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June 03, 2007
Central Asia: Writing Books Popular With Region's Leaders
by Farangis Najibullah
Karimov is just one Central Asian leader who likes to write (file photo) (epa)
June 2, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- As graduation-exam season approaches in Uzbek universities, books authored by President Islam Karimov are in high demand in libraries and bookstores. That's because Uzbek graduates are required to past tests on the president's books before receiving their diplomas.
A Tashkent librarian, who did not want to give his name, tells RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that at this time of the year, Karimov's books -- including their new CD versions -- are popular with Uzbek students.
"We have electronic versions of the books in 11 volumes," he says. "Mostly students use them. Older customers who ask for those books are usually people who want to do research for their work."
"Less than 6 million copies of Lenin's works were published in Uzbekistan. We have 31 million copies of [Karimov's] books."
Uzbek high-school graduates who want to attend university also have to pass exams about President Karimov's books.
Karimov, who has ruled Uzbekistan since 1989, has authored dozens of books on Uzbekistan's domestic and foreign policies, history, economy, and culture.
In one of his books, "The Uzbek People Will Never Depend On Anyone," Karimov gives his own detailed account of the bloody Andijon events in May 2005.
But Karimov is not the only Central Asian leader who has published numerous books and articles.
In neighboring Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbaev claims authorship of dozens of scientific research papers and a couple of books, such as "The Strategy Of Independence" and "In The Heart Of Eurasia."
In Tajikistan, President Emomali Rahmon has published several books, mostly focusing on the Tajik people's history and their so-called Aryan roots.
After just four months in office, President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov published his first book as Turkmenistan's leader on the health-care system. In it, the former dentist and health minister discusses the past, present, and future of the Turkmen system.
The first Turkmen president, the late Saparmurat Niyazov, published many books, including books on poetry and his all-important "Ruhnama."
Niyazov turned "Ruhnama" into a kind of national Bible and spiritual guidebook for Turkmen, making it an essential part of school and university programs.
But Berdymukhammedov has so far not ordered his new book to be included in school or university curriculums.
However, Turkmen media say Berdymukhammedov's book, "The Scientific Foundations Of The Development Of Health Care In Turkmenistan," will be widely discussed among students and teachers.
During Niyazov's rule, Turkmen officials were required to pass annual tests on "Ruhnama" in order to keep their jobs.
In Tajikistan, most government officials keep President Rahmon's books on the shelves in their offices and even in their homes to show their loyalty to the president.
"However, Tajik officials are not required to actually read the presidential books yet," says Rahmatullo Valiev, the deputy leader of Tajikistan's Democratic Party.
"We have not yet reached the point that every government official is required to own and thoroughly study Emomali Rahmon's books," he notes. Reading the books "is not forced on the people here."
Copies For All
Presidential books in Central Asia are usually printed as a glossy hardback on expensive paper.
Uzbek journalist Abdurakhmon Tashanov says the government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to publish President Karimov's large number of books. Tashanov says Karimov has published more books than Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, whose works were abundantly available in every bookstore and library in the former Soviet Union.
"According to my calculations, if each of Uzbekistan's 27 million citizens got one copy of [a Karimov] book there would still be another 4 million copies left" Tashanov says. "According to the Uzbek Soviet Encyclopedia, less than 6 million copies of Lenin's works were published in Uzbekistan. We have 31 million copies of [Karimov's] books, which is five times more than Lenin's works. It's more copies than [former Soviet leader] Leonid Brezhnev published. These books would fill 123 railway cars."
But no matter what personal opinion Central Asian officials or students have about their presidents' books, statements, and speeches, no one would think of criticizing the books publicly.
People in Central Asia have witnessed many leaders who have turned themselves and their books into national icons. But once the leaders died or disappeared from the political scene, their books seemed to follow them.
(RFE/RL's Uzbek, Turkmen, Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Kazakh services contributed to this report.)
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