Uzbekistan is strategically located between Asia and Europe. It is a doubly-landlocked country, but the population is young, enthusiastic, well-educated and outward-looking, eagerly engaging with the global community. For example, hundreds of Uzbek students study abroad, but there are also four foreign universities (with English as the language of tuition) that have established campuses in Tashkent; a fifth is currently being developed. In the arts, there are numerous exchange exhibitions of modern works as well as antiquities; foreign musicians tour in Uzbekistan and Uzbek musicians give concerts abroad ‒ and there are several wonderful young Uzbek opera singers who regularly perform in prestigious Western venues (see section on ‘Theatres’).
Uzbekistan is becoming an important partner for the United Kingdom, with growing ties in many spheres, including education, professional training and technology transfer. Official agreements and initiatives matter, but so, too, do personal contacts and mutual understanding. Uzbekistan it is still a rather unknown country ‒ often described as ‘remote’ ‒ for most of the UK population. We, members of the British Uzbek Society, want to play our part in changing that. Through our lectures and other activities we would like to stimulate informed debate and enquiry. Above all, we hope to encourage you to visit Uzbekistan and to form your own impressions. So ‒ go there, make up your own minds about this extraordinary land and share your experiences and opinions with us!
Official designation: ‘Republic of Uzbekistan’; conventional short form ‘Uzbekistan’. The formal (ethnically inclusive) demonym for the population is ‘Uzbekistani’; strictly speaking, ‘Uzbek’ is an ethnonym, but in common usage it is used collectively for all ethnic groups.
Uzbekistan, one of the five (ex-Soviet) Central Asian states, is situated at the heart of Eurasia, astride the transcontinental trade routes of the ancient world – the fabled ‘Silk Routes’. It is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world (the other is Lichtenstein). It borders five landlocked countries: Kazakhstan to the north (2,230 km); Tajikistan to the southeast (1,312 km); Kyrgyzstan to the northeast (1,314 km); Afghanistan to the south (144 km); and Turkmenistan to the southwest (1,793).
The state language is Uzbek (of the Turkic group), but Russian, and increasingly English, are widely spoken in urban areas.
Area: 447,400 km2 (172,700 sq. miles – approximately the same size as Sweden); comprises 12 provinces (viloyatlar), one autonomous republic (Karakalpakstan) and a capital city, Tashkent. Uzbekistan also has jurisdiction over the southern half of the Aral Sea. Terrain consists mostly of sandy dunes, with semi-arid grassland in the east; fertile land along the course of rivers; and mountains in the east (towards Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).
Among the Central Asian states, Uzbekistan has the largest population; in 2017, it numbered over 32, 300, 000. The median age is 28.1 years; life expectancy at birth is 73.8 years. The urban population accounts for 50.6% of the total, the rural population 49.4%.
Uzbeks form the main ethnic group (approx. 84%); the second largest group is the Tajik (approx.5%). The remainder of the population comprises some 100 other ethnic groups (including Karakalpaks, Tatars, Kazakhs, Koreans, Germans and Greeks). This diversity is the legacy of over a century of immigration, sometimes voluntary, sometimes punitive exile.
Minerals: Gold (fourth-largest deposits in the world, seventh largest producer); copper (tenth largest global deposits) and uranium (twelfth largest global deposits); hydrocarbons (still largely under-exploited).
Agriculture: cotton, vegetables, fruits, grain; livestock.
Industries: textiles, food processing, machine building, metallurgy, mining, hydrocarbon extraction, chemicals.
Exports: energy products, cotton, gold, mineral fertilizers, ferrous and nonferrous metals, textiles, foodstuffs, machinery, automobiles. Destinations: Switzerland, China, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia, Bangladesh.
Imports: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, ferrous and nonferrous. From: China, Russia, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Germany.
Form of Government
Uzbekistan is a secular, presidential constitutional republic. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the bicameral Supreme Assembly, comprising the Senate (upper house), and the Legislative Chamber (lower house). The judicial branch is comprises the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, and Higher Economic Court. There are four main parties: Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party (which won the majority in the 2014 parliamentary elections); Uzbekistan National Revival Democratic Party; People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan; Justice Social Democratic Party. There is also an Ecological Movement which automatically has 15 seats in parliament. Since January 2015, the prime minister has been nominated by the parliamentary majority party.
Territory of Uzbekistan: in early history, this corresponded approximately to the area between the Syr Darya and Amu Darya; it formed part of successive empires and overlapped with Sogdiana, though the Sogdians, who played a very significant cultural and economic role (6th cent. BC to AD 11th cent.), never formed a unified political entity.
c. 550-330 BC Iranian Achaemenian Empire includes southern Central Asia
330-327 BC Alexander the Great conquers Iran, then Central Asia
327-250 BC Hellenic Seleucid Empire (successor state of Alexander the Great); at its height (c. 280 BC) extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Ferghana Valley
c. 250 – c.125 BC Graeco-Bactrian Empire
206 BC – AD 220 Han dynasties in China; trade along Silk Road flourishes
AD 226-651 Iranian Sasanian Empire encompasses southern Central Asia
622 Year of Hijra, Mohammed’s Flight from Mecca to Medina, marks beginning of Muslim era
650-800 Arabs conquer Iran, southern Central Asia
875-999 Samanid Empire (Sunni-Iranian); at its height, extends to Gulf of Oman
1219-21 Mongol conquest of Central Asia
1370-1405 Reign of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of Timurid Empire (southern Central Asia, northern India, Transcaucasia), capital at Samarkand; in 1402, Timur defeats Ottoman Sultan Bayezit I at Battle of Ankara
1500 Khanate (later ‘Emirate) of Bukhara established
1511 Formation of Khanate of Khiva
1709 Formation of Khanate of Kokand
1734-40 Iranian Nadir Khan (later Shah) invades Bukhara, Khiva
1865 Advance of Tsarist forces into Central Asia;
1868 Tsarist Governor-Generalship of Turkestan established; in following years states of Bukhara and Khiva become Russian Protectorates; Kokand brought under direct Russian rule.
1916 Anti-Tsarist Uprising in Central Asia
1918 Formation of Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
1924 National Delimitation of Central Asia; Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, within its present boundaries, declared on 27 October
1991 Independence from USSR declared on 31 August; Independence Day celebrated on1 September; Islam Karimov elected first President of independent Uzbekistan on 29 December
1992 Uzbekistan formally joined the United Nations 2 March; new Constitution adopted 8 December
1992-94 Diplomatic and economic relations established with some 100 states; Uzbekistan joins main UN funds and specialised agencies, also several regional organisations
2016 President Islam Karimov died of a stroke, 2 September; Shavkat Mirziyoev elected in December; sworn in, 14 December 2016
2017 To date, Uzbekistan has bilateral relations and active cooperation in economic, political and cultural affairs with numerous states in the CIS, Europe , Asia and north America.