Why is Uzbek public opinion pro-Russian?
There is a considerable level of public support in Uzbekistan for Russia’s war on Ukraine because of the large scale of labour migration to Russia and the domination of Russian media in the country, an Uzbek expert has said.
A public survey has shown that at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 69 percent of Uzbeks were on Russia’s side.
Later support for Russia’s war dropped to 63 percent, but it was still “one of the highest in the world”, economist Yuliy Yusupov said at a Central Asian Think Tanks Forum in Astana on Thursday.
Yusupov said more independent surveys were needed to have an accurate picture, but “according to my observations, the figure is close to the reality”.
Yusupov said one of the reasons behind the “terribly” high level of support for Russia is the large number of Uzbek labour migrants in Russia, who tend “to respect and love the country where they can earn a living”.
He said another reason was the falling education standards in Uzbekistan.
“Hence the ignorance about economic and political issues, and belief in various bigoted ideas and conspiracies.”
Another serious reason is the domination of the Russian media and lack of alternative sources of information.
Yusupov said Uzbekistan’s population was “brainwashed on an unprecedented and massive scale” by Russia’s official propaganda.
“A considerable majority of the population use Russian television as the main, and sometimes, only sources of information on all important issues. This zombification has been going on for over 20 years,” he said.
“The zombie-propaganda has found good fertile ground among those nostalgic for the USSR. There are many such people in the country because of low living standards.
“The old Soviet and new pro-Putin propaganda use similar narratives, particularly concerning antagonism towards the West, capitalism and democracy. Some see Putin as a leader able to restore their beloved Union and whose ‘strong hand’ can restore order,” he said.
Another factor is the strengthening of conservative Islamic views in Uzbek society, Yusupov said.
Such views are also critical of the West and the perceived suppression of the Muslims by the US. For those holding such views, Putin is an ally in fighting the West, he said.
Yusupov added that this general anti-Western and pro-Russian mindset in Uzbekistan is also one of the reasons why the country cannot move forward with “vitally important economic and political reforms”.
“It is impossible to create a market economy and a democratic system in a country where most people believe that competition, free trade, democracy and division of power are American inventions designed exclusively to get hold of our resources and turn us into slaves,” he said.
The Uzbek government has not officially supported Russia’s war on Ukraine, and has said that it respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It has also warned its citizens against signing up to fight in Ukraine.