Uzbek men gather to pay their last respects during Karimov’s funeral at the historic Registan Square in Samarkand.
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The death of Uzbek leader Islam Karimov after 27 years in charge with no clear successor lined up plunges his homeland into uncertainty and poses serious questions for a region dominated by strongmen.Long lambasted by rights groups as a brutal despot who crushed all dissent, Karimov was one of the Communist Party bosses who managed to cling to power in their homelands after the collapse of the Soviet Union.Faced with Karimov's demise the authorities in Uzbekistan appeared to revert to a tried and tested script.For analysts and rights activists there seems little chance that Karimov's death will lead to greater democracy or a dramatic improvement in the atrocious human rights record in Central Asia's most populace country any time soon.During his time in power Karimov played the West, Russia and China off against each other to stave off total isolation for his regime and soften criticism of the worst abuses.
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