A country in central Asia situated south of Kazakhstan; to the south and east are Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Uzbekistan extends south-east from the deserts of the Aral Sea to the Alai Mountains on the border with Afghanistan. At the foot of these lie the fertile Fergana valley and several large oases. The Amu Darya (Oxus) flows north-west to the Aral Sea, providing a second fertile belt, between the Kara Kum sand desert and the Kyzyl Kum desert of stony clay.
Uzbekistan's principal mineral resources are natural gas, petroleum, coal, and metal ores. Heavy industry focuses on machinery production, particularly for the cultivation and processing of cotton. Other agricultural products are silks, fruit, grapes, and livestock, particularly karakul sheep. Mechanization of cotton cultivation has led to a dramatic cut in employment and the use of defoliants and pesticides has caused health problems. Aluminium factories have produced uncontrolled wastes that are now affecting fruit-growing areas and livestock.
Uzbekistan was the centre of the empire of Genghis Khan, and its two ancient cities of Samarkand and Tashkent flourished with the silk caravan trade. Divided into three khanates, Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand, it was repeatedly attacked by Russia from 1717 until its annexation in 1876. Its Sunni Muslim Uzbeks were excluded from office by the Russians, and in 1918 staged a rebellion. This was suppressed by the Red Army, and a Soviet Socialist Republic was formed in 1929, which joined the Soviet Union in 1936. After 1989 the republic pressed for independence. The former Communist Party of Uzbekistan, renamed the People's Democratic Party, retained power in the country's parliament following elections in 1990. Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991. However, the commitment of the PDP to democratic reform has been questioned; three major opposition parties are officially proscribed. The banned Islamic Renaissance Party claimed that President Karimov was trying to unseat the Mufti of Tashkent, leader of Islam throughout central Asia. Uzbekistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1991. However, dissatisfaction at the Russian dominance of this body led Uzbekistan to form an alternative economic union with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in 1994. Opponents of the ruling regime have become increasingly violent; there is also ethnically based conflict between Tajiks, Russians, and Uzbeks. In the 21st century President Karimov's regime came under increasing international criticism for violations of human rights.
447,400 sq km (172,741 sq miles)
Sunni Muslim; Eastern Orthodox; Jewish and minority faiths
Uzbek 78.3%; Tajik 4.7%; Kazakh 4.1%; Tatar 3.3%; Russian 2.5%
Uzbek (official); Russian; minority languages
UN; Commonwealth of Independent States; OSCE; Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council; WTO