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Atlas Uzbekistan

Country (long form)
Republic of Uzbekistan
Tashkent (Toshkent)
Total Area
172,742.11 sq mi
447,400.00 sq km
24,755,519 (July 2000 est.)
Estimated Population in 2050
Uzbek 74.3%, Russian 14.2%, Tajik 4.4%, other 7.1%
99.0% total, 99.0% male, 99.0% female (1996)
Muslim 88% (mostly Sunnis), Eastern Orthodox 9%, other 3%
Life Expectancy
60.09 male, 67.52 female (2000 est.)
Government Type
Uzbekistani som (UKS)
GDP (per capita)
$2,500 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
agriculture and forestry 44%, industry 20%, services 36% (1995)
textiles, food processing, machine building, metallurgy, natural gas
cotton, vegetables, fruits, grain; livestock
Arable Land
cotton, gold, natural gas, mineral fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, food products, automobiles
machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals; foodstuffs
Natural Resources
natural gas, petroleum, coal, gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead and zinc, tungsten, molybdenum
Current Environmental Issues
drying up of the Aral Sea is resulting in growing concentrations of chemical pesticides and natural salts; these substances are then blown from the increasingly exposed lake bed and contribute to desertification; water pollution from industrial wastes and the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides is the cause of many human health disorders; increasing soil salination; soil contamination from agricultural chemicals, including DDT
Telephones (main lines in use)
1.976 million (1999)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
26,000 (1998)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
1 (1999)

The land along the upper Amu-Darya, Syr-Darya and their tributaries has always been different from the rest of Central Asia. Its people are more settled than nomadic, with patterns of land use and social structures that changed little from the 6th century BC to the 19th century. The region was part of several very old Persian states. During the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great passed through and married the daughter of a local chieftain near Samarkand. Under the Kushan empire, Buddhism took hold and the Silk Road brought peaceful contact with the wider world. Towns grew and the area became rich.

In the 6th century AD, Western Turks rode out of the steppes, bringing Islam and a written alphabet. When they moved on to greener pastures, Persia took over again, until Jenghiz Khan and his hordes rolled over the country. With the rise of the ruthless warrior Timur in the 14th century, Uzbekistan again rose to prosperity and Samarkand became a glittering Islamic capital thanks to his patronage of the arts.

Around this time, certain Mongol tribes took the name Uzbek. In the 14th century they began moving south, eventually conquering Timur's empire. By 1510 they had control of everything from the Amu-Darya to the Syr-Darya, and they have maintained control ever since. In the early 18th century the khan of Khiva asked Peter the Great of Russia for aid in defending his land against Turkmen and Kazaks, stirring the first Russian interest in Central Asia. However, by the time the Russians got around to marching on Khiva, the khan no longer wanted their help and massacred almost the entire army. Apart from a few minor forays, the next major Russian excursion was made in 1839 by Tsar Nicholas I, who was eager to prevent British expansion in the area, but the mission was not a great success. Twenty-five years later the Russians again made a serious move on Uzbekistan and by 1875 the region was theirs.

After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks proclaimed the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkestan, despite the fact that most Central Asians defined themselves not by country, but as ethnic Turks or Persians. In October 1924, Uzbekistan was declared, although it changed shape and size many times in the following decades. For rural Uzbeks, Soviet rule meant forced collectivisation of their farms, and a huge shift to cotton cultivation. For the intelligentsia it meant devastating purges.

The first serious non-communist popular movement was formed in 1989 to speak out on cotton farming and the use of Uzbek as an official language. Although (or because) the movement was very popular, it was not permitted to contest elections. After Moscow's 1991 coup, Uzbekistan was declared independent, and its Communist Party changed its name but retained everything else. The party's leader, Karimov, has held onto power ever since, largely because genuine opposition groups are still not allowed to contest elections. In fact, since independence his power has grown and dissent has shriveled, thanks to restrictions on travel, political activism and publishing, the introduction of a virtual police state, and the ever-present threat of violence. Officially Uzbekistan is a multi-party democracy, but in reality opposition groups are terrorized out of existence. Karimov ran unopposed in the 1995 elections.

In 1999, militant Islamic groups struggled to overthrow the government. Sixteen people were killed and hundreds injured in Tashkent by bomb blasts that February. Uzbek fighter planes have not been successful in their attempts to dislodge the Islamic gunmen who have stationed themselves across the southern border. President Karimov has presented himself as a champion of democracy at home and abroad, but human rights organisations and activists have publicly questioned his sincerity. In reality he seems to be committed to authoritarian rule. The country as a whole is seeking to lessen its dependence on agriculture and to exploit its oil and mineral reserves, although the country's non-convertible currency is likely to impede any great economic progress in the near future.