I debated starting this in the "Current Affairs" section, but - after some thought - came to the conclusion that PRSI is possibly more appropriate for this topic. Rumours about the President's health had spread over the past week or so, as he had disappeared from public view, and was thought to have suffered a serious stroke, with some sources suggesting that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage. Some rumours had suggested that he was close to death, or in a vegetative state. In any case, this evening, the death has been announced of Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan. In common with a number of the first generation of post Soviet leaders - some of the other leaders in what are sometimes loosely referred to as 'the stans' (those central Asian states that used to be a part of the old USSR, namely Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), - Mr Karimov came to power as First Secretary of the Communist Party in Uzbekistan prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and stayed at the helm when the USSR itself collapsed, becoming the newly independent country's first President. Over a period of time, what his country experienced as his rule became legendarily controlling and quite extraordinarily repressive, even by the less than stellar standards of some of the other states in the region. While western observers sometimes see 'the stans' as a monolith, a belt, or swath, of autocratic states stretching across the political and cultural underbelly of modern Russia, they are not the same. Some are better (Kyrgyzstan comes to mind) and some are a lot worse, (Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan contend for this dubious honour). Traditionally, this was a relatively secular state - especially in the urban areas - but while some rural areas may have been more devout, the Government has cracked down hard, and at times, exceedingly repressively, at those who identify closely - or publicly - with Islam. As with all autocracies, even more so, as with all dictatorships, and most of all with newly independent countries that have become repressive dictatorships, the question of securing - and managing - the succession will offer something of a challenge. It is entirely possible that the death of the President was not publicly announced until certain arrangements deemed necessary had already been put in place. Meanwhile, the elder of the two daughters of the late President, at one time thought of as a possible successor, - and certainly thought of as an ambitious individual who may have entertained such dreams - has been under house arrest since 2014. Interesting times ahead in the region.