About Uzbekistan

In the early 18th century the khan of Khiva made an offer to Peter the Great of Russia (to become his vassal in return for help against marauding Turkmen and Kazakh tribes), stirring the first Russian interest in Central Asia. But by the time the Russians got around to marching on Khiva in 1717, the khan no longer wanted Russian protection, and after a show of hospitality he had almost the entire 4000-strong force slaughtered.

Yet two years earlier the first of a line of forts, built at the edge of the northern steppe, began a slower but more effective colonizing drive. Russian generals exploited the incursions of the Mongol Oirots by offering protection to the Kazakh Khans.

The slave market in Bukhara and Khiva was an excuse for further Russian visits to free a few Russian settlers and travellers. In 1801 the insane Tsar Paul sent 22,000 Cossacks on a madcap mission to drive the British out of India, along with orders to free the slaves en route. Fortunately for all but the slaves, the tsar was assassinated and the army recalled while struggling across the Kazakh steppes.

The next attempt, by Tsar Nicholas I in 1839, was really a bid to pre-empt expansion into Central Asia by Britain, which had just taken Afghanistan, although Khiva’s Russian slaves were the pretext on which General Perovsky’s 5200 men and 10,000 camels set out from Orenburg. 

In January 1840, a British officer, Captain James Abbott, arrived in Khiva (having travelled from Herat in Afghan disguise) offering to negotiate the slaves’ release on the khan’s behalf, thus nullifying the Russians’ excuse for coming. Unknown to the khan, the Russian force had already turned back, in the face of a devastating winter on the steppes. He agreed to send Abbott to the tsar with an offer to release the slaves in return for an end to Russian military expeditions against Khiva. Incredibly, Abbott made it to St Petersburg. In search of news of Abbott, Lieutenant Richmond Shakespear reached Khiva the following June and convinced the khan to unilaterally release all Russian slaves in Khiva and even give them an armed escort to the nearest Russian outpost, located on the eastern Caspian Sea. Russian gratitude was doubtlessly mingled with fury over one of the Great Game’s boldest propaganda coups.

This was the era of Great Game diplomacy and adventure, for the British Empire saw Russia's southward expansion aimed straight for India, the jewel in its crown. To map out the geographical and political mysteries of the no-man's-land between them, both sides sent spies on 'hunting trips' or 'scientific surveys'. Harbouring a closet of disguises, armed with little more than languages, unshakeable self-confidence and hidden agendas, British officers played hide-and-seek across desert and mountain with tsarist soldiers and nomadic bandits. Some never returned, but survivors excited Europe and worried London with tales of evil despots and fabled cities. While an advance on India appealed to many Russian Great Game players, more immediate aims included a secure southern frontier, trade development and the liberation of Russian slaves. Just as America lamed its Wild West, Russia spread like a flood across the eastern steppe to become the world's fastest growing imperial state, averaging an increase of 140km2 every day. In 1854 Foreign Minister Gorkachev justified the conquests on humanitarian grounds: "The position of Russia in Central Asia is that of all civilized stales which are brought into contact with half-savage nomad populations possessing no fixed social organisation."

By the mid-19th century Kazakh lands were under Russian control. The rest of Central Asia was fractured into three warring khanates: Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand in the Ferghana Valley, where a resurgent branch of the Shaybanid dynasty overcame Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and religious orders in the 18th century. The fierce rivalry of the khanates greatly weakened resistance against the common enemy.

Despite assurances the Russian Bear was sated, Tashkent fell the following year. In 1867 General Konstantin Kaufmann arrived as first governor general of Russian Turkestan, the 'land of the Turks', a term first used after Turkic invasions in the sixth century. This veteran of Caucasian campaigns orchestrated the annexation of the khanates, with modern firepower and tactics more than compensating for modest numbers. In 1868 Samarkand fell and Bukhara became a Russian protectorate, followed by Khiva in 1873. Once Kokand was taken in 1876, the conquest of the area was completed by the occupation ofTurkomen fortresses to the southwest, Geoktepe in 1881 and Merv in 1884. The Game crescendoed as the two continental empires were taken to the brink of war and then spilled over into the high passes of the Pamirs, but by the end of the century defendable and defined borders had been largely established and rivalries put to rest by the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention.

In the early years of Russian Turkestan the Russians were more intruder than invader, content to ignore rather than transform, but the infidel victory had shaken religious confidence and given cause for reflection. In the region's turbulent transition to modernity a medley of ideas ranging from jadid religious reform to Muslim nationalism, from pan-Islam to pan-Turkism fomented in the desert oases as tensions spread: in 1898 a local Sufic master led an armed insurrection in Andijan; in 1910 Sunni- Shi'ite tensions exploded into sectarian violence; in 1916 rumours of forced conscription into World War I was met with violent, mass resistance; and in 1918 an autonomous Muslim government was set up in Kokand, to be suppressed at the estimated cost of 14,000 lives.

The violence continued with the chaos, anarchy and famine of the October Revolution as Bolsheviks, cut off from Moscow, struggled in a tug of war with White Russians, British agents, Muslim freedom fighters and 40,000 European prisoners of war. The civil war was largely a European affair, fought largely on Muslim soil, but as it became clear that the Bolsheviks harboured no more intention of Muslim independence than the tsarists before them, a basmachi resistance movement rose up from the sides of the Ferghana Valley. The movement was given focus by the tenuous but enigmatic leadership of Enver Pasha, son-in-law of the Turkish Caliph and self-styled Prince of Islam, funded by the deposed emir of Bukhara from his exile in Afghanistan and united under the banner of Islamic jihad, but it rapidly fragmented and dissolved into clan rivalries as the Bolsheviks tightened their stranglehold on the region. It may have been joked that Bukhara and Khiva were so remote that the 1917 Revolution took three years to arrive, but by 1920 General Frunze's troops had stormed Central Asia's Islamic citadels and transformed them into people's republics inside the Soviet Republic of Turkestan.

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
Weather in cities