The country's decision to block the Uzbek-language wiki may be more about showmanship and nationalism than controlling information.
Uzbekistan's ban on Wikipedia is censorship as performance art. The ban, enacted late last month, blocks all articles written in Uzbek while leaving articles in other languages accessible. Unlike earlier acts of online censorship, the ban on Uzbek Wikipedia articles does not prevent citizens from accessing political information. On the contrary, it blocks a prime venue of innocuous diversion: the thousands of articles about pop stars, national heroes, and sports figures that comprise the Uzbek-language Wikipedia. Uzbeks unable to access the Uzbek-language Wikipedia may now turn instead to the Russian-language Wikipedia, a virtual treasure trove of Uzbekistan's state-suppressed memories that could not possibly merit official approval. So why block the Uzbek version? What does it accomplish?
Like its English-language counterpart, the Uzbek Wikipedia is an idiosyncratic collection that represents the diverse interests of its users. The best entries, as rated by moderators, are Cristiano Ronaldo, the Republic of Korea, Philosophy, and Alisher Navoi (a 15th century Uzbek poet). Other user favorites include Kelly Clarkson, Nirvana (the band), Internet Explorer, and a Finnish symphonic metal group called Nightwish. Pop culture entries tend to skew toward foreign tastes: the recently updated Uitni Hyuston entry, for example, is longer than that of popular Uzbek singer Yulduz Usmonova. Though the Uzbek government can be capricious in its censorship, the Uzbek Wikipedia is assiduously unprovocative - indeed, Uzbeks writing about national hero Navoi is exactly the sort of thing that the state encourages. Skimming the list of 7,890 entries, I found more of the same apolitical fare: an epic piece on FIFA; a treatise on plov.