TASHKENT -- New housing for professional soldiers and border guards nationwide is making military service more attractive for Uzbekistanis.
Since early 2016, Uzbekistan has constructed six apartment buildings for soldiers across the country. Between 2007 and 2015 the housing programme for service members provided more than 3,000 apartments for troops and their families, according to the Defence Ministry.
The list of new buildings nationwide this year shows the commitment to housing service members who serve for multiple years under contract. Such troops often have families.
The housing programme does not apply to draftees, who serve for only one year and are almost always single.
"On June 10, a 70-unit apartment building for troops opened in Shirin, Sirdaryo Province," Musajon Akbarov, a spokesman for the Tashkent division of the Vatanparvar Military-Patriotic Association, told Central Asia Online.
"Troops May 31 in Namangan Province received keys to 32 apartments in a new building," Akbarov said. "On April 4 in Surxondaryo Province, three buildings with 48 apartments each opened their doors to border guards. On January 19 in Fergana Province, a 48-apartment building for troops opened up."
The apartments are winning praise from their residents.
"Our three-room apartment has everything the family needs," Gulsora Kholmirzayeva, wife of Jr. Sgt. Anvar Kholmirzayev, said recently, according to the Defence Ministry press office. "Our children are particularly happy with it."
The family received its apartment in Shirin June 10.
The apartments are part of a long-standing commitment that the government has made in exchange for contract troops' service. Financial terms for military housing are advantageous.
"In 1991, Uzbekistan inherited [its share of] the Soviet military," Nodir Abdumajidov, a Tashkent resident and army veteran, told Central Asia Online. "The military was in a dire crisis ... Pay was low, infrastructure was obsolete, and there were no prospects for improvement."
"Hazing and lawlessness permeated the army," he said. "Young Uzbekistanis did everything they could to avoid service."
"During the years of independence, we transformed the situation," Akbarov said. "The army shrank, but it received enough funding and acquired modern equipment."
"Troops serve under comfortable conditions," he added. "There's a lot of competition [among draftees, who are not part of the housing programme] to serve in the regular army."
After decades of hard work, Uzbekistan had the strongest military in Central Asia as of 2016, according to the Global Firepower Military Index, compiled by Globalfirepower.com.
"Uzbekistan has a professionally trained, well-equipped army today that is loyal to its homeland and people," President Islam Karimov said in Tashkent January 14 during observance of Defender of the Motherland Day. "Threats posed by international terrorism, extremism and radicalism can only concern us and raise alarm."
Help with housing
The government provides a broad system of benefits enabling contract troops to live comfortably near their military units.
"Since 2007, the law has required that contract troops who need housing or improved housing receive service apartments," Tashkent housing attorney Dilyara Artikova told Central Asia Online. "Housing is distributed within the first three months of troops' starting service."
Housing benefits apply both to contract troops who leave the military after many years and those who remain on duty.
Ordinarily, contract troops who finish their contracts and return to civilian life have to give up their apartments, Artikova added. However, "If they complete 20 years of service and, in special cases, 10 years, they may become owners of their apartments," she said.
If troops who have completed at least 10 years of service sign a new contract and wish to buy an apartment, the military will help, Artikova explained.
"The state will make a 25% down payment [for that soldier]," she said. "But if he wants, he can receive a free plot of land to build a house. In that case, the soldier can keep his apartment for two years while he builds the house."
"The Uzbekistani armed forces' housing stock includes service apartments and is constantly expanding," Akbarov said.
The government is always building, re-building and purchasing apartments to enlarge the military's housing stock, Akbarov said, adding, "If a soldier has the right to a service apartment, but we don't have an apartment for him, his military unit will pay for his housing."