Uzbekistan Legalizes the Study of Political Science

President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan has legalized the study of political science. (The Kremlin)

President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan has legalized the study of political science. (The Kremlin)

The study of political science, once coined a Western pseudo-science and subsequently outlawed, has regained legality in Uzbekistan, Reuters reports. While the recent move is limited to one state-run university, it follows other efforts toward modernization and political liberalization amid a regime change.

In 2013, Uzbek universities stopped granting political science degrees, and the subject was banned from curriculum nationwide in 2015. The ban, decreed by then-President Islam Karimov, marked a significant turn in discourse surrounding Uzbek politics, according to the Guardian. Karimov, a Soviet-era authoritarian, had imprisoned political dissidents, rigged elections, and forced millions of civilians to pick cotton for the central government since the Soviet Union’s breakup. Thus, his decision to outlaw political science as a vocation came as no surprise to world leaders.

In a televised announcement, Uzbekistan’s current President Shavka Mirziyoyev instructed government officials to re-launch political science courses. He hopes that courses will provide “systemic research in the area of civil society emergence and development” and inform public policy, according to a report by MSN.

Since Karimov’s death in 2016, Mirziyoyev has enacted social reform, including striking bans on foreign currency and playing billiards. In May 2018, BBC contended that Uzbekistan had “yet to initiate any serious political liberalization,” but credited Mirziyoyev with progressive, anti-isolationist doctrines that have mitigated Uzbekistan’s economic woes. In the context of such slow-paced progress, the return of political science might indicate Mirziyoyev’s openness to more significant change.