Uzbekistan, officially the Republic of Uzbekistan, is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia, formerly part of the Soviet Union. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south. Once part of the Persian Samanid and later Timurid empires, the region was conquered in the early 16th century by Uzbek nomads, who spoke an Eastern Turkic language. Most of Uzbekistan’s population today belong to the Uzbek ethnic group and speak the Uzbek language, one of the family of Turkic languages. Uzbekistan was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 19th century and in 1924 became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). It has been an independent republic since December 1991.

Uzbekistan’s economy relies mainly on commodity production, including cotton, gold, uranium, and natural gas. Despite the declared objective of transition to a market economy, Uzbekistan continues to maintain rigid economic controls, which often repel foreign investors. The policy of gradual, strictly  controlled transition has nevertheless produced beneficial results in the form of economic recovery after 1995. Uzbekistan’s domestic policies of human rights and individual freedoms are often criticized by international organizations.

Alexander the Great conquered Sogdiana (the ancient civilization of an Iranian  people and a province of the Achaemenid Persian Empire)and Bactria (the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Persian Empire) in 327 BC, marrying Roxana, daughter of a local Bactrian chieftain. The conquest was supposedly of little help to Alexander as popular resistance was fierce, causing Alexander’s army to be bogged down in the region. For many  centuries in the region that became the northern part of Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian Kingdom.For many centuries the region of Uzbekistan was ruled by Iranian Empires, including the Parthian ( a region of north-eastern Iran) and Sassanid (the name of the last pre-Islamic Iranian empire) Empires.

In the fourteenth century AD, Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, overpowered the Mongols and built an empire. In his military campaigns, Tamerlane reached as far as the Middle East. He defeated  Ottoman  Sultan Bayezid I, who was captured, and died in captivity. Tamerlane sought to build a capital for his empire in Samarkand. Today Tamerlane is considered to be one of the greatest heroes in Uzbekistan. He plays a significant role in its national identity and history.Following the fall of the Timurid Empire, Uzbek nomads conquered the region.

In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire began to expand and spread into Central Asia. The “Great Game” period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a second, less intensive phase followed. At the start of the  nineteenth century, there were some 2,000 miles (3,200 km) separating British India and the outlying regions of Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Asia was firmly in the hands of Russia, and despite some early resistance to Bolsheviks, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union. On 27 October 1924 the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created. On August 31, 1991, Uzbekistan declared independence, marking September 1 as a national holiday. The country is now the world’s second-largest exporter of cotton, and it is developing its mineral and petroleum reserves.

Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous country. Its 27.7 million people (July 2007 estimate) comprise nearly half the region’s total population.

The population of Uzbekistan is very young: 34.1% of its people are younger than 14 (2008 estimate). According to official sources, Uzbeks comprise a majority (80%) of the total population. Other ethnic groups include Russians 5.5%,  Tajiks 5%, Kazakhs 3%, Karakalpaks 2.5% and Tatars 1.5% (1996 estimates).There is some controversy about the percentage of the Tajik population. While official state numbers from Uzbekistan put the number at 5%, the number is said to be an understatement and some Western scholars put the number up to 20%-30%.

Uzbekistan has an ethnic Korean population that was forcibly relocated to the region by Stalin from the Soviet Far East in 1937-1938. There are also small groups of Armenians in Uzbekistan, mostly in Tashkent and Samarkand.

The nation is 88% Muslim (mostly Sunni, with a 5% Shi’a minority), 9% Eastern Orthodox and 3% other faiths. The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2004 reports that 0.2% of the population are Buddhist (these being ethnic Koreans). The Bukharian Jews (see page 11) have lived in Central Asia, mostly in Uzbekistan, for thousands of years. There were 94,900 Jews in Uzbekistan in 1989 (about 0.5% of the population according to the 1989 census), but now, since the collapse of the USSR, most Central Asian Jews left the region for the United States or Israel. Fewer than 5,000 Jews remained in Uzbekistan in 2007.

The Uzbek language is the only official state language. The Tajik language is widespread in the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand because of their relatively large population of ethnic Tajiks. Russian is still an important language for interethnic communication, especially in the cities, including much day-to-day technical, scientific, governmental and business use. Russian is the main language of over 14% of the population and is spoken as a  second language by many more. The use of Russian in remote rural areas has always been limited, and today school children have no proficiency in Russian even in urban centers.

Did You Know?

Uzbekistan possesses the largest military force in the Central Asian region, having around 65,000 people in uniform. Its structure is inherited from the Soviet armed forces, although it is moving rapidly toward a fully restructured organization, which will eventually be built around light and Special Forces. The Uzbekistan Armed Forces equipment is not modern, and training, while improving, is neither uniform nor adequate for its new mission of territorial security. The government has accepted the arms control obligations of the former Soviet Union, acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (as a non-nuclear state), and supported an active program by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in western Uzbekistan (Nukus and Vozrozhdeniye Island). The Government of Uzbekistan spends about 3.7% of GDP on the military but has received a growing infusion of Foreign Military  Financing (FMF) and other security assistance funds since 1998. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., Uzbekistan approved the U.S. Central Command’s request for access to a vital military air base, Karshi-Khanabad Airbase, in southern Uzbekistan. However Uzbekistan demanded that the U.S. withdraw from the airbases after the Andijan massacre and the U.S. reaction to this massacre. The last US troops left Uzbekistan in November 2005.

The Andijan massacre occurred when Uzbek Interior Ministry and National  Security Service troops fired into a crowd of protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan on 13 May 2005. Estimates of those killed on May 13 range from between 187, the official count of the government, and 5,000 people, with most outside reports estimating several hundred dead. A defector from Uzbekistan’s secret service alleged that 1,500 were killed. The bodies of many of those who died were allegedly hidden in mass graves following the massacre.

The Uzbek government at first said the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan organized the unrest and the protesters were members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Critics argue that the Islamist radical label is “a pretext for maintaining a repressive state”. Whether troops fired indiscriminately to prevent a color revolution or acted legitimately to quell a prison break is also disputed. A third theory is that the dispute was really an inter-clan struggle for state power. The Uzbek government eventually acknowledged that poor economic conditions in the region and popular resentment played a role in the uprising.

Calls from Western governments for an international investigation prompted a major shift in Uzbek foreign policy favoring closer relations with Asian nations. The Uzbek government ordered the closing of the United States air base in Karshi-Khanabad and improved ties with the People’s Republic of China, India, and Russia, all of which supported the regime’s response in Andjian.

Colour revolutions is a term used to describe related movements that  developed in post-communist societies in Central and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Some observers have called the events a revolutionary wave.

Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance to protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy. These movements all adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative nonviolent resistance.

So far these movements have been successful in Serbia (especially Serbia’s Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), and (though more violent than the previous ones) in Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005). Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.

Interesting Facts

Uzbekistan has a wide mix of ethnic groups and cultures, with the Uzbek being the  majority group. In 1995 about 71% of Uzbekistan’s population was Uzbek. The chief minority groups were Russians (8%), Tajiks (5%), Kazaks (4%), Tatars (2.5%) and Karakalpaks (2%). It is said, however, that the number of non-Uzbek people living in Uzbekistan is decreasing as Russians and other minority groups slowly leave and Uzbeks return from other parts of the former Soviet Union.

When Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, there was concern that Muslim fundamentalism would spread across the region. The expectation was that a country long denied freedom of religious practice would undergo a very rapid increase in the expression of its dominant faith. As of 1994, well over half of Uzbekistan’s population was said to be Muslim, though in an official survey few of that number had any real knowledge of the religion or knew how to practice it. However, Islamic observance is increasing in the Region.

Uzbekistan has a high literacy rate, with about 99.3% of adults above the age of 15 being able to read and write. However with only 88% of the under-15 population currently enrolled in education, this figure may drop in the future. Uzbekistan has encountered severe budgeting shortfalls in its education program. The education law of 1992 began the process of theoretical reform, but the physical base has deteriorated and curriculum revision has been slow.

Uzbekistan’s universities churn out almost 600,000 graduates annually.

Uzbekistan’s environmental situation ought to be a major concern among the international community. Decades of questionable Soviet policies in pursuit of greater cotton production have resulted in a catastrophic scenario. The agricultural industry appears to be the main contributor to the pollution and devastation of the air and water in the country.

The Aral Sea disaster is a classic example. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-largest inland sea on Earth, acting as an influencing factor in the air moisture. Since the 1960s, the decade when the misuse of the Aral Sea water began, it has shrunk to less than 50% of its former area and decreased in volume threefold. Reliable – or even approximate – data have not been collected, stored or provided by any organization or official agency. The numbers of animal deaths and human refugees from the area around the sea can only be guessed at. The question of who is responsible for the crisis – the Soviet scientists and politicians who directed the distribution of water during the 1960s, or the post-Soviet politicians who did not allocate sufficient funding for the building of dams and irrigation systems – remains open.

Due to the virtually insoluble Aral Sea problem, high  salinity (the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water.) and contamination of the soil with heavy elements are especially widespread in Karakalpakstan – the region of Uzbekistan adjacent to the Aral Sea. The bulk of the nation’s water resources is used for farming, which accounts for nearly 94% of the water usage and contributes to high soil salinity. Heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers for cotton growing further aggravates soil pollution.

Political History

Islom Karimov  (born on January 30, 1938) has served as the President of Uzbekistan since 1991. Karimov was born in Samarkand, Uzbek SSR, Soviet Union. He is half-Uzbek, from his father’s side, and half-Tajik from his mother’s side. He grew up in a Soviet state-orphanage. Later he studied engineering and economics in Tashkent.

Karimov became an official in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, becoming the party’s First Secretary in Uzbekistan in 1989. On March 24, 1990 he became President of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. He declared Uzbekistan an independent nation on August 31, 1991. He won Uzbekistan’s first presidential election on December 29 with 86% of the vote. The elections were called unfair, with state-run propaganda and a falsified vote count, although the opposing candidate and leader of the Erk (Freedom) Party, Muhammad Salih, had a chance to participate.

In 1995, Karimov extended his term until 2000 through a widely criticized referendum, and he was re-elected with 91.9% of the vote on January 9, 2000. The United States said that this election “was neither free nor fair and offered Uzbekistan’s voters no true choice”. The sole opposition candidate, Abdulhafiz Jalalov, implicitly admitted that he entered the race only to make it seem democratic and publicly stated that he voted for Karimov. On January 27, 2002, Karimov won another referendum extending the length of presidential terms from five to seven years; Karimov’s present term, formerly due to end in 2005, was subsequently extended by parliament, which scheduled the next elections for December 2007.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks Uzbekistan was considered a strategic ally in the United States’ “War on Terrorism” campaign because of a mutual opposition to the Taliban. Uzbekistan hosted an 800-strong U.S. troop presence at the Karshi-Khanabad base, also known as “K2”, which supported U.S.-led efforts in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. This move was criticized by Human Rights Watch which said the U.S. government subordinated the promotion of human rights to assistance in the War in Afghanistan. U.S.-Uzbek relations deteriorated in May 2005 when the U.S. government criticized the Uzbek government’s reaction to protests in Andijan. In July 2005 U.S. military forces left Karshi-Khanabad.

Karimov was mobilized against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Islamist organizations that the government has designated as terrorist. The Uzbek government sentenced Tohir Yo‘ldosh and Juma Namangani, leaders of the IMU, to death in absentia. Namangani died in Afghanistan in 2001 but Tohir Yo‘ldosh is still alive.

Karimov sought another term in the December 2007 presidential election, despite arguments that he was ineligible due to the two-term limit on the presidency. On November 6, 2007, Karimov accepted the nomination of theUzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party to run for a third term. On November 19, the Central Election Commission announced the approval of Karimov’s candidacy, a decision that Karimov’s opponents condemned as illegal.

Following the election on December 23, preliminary official results showed Karimov winning with 88.1% of the vote, on a turnout rate that was placed at 90.6%. Observers from groups allied to the Karimov administration such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States gave the election a positive assessment. However, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized the election as lacking a “genuine choice,” while others deemed the election, a “political charade,” given that all three of Karimov’s rivals began their campaign speeches by singing Karimov’s praises.

The international community has repeatedly criticized the Karimov administration’s record on human rights and press freedom. In particular, Craig Murray, the British Ambassador from 2002 to 2004, wrote about financial corruption and human rights abuses during his term in office and later in his memoirs Murder in Samarkand pointing to reports of boiling people to death. The United Nations found torture “institutionalized, systematic, and rampant” in Uzbekistan’s judicial system. For several years, Parade Magazine has selected Karimov for being one of the world’s worst dictators, citing to his tactics of torture, media censorship, and fake elections.

Muhammad Salih, born on December 20th, 1949 is a Uzbek political opposition leader and writer. He lives in exile in Norway where the government has granted him political asylum.


Religious Tidbits

About 9 % of the population of Uzbekistan are orthodox.

There are about 4000 Roman Catholics in Uzbekistan.

New Roman Catholic parishes cannot register.

There are new churches of Uzbeks.

Thousands of Uzbeks have become Christians after 1991.

Christians have been portrayed negatively.

Christians are considered as being members of an extremist cult.

In 2006 a law was established that printing religious books can be punished with a three year sentence.

The government indulges in massive persecution of Christians.

There is strong pressure on Christians from a Muslim background in remote areas.

Uzbekistan was designated to its list of countries of particular concern of the U. S. State Department.

Protestants are less than 1 % of the population of Uzbekistan.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Uzbekistan is a church of seven congregations.

The president of the synod (a council of a church, usually a Christian church, convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application) is Gilda Raspopowa.

New Christian congregations are not able to register.

There are house churches of Uzbeks.

The Roman Catholic Church in Uzbekistan is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome.

There are approximately 5000 Catholics in the country of 27 million.

They are organized under a single Apostolic Administration.

The country currently has five parishes and the bishop hopes to open two more.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and for the principle of separation of church and state; however, the  Government continued to restrict these rights in practice. The Government permits the operation of what it considers mainstream religious groups, including approved Muslim groups, Jewish groups, the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other Christian denominations, such as Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Baptists. Uzbek society generally tolerates Christian churches as long as they do not attempt to win converts among ethnic Uzbeks; the law prohibits or severely restricts activities such as proselytizing, importing and disseminating religious literature, and offering private religious instruction.


Islam is by far the dominant religion in Uzbekistan. In the early 1990s, many of the Russians remaining in the republic (about 8% of the population) were Orthodox Christians. An estimated 93,000 Jews also were present. Despite its predominance, the practice of Islam is far from monolithic. Many versions of the faith have been practiced in Uzbekistan. The conflict of Islamic tradition with various agendas of reform or secularization throughout the 20th century has left the outside world with a confused notion of Islamic practices in Central Asia. In Uzbekistan the end of Soviet power did not bring an upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism, as many had predicted, but rather a gradual re-acquaintance with the  precepts of the faith. However after 2000, there seems to be a rise of support in favour of the Islamists.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev, born 1957,  is the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan (political party – FMDP (Self-Sacrifice National Democratic Party (Fidokorlar Milliy Demokratik Partiyasi)). He was nominated by the President, Islam Karimov on December 12, 2003 and agreed by the Uzbek parliament. He replaced fired Prime Minister, O‘tkir Sultonov. His deputy is Ergash Shoismatov. He is Islamic.

He served as governor of Jizzakh Province from 1996 to September 2001, then as governor of Samarqand Province from September 2001 until his appointment as Prime Minister.

Religious Persecution

The status of religious freedom remained restricted with a specific decline for some Pentecostal and other Christian groups during the period of this report. A number of minority religious groups, including congregations of some Christian denominations, continued to operate without registration because they had not satisfied the strict registration requirements set out by the law. As in previous periods, Protestant groups with ethnic Uzbek members reported operating in a climate of harassment and fear. Using new criminal statutes enacted in 2006, the Government brought criminal charges against two pastors. One was sentenced to 4 years in a  labor camp; the other received a suspended sentence and probation. Law enforcement officials raided and harassed some unregistered groups, detaining and fining their leaders and members.

The Government continued its campaign against unauthorized Islamic groups suspected of extremist sentiments or activities, arresting numerous alleged members of these groups and sentencing them to lengthy jail terms. Many of these were suspected members of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), a banned extremist Islamic political movement, the banned Islamic group Akromiya (Akromiylar), or unspecified “Wahhabi” groups. The Government generally did not interfere with worshippers attending sanctioned mosques and granted approvals for new Islamic print, audio, and video materials. A small number of “underground” mosques operated under the close scrutiny of religious authorities and the security services.

Religious groups enjoyed generally tolerant relations; however, neighbors, family, and employers often continued to pressure ethnic Uzbek Christians, especially recent converts and residents of smaller communities. There were several reports of sermons against missionaries and persons who converted from Islam. A Pentecostal deacon was severely beaten after his church was prominently featured in a documentary on state television directed against Christian evangelicals. Unlike in previous periods, there was only one report of individuals being charged with the distribution of HT leaflets, which often contain strong anti-Semitic rhetoric, during the period of this report.


Constitutionally, the Government of Uzbekistan provides for democracy. The executive holds a great deal of power, and the legislature and judiciary have little power to shape laws. Under terms of a December 27, 1995 referendum, Islam Karimov’s first term was extended. Another national referendum was held January 27, 2002 to extend the Constitutional Presidential term from 5 years to 7 years. The referendum passed, and Karimov’s term was extended by act of the parliament to December 2007. Most international observers refused to participate in the process and did not recognize the results, dismissing them as not meeting basic  standards. The 2002 referendum also included a plan to create a bicameral parliament, consisting of a lower house (the Oliy Majlis) and an upper house (Senate). Members of the lower house are to be “full time” legislators. Elections for the new bicameral parliament took place on December 26, but no truly independent opposition candidates or parties were able to take part. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) limited observation mission concluded that the elections fell significantly short of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Several political parties have been formed with government approval. Similarly, although multiple media outlets (radio, TV, newspaper) have been established, these either remain under government control or rarely broach political topics. Independent political parties were allowed to organize, recruit members and hold conventions and press conferences, but they have been denied registration under restrictive registration procedures. Terrorist bombings were carried out March 28, 2004 – April 1, 2004 in Tashkent and Bukhara.

In government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or executive chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses. Bicameralism is an essential and defining feature of the classical notion of mixed government. Bicameral legislatures tend to require a concurrent majority to pass legislation.

In the study of political science the executive branch of government has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the democratic idea of the separation of powers.

In many countries the term “government” connotes only the executive branch. However, this ambiguity fails to differentiate between despotic and democratic forms of government. In authoritarian systems (such as a dictatorship or absolute monarchy, where the different powers of government are assumed by one person), the executive branch ceases to exist since there is no other branch with which to share  separate but equal governmental powers.

The separation of powers system is designed to distribute authority away from the executive branch – an attempt to preserve individual liberty in response to tyrannical leadership throughout history. The executive officer is not supposed to make laws (the role of the legislature), or interpret them (the role of the judiciary). The role of the executive is to enforce the law as written by the legislature and interpreted by the judicial system.

Other Tidbits

The territory of Uzbekistan was already populated in the second millennium BC. Early human tools and monuments have been found in many regions.

At least 10% of Uzbekistan’s labor force works abroad (mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan).

Uzbekistan has a 99.3% literacy rate among adults older than 15 (2003 estimate), which is attributable to the free and universal education system of the Soviet Union.

In 1992 Uzbekistan officially shifted back to Latin script from traditional considerations of consistency with Turkey, but many signs and notices (including official government boards in the streets) are still written in Uzbek Cyrillic script that had been used in Uzbek SSR since 1940. Computers as a rule operate using the “Uzbek Cyrillic” keyboard, and Latin script is reportedly composed using the standard English keyboard.

According to the official source report, as of 10 March 2008, the number of cellular phone users in Uzbekistan reached 7 million, up from 3.7 million on 1 July 2007. The largest mobile operator in terms of number of subscribers is MTS-Uzbekistan (former Uzdunrobita and part of Russian Mobile TeleSystems) and it is followed by Beeline (part of Russia’s Beeline) and Coscom.

As of 1 July 2007, the estimated number of internet users was 1.8 million, according to UzACI. Uzbekistan is approximately the size of Morocco and has an area of 447,400 square kilometers (172,700 sq mi). It is the 56th largest country in the world by area and the 42nd by population. Among the CIS countries, it is the 5th largest by area and the 3rd largest by population.

Uzbekistan stretches 1,425 kilometers (885 mi) from west to east and 930 kilometers (578 mi) from north to south. Bordering Kazakhstan and the Aral Sea to the north and northwest, Turkmenistan to the southwest, Tajikistan to the southeast, and Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Uzbekistan is not only one of the larger Central Asian states but also the only Central Asian state to border all the other four. Uzbekistan also shares a short border (less than 150 km) with Afghanistan to the south.

Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country; it is one of two double-landlocked countries in the world, i.e., a country completely surrounded by land-locked countries – the other being Liechtenstein. Less than 10% of its territory is intensively cultivated irrigated land in river valleys and oases. The rest is vast desert (Kyzyl Kum) and mountains. The highest point in Uzbekistan is 4,643 meters (15,233 ft), located in the southern part of the Gissar Range in Surkhandarya Province, on the border with Tajikistan, just north-west of Dushanbe (formerly called Peak of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party, today apparently unnamed).

The climate in the Republic of Uzbekistan is continental, with little precipitation expected annually (100–200 millimeters, or 3.9–7.9 inches). The average summer temperature tends to be 40 °C, while the average winter temperature is around 0 °C.

Major cities include Bukhara, Samarqand, Namangan and the capital Tashkent.

Tashkent, the nation’s capital and largest city, has a three-line rapid transit system built in 1977, and expanded in 2001 after ten years’ independence from the Soviet Union. Uzbekistan is currently the only country in Central Asia with a subway system, which is promoted as one of the cleanest systems in the former Soviet Union. The stations are exceedingly ornate. For example, the station Metro Kosmonavtov built in 1984 is decorated using a space travel theme to recognise the achievements of mankind in space exploration and to commemorate the role of Vladimir Dzhanibekov, the Soviet cosmonaut of Uzbek origin. A statue of Vladimir Dzhanibekov stands near one of the station’s entrances.

Interesting Facts

The Great Game was a term used for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. The term “The Great Game” is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company’s Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry. It was introduced into mainstream consciousness by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim (1901). At the start of the 19th century there were some 2000 miles separating British India and the outlying regions of Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped. The cities of Bukhara, Khiva, Merv, Kokand and Tashkent were virtually unknown to westerners. As Imperial Russian expansion threatened to collide with the increasing British dominance of the occupied lands of the Indian sub-continent, the two great empires played out a subtle game of exploration, espionage and imperialistic diplomacy throughout Central Asia. The conflict always threatened, but never quite developed into direct warfare between the two sides. The centre of activity was in Afghanistan. The term “Great Game” has no currency in Russian and Soviet historiography. In retrospect, it appears to have been a rather one-sided affair. 

Bukharan Jews, also Bukharian Jews or Bukhari Jews,  are Jews from Central Asia who speak Bukhori, a dialect of the Persian language. Their name comes from the former Central Asian Emirate of Bukhara, which once had a sizeable Jewish community. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the vast majority have emigrated to Israel or the United States, while others have emigrated to Europe or Australia.

There is a tradition among the Bukharian Jews tracing their ancestry to the Lost Tribes of Israel. These Jews claim to be descendants of the Issachar, Naphtali, and Ephraim Israelite tribes who never returned from the Babylonian captivity after exile in the 6th century BCE. They maintain that some of the Israelites migrated eastwards in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, in the time between the fall of Nineveh to Nabopolassar in 612 BCE and the fall of Jerusalem to his successor Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BCE, during the transition from Neo-Assyrian to Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) rule.

The Bukharian Jews of Central Asia were essentially cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 2,000 years and somehow managed to survive and preserve their Jewish identity and heritage in the face of tremendous odds. They are considered one of the oldest ethno-religious groups of Central Asia and over the years they have developed their own distinct culture. Throughout the years, Jews from other Eastern  countries such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Morocco migrated into Central Asia (usually by taking the Silk Road), as did Jews who were exiled from Spain during the Inquisition; all these joined the Central Asian Jewish community and were later collectively known as Bukharian Jews. In Central Asia, the Bukharian Jewish community survived for centuries, despite being subject to many conquering influences and much persecution.

The Spanish Inquisition was an ecclesiastical tribunal started in 1478 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the medieval inquisition which was under papal control. The new body was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II.  The Inquisition, as an ecclesiastical tribunal, had jurisdiction only over baptized Christians, some of who also practised other forms of faith and at the time were considered heretics according to the Catholic Church and recently formed kingdoms at the time. The Inquisition worked in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of recent converts.

The silk road is an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world,  including North Africa and Europe.

Indivindual Rights

The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan asserts that “democracy in the Republic of Uzbekistan shall be based upon common human principles, according to which the highest value shall be the human being, his life, freedom, honor, dignity and other inalienable rights.”

However, non-government human rights watchdogs define Uzbekistan as “an authoritarian state with limited civil rights” and express profound concern about “wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights”. According to the reports, the most widespread violations are torture, arbitrary arrests, and various restrictions of freedoms: of religion, of speech and press, of free association and assembly. The reports maintain that the violations are most often committed against members of religious organizations, independent journalists, human rights activists and political activists, including members of the banned opposition parties. In 2005, Uzbekistan was included into Freedom House’s “The Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies.”

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