Knowledge is power: Uzbekistan lifts ban on political science

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TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbekistan will resume teaching political science this year, according to a presidential decree signaling the return of a subject said to have been decried as pseudoscience by the previous leadership.

Though limited to only one state-run university, the move announced on Thursday highlights the Central Asian nation’s modernization drive after decades of isolation under late president Islam Karimov.

Karimov, a former Soviet apparatchik who had run the resource-rich nation with an iron fist for 27 years until his death in 2016, rejected Western-style political and economic reforms, promoting the idea of a unique “Uzbek model” of development.

In 2013 Uzbek universities stopped teaching political science as a major and in 2015 it was totally eradicated from the curriculum.

No official reasons were given for its removal, but academics who protested against the move said the government had deemed political science a pseudoscience based on teachings alien to Uzbekistan.

Karimov’s successor, former prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has launched a broad reform program and moved to abolish some of his predecessor’s most restrictive and bizarre policies, such as bans on buying foreign currency, painting faces at soccer games and playing billiards and snooker.

In his latest decree, Mirziyoyev instructed the government to renew political science courses to facilitate “systemic research in the area of civil society emergence and development” and other matters to inform state policies.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by David Goodman