Tashkent is an old Soviet city with a Red Square of it’s own.  People only drive white cars, and policemen (stationed every 10 meters) won’t allow you to take their picture nor that of government buildings, check posts, or rivers.  Every person looks exhausted as if they just finished a marathon and came in last place.  Uzbekistan sounds as exotic as Nepal sounds plain.  Yet Nepal has no separation between new Business centers and hundred year old Ashrams, everyone (rickshaw, scabrous dogs, travel agencies, and fruit vendors) melt together: it’s exciting, colorful, and vibrant.  While Russia tightly controlled the economy of Tashkent and rebuilt the streets to model Europe, Nepal’s economy is at a standstill due to the lack of any government action, and the streets are littered with every colored fabric, pot holes, and vegetables.  Tashkent is clean, and Nepal is dirty. It’s unfair to compare a city to a country, but I’m not sure what comparison is ever really fair.

In Tashkent, people are friendly, and women are free to marry whomsoever as well as work wherever.  While Britain’s occupation of India was brutal, Russia’s occupation of Uzbekistan allowed for restoration of ancient places and was joyful to the extent that Uzbeks willingly sent men to fight for Russia during WW2 and call it the “patriotic war.”1  The difference was of course Britain never meant to stay while Russia wanted to integrate Uzbekis and sent many tradesmen and craftsmen to help the Uzbek economy grow.  Today, 30-40% of the population in Tashkent have Russian heritage and consider themselves Uzbeki (unlike Britain, many Russians stayed after Uzbekistan gained autonomy).  There is no typical look for Uzbekis because they can have Russian, Chinese, or Middle Eastern roots, and everyone will consider them a countryman.

1 The restoration is poorly done in parts and definitely not as good as the original whether that is the fault of the Russian’s or just do to the time period, I can’t say.  Also, the willingness expressed to me was by a Russian guide thus I can’t even be sure of that.


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