Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Grandchildren of Aging Post-Soviet Dictators Emerging as a Problem, Kari Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 18 – With the coming to power of the leaders of the post-Soviet space, it was to be expected that their children would emerge as a problem in their own right. Now that so many of the leaders have held power so long, it should come as no surprise that the grandchildren of the rulers are now coming into their own as well.

            In a comment for Radio Liberty, Kuanushbek Kari, a Kazakhstan journalist who has been with that station since 2010, describes how the status of “’grandson of the president’” has emerged” as “the third generation of men in the palaces of Central Asia” (

            Like their parents, the grandchildren of the aging dictators have sometimes gotten involved in scandals and sometimes been the subject of ridicule and anger from populations who resent the extension of privilege down another generation. In 2005, in fact, Kyrgyz anger about this helped trigger the so-called “tulip revolution.”

            More recently a scandal has arisen in Turkmenistan because claims by the ruler that he and his grandson wrote the lyrics to a song were shown to be fraudulent and that the words they supposedly came up with had already been widely used in a Soviet-era song, Kari continues. The son of Tajikistan’s dictator has also landed into difficulties on occasion.

            But Emolmali Rakhmon’s grandson, the offspring of his eldest daughter, is increasingly mentioned in the press in connection with his driving cars beyond the speed limit and without punishment and taking safaris in African countries and expensive vacations in Arab countries. Supposedly, the Dushanbe media say, he compensates by giving to the country’s poor.

            In both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, several of the third generation have been named in honor of the first. The second son of Rustam is called Emomali, and the son of the daughter of Uzbekistan leader Shavkat Mirziyayeva bears the name Shavkat. The grandson of Islam Karimov asked for asylum in London before supposedly killing himself.

            Some have doubts about that, and a British coroner says he died of a cocaine overdose. But Aysultan had become notorious and much hated by his family, the rulers, for his open criticism of their rule.

            According to Kari, “the countries of Central Asia usually try not to publish information about the families of leaders. But the longer the authoritarian rulers remain in power, the more often their families,” children and now grandchildren, “are attracting attention” even in the media of their own countries.

            Kazbek Beysebayev, a Kazakh political scientist, says that it isn’t quite clear what the leaders intend by talking more about their children and grandchildren. If this is about laying the groundwork for a family dynasty, that shows the leaders have not paid attention to history because such arrangements won’t lead to any good.

            The Central Asian “presidents,” he says, “who often appear in public with their grandsons or bring into power members of their family, should take the people into consideration” and at least show “respect” for its position rather than acting as if the current powers that be can do anything they want.

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