A recent picket in Moscow was ostensibly about a Soviet war memorial in Tashkent. Some say it was really about a growing distance between Uzbekistan and Russia.by BBC Monitoring 26 January 2010
Reporters Mariya Yanovskaya and Daniil Kislov say that recent protest pickets organized by "pro-Kremlin" Nasi movement near the Uzbek embassy in Moscow over the demolition of a stature to Soviet soldiers in the Uzbek capital is a signal that Russia is displeased with Uzbekistan's foreign policy. It is obvious that the Nashi movement would not have held a picket without the Kremlin's knowledge or even without its tacit support, the reporters say. The protest is a symbolic protest against the symbolic withdrawal of Uzbekistan from the Russian zone of influence, they suggest. The following is an excerpt from a report by Mariya Yanovskaya and Daniil Kislov headlined "Russia: Nashi is holding the fourth picket near the embassy of Uzbekistan; What is the reason for that?" and published by the Russian news agency Fergana.ru website on 23 January; a subheading inserted editorially:-- BBC
On 21 January 2010, the Russian movement Nashi held a picket near the embassy of Uzbekistan in Moscow. The protesters picketed the embassy holding the movement's flags and the placard that run: "Ambassador Nematov, name the date when the monument will be returned".
This number of Nashi protesters gathered near the Uzbek embassy for the first time. Incidentally, as for the number of protesters, the website of the movement said about 40 people came to the picket. However, one can see on the photo that the number of people was smaller. And one of the participants in the picket reported in his blog that the number of protesters was 20.
[Passage omitted: the blogger said that 20 people took part in the action]
The picket was the Nashi movement's fourth action over the demolished monument to the motherland's defender [to Soviet soldiers] in Tashkent. The monument was removed in November 2009 together with other exhibits in the park-museum of the armed forces. There was no immediate official reaction from the Kremlin then. The [Russian] Foreign Ministry kept silent. However, commissar of the pro-Kremlin movement Nashi, Oleg Sokolov, held a solo picket near the building of the Uzbek embassy on 24 November 2009. He held a placard "One Cannot Delete Memory" and made a statement about the position of Nashi, which in particular said: "We will not allow a sacrilegious attitude to our heroic past. As in the case with demolishing Bronze Soldier in Tallinn, we will struggle to the end to defend the memory of heroic deeds of Soviet soldiers. Not a single country in the world should delete truth from the history of the victory over fascism."
[Passage omitted: Uzbek ambassador to Russia Ilhom Nematov made a statement the following day saying to the affect that Uzbekistan cherishes its past because 1.5m people from Uzbekistan took part in the war and that every third of them died in the war. He also reportedly said that the removed monument and exhibits were undergoing restorat ion]
However, on 12 January 2010, a new monument - "Oath of Loyalty to Motherland" - was solemnly unveiled instead of the removed monument in Tashkent. And not a trace remained of the old Soviet monument, of the Glory Alley and of the park that was a favourite place of city residents.
[Passage omitted: on 15 January, the Russian deputy foreign minister, in his telephone conversation with the Uzbek ambassador said that the Russian public was concerned about the demolition of the monument to Soviet soldiers in Tashkent; after that a picket took place near the Uzbek embassy; details of the picket and actions of Russian patriots that followed the event]
MOSCOW IRRITATED BY CHANGES IN UZBEK FOREIGN POLICY
Blast it! Why did only 20 people take part in the picket in Moscow? One can understand when 20 people attend a Health of the Nation non-drinking rally in Astrakhan. But the point is here about a picket in Moscow and near the embassy. It is not serious, one of the activists wrote about his disappointment.
Indeed, it is not serious. But as compared to [the policy of] total support of the Uzbek partner in all fields which had been pursued by Russia up to recent times, the 20 people with flags is a sign of the Kremlin's certain irritation caused by changes in the [foreign] policy of Uzbekistan.
It is obvious to everyone that an event such as a picket by Nashi could not have taken place without the Kremlin administration's knowledge or even without its tacit support. Can this mean that the action of "Nashists" [i.e. members of Nashi movement] is a thermometer that gives us an opportunity to measure the temperature of current relations between Moscow and Tashkent?
It would be strange to suggest that Moscow is dissatisfied with violations of human rights in Uzbekistan as well as displeased with the absence of freedom of faith, speech and gatherings there. This is because the Russian policy concerning observance of such rights (to be more precise, non-observance of them) is very similar to the Uzbek one. It is hardly possible that the Russian leadership does not like that children pick up cotton at plantations in Uzbekistan. Russia buys as much cotton from Uzbekistan as its enterprises can process it...[ellipsis as published] It does not seem either that Moscow intends to insist on restoration of the monument to Motherland's Defender, which was cut to pieces and re-melted a long time ago (everybody knows about this as well). Not wishing to spoil the existing picture of "successful strategic partnership" with Uzbekistan and without making any official statements, the Kremlin, all the same, use marionettes from NGOs, sending its signal via pseud o "activists of civil society".
The protest of Nashi is a symbolic protest against the symbolic withdrawal of Uzbekistan from the Russian zone of influence.
Let us here just recall Uzbekistan's suspension in the EAEC [Eurasian Economic Community], its refusal to take part in the CRRF of CSTO [Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization], its rapprochement with the European Union and its intention to cooperate more actively with the USA. Moscow perceives everything in a Bolshevik way: "Those who are not with us are against us". And that is why, for the time being, it cautiously reminds Tashkent that Russia occupies a serious place on the geopolitical map of the world, and that it is nearby - much closer than Europe.