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Uzbekistan Doesn't Believe In Political Science

  • RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

Uzbek students will no longer have the option of systematically studying political behavior because the discipline "doesn't follow a scientific method," according to the country's Education MInistry. (file photo)

Uzbek students will no longer have the option of systematically studying political behavior because the discipline "doesn't follow a scientific method," according to the country's Education MInistry. (file photo)

Political science is dead in Uzbekistan, branded as an irrelevant, Western import.

The discipline, a social science that entails the systematic study of political behavior, was killed off in late August by order of the Uzbek Education Ministry.

In announcing the elimination of political science from university curriculums, Uzbek education officials said it "doesn’t follow a scientific method" and duplicates several other disciplines such as history, psychology, and sociology.

Ultimately, the ministry determined that "the literature in this field is solely based on Western publications" and doesn't take into account "our own specific model of development, the Uzbek model."

As a result, in its decree published just days before the academic year began, the Education Ministry ordered all political science textbooks and related literature to be removed from university libraries, and the words "Political Science" from course titles.

The ministry said it made the decision on the recommendation of a 12-member working group consisting of Education Ministry officials and university heads.

The move has angered a group of Uzbek political scientists, who have urged authorities to reverse the decision despite the risk of retribution.

Farkhod Tolipov, the head of the Bilim Korvoni (The Caravan of Knowledge) nongovernmental educational group, posted what he said was a copy of an open letter signed by a group of Uzbek political scientists to the Education Ministry.

"Silence is a sign of approval," the title of the letter reads. "We don't agree with the removal of political science in Uzbekistan."

This, a subhead states, is "The Moment of Truth for Uzbek Political Scientists."

The letter begins by casting doubt on the credibility of the working group, which it says consists of "a group of conservative officials most of whom ironically received PhDs in political science."

The letter argues that these same people, who are now "occupying government posts" are questioning the legitimacy of political science "without having conducted any research themselves."

"In fact," the letter added, "by doing so they are calling their own credibility as scientists into question."

The letter disputes the working group's justifications for eliminating political science from the state university curriculum, saying that different scientific fields inevitably duplicate each other to some extent.

"A doctor-general practitioner must have knowledge in fields like cardiology, neurology, and even obstetrics," the letter notes, "while a chemist much have a knowledge of physics, mathematics, and technology, etc."

"It's surprising that one still has to explain this simple truth in the 21st century," the letter states.

As for the idea that political science does not fit the Uzbek model, the letter argues that "there is no exclusively Western or Eastern political science" and notes that materials used in the Uzbek curriculum included works by renowned historic figures such as philosopher Al-Farabi and scholar Nizam al-Mulk, among others.

"Today amid global changes and uncertainties… Uzbekistan needs political science more than ever," it concludes, urging all Uzbek political scientists to support the open letter in "their moment of truth."

Uzbekistan closed down political science departments at universities in 2010, although according to the Education Ministry's working group 131 political science professors were employed in the country.

Without giving any details, the working group notes that 58 of those professors "are close to retirement age."

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service and social media material