• English
  • Français
  • Deutsch
 

Uzbekistan

Location: Central Asia

Formal status: The Republic of Uzbekistan

Capital: Tashkent

Structure: Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakistan, 12 provinces, 226 cities and districts.

Population: 28 million (April, 2010 statistics)

Population density: 50.1 per sq. km

Currency: Sum; 1 sum (100 tiyin)

Religion: Islam:  88%, Christian: 9%

Official language: Uzbek, widely used: Russian, Tajik, Karakalpak and English, which is intensively getting more and more popular among young generation.

Geographic coordinates: 41 00 N, 64 00 E

Area: total: 447400 sq. km; land: 425400 sq. km, water: 22000 sq. km

Area - comparative: slightly larger than California

Land boundaries: total: 6221 km

Border countries: Afghanistan 137 km, Kazakhstan 2203 km, Kyrgyzstan 1099 km, Tajikistan 1161 km, Turkmenistan 1621 km

Coastline: 0 km (doubly landlocked); note - Uzbekistan includes the southern portion of the Aral Sea with a 420 km shoreline

Climate: mostly midlatitude desert, long, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid grassland in the east

Terrain: mostly flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes; broad, flat intensely irrigated river valleys along course of Amu Darya, Syr Darya and Zarafshon; Fergana Valley in the east surrounded by mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan; shrinking Aral Sea in the west

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sariqarnish Lake -12 m, highest point: Adelunga Toghi 4301 m

Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead and zinc, tungsten, molybdenum

Land use: arable land: 10.83%

Permanent crops: 0.83%

Other: 88.34% 

Irrigated land:         more than 42810 sq. km

Natural hazards: NA

Geography - note: along with Liechtenstein, one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world

Time: GMT + 05:00

Electric power: 220 V AC, 50 A; standard two-pin plug socket

International dial code: +998

Domain zone: .uz

 

Public holidays

January, 1 - New Year

March, 8 - International Women's Day

March, 21 - Navruz (Central Asian New Year)

May, 1 - Labor Day

May, 9 - Memorial/Remembrance Day

September, 1 - Independence Day

October, 1 - Teacher's Day

December, 8 - Constitution Day.

 

The Nation

Many of the ancient peoples who lived in Central Asia were Iranian peoples including Khwarazmians (present Khiva), Sogdians (present samarkand) and Bactrians (south of Uzbekistan). It is believed that these populations were either absorbed into larger invading Turkic tribes and/or were pushed into smaller pockets, as in Tajikistan, or retreated further south into Iran and Afghanistan.

In ancient times, various Turkic - speaking tribes began to move to the area between the Amu Darya (Oxus in Greek) and Syr Darya (Jaxartes in Greek) rivers. Some of these early tribes included the Huns who eventually occupied this region around the 3rd century BCE and continued their conquests further south and west. Following Arab incursions into the region, Islam supplanted Buddhism and other religions in Central Asia (such as Nestorian Christianity), while local Iranian languages survived into the next 2nd millennium. What drastically changed the demographics of Central Asia was the invasion of the Mongols led by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Numerous native populations were wiped out by the Mongols and a process of population replacement began in earnest. During this period numerous Turkic tribes began to migrate and ultimately replace many of the Iranian peoples who were largely killed, absorbed by larger Turkic - Mongol groups, and/or pushed further south and Central Asia came to be known as Turkestan. Much of modern Uzbekistan took shape during the reign of Tamerlane, a prominent Turkic - Mongol conqueror who reigned over a vast empire from his capital at Samarkand. Later, between the 15th and 16th centuries, various nomadic tribes arrived from the steppes including the Kipchaks, Naymans, Kanglis, Kungrats, Mangits and others and these tribes were led by Muhammad Shaybani who was the Khan of the Uzbeks. This period marked the beginnings of the modern Uzbek nationality and formation of an Uzbek state in what is today Uzbekistan. So powerful was this early Uzbek state that it challenged much larger empires, the Safavids and Mughals, for control over Khorasan and Afghanistan. The origin of the very name "Uzbek" is in dispute. One view holds that the name derives from Uzbek Khan (1282 - 1342), the last powerful ruler of the Golden Horde and responsible for its conversion to Islam, though the nomadic Uzbeks were never subject to him. On the other hand, entomological argument states that the name "Uzbek" means Independent, "Uz" – the man himself, "Bek" a noble title of leadership. Their language Changatai or Uzbek, evolved in the 14th century. Following Shaybani, the Uzbek state broke up into three major khanates based in Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand until the early 19th century. The Russian Empire eventually infiltrated Central Asia and the khanates were annexed to the empire during the mid to late 19th century. Uzbekistan, under Russian and then later Soviet administration, became multi - ethnic as populations from throughout the former Soviet Union moved (or were exiled) to Central Asia.

 

History in brief

Uzbekistan occupies the heart of the area of Central Asia historically known as Turkestan. Some of the earliest known inhabitants of this region were Indo-Iranians, who are thought to have migrated to the region around the second millennium BCE. By the 4th century BCE, after the campaigns of Alexander the Great, trade along the Silk Road increased, and the area emerged as an important trading center; cultural contact intensified, and a variety of religions flourished.

After the Arab campaigns of the 7th and 8th centuries CE, Islam replaced Buddhism as the dominant religion, and by the 10th century the area had become an important center in the Muslim world. The Mongols, led by Genghis Khan, invaded in the 13th century and caused great destruction. During this time, migrations of nomadic Turks from the northern steppe areas increased. In the late 14th century prince Timur (Tamerlane) created a vast empire with Samarkand as its capital, but the political stability he established crumbled after his death. Shaibani Khan, in the early 1500s, led a major invasion by Uzbek tribes from the north. From this time on, Uzbeks dominated the political life of central Turkestan. Three independent khanates, centered in Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand, dominated Turkestan between the 16th and the 19th century. But by the second half of the 19th century, Russian forces had subjugated the khanates, which were annexed or made into protectorates. Toshkent became the administrative center of Turkestan, and a colonial relationship was established. Cotton began to supplant other crops.

Dissatisfaction with Russian rule manifested itself in anti-czarist revolts, often led by religious figures, while a group of urban intellectual reformers, known as jadids, sought to improve the life of the local people through secular education. In the years leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution, the economic and political situation drastically deteriorated, and in the summer of 1916, major disturbances shook the region.

Upon seizing power, the new Bolshevik leaders promised an end to Russia's colonial treatment of Turkestan; however, they demonstrated no willingness to allow meaningful political participation by the native population. Consequently, in November 1917, indigenous leaders convened an extraordinary congress in the city of Kokand, at which they proclaimed the autonomy of southern Central Asia. But in February 1918, Bolshevik troops sent from Tashkent brutally crushed the fledgling Kokand government. Over the next few years a guerrilla opposition movement of basmachi fighters struggled against the Bolsheviks but was ultimately defeated. Meanwhile, the traditional rulers of Bukhara and Khiva were removed, and new states under strong Bolshevik influence were established there.

In 1924 Uzbekistan was created as part of a "national delimitation" that redivided Turkestan, Bukhara, and Khiva into new national republics. This effectively blocked the Central Asian andTatar nationalists, who sought to create a state uniting Turks and other Muslim peoples of the former Russian empire, Bukhara, and Khiva. Consequently, the common histories, languages, traditions, and populations of the area were parceled out to individual local nationalities.

Although the Bolsheviks introduced some economic and social reforms in the early 1920s, the pace of change rapidly accelerated with the launching of the First Five-Year Plan (FYP) in 1928. By 1932 about three-fourths of the republic's farm households had been gathered into collective farms. Cotton farming was greatly expanded at the expense of other crops, particularly food. During the First FYP the Bolsheviks inaugurated massive campaigns to combat Islam, "liberate" women, and raise literacy. The literacy campaign coincided with a shift of the Uzbek language from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet.

In their first decade in power the Bolsheviks were obliged to govern through an alliance with indigenous nationalist forces, many of them jadids or influenced by them. Russians and other European nationalities also occupied important posts. By the end of the 1920s, however, as part of korenizatsiia (nativization), Moscow sought to replace European cadres with Central Asians. This was especially difficult, since by the late 1920s the Bolsheviks had become less tolerant of their better-educated allies, who possessed pre-revolutionary educations. Despite the opposition of most Europeans living in Uzbekistan, during korenizatsia many poorly educated natives were promoted into positions of ostensible authority. The financial and social costs of this policy were extremely high, and after 1934 korenizatsiia were quietly forgotten.

The purges of the mid-1930s decimated the Communist party and state apparatus. During these purges virtually all of the republic's leaders were removed on trumped-up charges, including allegations of nationalism and efforts to secede from the USSR. Many of Uzbekistan's leaders were executed along with a large proportion of the cultural intelligentsia.

Beginning in the middle of the 1930s, cultural and language policies stressed russification. Traditional art forms, dress, and customs were discouraged, and many Uzbek words of Arabic, Persian, and Turkic origin were replaced by Russian ones. In 1940 the Uzbek writing system shifted from the Latin alphabet to the Cyrillic.

The generation of republican leaders who rose during the purges was entirely dependent on Moscow. Although their authority within the republic was very high, in fact all major policy decisions were made in Moscow.

World War II had a profound effect on the republic by bringing women and children into the work force to replace the men who had left to fight the war. The war increased industrialization within the republic, which also experienced a large influx of refugees from the European part of the Soviet Union.

The CPUz's new first secretary, Islam Karimov, introduced major policy changes designed to enhance his party's legitimacy. This seems to have been done with the blessing of Moscow, which by this time had realized the futility of any attempt to reassert centralized Russian control. Among the changes introduced by Islam Karimov were a more conciliatory policy toward Islam and a higher status for the Uzbek language. He also demanded from Moscow ecological and economic policies more favorable to Uzbekistan. Gradually and simultaneously with leaders in other republics, Islam Karimov began to make demands for more regional control of the republic's own affairs. A new policy consistent with national interests began to form when Islam Karimov took the lead in the national government.

Islam Karimov was elected President of Uzbekistan at the 1st Session of the Supreme Council of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in March 1990. Presidential decrees, acts, resolutions of the Supreme Council and the government, and finally, the Declaration of Independence were all designed to secure political and economic independence and the national revival of Uzbekistan. In 1989 Uzbek was made the official language of the new state, and a package of measures was drafted to address the most urgent economic problems, such as the monoculture of cotton, and to assist revival of Uzbek culture.

On  31st of August, the 6th Extraordinary Session of the Supreme Council declared the political independence of the country, which was officially named the Republic of Uzbekistan. 1 September was proclaimed Independence Day.

Overwhelming popular support for independence and the government line was expressed during presidential elections and a referendum on political sovereignty (December, 29, 1991). Islam Karimov won 86% of the vote and became the first President of the new Uzbek state; 98.2% of the population voted for independence.

From September 1991 to July 1993 the Republic of Uzbekistan was officially recognized by 160 states. On 2 March 1992 the country joined the United Nations.

Since independence, an era of free development began in the history of the Uzbek people.

 

Language

Uzbek is a language which can be considered the direct descendant or a latter form of Chagatay, the language of great Turkic Central Asian literary development in the realm of Tamerlane, and the Timurids. The language was championed by Mir Ali-Sher Nawa'i in the 15th and 16th centuries. Ultimately based on the Qarluq variant of the Turkic languages, it contained large numbers of Persian and Arabic loan-words. By the 19th century it was rarely used for literary composition. "Uzbek" was a vowel-harmonized Qipchak dialect spoken by descendants of those who arrived in Transoxiana with Sheybani Khan in the 16th century, who lived mainly around Bukhara and Samarkand, although the Turkic spoken in Tashkent was also vowel-harmonized; in Khiva people (ancient Khwarazm, modern Khorazm) spoke a form of Oghuz Turkic. Currently in the CIS countries, there are about 24.7 million people who speak Uzbek. In Uzbekistan, 21 million people speak Uzbek as their native language. There are about 1.2 million speakers in Tajikistan, 1 million in Afghanistan, 550096 in Kyrgyzstan, 332017 in Kazakhstan, and 317333 in Turkmenistan.

On your arrival, an Uzbek-English pocket phrase book will be given to you and during the entire trip you will have a good chance to learn and practice your Uzbek with locals who will be happy to have a chat with you. 

 

The State Flag

uzb flagThe law about "The State Flag of the Republic of Uzbekistan" was adopted on November 18 in 1991 in the 8th session of the Supreme Council of Uzbekistan. The flag of our country is a symbol of the sovereignty of the Republic. The national flag of the Republic represents the country internationally when official delegations from Uzbekistan visit foreign countries, as well as at conferences, world exhibition, and sports competitions.

The national flag of the Republic is a right-angled colored cloth of three horizontal stripes: blue, white and green.

Blue is the symbol of the sky and water, which are the main source of life. Mainly blue was the color of the state flag of Temur the Great (Tamerlane). White is the traditional symbol of peace and luck. Green is the color of nature and new life and good harvest. Two thin red stripes symbolize the power of life.

There is a new moon, which symbolizes the newly independent Republic.

There are twelve stars, which stand for spiritual sign. The stars also signify the historical traditions of the Uzbek people, as well as ancient solar calendar. A particular attention to twelve stars in the flag is explained yet by another suggestion that in the states previously existed in the territory of modern Uzbekistan the scientific thought as "Astrology" had seen its rise. The stars in the Uzbek flag also point to the ancient roots of local culture, the aspirations of Uzbek people towards perfection and loyalty.

 

The State Emblem

gerbThe law about "The State Emblem" was approved by the 10th session of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan on July 2, 1992.

The new state emblem of the Republic of Uzbekistan was created to reflect the many centuries of experience of the Uzbek people.

The state emblem of the Republic presents the image of the rising sun over a flourishing valley. Two rivers run through the valley, representing the Syrdarya and Amudarya. The emblem is bordered by wheat on the right side and branches of cotton with opened cotton bolls on the left side. The eight-angle star is at the top of the emblem, symbolizing the unity and confirmation of the republic. The crescent and star inside the eight-pointed star are the sacred symbols of Islam. The mythical bird Semurg with outstretched wings is placed in the center of the emblem as the symbol of the national Renaissance. The entire composition aims to express to desire of the Uzbek people for peace, happiness and prosperity. At the bottom of the emblem inscribed the word "Uzbekistan" written in Uzbek on a ribbon in the national colors of the flag.

 

Uzbek bazaars

The best place to experience Central Asia and Uzbekistan is in the bazaars or eastern markets. Apart from its primary purpose of buying and selling or the place for vendors and consumers, with one word, bazaar is a place of interaction. If you visit Uzbekistan you should surely go to a bazaar. Its noisiness, variety, bright colors, hustle and bustle will leave unforgettable memories for good. There is nothing like visiting an open - air market or bazaar to get the full essence of Uzbekistan. Here a traveler can experience the noise, hustle and bustle, exotic aromas and bright colorful produce abundantly. Everywhere are the sounds of upbeat conversation, loud bargaining, and friendly salutations.

Clouds of spice aromas fill the areas of bazaars, enticing you with the promise of delicious local flavor. Nutmeg, cloves, red and black pepper, saffron, cardamom and thyme are among the herbs and spices abundantly available. Near the spices are bags of rice, white balls of Kurt, (dried cottage cheese), and sugar. Vendors compete with one another, calling out tempting offers of dried apricots, raisins, almonds and pistachios, walnuts and peanuts. During the summer and autumn there is a wide variety of fruit:: grapes, pomegranates, apricots - which are also dried and sold at other times of the year - and dwarfing them all and mountains of honeydew.

Market ware is displayed on the ground or on tables, and sometimes in stalls or stands. You are encouraged to try a national specialty of peanuts boiled in sugar or honey and sprinkled heavily with sesame seeds. In summer and autumn the piles of huge water melons and melons, the variety of which is overwhelming, can’t help but impress any tourist visiting this country. Honey pears, rosy apples, and sweet grapes of black, amber and pink can also be found in Uzbekistan bazaars. Besides them, you will find irresistible arrays of ruby - seeded pomegranates, prunes, peaches, yellow figs and orange persimmons which market vendors also proudly offer. Also on display at Uzbekistan bazaars are arts and crafts reflecting traditional Uzbekistan culture. Many vendors have stands where they actually make their products and sell them on the spot. These include wares such as jewelry, ceramics, and gold embroidery. There is hand - made apparel for men and women, and carpentry work of wood chests decorated with metal. Knife makers are selling their craft, as well as designers of musical instruments. Many basket weavers are here selling their woven delights. Of course, the tourist will also find several vendors of oriental carpets, not only from areas of Uzbekistan but also from Turkey, Belgium, and Afghanistan. One can have no doubt that here is reflected the true heritage of Uzbekistan and its vital connection to the famous Silk Road. The best part of the bazaar is the bargaining. Bargaining is not only allowed, but expected. People just love to bargain.

Many bazaars and marketplaces are more than thousands of years. Some of the more modern bazaars are located in spacious pavilions under colorful tiled domes. Some are even equipped with refrigerators. Bazaar activity begins very early in the morning and continues until dark. A tour of Uzbekistan is not complete without a visit to at least one bazaar of Uzbekistan.

 

Cuisine

The Uzbek cuisine is one of the most colorful Oriental Cuisines. You will be amazed to find some of the recipes are centuries old. There are about 1000 different dishes and these include national drinks, cakes and confectionary products.

The development of the cuisine benefited much from the new crops which had come from the countries of the Great Silk Road. Moreover, the local rulers used to bring the best culinary experts from the conquered lands.

Uzbek pilaw is a very solemn dish. It can be considered as an everyday dish as well as dish for solemn and great events like weddings, parties and holidays. Its recipe varies from one locality to another. But the basic ingredients for all kinds of pilaw are the same: meat (preferably mutton), rice, carrots (yellow or red), onions and three spices: pepper, barberries and cumin seeds, which create its characteristic taste. Other special spices, raisins, peas or quince may be added to give it extra flavor. It makes this dish very tasty and useful especially after long illnesses. However, locals believe that the best plov is always prepared by a man. One very famous Uzbek appetizer served with pilaw is "kazy" horse meet sausage (mostly eaten in Tashkent and Fergana Valley).

Special importance is placed on soups. Uzbek’s soup is rich with vegetables and seasonings and contains lots of carrots, turnips, onions and greens. Popular soups available are mastava, qaynatma shurva (boiled soup) and moshkhorda (chick pea soup).

Traditionally any Uzbek feast treatment finishes with the mutton or beef kebab Shashlik (skewered chunks of mutton barbecued over charcoal - kebabs - served with sliced raw onions). Gourmets especially value jigar - kebab made of sheep's liver. The tastiest shashliks (shish kebabs) in Uzbekistan are cooked in a small town Gizhduvan, 45 km away from Bukhara. Gizhduvan is also famous for other types of national dishes. You can also find cafes serving Bukhara and Gizhduvan dishes in other towns and cities of Uzbekistan too. Uzbek cuisine can't be considered as such without the flaky pasty somsa, which has minced meat and a piece of fat of sheep's tail inside; or the original ravioli - like Uzbek manty, which are filled with meat, potatoes or sweet pumpkin, and cooked in steam. Besides them, in hotel restaurants and other cafes you can find some food which shows a strong Russian influence: borsch is a cabbage soup, entrecote is well-cooked steak, cutlet is chopped and grilled meat balls and strogan is the local equivalent of Beef Stroganoff. Pelmeni (ravioli) originated in Ukraine and are small boiled noodle sacks of meat and vegetables, similar to ravioli, sometimes served in a vegetable soup. So, if you visit Uzbekistan, try the local cuisine, and don't forget to ask the hosts for the recipe of one you like best.

One of the famous Eastern candies is halwa made of wheat flour, sugar with nuts or sesame seeds as toppings. Halva is especially sweet and delicious and is considered a must at weddings. It is customary for an Uzbek youth during courtship, to bring halva for his fiancée. When a baby girl is born into an Uzbek family, she is usually refers to as "halva". There are 50 different types of halva in Uzbekistan.