Tashkent’s efforts to prevent young men from leaving Uzbekistan to work abroad have largely failed. Authorities now seem to be adopting a different approach: state-run Uzbekistan Railways has cut ticket prices from major Russian cities to encourage Uzbek citizens to return home.
Between today and June, tickets from Moscow, St Petersburg, Saratov, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and a number of other cities will be discounted 20 percent.
This is a significant reduction: According to online ticket booking services, before the discount a second-class ("coupe") ticket from Moscow to Tashkent cost $376, and a third-class ("platzkart") ticket cost $224. Prices from Uzbekistan to Russia remain unchanged.
Last week multiple news agencies reported that Uzbek police were preventing young men suspected of going abroad to work from reaching the Uzbek-Kazakh border outside Tashkent. Observers speculated that the Interior Ministry was responding to President Islam Karimov's recent criticism that the ministry was doing little to create jobs for young men at home.
High unemployment in Uzbekistan prompts millions of Uzbek citizens to search for unskilled work abroad, mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan. Their families depend on the remittances these migrant workers send home.