Russia ‘Reactivates’ Historic Ties With Central Asian Republic; To Set Up Small Nuclear Reactor In Uzbekistan

The Soviet Union transformed medieval Central Asia into a modern region, transforming the traditional Central Asian Khanates of the Middle Ages into vibrant and dynamic modern states after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

During World War II, Central Asian Muslims fought side by side with their other Soviet compatriots. The transformation of a backward chunk of humanity into a scientific and technological culture is not small. The world must recognize the Soviet Union’s valuable contribution.

Putin In Tashkent

On 26 May, President Putin arrived in Tashkent on his second visit after his re-election. His schedule was two days, but it expanded to three days. They must have talked in Russian, and there was no need for an interpreter.

Uzbekistan is strategically a very important Central Asian State. Its capital, Tashkent, is the first city the Soviets built as a model modern city soon after Soviet power was regulated. Readers interested in the tantalizing story of building Tashkent city with all the requisite infrastructure should try to get hold of a book titled Dawn over Samarkand.

In his meeting with the Uzbek side on the evening of 26 May, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev personally greeted Vladimir Putin at the airport. The main events of the visit were held on 27 May.

Following the meeting in a narrow format, the presidents participated in expanded talks between the two countries’ delegations. According to Gazata Uzbek, on 31 May, they discussed issues related to “deepening relations of comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance” and regional and international agendas.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev emphasized that Uzbek-Russian cooperation has reached an “unprecedentedly high level,” covering all spheres.

It is believed that a number of subjects were discussed, and the two sides agreed to expand trade, construct a small nuclear plant and two pumped hydropower storages, protect labor migrants, and address other issues as well.


The two countries have had regular trade agreements and often set goals to be achieved in that area. For example, the trade turnover planned in their earlier meetings was to the tune of $10 billion. This figure has grown by 30% since the beginning of the year.

During the talks, the presidents agreed on a new trade turnover target of $30 billion in the near term. “There is potential and all possibilities for this,” Shavkat Mirziyoyev said.

In the coming months, a full-fledged trade mission of Uzbekistan is scheduled to be launched in Russia to facilitate the implementation of trade deals and economic projects.

Council Of Regions

Both presidents considered the Forum of Regions a very important initiative that could contribute to the economy, trade, and connected areas in a balanced manner. Roughly speaking, the Council of Regions is something like the Panchayat system in India.

During the visit, the first meeting of the Council of Regions of the two countries was held. Heads of nearly 30 Russian regions arrived in Tashkent to participate.

The presidents called the Forum of Regions a very important initiative that contributes to the development of trade, economic, and humanitarian ties between the two countries.

When we are helping the regions instead of hindering them, the result will be very high,” the president of Uzbekistan stated. The Russian president replied in agreement.

Natural Partner

President Shavkat touched upon the collaboration between the sides in the area of energy. He said that there was a time when Russia imported gas from Uzbekistan, but now things have changed, and Uzbekistan has to import gas from Russia.

Putin assured him of the gas supply in the future.

Apart from energy concerns, Uzbekistan is also facing a water crisis because the Aral Sea, once the lifeline of Uzbeks, is drying and dying. Russia also plans to build two pumped hydroelectricity storages on lakes Aydarkul and Karate Ren with a combined capacity of one gigawatt.

Nuclear & Hydrocarbon Energy

But the most important thing that has been discussed and approved is the setting up of a small nuclear reactor. This is an important development because even though the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was concentrated in Kazakhstan, no Central Asian State, including Kazakhstan, was allowed to enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy.

Gazata Uzbek has reported that one of the main documents signed at the bilateral talks was a contract for the construction of a low-capacity nuclear power plant in the Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan. Construction of the 330-megawatt plant (six 55-megawatt units each) will begin this summer.            

According to a report of World Nuclear News (WNN) of 28 May, the Uzbekistan project is based on the RITM-200N water-cooled reactor, which is adapted from the nuclear-powered icebreakers’ technology, with thermal power of 190 MW or 55 MW and with an intended service life of 60 years.

The first land-based version is currently being built in Yakut in Russia, with the launch of the first unit expected to take place in 2027. Rosatom, the Russian nuclear authority, says that its combination of active and passive safety systems means the SMR plants will achieve the highest possible safety standards.

The opening of a nuclear energy source in one of the important states of Central Asia must also be viewed in the context of pressing into service the nuclear energy source for the first time in the region.

Given the escalating regional and global rivalry among the big powers, nuclear proliferation in a crucial area can be alarming, though we do understand the compulsions of the Uzbek government to meet its energy requirements.

  • Prof. KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University.
  • This article contains the author’s personal views and does not represent EurAsian Times’ policies/views/opinions in any way. 
  • The author can be reached at knp627 (at)