Perestroika and independence

In 1988, an umbrella movement for democracy and independence was formed under the name of Birlik (Unity). Birlik rapidly won popular support. Its 1989 demonstration in Tashkent to demand that Uzbek be made the state language attracted 50,000 people—and soon thereafter Uzbek was indeed made the state language. An offshoot of Birlik called Erk (Freedom) also appeared.

Path to power blocked

When elections were held in 1990 for a new Supreme Soviet of the Uzbek SSR, neither Birlik nor Erk were permitted to participate, with the result that most of those elected were loyal to the Communist Party.

Ethnic and political disturbances

In 1989, Uzbeks in the Fergana Valley attacked Jews and the Meskhetian Turks, an ethnic minority that had been deported from southern Georgia by Stalin. The clashes resulted in the deaths of 150 people, and approximately 15,000 Meskhetian Turks fled from the Fergana Valley. It was after this that Islam Karimov was named party boss. In 1990, the Supreme Soviet appointed Karimov President. After the collapse of the hard-line coup in Moscow in 1991, the Supreme Soviet declared Uzbekistan independent.