About Uzbekistan

Its blend of desert, steppe, oasis and river valley places Uzbekistan in the heart of the complex interaction of nomadic culture and oasis settlement that patterns the history of Central Asia. Over 100,000 years ago, primitive man was engraving caves in the region with scenes from his hunting lifestyle, but the haze of pre-history only begins to clear in the second millennium ВС, when Bronze Age metallurgy developed the bronze hit, enabling horse riding. The country's better-understood history begins when Iranian nomads first settled the northern grasslands around the turn of the first millennium bc. They lived predominantly along the region's river valleys and made good use of the fertile land for agriculture, even building irrigation channels in the more drought-prone areas.

Mounted tribes sponsored contacts between the farming south and the livestock-breeding north. An Aryan Indo-European race from the north led the first known migration into the territory of present-day Uzbekistan. From 800 BC their successors, the Scythians (to the Greeks) or Saka (to the Persians), swept all before them into a loose nomadic dynasty from the Ferghana Valley to the Khorezm oasis. The Scythians formed a loosely controlled empire stretching from Khorezm in the west to the Fergana Valley in the east. They were skilled raiders with fast, strong horses and formidable iron weapons, and their incursions struck fear into the hearts of neighbouring tribes. These tent-dwellers matured during the Iron Age into skilled craftsmen, but their chief legacy was horseback archery. On top of such military advantage, they set standards of terror for barbaric waves through the centuries. Victories were toasted with the blood of slain enemies, their skulls used as drinking vessels.

The first Achaemenid Emperor of Persia, Cyrus the Great, sought to end their raids and, despite his death in 530 ВС fighting the Messagetae clan near the Aral Sea, his conquests proved lasting. Persian kings divided Turan (outer Iran) south of the Syr Darya into three satrapies: Khorezm (the lower Amu Darya), Sogdiana (the Zerafshan and Ferghana Valleys) and Bactria (southern Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan). Achaemenid influence speeded the process of urbanization already underway and installed the state religion, Zoroastrianism, the worship of an all-powerful god through fire offerings. Its origin may have been local for both Khorezm and Bactria claim the site of the revelation of mysterious prophet Zoroaster, 'one who possesses golden camels'. In the sacred book Avesta, the supreme deity declares, "The second among the best localities and countries, I, Ahura Mazda, created Gava, the abode of the Sogdians".

Silk Road trade between Persia and China began to flourish, and the populations of central Asia urbanised and fully participated in it. The Sogdians became particularly wealthy, and their capital Marakanda (today's Samarkand) became rich. The religions of Zoroastrianism and Buddhism, both of which travelled to Uzbekistan along the Silk Road with merchants and missionaries, were in the ascendency.

In the 4th century BC Alexanderthe Great entered Cyrus the Great’s Achaemenid empire. In 329 ВС, the Sogdian capital, Samarkand (Marakanda), an oasis on the Zerafshan river, fell to Alexander the Great. Having vanquished the Persian empire, the Macedonian hero had floated his forces across the Oxus on twig-filled hides and dragged them over the perilous Hindu Kush to the south. He continued down the Oxus, founding the easternmost of many Alexandrias in the Fergana Valley before continuing on towards the Indian subcontinent. Yet once he had departed to found his easternmost Alexandria at the mouth of the Ferghana Valley, Sogdian ruler Spitamenes led his people in a guerrilla war that delayed the Greeks for two years. To ease local dissent, Alexander married the daughter of a Sogdian leader, the captive, beautiful Roxana, who bore him his only son.

Though Alexander himself did not stay in central Asia, many of his troops also married local women and remained, one general establishing the Seleucid Empire. Graeco-Bactrian kingdoms would exert influence in Uzbekistan and the surrounding countries for centuries to come.

Although many states broke away in the mid-third century ВС, as the Parthians rose to the west, Hellenistic culture was promoted through the Greco-Bactrian kingdom for another hundred years until the invasion of Yuezhi nomads from the east. They had been forced from China by the Huns of the Mongolian steppe, the scourge of the Han Dynasty. In 138 ВС Emperor Wudi dispatched Zhang Qian to Ferghana to seek alliance against the Huns, as well as supplies of the valley's renowned heavenly horses, so swift they sweated blood. The envoy brought back neither, although there was news of high demand for Chinese silk. Subsequent campaigns secured the horses, subdued the Huns and opened the fledgling Silk Road. From the first century AD trade prospered from Chang'an (Xi'an) to Rome as Central Asia enjoyed stability under the Yuezhi Kushan clan, masters of a vast empire centred on what is now northwest Pakistan. Their famous King Kanishka promoted Buddhism and the Sogdians relayed it to China, in what was just one aspect of a fruitful cultural and commercial exchange. The hegemony of Sassanian Persia from the third century boosted Sogdian fortunes, for the new power demanded a shift in world trade from Kushan southern routes to a more northerly itinerary through Sogdiana.

Fresh nomadic incursions by the Khidarites and Khionites culminated in the Hephthalites, or White Huns, from the Altai mountains. In the fifth century they devoured the Sassanian eastern empire while the Black Huns and their infamous King Attila ravaged Europe. In turn they fell to the Western Turks (the western branch of the empire of the so-called Kök (Blue) Turks) that came out of the northern steppes by the mid-sixth century. This latest nemesis from Mongolia and eastern Siberia formed the largest nomadic empire yet seen and introduced enduring ethno-linguistic traits. They soon grew attached to life here and abandoned their wandering ways, eventually taking on a significant role in maintaining the existence of the Silk Road. The Sogdian city-states of Ferghana and Zerafshan proved resilient. Their merchants dominated the trade routes and their artists absorbed the traditions of far-off lands.

In the early centuries ad Zoroastrianism remained the dominant religion, but Buddhism was still present, and Manichaeism and Christianity were both on the rise. Uzbekistan was a cultural and ethnic melting pot due to its central position on the Silk Road, and its cities were known for their intellectuals and artisans as well as for trade.

Uzbekistan was about to enter a politically turbulent period, however. Though the Sogdian state persisted, it was ravaged in turn by the nomadic Khidarites and Khionites, and Turkish raiders from Mongolia. The Sogdians were exhausted and fatally weakened by internal divisions.

Did you know?

Uzbekistan is one of only two countries in the world to be ‘double landlocked’ (landlocked and totally surrounded by other landlocked countries). Liechtenstein is double landlocked by 2 countries whilst Uzbekistan is surrounded by 5!

Did you know that Uzbekistan lies in the very heart of Eurasia, the coordinates for Uzbekistan are 41.0000° N, 69.0000°

Uzbekistan is home to the Muruntan gold mine, one of the largest open pit gold mines in the world! The country has 4th largest reserves of gold in the world after South Africa, USA and Russia

Uzbekistan is the world capital of melons. They have in excess of 150 different varieties, which form a staple part of the local diet, served fresh in the summer and eaten dried through the winter.

It is Uzbek tradition that the most respected guest be seated farthest from the house’s entrance.

Tashkent’s metro features chandeliers, marble pillars and ceilings, granite, and engraved metal. It has been called one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.

The Uzbek master chef is able to cook in just one caldron enough plov to serve a thousand men.

When you are a host to someone, it is your duty to fill their cups with for the whole time they are with you.  What you must not do, however, is to fill their cup more than half-full.  If you do that as a mistake, say it is a mistake immediately.  Doing it means you want them to leave.  Wow!  Amazing, right?

To Uzbeks, respect means a whole lot.  For this reason they love it if, even as foreigners, you endeavour to add the respectful suffix opa after a woman's name; and aka after a man's.  Example: Linda-opa and David-aka.  You could also use hon and jon respectively.

Having been an historic crossroads for centuries as part of various ancient empires, Uzbekistan’s food is very eclectic. It has its roots in Iranian, Arab, Indian, Russian and Chinese cuisine.

Though identified with the Persia, the Zoroastrism probably originated in Bactria or Sogdiana. Many distinguished scholars share an opinion that Zoroastrianism had originated in the ancient Khorezm. Indeed, today in the world there were found 63 Zoroastrian monuments, including those in Iran, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thirty-eight of them are in Uzbekistan, whereas 17 of these monuments are located in Khorezm.

One of Islam's most sacred relics - the world's oldest Koran that was compiled in Medina by Othman, the third caliph or Muslim leader, is kept in Tashkent. It was completed in the year 651, only 19 years after Muhammad's death. 

Tashkent is the only megapolis in the world where public transport is totally comprised of Mercedes buses. And due to low urban air polution it is one of the few cities where one can still see the stars in the sky.

You would be surprised to know that modern TV was born in Tashkent. No joke! The picture of moving objects was transmitted by radio first time in the world in Tashkent on 26 of July 1928 by inventors B.P. Grabovsky and I.F. Belansky.

Uzbekistan is the only country in the world all of whose neighbours have their names ending in STAN. This is also the only country in Central Asia that borders all of the countries of this region

Uzbeks are the third populous Turkik ethnicity in the world after Turks and Azeris (leaving both in Azerbaijan and Iran)

Did you know that there was silk money in Khiva? Super interesting right? Of course, but the best part of having silk money was that it could be sewn into your clothing.

Famous Islamic physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna in the Latin world) who was born near Bukhara was the one of the first people to advocate using women’s hair as suture material – about 1400 years ago.

Uzbekistan has a long and bloody history. The most notorious leader of Uzbekistan was Timur (or Tamerlane) who claimed descent from Genghis Khan. His military campaigns have been credited for wiping out some 5% of the world’s population at the time.

If you have thought that some of the Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan resembles that from Northern India, then that is because Timur’s great great great Grandson, Babur Beg, was the founder of the Moghul Empire that ruled much of India for almost four centuries! Babur’s great great Grandson was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal.

Uzbekistan was once a rum producig country. There is still a real arboretum in Denau (city near Termez on the border with Afghanistan), grown from a selection station that studied the prospects of plant growing in the unusual for the Soviet Union subtropical climate of Surkhandarya region: only here in the whole of the USSR sugar cane was grown and even rum was produced!

Uzbekistan has been ranked one of the safest countries in the world, according to a new global poll. The annual Gallup Global Law and Order asked if people felt safe walking at night and whether they had been victims of crime. The survey placed Uzbekistan 5th out of 135 countries, while the UK was 21st and the US 35th. Top five safest countries:

  • Singapore
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Uzbekistan
Exchange rates
100 RUR
14337.8 UZS
100 USD
1267999.32 UZS
100 EUR
1379845.64 UZS
100 GBP
1615177.71 UZS
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