After a local uprising, Korasuv, a town on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, has been retaken by government forces. But what price will it pay for its defiance?
Rebel leader Bakhtior Rakhimov has been arrested by Uzbek troops
Already, only four days later, it seems so long ago that I am not sure if Bakhtior Rakhimov really towered head and shoulders above the crowd or if he just seemed to.
There was certainly an operatic intensity about the man that marked him out from everyone else in the teeming Uzbek bazaar.
His fine cotton tunic was dazzlingly white. His beard fastidiously trimmed, the ceremonial dagger in his belt elegantly curved, and he strode through the market like a fairy-tale king.
The bazaar ran down to a rusty iron footbridge. The bridge spanned a racing blue-green torrent.
On the other bank lay Uzbekistan's neighbour, Kyrgyzstan. And across the frontier flowed an endless stream of goods, TV sets and fridges, consignments of shoes and bales of spring onions.
Bakhtior Rakhimov strode down to the bridge, surveyed the free trade and saw that it was good.
And well he might be pleased for Mr Rakhimov, a prosperous farmer and businessman, had supplied the crane that made it possible just four days earlier to repair the bridge deliberately broken by the Uzbek government to restrict cross-border business.
For four days the bridge had been open again.
For four days, Korasuv - the little town on the Uzbek bank - had been free.
When the people had first demanded the opening of the bridge and the mayor refused, they had beaten him up, driven all the state's uniformed minions out of town and got on with the job themselves.
Only one day after Uzbek President Islam Karimov had sanctioned the shooting of probably hundreds of demonstrators in another town just up the road, it was a breathtakingly mad mutiny and the people of Korasuv had no idea how to use their victory.
Special forces regained control of Korasuv and seized Bakhtior Rakhimov
But power never lies long in the gutter and Mr Rakhimov had the recklessness and imagination to pick it up.
"We'll build a paradise here," he told me.
A larger version, perhaps, of the private paradise he took me home to.
A wooden dining platform in the shade of a plum tree strewn with cushions and set with dishes of bright red strawberries and thick home-made sour cream.
Behind us lay the stables, the cow sheds and the sock factory where Mr Rakhimov said he and his 200-odd employees worked shoulder to shoulder like brothers, in a microcosm of the egalitarian Muslim society he wanted to bring to all Uzbekistan.
He took me on a tour of the farm.
He fondled his prize calves.
He jokingly lifted me over a ditch showing off the strength he has built up as a keen wrestler.
Afterwards I drank green tea under the plum tree and he puffed away on a spliff of green weed - a natural and Islamic alternative, he told me, to the devils of tobacco and alcohol.
He stood once, he said, in an election for parliament but had been heavily defeated because people were afraid to vote for him.
He denied belonging to any organised political or religious group.
He said that if President Karimov sent his troops back into the town, he would stand and fight, with his ceremonial dagger or with a gun.
But all that I could tell was just bravado, just as it was bravado when he said his supporters had gone around persuading liquor stores to close.
I found no difficulty at all locating vodka or brandy in Korasuv.
Moment of defiance
This week in newspapers all over the world, you can read that Mr Rakhimov proclaimed an independent Islamic state.
The truth, of course, is more subtle and confusing.
As far as I can see, Mr Rakhimov did not proclaim anything and I met few people prepared to agree openly with his ideas.
He was simply the head of an important local family, a big man in a very small town. A town terrified of the consequences of its moment of defiance.
But the Uzbek government does not trade in subtlety, any more than headline writers do. And when a few hours after I left it re-took Korasuv - as everyone knew in their bones it would - Mr Rakhimov was seized by the troops and taken away.
I do not know what has happened to that brave and weirdly quixotic man, but I am afraid the intensity of the Uzbek government's punishments fully matches the intensity of Bakhtior Rakhimov's dreams.
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 21 May 2005, at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.