Tashkent, Uzbekistan — Uzbekistan was until recently one of the world's most isolated countries, with institutionalized forced labor on its vast cotton fields, a torture record and restricted individual freedoms. Now, it's opening up.
What's happening: Since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took power in December 2016, following the death of Islam Karimov, who ruled the country since independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has been on the reform path. The reforms have encompassed all spheres of social and political life from freeing the country's currency to normalizing relations with its neighbors. The scope of change has come as a surprise to everyone, not least Uzbeks themselves.