Friday, November 17, 2023

Ethnic Uzbeks Leaving Turkmenistan for Uzbekistan Despite Ashgabat’s Efforts to Stop Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 15 – All of the post-Soviet states – except the Russian Federation – are becoming more ethnically homogeneous in large measure because their co-nationals who have been living in other countries move to countries where they are part of the majority titular nationality.

            Sometimes the countries where they resided are happy to see them go because their leaders welcome the increasing ethnic homogeneity their departure makes possible, but sometimes these governments try to hold them in place because of the skills members of these ethnic minorities have or the regions where they have formed large communities.

            Central Asia is Exhibit A for this process with various groups leaving one country for another because of violence or discrimination and restricted in their movement by governments loathe to open the door to economic problems or instability. For all but Turkmenistan, these processes have been well-documented.

            Now, ethnic Uzbeks from the Lebap velayat of Turkmenistan are moving to Uzbekistan, despite efforts by Asghabat to hold them – and even threats by the government to list them as being banned from departing if they continue to try to leave (

            Ethnic Uzbeks form less than five percent of Turkmenistan’s population – that country does not publish detailed statistics on demography -- and it is uncertain how many of them want to leave or are being restricted from doing so. But this rare report suggests at least a portion of them are feeling the same pushes and pulls ethnic minorities in other Central Asian countries are.

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