What Uzbeks look like


Family and relatives: Meeting a Uzbek always quickly means getting to know his family. From an Uzbek perspective, having no family seems either unthinkable or a particular misfortune. The family is a socially highly respected value in Uzbek society. However, the high status of the family among Uzbeks should not be romanticized, which they themselves often do with Western foreigners: The individual is indeed made by his / her grandfather / family downright "enslaved" and is therefore hardly capable of independent, individualized action. Most of the vital decisions are made against the background of the family. This, too, should not be understood in an essentialist way; there are social reasons for this. For after the disappearance of the institutions of social welfare developed during the Soviet era and as a result of severe impoverishment after the country's independence, the family has inevitably become the only survival institution for many people.

Being related creates a kind of "trust" among individuals. It forms a means of legitimizing social relationships and determines the direction of the individual's life path (place of residence, choice of allies or friends). When two Uzbeks meet, the first time they will try to find out whether they have no common ancestors or will look for some other connection between them. If it is impossible to establish a family relationship between the two, a larger category is used (the village, regional or national background). Only then will it be possible to determine the nature of the relationships between one and the other in what follows.

The concept of kinship, "qarindosch", allows a distinction between those who belong to "our" group and other individuals who do not belong to it. The stranger, "chetellik", or "aschnobi", the stranger, is seen as a source of disorder. He has no access to the inside of the family and cannot inspire trust.

The Uzbeks also have a term in between, which plays an important role in social relationships. The concept of the invitee, "mehmon", makes it possible to build a barrier between us and the others. Even if the invitee is someone who has access to the family space, he only has it for a limited time in a well-defined place. Being related therefore contains both a dimension of integration and one of exclusion.

The expulsion from the family group includes social death, which causes the worst pain any member of Uzbek society can suffer. The growing number of female suicides is explained by the frequency of such exclusions, the victims of which are many young women in rural areas. Exclusion drives these young women to choose death as the only honorable way out and the only possible expression of rebellion (after: Boris-Mathieu Pétric: Pouvoir, don et réseaux en Ouzbékistan post-soviétique, Paris 2002, pp. 57-59)

Local community structures

The Sovietization of Central Asia permanently transformed the local communities. In the rural areas, both the mahallas organized in villages and the tribally organized villages were converted into kolkhozes or integrated into them as departments and labor brigades. The mass emigration of Europeans that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union and the influx of rural residents in Uzbekistan led to a "mahallization" of the formerly strongly European residential areas. Through the nationwide establishment of Mahalla offices with a Rais as a state-paid community leader and the transfer of welfare state competencies, this structure in Uzbekistan was also extended to the Soviet-European districts and settlements with multi-storey apartment buildings. Where the kolkhozes were dissolved, they split up into extended family groups, the members of which pay for pensions and, in some cases, also farm together.