We are driving on the stretch of road between Qarshi (Karshi) and G'uzor (Guzar.) The Afghan border is beyond the hills that loom on the SE horizon, they look probably fifty miles away. This is a tense part in a tense country. We are stopped by the militsia; when they find everything is in order they frog-march Jora, our protesting Russian driver, into a little room a distance from the road; later he emerges with a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. (No one wears a seatbelt in Uzbekistan.) We drive away. "Crazy" says Jora, making the international sign for lunacy by holding a finger to his temple and tracing circles.
Guru Nanak had apparently passed through these parts on his way to the Arabian peninsula c. 1515. There is a Nanak Qalandar (i.e. Nanak the Dervish) shrine just to the south of Qarshi. (At Mecca, the Guru was assaulted by the Qazis, who took offense at Nanak sleeping with his feet towards the Kaaba; "Tell me, O Musulmans, which side God Is not?" he is supposed to have asked.)
Just east of Karshi, at Khanabad, is a new, empty former US airbase. Between 2001 and 2005 the United States Air Force used the base aka Karshi-Khanabad, K2, or "Stronghold Freedom" for missions against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. After the Andijon Massacre (more on that presently) strained relations between George W. Bush and Islam Karimov, the US was told to vacate the base within six months; which it did.
The countryside is more prosperous as we drive east. Brick buildings and whitewashed villages have replaced the mud-thatches of the western districts.
G'uzor is likely connected to the the Turkic tribal name Göçer. Scott Cameron Levi, in his The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade (see Havildar In Bukhara below) mentions Kazar (Khazar) and Kujar (Gujar) as two different tribes with links to Central Asia. In India, around the time of the Hun invasions in the 6th century, sun ("Mihir") worshipping sheep herders, the Gujjars or Gurjara, appear in the Indian northwest, slowly seeping into the culture and the gene-pool. The town of G'uzor was an important stop in the caravan route between Kabul and Bukhara; the Qashqadaryo flows through the Qarshi steppe without drain, providing many a watering hole for sheep and camel.
In the spring of 1941 I, and some 200,000 Polish citizens living in Eastern Poland, were conscripted into the Russian Red Army. I was transported from Lwow (Lviv) to Voroshylovsk (Stavropol) in the Northern Caucasus. In July 1942 I escaped and travelled from Krasnodar to Guzar (Uzbekistan) where I joined Polish Army commanded by Gen. W. Anders. In August we left for Persia.
From The Warsaw Voice, dated Apr 25 2007:
"On the outskirts of the town (of Guzar) is the largest Polish war cemetery in Central Asia. About 700 Polish soldiers were laid to rest here, after serving in the East under the command of General Władysław Anders. There are also the graves of an unidentified number of civilians, including women and children, who were part of the evacuation of Poles from Soviet territory in 1942. These people are among the thousands of Poles deported to Siberia and northern Kazakhstan by the Soviet powers in the first years of Word War II. The formation of the Polish army in the East created the possibility of freedom from Soviet labor camps. The road through Central Asia was a road through purgatory. People were starving and wracked by disease. They were tormented by difficult climate conditions and were usually dressed in rags. They walked south, through Uzbekistan and then through Turkmenistan to reach Persia, which was governed by the British at the time. Thousands died on this road, from hunger, exhaustion and dysentery and other diseases.
During the Soviet years, Polish war cemeteries in Central Asia were largely forgotten. For communist officials, these events did not exist. The end of communism brought with it the opportunity to restore the memory of those tragic times. The Council for the Remembrance of Struggle and Martyrdom set about intensive work documenting those years. It began looking for war cemeteries, and after locating them started reconstruction work, thanks to the cooperation of Kazakh and Uzbek officials.
In contrast to other parts of the former Soviet Union, cemeteries in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were not deliberately destroyed. Their devastation is the effect of time and climate conditions, not the activities of town residents or Soviet powers. After many years of reconstruction, 13 cemeteries are now fully restored-two in Kazakhstan and 11 in Uzbekistan."