About Uzbekistan

People of Central Asia
03 October 2017
People of Central Asia

Across this region, for some two thousand years, the Silk Road had nourished caravan-towns - Samarkand, Bukhara, Margilan -whose populace had spoken an Iranian tongue. The Uzbeks were latecomers, migrating south at the end of the fifteenth century. They took their name from a khan of the Golden Horde, for their origins were Turkic, but already their blood was mixed with Iranians', and they added only the last layer to a palimpsest of peoples identifying themselves less by nation than by clan.

The Lost Heart of Asia by Colin Thubron

From gold-toothed Turkmen in shaggy, dreadlocked hats to high-cheekboned Kyrgyz herders whose eyes still carry the glint of a nomadic past, Central Asia presents a fascinating collection of faces and peoples. The total population of the former Soviet Central Asia is about 57 million, with another 28 million in Afghanistan. Few areas of its size are home to such tangled demographics and daunting transitions.

Each republic inherited an ethnic grab bag from the Soviet system. Thus you’ll find Uzbek towns in Kyrgyzstan, legions of Tajiks in the cities of Uzbekistan, Kazakhs grazing their cattle in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmen in Uzbekistan – and Russians and Ukrainians everywhere. Given the complicated mix of nationalities across national boundaries, Central Asia’s ethnic situation is surprisingly tranquil. The most noticeable divide (and a largely amicable one) is between the traditionally sedentary peoples, the Uzbeks and Tajiks, and their formerly nomadic neighbours, the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Turkmen.

Nomadic migrations through the centuries make precise ethnic definition almost impossible. The ancient tribes of the Scythians, Sogdians, Khorezmians and myriad Turkic peoples formed the foundation for the later Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and even Tajiks. History is also complicated by Soviet 'divide and rule' tactics, whereby common heritage was distorted into artificial 'nationalist' identities. Uzbek authorities claim some 130 different nationalities reside within the republic.

Today Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most populous country. Its 30 million population 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), and though it has grown rapidly in recent decades, growth is now slowing due to economic outward migration and much smaller family sizes. The average number of children per woman is now 1.89, as opposed to 2.92 in 2002.

Uzbeks comprise a majority (80%) of the total population. The Uzbeks are a Turkic people who originated in southern Siberia and the Altai Mountains and came south with the Mongols in the early medieval period. There are significant Uzbek populations in Afghanistan (2.7 million), Kyrgyzstan (800,000) and Tajikistan (1.6 million) as well as in Uzbekistan. The majority of Uzbeks follow the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, though atheism is also widespread amongst those who grew up under the Soviet Union.

Other ethnic groups include Russians 5.5%, Tajiks 5% (official estimate and disputed), 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%, as they believe there is a tendency for some Tajiks to declare themselves as Uzbek on official paperwork. Tajiks are essentially central Asian Persians, the division between the two groups being the result of Stalin's border creation in the 1920s. They consider themselves to be the oldest ethnic group in central Asia and trace their ancestry right back to the Bactrians and Sogdians. The Tajiks are not a homogeneous group, however, and are deeply divided along clan-based lines with strong regional affiliations and blood ties. The cities of Bukhara and Samarkand both have large Tajik populations, and many feel they should have been given the opportunity to join Tajikistan rather than being part of Uzbekistan.

Around 5% of the population are ethnic Russians. This figure was significantly higher during the Soviet period, peaking at just under 15% in the late 1950s, but many Russians chose to leave Uzbekistan for Russia following independence, regardless of whether or not they had been born in the country. Significant numbers of Russians came to Uzbekistan from the 19th century onwards to take advantage of the economic opportunities the country offered. Others were intellectuals, petty bourgeoisie and political opponents forcibly exiled here during the purges. The Russian community tends to follow the Eastern Orthodox faith and large numbers of them reside in Tashkent.

The Uzbeks absorbed, among others, the Sarts, a Turko-Persian population of Central Asian peasants and merchants. According to recent genetic genealogy testing from a University of Oxford study, the genetic admixture of the Uzbeks clusters somewhere between the Mongols and the Iranian peoples.

Uzbekistan has an ethnic Korean population that was forcibly relocated to the region by Stalin from the Soviet Far East in 1937-1938.

The nation is 88% Muslim (mostly Sunni, with a 5% Shi'a minority), 9% Eastern Orthodox and 3% other faiths. The Bukharan Jews 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 dissolution of the Soviet Union, most Central Asian Jews left the region for the United States or Israel. Fewer than 5,000 Jews remained in Uzbekistan in 2007.

More news about Uzbekistan

Like the Uzbeks, the Kazakhs have a complex ethnic history stretching back to various nomadic tribes breeding livestock on the steppes of Turkestan long before the Mongols of Genghis Khan. A popular explanation derives the ethonym, first used in the 16th century, from kaz (goose) and ak (white), after the legend of a white steppe goose that turned into a princess who birthed the first Kazakh. 

03 October 2017

White felt ak-kalpak, the yurt-like headgear of the Kyrgyz, symbolize a proud nation of mountain nomads. One translation of their name is 'indestructible', for about 93 per cent of Kyrgyzstan's territory comprises the lofty mountains of the Tian Shan and Altai ranges. The Kyrgyz know them as the Wings of the Earth', a remote refuge from countless invasions.

03 October 2017

Tajikistan, like Kyrgyzstan, is predominantly a mountain state: some 76 per cent of its territory rests high in the Pamir mountains, a world of yaks and glaciers rarely dipping below an altitude of 3,000 metres (10,000 feet). Most similarities end there, however, for the Tajiks are the odd men out of Central Asia-Indo-European, Iranian-speaking, with almond eyes, pronounced noses and heavy beards. This ethno-linguistic oasis predates the arrival of the Turks by at least a millennium.

03 October 2017
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
13743.53 UZS
100 USD
1248494.05 UZS
100 EUR
1354352.23 UZS
100 GBP
1579720.04 UZS
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