000-3,500 sums. Owners of a rice plantation, my relatives hired four women for backbreaking work in the damp fields. I eventually took pity on them and paid them something out of my own pocket. It fomented a minor scandal because others said I was boosting the ante.

These women have little children. The daughter of one, no more than 8 or 9 years herself, approached the mother leading a toddling brother by the hand and asked what she should cook for supper. I was stunned. I asked the woman if the girl could really cook (mind you, absence of gas in the kishlak makes it necessary to cook over open fire). She explained that every kid had his or her chores to do: some tended sheep, others watched over little children, and so on.

These kids do not know what games are. All they know is work. (The woman turned out to have a husband, doing menial labor in Russia.)

Another neighbor, ex-principal of the local school who had studied at the best university in Moscow once, became a laborer at a tile-making factory in Russia.

Not a single relative of mine failed to ask if perhaps I could find him employment in Kazakhstan. Some of these people are pensioners. "But why?" - "What do you mean? Take a look at the prices here in Uzbekistan and then another at our pensions..." Whatever private land plots yield goes to dealers for a song.

I met with an old friend of mine, one involved with a state structure. He told me that warehouses within mills were stuffed with flour to the brim. Ditto warehouses within fat-and-oil factories. Food shortage is maintained artificially. Local authorities and state structures have the order to make it all available for the population closer to the election.

There was a period not long ago when flour in stores was easily available. People never stored it away for fear of rodents. It is different now. Flour is only available for special coupons - 1.5 kg per capita. Bread in the meantime is the principal (and frequently the only) dish in lots of families. Moreover, stores have the lists of people in every particular family - even the people away earning money abroad.

People live without any hope. Lifelessness in every face. Farmers abandon their land plots because of local authorities' tyranny and become menial workers in order to try and pay debts.

Newspapers and TV channels report field mechanization but that's a lie. There is no mechanization at all. Dehkans use horses at best.

Even pensioners pick cotton in order to earn at least something (a kilogram of picked cotton earns one 74 sums nowadays), and so do children - little children, smaller even than the bedsheets they collect cotton into.

"How can you use kids here?" I asked once. The answer was simple. Let the kid collect a single kilogram, and even that will help...

Thank you.