Cotton: a coercive commodity A historical-comparative research on forced labour in the cotton industries of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (1928 – 2019)
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This research aims to demonstrate the role which the Soviet Union has played in continued reliance on forced labour in the cotton cultivation sectors of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. My main research question is: What role has the Soviet Union played in the development of the labour regime of cotton in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan between 1928 and 2019? The research is subdivided into four sections. Firstly, I argue that five dimensions help us explain why this region was prone to forced labour. Secondly, I argue that collective farming in Central Asia was a form of forced labour that is rarely labelled as such. Thirdly, I argue that there are geographical, regulatory, and industrial reasons why forced labour was employed after independence from the Soviet Union. Lastly, we observe a divergence in both countries whereby Uzbekistan abolished policies that perpetuated forced labour, whilst Turkmenistan has failed to do so. This research argues that leadership change has caused this. Cotton quotas and the slow adoption of mechanised agricultural innovations have caused continued reliance on forced labour. This has also caused poor labour conditions to exist for cotton pickers, which we will compare via the historical-comparative method.