One evening last December, a crane lifted construction workers to the top of the ornate arched entrance to Uzbekistan’s biggest commercial market. Overnight, they replaced the huge letters spelling out its title, Euronews reports.
It was more than just a name change.
The rebranding of Abu Sahiy as Tashkent Silk Road was part of a shake-up at the market that marked a milestone in President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s drive to reform Central Asia’s most populous nation.
Mirziyoyev has been moving cautiously since being sworn in on Dec. 14, 2016. But the overhaul of Abu Sahiy sent a signal that change is under way in one of the world’s most isolated states, a producer of gold, natural gas and oil.
Autocrat Islam Karimov’s 27 years in power had left Uzbekistan’s economy stagnant and its consumer market of 32 million largely undeveloped. His family still controlled lucrative businesses when he died in office in September 2016.
But by the time the workers changed the name above Abu Sahiy on Dec. 21, Karimov’s younger daughter had quietly relinquished ownership of it, two sources familiar with the situation said.