Few students are well-informed about former Soviet countries in Central Asia, but the department of Slavic and Eurasian studies aims to change this, according to teaching assistant Sunnat Amonov.
In an on-campus lecture Thursday, Amonov — who is a Fulbright scholar from Uzbekistan — said that being knowledgeable about Uzbek culture and language is a rare and marketable skill.
“[The] U.S. government considers Uzbek language to be strategically important,” Amonov said.
In his lecture, which focused on the culture and politics of Uzbekistan and its surrounding countries, Amonov said Central Asia is experiencing a high degree of economic globalization as foreign investors increasingly seek its natural resources.
Amonov said Uzbekistan’s government reported a growth rate of 7 percent in annual GDP last year, partly because of the increase in foreign corporate investment.
“Uzbekistan is very, very rich for natural resources,” Amonov said. “It has everything: uranium, gold, silver, gas, coal, oil. There are corporations between the United States, France and the Uzbek working all together.”
Uzbekistan, which became independent after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, is ranked 31st in the world for industrial production growth rate and 37th in labor force.
Gladys Benitez, international relations and global studies junior, said, because of the increase in globalization, it’s important for students to be informed about these regions in order to form closer relationships with them.
“Countries are now no longer sticking to their specific cultures,” Benitez said. “In fact, it’s spreading to other countries … into some universal idea. I think it’ll eventually be a good thing, but there’s definitely going to be some hard times.”
Steven Miles, Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies graduate student, said there is an abundance of information available at the University to learn about the region but does not believe many students could point out Uzbekistan on a map.
“I think most people find out where a country is when they go to war with it,” Miles said. “I don’t think there is a lot of representation of Central Asia in the media. I think you could find it if you looked for it, but it’s not on the mainstream.”
Benitez said it is crucial for people to constantly learn about unfamiliar countries, especially Uzbekistan as it slowly becomes more influential in the global economy.
“It was just stated that [Uzbekistan is] one of the top-20 countries for gas reserves in the world, and that’s a big deal,” Benitez said.