wandering amphibia

A visit to Tashkent, and why everyone drives a Chevrolet there

We went walking around some more. Passed by some government buildings, when something that was nagging me finally hit me like a poor quality metaphor that gets needlessly abused: I realised that every car that I could see was absolutely the same. This was like a scene out of a strange post-apocalyptic movie where everybody looks the same and everything looks the same, but this was real life: every single car was basically a Chevrolet Lacetti or some parallel version of a Chevrolet, with some small exceptions made for Daewoos, and obviously the unkillable Ladas once in a while.

I asked B. what the story was. It turned out to be exactly out of a typical Soviet story. Looks like the government had a stake in a Daewoo manufacturing outfit, which was then converted into a Chevrolet / GM manufacturing once the licensing with Daewoo “expired” (I suspect Daewoo wasn’t providing enough kickbacks) that started producing exactly the same Daewoos, but now with Chevrolet badging (i.e. Daewoo Lacettis now became Chevrolet Lacettis, without them gaining absolutely anything else in the process, and remaining exactly the same shitboxes they were before). Of course, the trick was now to sell loads of them, but here, the benefit of having a captive audience came in: the government politely informed its citizens that they had a patriotic duty to buy these Lacetti shitboxes, and they were strongly encouraged to toe the line and get into the habit of owning some. Oh, they happened to have aspirations to German car ownership and even had the finances to overcome (or bypass) the tariffs and taxes? Understood. Clearly, they had unpatriotic aspirations – for no one, not even the president (because who really knew what the president drove?…) would have such brazen flaunting of their wealth – so clearly there was foul play in play, and there should be a financial investigation, and probably jail time. Not because they bought German cars, of course. Because they stole money and found themselves in a position of defy the government, of course. Such unpatriotic tendencies had to be punished. So all the “heavies” in the country ended up with Chevrolets.

The end result of this was this:

… and this …

… and this …

… and this.

Oh! you might say. But that’s an Excalibur, and a Range Rover! Clearly, someone is able to escape the monotony and have a unique set of vehicles to their name! Well, you’d be wrong – these are owned by a wedding agency. The logic, apparently, seems to be this: for your wedding, you are allowed to have a fantasy of owning British and American and German vehicles, soon to be replaced by the dreary reality that no matter how much money you steal, you’re still in Tashkent, and a Chevrolet Lacetti is the pinnacle of your vehicular achievement. That and shashlik.

In the meantime, the local cellular company was advertising spectacular Internet speeds using a jetfighter drawn by a six-year-old (I’m guessing the son of the president, as these things tend to be in these countries).