(b. Samarkand, 30 Jan. 1938)
Uzbek; President of Uzbekistan 1990– Karimov started his career working in the Tashkent Aviation Factory. He joined the Communist Party in 1964. From 1966 to 1983 he worked on the organization of the state ‘five-year’ plans (Gosplan) for Uzbekistan. From 1983 to 1986 he was Uzbekistan's Minister of Finances. After coming to power in 1985, Gorbachev launched a full-scale purge of the corrupt and conservative Uzbek party leadership. In 1986 Karimov embarked on a party career when he entered one of the posts made vacant thanks to Gorbachev, becoming First Secretary of Kashkadar'ya regional committee. In June 1989 he was made First Secretary of the Uzbekistan Communist Party, replacing Rafik Nishanov, who became chairman of the USSR Soviet of Nationalities. In 1990 Karimov became President of the Uzbek Republic. In July that year he was elected to the Central Committee and to the Politburo. In August 1991 he declared the independence of Uzbekistan, and was elected President at the end of the year, gaining 86 per cent of the vote. He has remained in power ever since, both through extending his presidential terms and by elections in 2000 and 2007, elections in which the voters were offered little genuine choice. In the 2007 election, he won over 88 per cent of the vote on a 90 per cent turnout. His regime has suppressed human rights, employing heavy press censorship and the use of torture, and has indulged in corruption, weakening the economic health of the country. The USA valued Uzbekistan's location, and Karimov agreed to having a US base at Khanabad (used to support US troops in Afghanistan) in 2001. In 2005 several hundred Uzbek protesters were killed by government troops in Andijan, an event strongly criticized by the USA and the EU. In response, the US troops were expelled, and Karimov strengthened his relations with Russia and China. In 2008 Putin visited Tashkent and closer cooperation was agreed upon to develop the natural gas resources of the country. Karimov, who argues that his rule ensures that Islamic fundamentalism does not establish itself in Uzbekistan, shows every sign of maintaining his dictatorial rule.