15 August 2013 | Issue 5192
This month marks the 22nd anniversary of the “August putsch,” in which hardline Communists held Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev under virtual house arrest for several days at his dacha in the Crimea. They sought to crush democratic reforms, including expanded autonomy for the Soviet republics. Who can forget Boris Yeltsinstanding on a tank in defiance of the coup attempt, or the Soviet Union’s dissolution several months later, leading to freedom and independence for the Soviet republics?
Yet a generation later, some of these republics are reminiscent of the old Soviet Union as they commit serious human rights violations, particularly through enacting and enforcing laws against freedom of religion or belief. As the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, detailed in its 2013 annual report, the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan fit the congressionally established criteria for countries of particular concern, or CPC, marking them as some of the world’s most egregious religious freedom abusers.