Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev speaks during a press conference with Kyrgyzstan's President following their meeting at the Ala-Archa state residence in Bishkek on September 5, 2017. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is on an official visit to Kyrgyzstan. / AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO (Photo credit should read VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)
(VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)
The countries of Central Asia are not known for rapid change or substantial reform, but Uzbekistan is experiencing both. Until his sudden death from a brain aneurism in 2016, Uzbekistan had been ruled through a centralized government headed by Islam Karimov, president since the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Under Karimov, Uzbekistan was highly isolationist, eschewing strategic alignments with foreign powers and engaging in bitter disputes with its Central Asian neighbors over border demarcation and water rights. A pervasive security apparatus controlled the country domestically, while the economic and monetary systems were tightly regulated and largely closed to foreign investment.
Karimov's death triggered a long-planned and well-orchestrated transition of power to Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who had served as prime minister for 13 years before his ascension. Mirziyoyev took over as acting president Sept. 8, 2016, then formalized his role through a presidential election in December in which he...