MSU Geographers Assessed Russia's Ties with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

Экспедиция геофака МГУ в Чимганских горах. Фото: Михаил Кулаков

Russian investments are the second most important for Kyrgyzstan (20-25%) and Uzbekistan (15-20%). Both countries at the present stage are distinguished by high rates of economic growth. Close economic and cultural ties with Russia continue to develop, but this is more typical for large industrial and tourist centers, where the Russian-speaking social environment is preserved and knowledge of the Russian language is more in demand for doing business. Such conclusions were reached by the scientists at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University, who, during expeditionary work in January-February 2022, studied 14 cities of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The study was carried out with the grant support of the Russian Geographical Society.

“The main investor for Kyrgyzstan is Canada (40-45%). Its investments are primarily directed towards gold mining. China invests the most in the economy of Uzbekistan, providing 20-25% of the inflow of all funds. China's investments go mainly to the development of infrastructure projects,” said one of the leaders of the expedition, associate professor at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University Alexander Danshin.

During the expedition, the employees and students at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University studied the socio-economic transformations of the republics, as well as the role of Russia and Russian culture in the life of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The route of the expeditionary group began in the second city of Kyrgyzstan in terms of population and economic importance – Osh – and then passed through the largest cities of the Fergana Valley (Andijan, Namangan, Chust, Kokand), industrial centers (Angren, Chirchik), the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, as well as major tourist centers Samarkand and Bukhara.

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Маршрут экспедиции по Киргизии и Узбекистану

The scientists noted that the active growth of the economy of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan leads to an increase in the population of large cities in these countries by 7-10% annually. As a result, the rate of housing commissioning is growing, and the standard of living of the population is rising.

“One can predict the dominance of the industrial production sector in the structure of the GDP in the coming years in Uzbekistan given the high growth rates of housing construction and the modernization of industrial enterprises, as well as the increase in industrial production in the manufacturing industry (especially chemical). The share of industry has increased by 6% over the past five years. Compared to this, the results of the socio-economic development of Kyrgyzstan look somewhat weaker. The period of 2020-2021 had a particularly negative impact, when the recession in the economy amounted to more than 8%. Quarantine measures and the closure of borders have affected the drop in investment and consumption, and as a result, a reduction in cash income and wages. Russia remains an important foreign-economic and foreign-policy partner for the countries of Central Asia. In addition to joint investment projects, cultural and humanitarian ties are being strengthened, in particular in the field of higher education, in the direction of studying the Russian language and spreading it among the younger generation,” stressed the expedition leader, head of the Regional Analysis and Political Geography Laboratory of the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University Maria Goryachko.

One of the most important problems for Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan remains mass migration abroad in search of better paid jobs. These countries traditionally account for about 20% of all the CIS residents arriving in Russia. The pandemic has brought significant changes to migration flows. A significant decline was observed in 2020 – the number of citizens of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan who came to Russia was the lowest in the past ten years. In 2021, this reduction was compensated – 35% more citizens of Uzbekistan crossed the borders of Russia than in 2019.

The composition of migrants has also changed significantly: the share of arrivals from the south of Uzbekistan (Surxondaryo and Qashqadaryo Regions) and the Fergana Valley (Andijan, Namangan and Fergana Regions) has increased fivefold. In these regions, the level of knowledge of the Russian language is lower than in the central part of the country.

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Вид на площадь Регистан в Самарканде. Фото: Кирилл Локтионов

The level of the Russian language proficiency is a separate problem for the peripheral regions of Uzbekistan. It is caused by the mass emigration of the Russian population after the collapse of the USSR and a strong "compression" of the Russian-speaking environment. Currently, many parents send their children to study at Russian-language schools, because the Russian language is perceived as a promising addition for further moving to Russia to study or work.

The problem of staff shortage and adaptation of the methodology of teaching the Russian language is becoming more and more acute. The remaining Soviet specialists are leaving, and teachers from Russia rarely come. The existing joint project "Class!" ("Zўr!") of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Public Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan to attract graduates and teachers of philological faculties of Russian universities to teach Russian at Uzbek schools is only developing, so systematization of education in Russian is necessary.

The results of the research by the geographers at Moscow State University in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan will be included in a popular science publication on the post-Soviet space, which is planned to be prepared in 2022.