Uzbek state companies have built a secret luxury mountain resort for use by President Shavkat Mirziyoev, including a new reservoir that locals say has disrupted their water supply and displaced families, a new RFE/RL investigation has found.
The investigation by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service published on February 23 is based on interviews with officials, local residents, and builders who helped construct the complex located on what is now a protected biosphere reserve near a UNESCO-protected area of the Western Tien-Shan mountain range.
The Uzbek President’s Secret Mountain Hideaway
Construction of the compound, which features helicopter landing pads and what multiple sources described as a luxurious mansion built for Mirziyoev, began in 2017 and was largely completed by the end of 2018.
The resort, located around 100 kilometers southeast of Tashkent and known as Shovvozsoy after a nearby river, remains shrouded in secrecy. Officials have never publicly given an explanation of its purpose or its cost, though multiple sources estimated that it cost several hundred million dollars to build.
Plans for the development were already under way as early as February 2017, less than two months after Mirziyoev took office as post-Soviet Uzbekistan’s second president following the death of his autocratic predecessor, Islam Karimov, in 2016.
Local officials said Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself the focus of an expose by opposition politician Aleksei Navalny over allegedly building an elaborate Versailles-like palace perched on a Black Sea bluff, was expected to visit the property in October 2018.
Mirziyoev has portrayed himself as committed to improving transparency, human rights protections, and anti-corruption efforts in the Central Asian nation of 30 million, striking a contrast to Karimov’s iron-fisted rule.
Construction of the mountain resort was spearheaded by state-owned Uzbekistan Railways, led at the time by Mirziyoev’s first deputy prime minister, Achilbay Ramatov.
Construction of the adjacent reservoir was carried out by the politically connected company involved in the building of the Sardoba Dam in eastern Uzbekistan, which burst in 2020, leaving six people dead and forcing thousands from their homes, the investigation reveals.
Reporters could find no public records indicating the purpose of the reservoir. A spokesman for the Uzbek Water Resources Ministry, which oversees reservoirs in the country, told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that the Shovvozsoy reservoir did not fall under the ministry’s auspices.
An employee for the company that built the reservoir, Topalang Water Construction, said the reservoir was owned by Uzbekistan Railways and described it as “a very strategic object,” though he declined to give details.
The investigation reveals another detail highlighting the high importance the Uzbek government places on the mountain facility: It is covered by one of six no-fly zones in the country.
Inquiries seeking comment from Mirziyoev’s office and Uzbekistan Railways went unanswered.