About Uzbekistan

The Great Game was a cold war carried on from about 1830 till about 1900 between Russia and England over control of the approaches to British India, which the Bear threatened and the Lion defended. In those years, across Central Asia from the Aral and Caspian seas, the Russian Empire slowly advanced towards Afghanistan and India, the khanates of Kokand, Bokhara, Khiva and Merv falling successively into her power. England, depending as democracies must on the views of the government of the day, blew hot and cold. There was no open clash of arms between the adversaries. It was, as the Russian foreign minister Count Nesselrode said, "a tournament of shadows". On either side, though, agents were put into the field to spy out the country or to influence a native ruler. 

Journey to Khiva by Philip Glazebrook

When two mighty empires meet, there will always be blood and intrigue. As the Russian Empire spread south into the Kazakh steppe and the frontier of British India pushed across the subcontinent and up into Afghanistan, the no man's land in between became the jousting ground in a 19th-century 'Tournament of Shadows'. The British were keen to gain new markets here for their exported goods, and the Russians exploited the fierce rivalries of the khans of Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand, playing them off against one another to ensure protective alliances with Moscow were actively sought.

Agents, explorers and spies from both sides infiltrated courts across central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan to seek information and gain influence; they sought out unmapped wildernesses, surveying and recording everything they saw. Rudyard Kipling's protagonist, Kim, and his real-life equivalents, men like George Curzon (later the Viceroy of India), Francis Younghusband and the Russian Bronislav Grombchevsky, played hide-and-seek across mountains and deserts, adopting a veritable prop cupboard full of disguises in the hope that gaining a better understanding of the lie of the land (literal and metaphorical) would give their side a strategic advantage. Neither open warfare nor simply innocent exploration of the unknown, Rudyard Kipling declared their acts 'the Great Game'. It encompassed espionage in all its intricate, innovative forms.

The central tenet of the Great Game was suspicion: lack of knowledge about what lay in this central Asian hinterland led to doubts about where the imperial frontier might lie; and both sides jealously coveted the other's colonial possessions. Britain and Russia were frequently at loggerheads in Europe too, and by frightening each other into wrongly thinking that a full-scale military incursion was being planned in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, it tied up resources and wealth, preventing them from being deployed elsewhere.

That is not to say that actual war did not feature in the Great Game. Britain's primary strategic interest in the 19th century was to establish a frontier that could be securely defended against Russia. Britain invaded Afghanistan in the First and Second Afghan Wars (1838-42 and 1878-80), fearing that if they did not take control of the country first then it would almost certainly fall to the Russians; envoys sent to the Afghan court had raised this concern. When Dost Muhammad, the then ruler of Afghanistan, was defeated by the British in 1839, he fled across Afghanistan's northern border to Uzbekistan and sought refuge in Bukhara at the court of Nasrullah Khan.

Though many players of the Great Game were murdered in central Asia, either by each other or by the locals, or simply disappeared, those who did survive often returned to London and Moscow as national heroes. The British spoke to packed lecture halls at the Royal Geographic Society (www.rgs.org) and the Royal Society for Asian Affairs (founded in 1901 as the Central Asian Society; www.rsaa.org.uk), both of which came into their own at the height of the Great Game and exist to the present day, and accounts of daring exploits enraptured newspaper readers. Paranoia about what Imperial Russia could be up to made newspapers sell like hot cakes, much as fear of Communist Russia did fifty or so years later. Indeed, the Great Game could be interpreted as a forerunner to the Cold War as definite continuity is in evidence in the two powers'fight for influence in satellite states.

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
14316.06 UZS
100 USD
1260108.57 UZS
100 EUR
1374873.3 UZS
100 GBP
1635368.41 UZS
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