Reason‘s December special issue marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This story is part of our exploration of the global legacy of that evil empire, and our effort to be certain that the dire consequences of communism are not forgotten.
Entering most countries is already an overly bureaucratic process. But if you have to do a lot of paperwork to leave a country, that’s when you know the fix is in.
Exit visas have long been a hallmark of authoritarian regimes. The Soviet Union was no exception, requiring its citizens to get explicit permission to leave the country. It was thus with great fanfare that the 1993 constitution of the new, post-communist Russian Federation abolished this requirement, allowing citizens to travel abroad without permission. Most former Soviet republics quickly followed suit.
Not Uzbekistan, however. It has the dubious distinction of being the last post-Soviet republic to abolish its system of exit visas—in 2019, a good seven years after Cuba managed to do the same. For nearly 30 years, Uzbeks could travel visa-free only to other former Soviet republics.
That this practice lingered on in t
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