About Uzbekistan

These lands of Uzbekistan saw the wax and wane of countless empires, mounted nomad versus settled farmer. Islam came this way to flower and outshine anywhere in the Muslim world. The Uzbeks themselves emerged from Turco-Mongol tribes in the 14th century. Polarized into the warring khanates of Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand, they provided the most exotic, perilous and coveted playing fields of the Great Game, the 19th century war of stealth between the tsarist and British empires.

A glance at a map seems to belie Uzbekistan's role as ethnic and cultural melting pot. Surely Central Asia's vast expanse kept apart the civilizations at its edge? Those barriers were broken by the greatest trade routes in history, the fragile threads of the Silk Road. Wending their way over mountain and wasteland, myriad teams of merchants braved this key stretch of the long haul from China to Rome. Camel caravans laden with silk, spices and news searched for the guiding minarets of oasis paradises, light houses for I heir ships of the desert. Convening in bazaar and caravanserai, nomad met settler, Persian met Turk and Chinese met Sogdian in a fertile exchange of goods and ideas-religious, intellectual and artistic.

Nature has bestowed this harshly arid land with two channels of hope; the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, sweeping down from the Roof of the World, the high Pamirs and Tian Shan to the east, bringing the desert to life up to Khorezm and the Aral Sea. The Greeks knew them as the Oxus and Jaxartes; between their middle reaches lay Transoxiana, the Arab Mawarannahr, the land beyond the river'. Its illustrious centres, Samarkand and Bukhara, arose beside the Zerafshan, the aptly-named 'gold-strewer', for water is the most precious commodity in the region.

This part has always been different from the rest of Central Asia – more settled than nomadic, with patterns of land use and communality that has changed little from the time of the Achaemenids (6th century BC) to the present day. 

Wherever one treads in Uzbekistan, one follows the footprints of some of the greatest travellers in history-from Chinese pioneers seeking blood-sweating horses or enlightenment from India, to Arab scholars like ibn-Battuta, the Marco Polo of the Muslim world. To Tamerlane's court in 1404 journeyed the Spanish ambassador Clavijo; the English merchant Jenkinson also survived the trials of Transoxiana in the 16th century. But this remained remotest Tartary. It took the Great Game players to carve out western Turkestan and fill in the huge blanks on the map. Growing awareness of the exotic dangers on the road to Samarkand spurred the adventurous and the eccentric; in 1898, Robert Jefferson rode his bicycle 6,000 miles from London to Khiva, "because so many people said it was impossible".

The Uzbeks have not yet lost their love of reading of the high deeds of Iskander D'hulkarnein (Alexander of Macedonia), who as legend says founded Marakanda. The great conqueror reached this spot in 334 B.C. There he slew his friend Clitus, then wedded Roxana, daughter of the Iranian chief of the region, and married his warriors to the women of the country. His intention was to unite Europe with Asia by the ties of legitimate marriage, and in one common descent.

Alexander did not meet with any Turks in Turkestan, then known as Sogdiana or Transoxiana. He encountered Parthians, and Bactrians, whose country was the original home of the camel. The principal religion, Mazdaism, followed the precepts of Zoroaster, and was founded on the conflict between light and darkness. Later Mithraism would continue to make adepts even into the Roman era, while Nestorian Christianity spread in the contrary direction from Roman Syria as far as China. To the north, beyond the land of the unknown Scythians, innumerable hordes of the unsuspected Huns dwelt.

Alexander's great international ideal crashed down with his death; he died in Babylon at the age of thirty-three, as the result of a fever caught after a too copious banquet. The terrible Roxana assassinated her rival, the daughter of Darius and second wife of Alexander, and gave birth to a son who was to be assassinated later with her.

After which the general, Seleucus, took over the direction of affairs, and founded the Seleucidan dynasty in Persia which endured for nearly three centuries.

Then the Sassanids dominated Iran for four centuries, finding little to disturb them in the inroads of the first nomads, the hephthalite Huns who in 475 conquered and took Gandhara in Afghanistan.

But with the coming of Islam in the seventh century the kingdom of the Sassanids fell into the hands of the lizard-eating Arabs. In 643 a conqueror named Samar begins to make himself heard of, and it is possibly thanks to him that the city was named later Samarkanda.

From 873 to 1004 the Iranian dynasty of the Samanids was established at Bokhara, and defended Iran against the Turan and the Turki-Mongol hordes who were beginning to raise their heads. In 980 was born at Bokhara Ibusina—Ibn-Sina, or otherwise pronounced Avicenna—the prince of healers, celebrated throughout the Arabian universities.

In the eleventh century the Seljuk Turks, issuing from the Kirghiz steppes, invaded the country, establishing petty states, becoming dwellers of houses and Sunnite Moslem. Soon they were powerful enough to go to the aid of the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad.

But the terrible thirteenth century approaches. In the distance the son of Jesugi Bahadur, the Inflexible Emperor, conquers China with the aid of his four sons. What magnificent crowded hours these five men must have lived together! Then he sets about recreating the empire T'ou Kiou as it existed in the sixth century. In the eyes of Jenghiz Khan, the Shah of Kharezm and Bokhara, Mohammed the Seljuk is a mere Turkish baron converted to Islam. But the Shah gets into a panic, refuses to offer submission, no longer protects the caravan routes, and in 1220 Jenghiz Khan ravages Samarkanda and Bokhara. The country is laid under the yoke of the Mongol terror—the yassak—outlawry. The generals of the Khan come up with the expiring Mohammed on the shores of the Caspian Sea and conquer every Turkish stronghold between them and the Black Sea.

Six centuries of Islam have been wiped out. Hulagu the Mongol, who reigned over Persia, slew the last Abbasid caliph in 1258.

In the fourteenth century Timur welded Turkestan together once more. In place of the Persian tongue he substituted Jagatai Turkish (which comes from the name of Timur's second son). Massacres took place on such a scale that pyramids were built with the victims' skulls, and only the poets, scientists, and dervishes were spared, to do him service in his court. From very birth his hair was white, and it was said he had never shed a tear. He limped, and yet could have struck down the hero Rustum, so great was his strength. Beyond all things he loved truth, and whoever lied to him was killed. 

The Tajik Timurids were driven out by the Uzbeks in the sixteenth century, and the latter, starting a reign of terror, put themselves at the head of the Khanate of Kharezm (Khiva). They were descended from Jenghiz' eldest son Juchi, who had reigned over the Kipchak, and from Uzbek Khan, the eighth and celebrated Khan of the Golden Horde.

In 1717 the expedition sent by Peter the Great to discover a route into India was massacred at Khiva. The Emirs of Bokhara from 1784 to the date of their extinction belonged to the dynasty of Mangites who issued originally from the mountains of Tajikistan.

The Russians under the leadership of General Perovsk began to penetrate into Turkestan in 1839. Tashkent was conquered in 1865. General Tchernaief defeated forty thousand Bokhariots with three thousand six hundred men. Samarkand was taken, and the Emir bought his peace for a sum of 75,000 roubles.

In 1920 it was the Republic of Faisulla Khodjaief. Later, in 1924, with the aid of the Reds, it was transformed into the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan. This was a new marriage of Asia with the West, Russian however this time, and Macedonian no longer. What will its issue be?

"Turkestan Solo" by Ella Maillart

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
14493.87 UZS
100 USD
1261479.5 UZS
100 EUR
1352269.09 UZS
100 GBP
1599556.2 UZS
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