There is one word on everyone’s lips in Uzbekistan these days: change.
“Things are changing, life is getting better!” enthused Akrom Abdurahimov, a 20-something resident of Tashkent, the capital of this central Asian state.
“Every day you wake up and something is different,” said Nodira Ilhamova, a young professional sipping tea on the terrace of a trendy cafe in the September sunshine.
“We’ve seen so many changes in the country in the past year,” said Pulat Ibrahimov, a middle-aged businessman lunching in a lively restaurant packed with office workers.
There is also one name that keeps recurring: Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the president. Mention him and you’re as likely as not to get a big thumbs-up.
Since Mirziyoyev came to power a year ago following the death of his Soviet-era predecessor Islam Karimov, one of the world’s most severe dictatorships has lightened up - though not enough for true openness (interviewees’ names have still to be changed to protect identities).
Mirziyoyev, a greying 60-year-old who was Karimov’s prime minister for 13 years, is an unlikely poster boy for dynamic transformation, but he has embraced some eye-catching reforms.
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