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Republic of Uzbekistan

Uzbekiston Respublikasi

CAPITAL: Tashkent (Toshkent)

FLAG: Horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and green separated by narrow red bands; white crescent moon and twelve stars on the blue band.


MONETARY UNIT: The som (som) is the official currency, introduced when Uzbekistan left the ruble zone in November 1993. som1 = $0.00090 (or $1 = som1,114.17) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used.

HOLIDAYS: Independence Day, 1 September.

TIME: 5 pm = noon GMT.


Uzbekistan is located in central Asia bordering the Aral Sea, between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Comparatively, it is slightly larger than the state of California, with a total area of 447,400 sq km (172,742 sq mi). Uzbekistan shares boundaries with Kazakhstan on the n, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on the e, Afghanistan on the s, and Turkmenistan on the sw. Uzbekistan's boundary length totals 6,221 km (3,866 mi). Its capital city, Tashkent, is located in the eastern part of the country.


Uzbekistan consists of mostly flat to rolling sandy desert with dunes. The Fergana Valley lies in the east surrounded by the Tian Shan mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Alai mountains lie to the extreme southeast. The highest point in the country is Adelunga Toghi, at an elevation of 4,301 meters (14,111 feet). The lowest point is Sariqarnish Kuli, which dips to 12 meters (39 feet) below sea level. The country is located in a seismically active region along the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, resulting in frequent earthquakes.

The Kyzyl Kum desert covers most of the interior of the country. With an area of about 297,850 square kilometers (115,000 square miles), it is the largest desert region in Central Asia and the ninth-largest in the world. In the northwest, the Aral Sea is shared with Kazakhstan. Covering area of about 64,500 square kilometers (24,900 square miles), it is the largest lake in the country and the fourth-largest lake in the world. The longest river in the country is the Amu Dar'ya, which has a total length of 2,540 kilometers (1,580 miles), only a portion of which runs through Uzbekistan.


The climate is mid-latitude climatic desert. Temperatures range from 26° to 32°c (79° to 90°f) in the summer, with much higher figures in the desert. Average winter temperatures are between -6° and 2°c (21° to 36°f). There is very little rainfall in the country. The best watered areas only receive about 30 cm (12 in) annually.


Ecological damage has left much of the country devoid of animal life. Bird species include a variety of warblers, eagles, owls, buzzards, heron, ducks, and larks. Mammals include wolves, elk, hedgehogs, squirrels, and weasels. Leopards and wildcats can be found in some forested areas. As of 2002, there were at least 97 species of mammals, 203 species of birds, and over 4,800 species of plants throughout the country.


Uzbekistan's main environmental problems are soil salinity, land pollution, and water pollution. In 1992, Uzbekistan had the world's 27th highest level of carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 123.5 million metric tons, a per capita level of 5.75 metric tons. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 118.6 million metric tons. Chemicals used in farming, such as DDT, contribute to the pollution of the soil. Desertification is a continuing concern.

The nation's forestlands has also been threatened. Between 19901995, deforestation occurred at an annual average rate of 2.65%. However, reforestation efforts have begun as of the late 1990s.

The country's water supply also suffers from toxic chemical pollutants from industrial activity as well as fertilizers and pesticides. Uzbekistan has 16 cu km of renewable water resources, with 94% of annual withdrawals used for farming and 2% used for industrial purposes. The nation's cities produce an average of 45.8 million tons of solid waste per year.

The draining and evaporation of the Aral Sea has been considered one of the worst ecological disasters in the world. Irrigation withdrawals from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers have been a major cause of lake shrinkage. As a result, pesticides and natural salts in its water have become increasingly concentrated so that plant and wildlife habitats have been destroyed. As of 2002, the area of the Aral Sa was reported to cover less than half the size of the original basin.

As of 2003, only 2% of Uzbekistan's total land area is protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 16 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 4 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrate, and 1 species of plant. Threatened or rare species include the markhor, Central Asia cobra, Aral salmon, slender-billed curlew, and Asiatic wild dog. The Jeseter hladky has become extinct.


The population of Uzbekistan in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 26,444,000, which placed it at number 43 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 35% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.6%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 33,851,000. The overall population density was 59 per sq km (153 per sq mi), with the population being most dense in the Fergana Valley.

The UN estimated that 37% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.38%. The capital city, Tashkent (Toshkent), had a population of 2,155,000 in that year. Samarqand (Samarkand) had a population of about 374,900.


Emigration to other former USSR republics exceeded immigration by 328,200 during 197990. In 1991, an estimated 400,000 Russians departed from Uzbekistan. As of 1996, 250,000 Crimean Tatars had left Central Asia for the Ukraine; most of these Tatars were from Uzbekistan. In 1999, there were an estimated 30,000 Tajik refugees and 8,000 Afghan refugees living in Uzbekistan; however, only 1,135 refugees and asylum seekers were registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Until 1999, refugees and asylum seekers were assigned no special status and were considered ordinary foreigners. However, in 1999 the government completed a draft of the Migration Law, which passed the Cabinet of Ministers. In 2000 there were 1,367,000 migrants living in Uzbekistan, including the remaining refugees. In 2004 there were 44,455 refugees, mainly from Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and 477 asylum seekers. In that same year, some 450 Uzbekistani sought asylum in Sweden and the United States. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -1.16 migrants per 1,000 population The government views the emigration level as too high, but the immigration level as satisfactory.


According to the last official estimates (1996), about 80% of the population was Uzbek. Russians constituted 5.5%, Tajiks made up 5%, Kazakhs accounted for 3%, Karakalpaks for 2.5%, Tatars 1.5%, and others 2.5%. There are also small numbers of ethnic Koreans, Meskhetian Turks, Germans, and Greeks.


Uzbek, the state language, was the most widely spoken non-Slavic tongue in the USSR. It is a Turkic language with six vowelsvirtually identical to those of Tajik, which has surely influenced itrather than the original eight or nine. In 1993, it was decided that the language would be written in the Roman (Latin) alphabet rather than in the Cyrillic alphabet. Uzbek is spoken by about 74.3% of the population in Uzbekistan; Russian is spoken by 14.2%, Tajik by 4.4%, and other various languages by 7.1%.


Ethnic Uzbeks are primarily adherents of the Hanafi sect of Sunni Islam, but the Wahhabi sect has flourished as well in recent years. Muslims account for about 88% of the population; Eastern Orthodox Christians account for about 9%; and others for 3%. In 2002 Uzbekistan had a significant Jewish population of about 20,000 Ashkenazi and Bukharan Jews, primarily in the cities of Tashkent, Bukhoro (Bukhara), and Samarqand (Samarkand). Almost 80,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel or the United States since independence. Minority religions listed as "other" include small communities of Korean Christians, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, Buddhists, Baha'is, and Hare Krishnas.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution of 1992 and there is a specific provision prohibiting the establishment of any state religion. However, the government has placed some restrictions on religious freedom. Proselytizing is prohibited by law. All religious groups must register with the government, but the government has placed strict criteria on the registration process and rejects applications on minor technicalities. For instance, a group must have a valid legal address in order to register, yet many smaller groups do not have such an office. Religious services conducted by unregistered groups are considered to be illegal. All religious literature is subject to censor by the government.


As of 2004, Uzbekistan had some 3,950 km (2,453 mi) of railroad track in common carrier service (not including industrial lines), all of it broad gauge. Separate lines serve eastern and western regions. In 2002, there were also 81,600 km (50,706 mi) of highways, of which 71,237 km (44,227 mi) are hard-surfaced. As a doubly landlocked nation, there is no direct connection to the open sea. The closest route to the sea is to the south through Termiz on the Afghanistan border. Conflict in Afghanistan blocks this route. The Zeravshan River is the largest inland waterway. In 2004, the country had 1,100 km (684 mi) of navigable inland waterways. Uzbekistan had an estimated 226 airports in 2004, of which 33 had paved runways as of 2005. In 2003, a total of 1.466 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Some parts of present-day Uzbekistan have been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. The first states in the region were Khwarazm, Bactria, Sogdiana, and the Parthian Empire, in the first millennium bc. The territory was consolidated under the Achaemenids in the 6th century bc, until it was conquered by Alexander the Great, 329327 bc. The Greeks were displaced by the Tochari in the 3rd century bc. From the 1st century bc to the 4th century ad Uzbekistan was part of the Kushana Kingdom. This in turn was replaced by the Ephthalite state.

In the 6th century the area was part of the West Turkic Kaganate, a loose confederation of largely nomadic tribes. By the 8th century the region was conquered by the Arabs, who introduced Islam. The Ummayid dynasty was displaced by the Abbasids in 747750. In the 9th century the Samanids took control of most of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan. Turkic tribes again began to push into the area from the east in the 10th century, eventually forming the Karakhanid state. A lesser part of that state, Khwarazm, grew more powerful in the 12th century and came to dominate most of Central Asia.

Genghiz Khan's Mongols invaded in 1219, conquering all of Central Asia by 1221. In 1224 Genghiz Khan's son Chagatai was made ruler of this area. As Chingisid influence waned, Timur (Tamerlane, 13361405) established an empire in Samarqand (Samarkand). Upon his death it split into Khorasan, ruled by his son Shah Rukh, and Maweranahr, ruled by his grandson, Ulgh Beg. Although Timur is now claimed as the father of the modern Uzbeks, more likely candidates are the Sheibanid, nomadic Uzbeks who fought to take the area in the early 16th century. They settled among the other populations and became farmers, making Bukhoro (Bukhara) their capital.

In the 16th century Khwarazm, Balkh, and Khiva separated from Bukhara, becoming separate principalities. Bukhara was conquered by Persia in 1740, but sovereignty was retaken soon after by the Mangyt dynasty, which ruled until 1920. In the early 19th century the Kokand Khanate grew powerful in the eastern part of present-day Uzbekistan.

Russia had begun trading with Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand in the 18th century. Concern about British expansion in India and Afghanistan led eventually to Russian conquest, which began in the 1860s and ended in the 1880s, when Uzbekistan became part of Turkestan guberniia, with Bukhara and Khiva administered as separate emirates under Russian protection.

In 1916 Tsar Nicholas II issued a call for Central Asian males to be drafted into labor battalions. This sparked resistance throughout the region, including in Uzbekistan, which was violently repressed. During the conflict from 191720, Uzbekistan was the site of competing attempts to create governments; the Bolsheviks announced a short-lived Turkestan Autonomous Republic, while a Muslim Congress also attempted an Autonomous Government of Turkestan. Red Army forces intervened savagely, but armed resistance continued as late as 1924, in the so-called Basmachi Rebellion.

The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created in 1925. In 1929, Tajikistan, which had been an administrative sub-unit, was elevated to full republic status, changing the boundaries. They were changed once again in 1936.

Under the leadership of long-time leader S. Rashidov, Uzbekistan was politically conservative during the 1970s and early 1980s. The republic was targeted for anticorruption purges in the mid-1980s, when considerable fraud in the cotton industry was discovered. The leader as of 2003, Islam Karimov, was appointed by Moscow in 1989.

In March 1990, Karimov was elected to the newly created post of president by the Uzbek Supreme Soviet. Uzbekistan declared independence on 1 September 1991, in the aftermath of the abortive Moscow coup of 1921 August. Karimov's presidency was reaffirmed in an election in December 1991. Since then, however, Karimov has been increasingly hostile to even the most basic tenets of democracy. True opposition parties were banned in 1992 and political reformers have been jailed or have fled the country. Parliamentary elections to the 250-seat Majlis were held on 24 December 1994 and 15 January 1995, with 231 seats going to Karimov's People's Democratic Partythe former Uzbek Communist Party. Following the elections, President Karimov held a referendum that extended his presidency until 2000 which was allegedly approved by 99% of voters.

Despite his antidemocratic leanings, Karimov received little criticism from the West or from Russia (which, in fact, supplies him with ample military backing) since he had been seen as a buffer against the fundamentalist Muslim political and revolutionary movements in Central Asianotably those in Afghanistan and in neighboring Tajikistan. In fact, Uzbekistan had supplied arms to the secular factions in both countries' civil wars.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a radical Islamic organization seeking to establish an Islamic state in Central Asia, has long been operational in Uzbekistan. In February 1999, five car bombs in Tashkent were attributed to the IMU by Karimov, who accused the group of attempting to assassinate him and destabilize the country. The IMU broadcast a declaration of jihad from a radio station in Iran, and demanded the resignation of the Uzbek leadership. That year, IMU fighters operating from mountain hideouts launched a several-year series of engagements with government forces. Militants also took foreigners hostage in 1999 and 2000, including four US citizens who were mountain climbing in August 2000, and four Japanese geologists and eight Kyrgyzstani soldiers in August 1999. IMU military leader Juma Namangani apparently was killed during a US-led air strike in Afghanistan in November 2001. In addition to the IMU, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir ("Freedom Party"), another radical Islamic organization, operates in the country, although, unlike the IMU, it does not use violent tactics to pursue its goals. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, and its subsequent military campaign in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda forces, all radical Islamic groups in the Central Asian nations were linked by most governments to terrorism.

Uzbekistan offered its airbases to the US-led coalition for its campaign in Afghanistan beginning in October 2001. In response, the United States provided the country with $60 million for 2002, in addition to a one-time contribution of $100 million. In March 2002, the United States and Uzbekistan signed a Declaration on Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework, in which both countries agreed to cooperate on economic, legal, humanitarian, and nuclear proliferation matters. In April 2004, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced its decision to limit investment in Uzbekistan, citing the government's lack of progress on democratic and economic reform benchmarks established one year earlier. Similarly, in July, the United States suspended $18 million of the $55 million originally earmarked for Uzbekistan in 2004. The decision was based on the 2002 Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework, which makes US assistance to the Uzbek government conditional on Tashkent's introduction of meaningful political reforms and curbs in human rights abuses.

On 27 January 2002, Karimov held another referendum to prolong his presidential term from 5 to 7 years, effectively keeping himself in power until 2007. The US Department of State refused to send election observers, arguing there had to be a "free and fair" presidential election before a referendum was valid.

In April 2003, parliament adopted legislation providing former presidents immunity from prosecution and lifelong state-funded security for them and their immediate family. Parliamentary elections in 2004, consisting of only parties which support the Karimov, resulted in the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan taking 41 seats, the People's Democratic Party with 32 seats, the Fidokorlar National Democratic Party with 17 seats, Democratic National Rebirth Party with 11 seats, the Adolat Social Democratic Party with 9 seats and 10 seats given to independents. The next parliamentary elections were scheduled for December 2009.

On 13 May 2005, unrest in Uzbekistan resulted in Uzbek troops firing on a crowd of protestors in the city of Anjian, killing between 500 to 1000 people. Although protests had been growing in size throughout 200405, never before had so many been killed. This incident has become known as the Anjian Massacre. The government, including president Karimov, stated it had acted in defense of its citizens as the protestors had stormed a military garrison and prison in the city seizing weapons and releasing around 4,000 prisoners on 12 May.


The state constitution adopted on 8 December 1992 mandates a civil democratic society. The executive branch consists of the president and his appointed prime minister and Cabinet of Ministers. During the Soviet years, the legislative branch consisted of a unicameral Supreme Soviet of 150 seats. The judicial branch is appointed by the president, subject to legislative confirmation, for 5- and 10-year terms. The Supreme Assembly is now bicameral. It consists of an Upper House or Senate with 100 seats and a Lower House or Legislative Chamber with 120 seats. The last elections were held on 26 December 2004 and 9 January 2005 with the next elections scheduled for 2009. Not all of the seats in the Supreme Assembly election were contested, and all parties in the Assembly support President Islam Karimov. In 1992, President Karimov banned opposition parties. The president is the head of state and has responsibility for the functioning of the other branches of government as well as for making sure the constitution is observed. He essentially rules by decree. Karimov held referendums extending his presidency in 1995 and 2002, taking 92% of the vote in 2002. The president is elected for a seven-year term. The next presidential election was to be held in 2007.


In the Soviet period, the only legal political party was the Communist Party. As Soviet control began to disintegrate in 198990, a number of mass-based "informal organizations" appeared which grew to be the equivalents of parties, although not all were legally registered. The largest, claiming as many as 100,000 members, was Birlik (Unity), founded by Abdurakhim Pulatov in 1989. Erk (Freedom) was founded in 1990 by Muhammad Solih, who split away from Birlik; in 1991, Solih was a candidate for president, drawing approximately 12% of the vote. Another group, never legally registered, was the Islamic Renaissance Party.

After independence President Islam Karimov began to establish strong authoritarian control. Political opposition was forbidden. Opposition leaders have been beaten, jailed, and exiled. There were five registered parties as of 2003, but their platforms are essentially identical, and all parties with seats in parliament support the president. The People's Democratic Party (CDP) is the renamed Communist Party. Also registered were the Fatherland Progress Party (VTP); the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party; the Democratic National Rebirth Party; and the Self-Sacrificers Party (the Fatherland Progress Party merged with Self-Sacrificers Party).

A political pressure group, the Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party, was reformed as a pro-Karimov party after repudiating its founder, Muhammad Solih, who was forced into political exile. Another pressure group, the Birlik (Unity) Movement was officially banned in mid-1993, but continued to exist.


The republic is divided into 12 oblasts, or provinces. There is also the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, which has the right of legal secession, though is unlikely to exercise it. Administration is performed by locally elected councils, overseen by presidential appointees.

An April 1999 decree by Karimov granted mahallas, the smallest communal or neighborhood units in Uzbekistan, a greater level of autonomy than they previously had. The mahallas are traditional institutions charged by law with regulating communal life, and carrying out many state functions, such as community policing, political surveillance, and distributing social welfare payments. This increase in decentralization for the mahallas has been welcomed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) attempting to provide assistance to the mahallas and to strengthen the participation of communities in political, economic, and social matters.


The Soviet judiciary system, featuring trials by panels of three judges, still prevails. There are three levels of courts: district courts (people's courts) at the lowest level, regional courts, and the Supreme Court. District court decisions may be appealed through the higher levels. Under the constitution, the president appoints judges for five-year terms. There are also town, city, Tashkent city courts and arbitration courts appointed for five-year terms.

The judicial system also consists of a constitutional court, higher economic court, and economic court of the republic. The constitutional court judges the constitutionality of laws and acts passed by the Supreme Assembly, the decrees issued by the president, government enactments and ordinances of local authorities. It is also responsible for interpreting the constitution.

The Supreme Court's rulings are final and binding. It is the highest judicial body of civil, criminal, and administrative law. Defendants have the right to an attorney and most trials are open to the public. In political cases, the judiciary may experience pressure from the government. Prisons suffer from severe overcrowding and shortages of food and medicine. An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 political prisoners are being held in Uzbekistan's penal institutions.

The government officially abolished censorship in 2002, although the government controls major media outlets and newspaper printing and distribution facilities. Internet access is available but the government has blocked a number of non-Uzbek news Web sites. Homosexuality is a criminal offense in Uzbekistan and prominent human rights activist Ruslan Sharipov, was sentenced in 2005 to five and one-half years for the charge. In March 2004 he was transferred from prison to house arrest.

The 1998 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations prohibits activities including proselytizing and private religious instruction, requires groups to register and provides strict criteria for their registration. There are restrictions on foreign travel, including the use of a system of exit visas; under Uzbek law, a citizen must obtain a five-year exit visa to travel to countries with which Uzbekistan operates a visa regime. The ability to move to a new city is limited as permission is required from local authorities, and the authorities rarely grant permission to those wishing to move to Tashkent.

Crimes perpetrated against women, such as domestic violence or rape are rarely prosecuted as women are discouraged from pressing charges. Trafficking of women and children remains a serious problem. Human Rights Watch reports that local authorities frequently use children as free or cheap labor for agricultural harvests, particularly cotton which the primary export of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is a member of many international organizations including the United Nations and is an observer at the World Trade Organization.


As of 2005, Uzbekistan's armed forces numbered 55,000 active personnel. The Army numbered 40,000 active members and were armed with 340 main battle tanks, 13 reconnaissance vehicles, 405 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 309 armored personnel carriers, and over 487 artillery pieces. The Air Force had between 10,000 and 15,000 personnel and operated 136 combat capable aircraft, including 75 fighters and 50 fighter ground attack aircraft. The service also had 29 attack helicopters. In addition, there were up to 20,000 paramilitary personnel, under the Ministry of Interior, of which up to 19,000 were internal security troops, and another 1,000 comprised the National Guard. The defense budget for 2005 was $60 million.


Uzbekistan was admitted to the United Nations on 2 March 1992; it participates in ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the IAEA, FAO, the World Bank, UNCTAD, UNESCO, and the WHO. It is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, OSCE, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank, OSCE, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

In June 2001, leaders of Uzbekistan, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan met in China to launch the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and sign an agreement to fight ethnic and religious militancy while promoting trade. Also in 2001, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova formed a social and economic development union known as GUAAM; however, Uzbekistan withdrew from the partnership in 2005. Uzbekistan is also a partner in the Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO) and the Central Asian Union, both of which consist of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan is part of the Nonaligned Movement and the NATO Partnership for Peace.

In environmental cooperation, Uzbekistan is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


Although characterized by one of the lowest per capita incomes in the Central Asian and other post-Soviet republics, Uzbekistan's rich reserves of gold, oil, natural gas, coal, silver, and copper provide a promising endowment for future development. As a major source of cotton for the textile industry in the former USSR, and, as of 2006, the world's fifth-largest cotton producer and second-largest cotton exporter, Uzbekistan has a predominantly agricultural economy. In addition, much of the industrial production is linked to agriculture, including cotton harvesting equipment, textiles, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Only 12% of Uzbekistan's total cotton production and 60% of its silk cocoons were processed locally in the early 1990s, reflecting the country's principal role as supplier of raw material goods for downstream manufacturing elsewhere in the former USSR. In 2003, agriculture accounted for 38% of GDP, followed by services at 35.7% and industry at 26.3%.

Uzbekistan has a centrally planned economic structure in which most production and employment remains in the state sector, and all health, education, social security, and welfare services are provided by the government. Measures taken toward establishing a greater market orientation within the economy have been more cautious than in many other post-Soviet countries. A differentiated process of price control liberalization was applied to the wholesale and retail sectors in 1991 in an attempt to avoid socially destabilizing surges in consumer prices. Nevertheless, inflation ran 790% in retail prices and 2,700% in wholesale prices in 1992; by the end of the year, real wage earnings had declined by 56%. The disruption of trading arrangements with former Soviet republics and the cessation of transfers from the Union's central government is evident in the erosion of other major economic indicators in the 1990s. In addition to a seriously deteriorating fiscal balance, estimated GDP shrank by 17% between 1991 and 1994. Following a breakdown in agreements over the conditions of a new ruble zone with Russia and other CIS countries, Uzbekistan adopted its own currency, the som, in late 1993.

When it became apparent that the slow pace of economic reform was not working, the government increased efforts to move from a command-driven to a market-oriented economy. Reforms included tighter monetary policies, cooperation with international financial institutions, increased privatization of state-owned enterprises, and an improved environment for foreign investors. In response, the economy slowed its decline to 1% in 1996 and the inflation rate dropped to 35%, down from 1,300% in 1994. Additional reforms announced in 1996 aimed at increasing the private sector's share of GDP to 60%.

By 1999, the state continued to dominate the economy, however. GDP grew by 2.5% in 1997, and 4.4% in 1998, despite the Russian and Asian financial crises. Inflation was at 71% in 1997, but fell to 29% in 1998. In 1999 growth was 4.1% and in 2000, 4%, while inflation persisted at annual rates of 29% and 26% respectively. Continued inflation and a growing debt burden combined with the global economic slowdown in 2001 to reduce real growth to 3%. By 2005, the GDP growth rate had reached an estimated 5.4%, and the inflation rate had been tamed, to an estimated 7.1%.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Uzbekistan's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $52.2 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.4%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 7.1%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 38% of GDP, industry 26.3%, and services 35.7%.

Foreign aid receipts amounted to $194 million or about $8 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Uzbekistan totaled $5.45 billion or about $213 per capita based on a GDP of $10.1 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings.

Approximately 34% of household consumption was spent on food, 13% on fuel, 4% on health care, and 7% on education. It was estimated that in 2004 about 28% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Uzbekistan's labor force was estimated at 14.26 million in 2005. As of 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), occupational breakdown data for the country's workforce was incomplete. Agriculture that year, accounted for 34.4% of the labor force, with industry at 20.3%. However data on the services sector was unavailable. The undefined occupation category was put at 32.7% for that year. Although unemployment in 2005 was officially put at 0.7%, another 20% of the workforce was estimated to be underemployed.

The labor code adopted in 1992 recognizes the right for all workers to voluntarily create and join unions, which may in turn associate with international affiliations. Unions also were granted independence from government administrative and economic bodies (except where provided by law), and were encouraged to develop their own charters, structure, and executive bodies. However, as of 2002, the union structure remained the same as under Soviet rule. There were no independent unions.

The standard workweek is 41 hours, and minimum wages are set by the Ministry of Finance. As of 2002, the minimum wage was about $3.00 per month. Some factories have reduced work hours to avoid layoffs, and overtime pay is rarely given. The minimum working age is 16, although 15-year-olds may work a shorter workday. The Labor Ministry has an inspection service to enforce compliance with this requirement. The Labor Ministry also inconsistently enforces occupational health and safely regulations, many industrial plants continue to be hazardous, and most workers lack protective clothing and equipment.


Uzbekistan was the former Soviet Union's largest producer of fruits and vegetables. About 12% of the total area is crop land. In 2004, about 35% of GDP and 17% of exports came from agriculture.

During the Soviet era, cotton was grown on almost half of all sown land. Cotton is grown in the crescent beginning in the Fergana Valley and extending south along the Tien Shan Mountains to Samarqand (Samarkand) and Bukhoro (Bukhara), and then west along the Amu Darya River. All cotton is flood irrigated. Plantings are generally in April, with the harvest coming in late August or early September. Fields are usually planted with alfalfa or corn every four or five years, but many fields are planted without rotation, leading to declining yields. Since independence, Uzbekistan has embarked on a policy to diversify agriculture; annual cotton lint production was over 1.1 million tons in 2004/05. Almost 40% of the gross value of agricultural production is derived from cotton; Uzbekistan was the world's fifth-largest producer of cotton lint in 2004/05 (after China, the United States, India, and Pakistan), accounting for 4% of world supply. In 2004, Uzbekistan's agricultural trade surplus was $668.3 million.

Rice, wheat, barley, and corn are important grain crops. Rice is produced on 48 specialized state farms, and about 85% of the rice crop comes from the southwestern part of Karakalpakistan and the Khorezm region. In 2004, over five million tons of cereals were produced. Sesame, tobacco, onions, flax, and various fruits are also grown.


Sheep are the main livestock product, with Karakyl sheep (noted for their black wool) raised in the Bukhara region. The livestock population in 2005 included 9.5 million sheep, 5.4 million head of cattle, 1,000,000 goats, 90,000 pigs, 150,000 donkeys, 145,000 horses, 25,000 camels, and about 14.5 million chickens. Meat production that year totaled 551,000 tons, of which 82% was beef, 13% was mutton, 2% was pork, and 3% was poultry. Wool (greasy) production in 2005 was estimated at 16,000 tons. Mulberry trees have been grown for silkworm breeding since the 4th century; some 1,200 tons of silk were produced in 2005.


Fishing occurs mainly in the Fergana Valley. The Aral Sea in the north (the world's fourth-largest lake) is too saline and becoming more so, especially since its water surface area has decreased by 33% since 1960. The total catch in 2003 was 7,112 tons, primarily carp.


Forests make up 4.8% of the total land area, mostly in the Fergana Valley and Zeravshan regions. Commercial forestry is not a significant part of the economy. Uzbekistan imported $37.2 million in forestry products during 2004.


The mineral sector remained one of the chief contributors to the country's economic development. Along with natural gas and uranium, in which Uzbekistan was a world leader, and crude oil, in which it was self-sufficient, the country was significant to world mineral markets as a gold producerit has, at times, been a world leader. Gold was the second-leading export commodity in 2002, providing 22% of export earnings. Production of fertilizers was an important part of the domestic chemical industry, as fertilizers were used for the production of cotton. In 2002, cotton was the leading export, accounting for 45% of Uzbekistan's exports.

Uzbekistan produced an estimated 80,000 kg of gold in 2002. Uzbekistan also mined copper (65,000 metric tons in 2002), molybdenum, silver, and tungsten. Copper, molybdenum, and lead-zinc were mined at the Almalyk mining and metallurgical complex, Uzbekistan's major nonferrous-metals-producing enterprise, northeast of Tashkent. No bismuth, cadmium, lead, palladium, tin, or zinc has been mined from 1997 through 2002. It appears that mining operations have been curtailed sharply or have ceased. Control of one of the main lead-mining deposits, Altyn-Topkan, in the Kurama mountain range, was transferred to Tajikistan in 1999. Uzbekistan also produced cement, kaolin clays (an estimated 5.5 million metric tons in 2002), feldspar, graphite, iodine, mineral fertilizer, nitrogen, phosphate rock, and sulfur. No fluorspar output has been reported from 1999 through 2002. Uzbekistan also manufactured copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, silver, steel, tungsten, and zinc metals.

Uzbekistan's explored resources of gold were 5,300 tons. The main reserves, amounting to 3,200 tons, were in the central Kyzylkum region, containing the Muruntau deposit (2,230 tons), the largest gold deposit in Eurasia and among the largest in the world; Muruntau's milling operation, near Zarafshan, processed more than 22 million tons per year of ore. Zeravshana 5050 joint venture of an Uzbeck government conglomerate and Newmont Corp., of the United States, the leading foreign investor in Uzbekistan's gold industryproduced 15.4 tons in 2000, from gold-bearing tailings from the Muruntau operation, down from 16.7 in 1999. The drop was a result of lower gold content in the material received by the plant.


Uzbekistan is one of the 10 largest producers of natural gas in the world. According to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), updated as of September 2005, Uzbekistan had natural gas reserves estimated at 66.2 trillion cu ft. In 2003, according to the EIA, natural gas production totaled 2.03 trillion cu ft, and according to preliminary data for 2004, natural gas output totaled 2.07 trillion cu ft. Dry natural gas consumption in 2002 totaled 1.6 trillion cu ft. Exports that year totaled 395.53 billion cu ft.

According to the EIA analysis, the Oil and Gas Journal estimates that Uzbekistan's proven reserves of oil total 594 million barrels. Uzbekistan's output of all petroleum liquids in 2003 totaled 155,000 barrels per day. In 2004, production was estimated at 150,000 barrels per day.

In 2002, Uzbekistan's electric power generating capacity totaled 11.631 million kW, of which conventional fossil fuel generating plants accounted for b9.921 million kW of capacity, with hydroelectric plants at 1.710 million kW. Electricity output in 2002 came to 46.942 billion kWh of which 86.5% was from fossil fuels and 13.5% from hydropower. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 44.983 billion kWh.


Growth of Uzbekistan's industrial production averaged 3.2% in the 1980s, although on a per capita basis, the republic's industrial output remained less than half that of the USSR average by the end of the decade. Most industry was based on the processing of local agricultural products. Soft goods (mainly cotton, wool, and silk fiber) and processed foods (including cottonseed oil, meat, dried fruit, wines, and tobacco) accounted for about 39% and 13% of industrial production respectively in 1990; their manufacture was concentrated in Tashkent and the Fergana Valley.

Uzbeklegprom, the state association for the production of light industry goods, produces about 90% of Uzbekistan's textiles. In the late 1990s, Uzbeklegprom sought to boost capacity with the assistance of several joint venture partners. Investment projects such as the $194 million investment Korean Kabul Textiles and those by Turkish firms Astop and Tekfen began to modernize cotton processing, although most textile mills continue to use out-dated machinery with technology from the 1970s. The investment cost of updating the entire industry was estimated at between $500 million and $1 billion.

Food processing is Uzbekistan's second-largest industry, based on the country's abundant production of fruits and vegetables. The sector is also in need of investment to modernize its processing and packaging equipment.

Uzbekistan's machinery industry is the primary producer of machines and heavy equipment in Central Asia. Uzavtosanoat is the cornerstone of the country's automotive industry; it has developed joint ventures with Daimler-Benz (Germany) and Daewoo (ROK). The UzDaewoo-Avto plant in Andizhan began production in 1996 and produced about 200,000 units annually. Two models of cars, the Nexia and the Tico, and a microbus, the Damas, are the main models produced.

The aerospace industry centers around the Chkalov Tashkent Aircraft Production Co., a government-controlled enterprise that is one of the largest and most significant aircraft assembly plants in Central Asia. Equipment used on the Salyut and Mir space stations were among its products. Of more practical use have been developments in satellite imaging and communications.

Metal processing industries are clustered in the Olmaliq-Oharangan (Almalyk-Akhangaran) complex, southeast of Tashkent. Metal alloys, wire, rods and sheet and gas-based nitrogen are manufactured in Chirchiq, close to the Kazakhstan border in the northeast. Chemical fertilizers used mainly in cotton production are also produced in the Chirchiq.

Uzbekistan has three oil refineries, at Fergana, Alty-Arik, and Bukhoro (Bukhara), with a total capacity of 220,000 barrels per day. The 50,000-barrels-per-day-capacity facility at Bukhoro (Bukhara) was built after the breakup of the Soviet Union at a cost in excess of $400 million; it was expected to be expanded to a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day with the ability to handle both crude oil and gas condensate. In 2006, however, the refineries were operating well below capacity because of the decline in the Uzbekistan's oil production.

With estimated natural gas reserves of 66.2 trillion cu ft (Tcf), Uzbekistan is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the Commonwealth of Independent States (after Russia), and one of the top 10 natural gas-producing states in the world. Since becoming independent, Uzbekistan increased its natural gas production by over 30%, from 1.51 Tcf in 1992 to an estimated 2.07 Tcf in 2004.

In 2004, the industrial production growth rate was estimated at 9.4%.


The Uzbek Academy of Sciences, headquartered in Tashkent, has departments of physical-mathematical sciences; mechanics; control processes; informatics; chemical-technological and earth sciences; and biological sciences. Uzbekistan has 45 research institutes conducting research in agriculture and veterinary sciences, technology, natural sciences, and medicine. Twenty-three colleges and universities offer scientific and technical training. In the period 19902001, there were 1,754 scientists and engineers, and 312 technicians engaged in research and development per million people.


Although dominated by state-owned stores and distribution channels under the Soviet economy, retailing has seen a marked shift toward private business. Since 1992, thousands of small businesses have been privatized or leased to worker collectives, with the most progress in retail trade, consumer services, public catering, and local industry. However, the shift from state control to a free-market economy continued to move at a very slow pace. Urban markets provide an important outlet for the sale of vegetables and other foodstuffs. Government restrictions on trade and foreign investment have hindered the economy. Black market trade was still available as of early 2006.

Business hours are 9 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, and banks are open from 9 am to 4 pm. Department stores are open from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday.

Advertising by print and television is popular. Other forms of advertising include billboards, radio, and transportation (buses, trams) advertisements. Many affluent Uzbeks subscribe to Kamalak wireless cable television service.


While supplying the former USSR with light industry goods (mainly cotton fiber) and basic equipment related to agriculture and agricultural processing, Uzbekistan has been highly dependent on the other former Soviet republics for critically needed grain, food, machinery, and other industrial inputs. Uzbekistan is a net exporter of natural gas, but had begun importing oil in the early 2000s.

In 2006, exports included cotton, gold, natural gas, fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, food products, and automobiles. Imports included grain, machinery and parts, consumer durables, and foods.


Uzbekistan was extremely reliant on cotton exports as a means of trade throughout its association with the former USSR, but earnings fluctuated widely from year to year depending on the performance of the agricultural sector. Exports of natural gas and petroleum generated much needed hard currency reserves within the next several years. Uzbekistan received substantial financial support from the World Bank, IMF, and other multilateral lending institutions. Proceeds were used to finance the cotton industry and oil and gas development, to provide a social safety net, to maintain the water supply, and to further privatization efforts.

The country lost almost half of its foreign exchange reserves in 1996, after the government imposed strict currency controls. As of the early 2000s, Uzbekistan was able to maintain reserve levels at or close to $1.2 billion, in large measure by restricting imports. Exports dropped as well, and as a result of this decline in trade, Uzbekistan managed to achieve a modest balance of payments surplus of $359 million in 1999. The country's external debt stood at $5.1 billion in 2001. Many creditors reassessed their lending to Uzbekistan due to this high debt burden, and foreign investment declined.

The estimated current account balance in 2003 was $270 million. By the end of that year, the country's total debt stock amounted to $4.6 billion. Trade volumes have fallen sharply since 1997, due in part to Uzbekistan's currency convertibility restrictions, which still continue for consumer goods, significant administration barriers for licensing and certification, and very high customs duties. However, high prices for gold and cotton, two of Uzbekistan's primary export commodities, resulted in a slight increase in trade revenues in the mid-2000s.


After 1993, the banking system was headed by the now-defunct National Bank of Uzbekistan, the former local branch of the Soviet Gosbank. The NBU attempted to increase its supervision over Uzbekistan's banks, the most important of which are state-owned. In 2002, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan (CBU) was in charge of the country's two-tier banking system, and had the responsibility of issuing soms, the country's currency unit, and regulating the commercial banks by setting reserve requirements and the discount rate. The other important state bank was the Uzbek National Bank of Foreign Economic Activities (NBU), which dealt exclusively with the foreign exchange rate.

There were increasing hints from the government that the banking sector is in trouble. The first indicator of a banking crisis came with the sudden and unpublicized sacking in January 1997 of Ahmat Ibotov, the head of Promstroi Bank, the second-largest bank in Uzbekistan after the NBU. Then, on 26 February 1997, President Karimov launched a scathing attack on the country's banks, accusing them of being corrupt and bureaucratic. The president also blamed the banks for maintaining excessively high interest rates. The CBU has also criticized the banks for poor credit risk evaluation and poor procedures over the issuing of bank guarantees. Commercial banks in the country include the Uzbek Commercial Bank and the Uzbek Joint-Stock Innovation Bank. The country does not have a security market, but the trading of commodities is widely practiced in the country.

In 1996, the authorities closed three banks, all supposedly for breaching lending limits set by the CBU. One of the main problems in the banking sector is over-concentration. The three largest banks, all of which are state-owned, control 86% of commercial banks' assets. The main culprit is the NBU, which accounts for 45% of assets.


Among the insurance companies doing business in Uzbekistan in 1997 were: GOSSTRAKH State Insurance Company of the Republic of Uzbekistan; JV, UMID Joint-Stock Insurance Co.; MADAD Joint-Stock Insurance Agency; and Uzbekinvest National Insurance Co. of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which is government-owned.


Uzbekistan's spiraling inflation as a member of the ruble zone necessitated the introduction of a transition currency after it left the ruble zone in November 1993. In 1994, the government undertook economic reforms, but privatization efforts have fallen short of expectations. Subsidies for basic consumer goods (except some food staples and energy products) and subsidized credit to industrial enterprises were substantially reduced during 1994 and 1995. The external debt, $1.5 billion at the end of 1994, more than doubled to $3.3 billion by 1997. By 2005, it had exceeded $5 billion. An enterprise profit tax, a value-added tax, and an excise tax on cotton supply the bulk of government revenues. The government is officially committed to a gradual transition to a free-market economy, but is cautious in the actions it takes toward that goal. The restrictive trade regime has crippled the economy and currency convertibility is essentially unheard of.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Uzbekistan's central government took in revenues of approximately $2.8 billion and had expenditures of $2.9 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$102 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 39% of GDP. Total external debt was $5.184 billion.


As of 2005, Uzbekistan had a standard corporate tax rate of 18%. Capital gains are treated as taxable profits and are taxed at the corporate rate. Dividends and interest paid to resident companies and individuals, and to nonresident foreign companies without a permanent presence in the country, are subject to a 15% withholding tax. Royalties are subject to a 20% withholding tax, if paid to nonresident firms without a permanent presence in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has a maximum personal income tax rate of 33%. The official minimum monthly wage rate in Uzbekistan is 3,430 soms, which is worth about $2 in the black market. People who earn less than 15,720 soms (about $9) a month pay 13%. On the increment between 15,720 soms and 31,140 soms ($18) per month the rate is 23%, and on income above 31,140, the new maximum rate is 33%. At the same time the government introduced a 20-som tax on each liter of gas.

Also levied is a 20% value-added tax (VAT) on all goods and services, although some are zero-rated or exempt. Other taxes include excise taxes, property taxes, an ecology tax, a subsurface use tax (imposed on natural resource extraction, road use taxes and social and pension fund contributions.


Uzbekistan is a member of the Economic Cooperation Organization, together with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. Uzbekistan has also formed an economic union with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Imports are subject to customs duties at rates ranging from 14%. However, excise taxes have been much higher, as much as 90% for imported liquor.


While Uzbekistan's store of valuable natural resources is likely to provide a strong basis for covering the costs of long-term economic development, significant amounts of external funding will be needed to support its short-term development plans over the next decade. To stimulate foreign direct investment, legislation adopted in mid-1991 provides tax incentives and guarantees against expropriation, though falling short of securing the right to repatriate profits and third-party dispute arbitration. By the end of 1992, 450 joint ventures were registered in the country but only 135 were actually operating. The largest of these is with the US-based Newmont Mining Corp. Negotiations over further Western participation in the exploitation of a major oil field discovered in the Fergana Valley in early 1992 followed. Fourteen bilateral agreements with China were signed in 1992.

In 1994, British-American Tobacco, one of the world's largest cigarette manufacturers, announced a $200 million deal to acquire 51% of state-owned Uztobacco. That same year, a Coca-Cola joint venture began operations in Uzbekistan. In August 1996, South Korea's Daewoo Group announced the planned investment of $2.5 billion in Uzbekistan to build telecommunications networks. Daewoo has invested $658 million to produce cars in Uzbekistan. In 2000 Uzbekistan and Israel announced plans to cooperate on the development of solar power technology.

The Uzbek government reported foreign direct investment (FDI) of $298 million in 1998 and $188 million in 1999. In 2003, FDI inflows were estimated at $70 million by the Economist Intelligence Unit; government figures listed FDI inflows at $167 million. Despite Uzbekistan's strategic location and considerable economic potential, the poor investment and business climate has caused the country to attract less FDI than any other CIS country. The largest percentage of FDI in 2003 originated from Russia (15.8%), South Korea (9.8%), and the United States (8.7%).


Under centralized Soviet economic planning, Uzbekistan's economic growth was fueled by expanded agricultural production, as extensive stretches of land were brought under irrigation particularly for cultivation of cotton. While highly critical of the former Soviet's government emphasis on promoting cotton monoculture in the republic, the country's new government has found that the country's economic fortunes are closely tied to cotton production, which has fallen steadily since the Soviet era.

Since independence the government has aimed at facilitating a greater market orientation in the economy, though the steps taken toward this goal have been smaller and slower-paced than in other parts of the former USSR. A series of basic laws and new policies have been adopted regarding property ownership, land, privatization, foreign investment, price controls, trade, taxes, and banking. In 1995 the government announced a mass privatization program with the objective of increasing the private sector's share of GDP from 40% to 60%. Although nearly 60,000 small businesses (96% of the total) and 14,000 farms (accounting for 11% of arable land) had been privatized by 1997, only 20% of Uzbekistan's medium and large-sized enterprises were in private hands.

Developing the country's oil and natural gas fields, bolstering cotton exports through productivity enhancement, and sustaining gold exports are likely to be key strategies for procuring some of the necessary financing to support economic development. In 1992, Uzbekistan signed an agreement with Russia, transferring its share of the former Soviet Union's debt to the latter in exchange for relinquishing all claims on Soviet assets. One area of serious concern for the government is the increasing threat to public health and economic productivity posed by the environmental damage resulting from past development strategies. Addressing growing water shortages, severe river and lake pollution caused by the heavy use of chemical inputs in agriculture, the desiccation of the Aral Sea due to massive irrigation, and high levels of both air and water pollution in the country's industrial centers are among the country's most pressing environmental management problems.

In 2002 the government and the Central Bank embarked on an IMF staff monitored program (SMP) primarily designed to convince the IMF to approve a financial program. The SMP was aimed at accelerating the transition to a market economy and achieving macroeconomic stability. The main policies pursued were reducing the role of the state through progressive lifting of restrictions on private activity, as well as accelerated privatization state enterprises, plus tight monetary and fiscal policies to bring down inflation and reduce debt. As of 2002, World Bank commitments to Uzbekistan amounted to $463 million: a three-year Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) was aimed to prepare the country and its decision-makers for currency and trade liberalization. At the same time, it provided for investments in projects contributing to poverty reduction, public health, ecological disaster prevention, regional environmental degradation, and institution building.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has traditionally been one of the largest investors in Uzbekistan's economy. From 19932003, the EBRD signed 25 projects in the country, and its total financial assistance amounted to $727.9 million. These projects included the rehabilitation of the oil refineries and power plants, building of new production facilities, development of gold mines, assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and others.

Uzbekistan became a member of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 1995 and by 2003 had received 10 loans from it. ADB assistance was directed to transportation and communications, social infrastructure, agriculture and natural resources, and finance.


The social security system includes old age, disability and survivor's pensions, in addition to sickness, maternity, work injury, and unemployment benefits. Pensions are provided at age 60 for men and age 55 for women. The program is financed by a 33% contribution from employers and a 2.5% contribution by employees. Women are entitled to 126 days of maternity benefits plus three years unpaid maternity leave. Unemployment benefits are funded entirely by employers, with subsidies as needed from the government. All residents are have medical benefits, and maternity befits amount to 100% of wages for up to 140 days. Mothers with children under two years of age are entitles to paid leave. Family allowances cover all needy residents.

Violence against women and spousal abuse continues to be a common problem with little or no governmental intervention. Although nominally equal under the law, women hold few high-level positions. Traditional customs decree that women generally marry young, bear many children, and confine their activities to the home. This is particularly evident in rural areas. There is a reported increase in the incidence of suicide by self-immolation by women. Sexual harassment is not proscribed by law, and societal norms and lack of recourse make it difficult to assess the scope of the problem.

Human rights violations are prevalent. Security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals, torture and beat prisoners, and confine them to unsafe prisons and labor camps. Freedom of speech and press are tightly restricted. Religious groups are closely monitored. The activities of human rights organizations are restricted, and human rights activists are frequently harassed.


The system of health care in Uzbekistan is comprehensive and services are provided mainly free of charge. Yet the overall efficacy of the Uzbek system was still relatively low as of 2000. The public often used hospitals for primary care. Health care reform objectives as of 2000 included improved quality of services overall and specifically in the areas of maternal and child health; promotion of privatization; and cost containment. Primary health care in rural areas is still provided by health posts staffed by physicians' assistants and midwives. Approximately 85% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 100% had adequate sanitation. As of 2004, there were an estimated 289 physicians, 997 nurses, 21 dentists, and 3 pharmacists per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.1% of GDP.

The infant mortality rate was 71.10 per 1,000 live births in 2005. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 26.1 and 8 per 1,000 people. The average life expectancy was 64.19 years in 2005. It was estimated that 93% of children up to one year old were immunized against tuberculosis; 65% against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus; 79% against polio; and 71% against measles. The rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 99% and 96%.

The heart disease rates were well above the countries classified as "medium human development" by the World Health Organization. The likelihood of dying after age 65 of heart disease was 508 for males and 538 for females per 1,000 adults.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 500 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


In 1989, 31.9% of all privately owned urban housing had running water, 11.3% had sewer lines, 21.1% had central heating, and 1.5% had hot water. In 1990, Uzbekistan had 12.1 sq m of housing space per capita and, as of 1 January 1991, 204,000 households (or 11.5%) were on waiting lists for urban housing. In 1996, it was estimated that about 90% of all households owned their own apartments or houses.


For centuries, Uzbekistan was a noted Muslim educational center. Muslim schools in the cities of Bukhoro (Bukhara), Samarqand (Samarkand), Tashkent, and Khiva attracted students from other Muslim countries. In 1920, after the Soviet Union took control of the region, schools and mosques were closed down, and a secular state-funded educational system was established. In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on Uzbek literature, culture, and history.

Nine years of schooling is compulsory. Primary school lasts for four years, followed by general secondary school of five years. Students than have several options for continuing their upper secondary education, including general studies, technical or vocational programs, and specialized academic programs. Upper secondary courses usually cover two years of study. The academic year runs from September to June.

In 2001, primary schools enrolled 2,559,000 students. In the same year, secondary schools had 4,237,000 students. It has been estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education.

There are three universities in Uzbekistan: Tashkent State University; Nukus State University; and Samarkand Alisher Naroi State University. There are several other institutions offering specialized training. In 2003, it was estimated that about 16% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.3%.


The largest library in the country is the Alisher Navoi State Public Library of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, which serves as the national library and holds over 10 million items. The Central State Archive of Uzbekistan is also in Tashkent, as are the Republic Library for Science and Technology (two million volumes), the Foundation Library of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences (1.5 million), the Pedagogical Institute (808,000), Tashkent State University (2.46 million), and the Polytechnic Institute (808,000). Samarqand (Samarkand) State University's library holds 1.6 million volumes, and the Pedagogical Institute Ulugbek in Fergana holds 295,000 volumes.

The Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of History, the National Nature Museum, and the Sergey Yesenin Literary Museum are in Tashkent, as are the Central Museum of the Armed Forces and the Museum of Olympic Glory. The Museum of Culture and Art History and the International Museum of Peace and Solidarity are in Samarqand (Samarkand). The Termez Archaeological Museum was established in 2001.


Telephone links to other former Soviet Republics are provided by land link or microwave and to other countries through Moscow. In 2003, there were an estimated 67 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 38,900 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 13 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio Tashkent, established in 1947, broadcasts in Uzbek, English, Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Arabic, and Uighur. There is also a television station in Tashkent, and satellite earth stations receive Orbita and INTELSAT. In 2004, the government owned four television channels and two radio stations. There were about 30 to 40 privately owned local television stations and 7 privately owned radio stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 456 radios and 280 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, 19 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There was one secure Internet server in the country in 2004.

Though there are privately-owned newspapers, the government owns the entire publishing house and must grant approval for all publications printed. The most widely read dailies include Khalk Suzi (2002 circulation 52,000), Pravda Vostoka (35,000), and Sovet Uzbekistoni. The weekly Narodnoye Slovo has a circulation of 21,000.

Though the constitution provides for freedom of expression, the government is said to restrict those rights severely, controlling all information flow. A 1991 law prohibits offending the president. Though a 2002 law allowing for prepublication censorship has been eliminated, many media sources continue to practice self-censorship.


The Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry promotes the country's exports in world markets. An umbrella organization, the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan, coordinates the activities of the country's trade unions.

The Academy of Sciences was established in 1943 to promote public interest in science while encouraging the work of scientific researchers and educators. The Physicians Association of Uzbekistan serves as a professional networking group and promotes research and education on public health issues.

National youth organizations include the Ulugbek Foundation for the Support of Talented Youth, the Youth of the Union of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and Soglom Ovlun Uchun, an organization focusing on health and development for children and youth. There are many active sports associations promoting amateur competition for athletes of all ages.

Women's organizations include the Center for Women Leaders (in Tashkent) and the Women's Committee of Uzbekistan. The Society for Human Rights is an important political association. Several social action groups formed in the 1990s, many, such as Real Action (1994), the ECO Initiative Group (1999) and Ecopolis Cultural and Ecological Movement (1995), are focused on environmental and developmental issues. The Red Crescent Society is also active.


Uzbekistan tourist attractions include the Islamic cities of Samarqand (Samarkand), Bukhoro (Bukhara), Khiva, and Kokand. Muslims from Pakistan, Iran, and the Middle East have been drawn to these sites with their palaces, mosques, madrasses (religious colleges), and pre-Islamic remains.

In an effort to increase tourism in recent years, several hotels have been built in Uzbekistan, and historical monuments were reconstructed. In 2003, there were 231,000 visitors who arrived in Uzbekistan. Hotel rooms numbered 7,332 with 15,670 beds and an occupancy rate of 31%. The average length of stay was three nights. That same year, tourism expenditure receipts totaled $48 million.

According to 2004 US Department of State estimates, the cost of staying in Tashkent was $178 per day.


Islam A. Karimov (b.1938) has been president of Uzbekistan since 1991. A famous 20th century writer is Abdullah Quaisi, who wrote the historical novels Days Gone By and the Scorpion from the Pulpit, published in the 1920s. Quaisi was killed in the 1930s during Stalin's purges. Ilyas Malayev (b.1936) is a popular poet and musician.


Uzbekistan has no territories or colonies.


Craumer, Peter. Rural and Agricultural Development in Uzbekistan. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, Russian and CIS Programme; distributed by the Brookings Institution, 1995.

Ferguson, Robert W. The Devil and the Disappearing Sea: A True Story about the Aral Sea Catastrophe. Vancouver, B.C.: Raincoast Books, 2003.

Human Rights and Democratization in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Washington, D.C.: Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 2000.

Kort, Michael. Central Asian Republics. New York: Facts On File, 2004.

Malcomson, Scott L. BorderlandsNation and Empire. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1994.

Melvin, Neil. Uzbekistan: Transition to Authoritarianism on the Silk Road. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 2000.

Nazarov, Bakhtiyar A. and Denis Sinor (eds.). Essays on Uzbek History, Culture, and Language. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University, 1993.

Northrop, Douglas Taylor. Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Uzbekistan
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 24,755,519
Language(s): Uzbek, Russian, Tajik
Literacy Rate: 99%
Academic Year: September-May
Number of Primary Schools: 9,432
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 7.7%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 2,140,350
  Secondary: 3,318,900
  Higher: 638,200
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 78%
  Secondary: 94%
Teachers: Primary: 95,000
  Secondary: 340,200
  Higher: 24,787
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 21:1
  Secondary: 9:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 76%
  Secondary: 88%

History & Background

Uzbekistan is one the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. At the end of 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union transformed all republics of that union into independent states. Located in the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan has a long and dramatic history. It first flourished economically because of the famous "Silk Road" going through the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, and Tashkent, the oasis towns over which caravans brought the products of Europe to exchange for those of Asia. Many famous conquerors passed through the land including Alexander the Great who stopped near Samarkand on his way to India in 327 B.C. In the eighth century A.D., the territory was conquered by Muslim Arabs and, in the ninth century, the indigenous Samanid dynasty established an empire there. Uzbekistan was overrun by Genghis Khan in 1220. In the 1300s Timur built an empire with its capital at Samarkand. Uzbekistan's heritage goes back about 2,500 years. In addition to its economic importance, this territory flourished as the medieval intellectual center of the Muslim world.

Russian trade with this region grew during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and, in 1865, Russian troops occupied Tashkent. By the end of the nineteenth century, Russia had conquered all of Central Asia, placed it under colonial administration, and invested in the development of Central Asia's infrastructure, promoting cotton growing and encouraging settlement by Russian colonists.

In 1924, following the establishment of Soviet power, the territories of the Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva and portions of the Fergana Valley that had constituted the Khanate of Kokand were united into the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan. The Soviet era brought literacy and technical development to Uzbekistan. The Republic was valued for its cotton growing and natural resources. However, together with positive developments, there was communist domination which brought with it the suppression of local cultural and religious tendencies. Uzbekistan declared independence on September 1, 1991.

Geographically, Uzbekistan is located in the middle of Central Asia with flat, sandy terrain and broad, intensely irrigated valleys along the rivers Amu Darya and Syr Darya. Uzbekistan borders with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tadjikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan territory is 447,400 square kilometers (117,868 square miles) or slightly larger than California. The climate is characterized by long, hot summers and mild winters. Uzbekistan is subdivided into 12 regions, plus the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan. Tashkent has a population of two million and is the capital of Uzbekistan.

Politically, the country is a republic with the Constitution adopted 8 December 1992. People elect the President in direct election. Islam Karimov is the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the third consecutive time. The Uzbekistan government has three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Supreme Court.

Economically, Uzbekistan was one of the poorest republics of the Soviet Union. The population is heavily rural and dependent on farming for its livelihood. The work force is comprised of the following: agriculture and forestry, 44 percent; industry and construction, 20 percent; and other, 36 percent. In 1997 Uzbekistan GDP was $21.3 billion, and per capita GDP was $895. It is the world's fourth largest producer of cotton. It also produces significant amounts of silk, fruits, vegetables, and other crops. As the world's seventh largest producer of gold, about eighty tons per year, it also has the fourth largest gold reserves. There are sufficient amounts of oil and an abundance of natural gas used for both domestic consumption and export and exportable reserves of copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, and uranium. There is trade with Russia, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the neighboring countries, former Soviet republics, now called the newly independent states (NIS).

Socially and culturally, Uzbekistan is a contemporary mix. It is Central Asia's most highly populated country with the population of over twenty-four million, i.e., nearly half the region's total population. Approximately 98 percent of the total population is literate. The population falls into the following ethnic groups: Uzbek 80 percent, Russian 5.5 percent, Tajik 5 percent, Kazakh 3 percent, Karakalpak 2.5 percent, Tatar 1.5 percent, and other 2.5 percent. In terms of religion, the nation is 88 percent Sunni Moslem, 9 percent Eastern Orthodox, and 3 percent other. The state language since 1991 is Uzbek, but Russian is the de facto language of interethnic and business communication. The Uzbekistan society exhibits characteristics of nepotism, clannishness, and even corruption as integral features of its culture (Abramson 1999).

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

According to the Uzbekistan Constitution, everyone is entitled to an education. The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on education mandates equal rights for education without discrimination of any kind such as sex, language, age, race and ethnic origin, convictions, attitude towards religion, social background, place of residence, and duration of stay in the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Students in educational institutions are granted benefits, stipends, and dormitory housing (Article 20). The right to secular education is secured for every individual regardless of personal religious beliefs (Article 7 of the Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations"). However, clerical disciplines cannot be included into curricula and training programs. On 29 August 1997, the Oliy Majlis passed the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Education," which includes The National Program of the Personnel Training System. Legislative acts recognize the priority of international agreements ratified by the Republic of Uzbekistan.

According to Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan, "the individual is the main target of the radical transformation. A harmoniously developed generation is the basis for progress in Uzbekistan" (Karimov 1998). Dr. Saidahror Gulyamov, Minister of Higher Education, stated that setting up a free, prosperous, democratic society is impossible without changing consciousness and that those changes can only be made through education. To accomplish this, radical reform of the educational system is necessary (Gulyamov 1999).

Looking forward to globalization of the market, Uzbekistan is focused on the preparation of fully trained professionals able to work at the international level. Therefore, an educational system, which is comparable to international standards at all levels, is a must. The government sees "the transition from the education for the entire life to continuing education during the entire life" (Gulyamov 1999) as the way to accomplish this. The emphasis is on combining specific national characteristics with international experience and implementation of upto-date international innovations.

Educational SystemOverview

According to official sources, about 60 percent of Uzbekistan's population is covered under the system of education. The earlier educational system required 11 years of compulsory schooling for both men and women. In 1992 the policy decision was made to change from 11 to 9 years of compulsory education. After nine years of compulsory schooling, students can prepare for higher education in tenth or eleventh grade or turn to vocational training. After graduating from any type of secondary education, an individual can enter a higher education institution to obtain a bachelor's degree and continue study toward a master's or doctoral degree.

Budget constraints and other transition problems following the collapse of the Soviet Union, have made it difficult to maintain and update educational buildings, equipment, texts, supplies, teaching methods, and curricula. Foreign aid for education is desperately needed, but has not been sufficient to compensate for the loss of central funding.

When viewed in general, the Uzbekistan educational system includes:

  • Preschool training (preprimary-from three to six years old)
  • General secondary education (from 6 to 15 years old)
  • Secondary vocational education (from 15 to 18 years old)
  • Higher education (undergraduate and graduate-from 18 years old).

Girls and boys are legally considered equal and study in the same classes and schools. Schools are open to all ethnic groups, and minorities in schools are rarely an issue.

The academic year begins on 2 September (the first of September is the Independence Day) or the first working day of September. The academic year ends in June for secondary schools and in July for higher education. Russian was a common language for over 100 nationalities living in the Soviet Union and played the same role as English for the United States. It was also the Lingua Franca of the socialist world that included Bulgaria, Poland, Mongolia, and other European and Asian countries. Without Russian as a common language, Uzbeks (and other ethnic groups) would have to learn Ukrainian, Belorussian, Moldovian, Armenian, and many other languages to communicate with the multinational population of the Soviet Union. Therefore, until 1991, Uzbeks preferred schools with instruction in Russian for their children. To not do so would have put them at a great disadvantage socially. After Uzbekistan gained its independence, Uzbek (not Russian) became the official language of instruction. In 1998-1999, some 76.8 percent of pupils at day schools were educated in Uzbek.

Examinations in the educational system of Uzbekistan are primarily oral. Universities, institutes, and some colleges still have entrance exams. Course exams occur only at the end of the course (semester). State exams are taken at higher education institutions at the completion of all coursework. The grading system of Uzbekistan is numerical. The highest grade is 5 (excellent = A), then follows 4 (good = B), 3 (satisfactory = C), and 2 (unsatisfactory = F). One is never used. Final grades are determined by test scores, papers, attendance, and class participation.

Because compulsory education is freely provided to all children of Uzbekistan, private schools have a difficult time justifying their existence. In fact, they were banned in 1993. Also, since Uzbekistan Law declares the separation of education from religion, there are no religious schools. However, in 1999, the establishment of the Tashkent Islamic University was allowed. Computer technology, thanks to international assistance, is being introduced to educational institutions and training centers. In 1994, the Central Asian Telecommunications Training Center (CATTC) was established in Uzbekistan under the Tacis Program of the European Commission. Training at the CATTC is provided using modern teaching aids, active methods, and individual and group methods by specialists and experts in different fields. The Computer Center at the University of Samarkand provides computer service to departments and research units and collaborates with other institutions and the private sector to run short training courses. At the secondary school level, computers are still rare.

As a result of decline in funding, the printing of books, textbooks, and other publications face numerous difficulties. This problem is common for all NIS countries. Nevertheless, despite obvious difficulties, according to UNESCO, Uzbekistan schools supplied about 60 percent of textbooks as a whole and for some selected subjects up to 100 percent. Publishing houses produced about 149 million copies of over 1700 various titles. From 1992 to 1997, some 174 textbooks with over 53,000 copies were published, including 138 original, 19 translated, 8 parallel in 2 languages, and 9 experimental textbooks. About 170 various tutorials and educational literature in 7 languages are published. Audiovisual materials are usually manually prepared by teachers. With the high price of copying and low salaries, teachers and professors must be creative.

In the Soviet-type higher education institution, most students studied for a full working week (five to six days a week, six to eight hours of classes a day). Evening and correspondence courses were also popular. The first and the second year of the curriculum usually included the study of social science with similar course requirements for all students. Specialization began in the third year and continued in the fourth year. Within this period a student had between 4,500 and 5,000 face-to-face hours of instruction in 20 to 30 subjects, depending on the field of concentration. Curriculum included general subjects like philosophy and economy, specialized subjects determined by the chosen profession, and very specific courses depending on the deeper specialization. Curriculum was very rigid and equal for all students. There were no choices. In the modern system higher education institutions, curriculum is certainly less rigid. However, the authorization of the curriculum is still the responsibility of a ministry, not a particular institution.

The expansion of curricula, including the addition of courses in French, Arabic, and English, has placed new stress on a limited supply of teachers and materials. In the mid-1990s, a major curriculum reform was begun. Western experts advised:

  • a more commercial approach to the mathematics curriculum
  • more emphasis in economics courses on the relationship of capital to labor
  • more emphasis in social science courses on individual responsibility for the environment
  • the addition of entirely new subjects, such as business management.

Because such changes involve new materials and a new pedagogical approach by staff, the reform period is estimated at 10 to 15 years. The current transformation of the educational system is performed along educational models in developed countries. According to Gulyamov, "During the process of developing the National Program the experience of reforming education in more than 30 leading countries in the world has been studied" (Gulyamov 1999).

In 1997, President Karimov founded "Umid," a program providing students with educational fellowships for obtaining education abroad. By the year 2000, over 700 students have been awarded the "Umid" Presidential Scholarship to pursue graduate and undergraduate degrees in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan. Certainly, returning graduates are expected to bring back "the influence," and those who have finished their studies are employed by the State. The Uzbekistan educators established contacts with the United Nations Organization and separate countries like France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Turkey, and the United States. Many organizations like Peace Corp (USA), ACCELS (USA), British Council, Merci Project (Great Britain), Goethe Institute (Germany), NAFE (USA), and Save the Children Fund (Great Britain) participate in the educational efforts undertaken by Uzbekistan. For example, the Ministry of Education of Turkey assisted in forming 22 Lycea for over 4.8 thousand students. Another example is the American Council on Cooperation in Education (ANCALS) which within 4 years helped over 222 Uzbekistan students get education in the United States. Finally, within only 2 years, 25 Uzbekistan schools got the certificates of UNESCO Associated Schools Project (ASP).

An American Educational Advising Center (EAC) funded by the United States Information Agency (USIA) and administered by the American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Study (ACCELS) was established in Tashkent to assist individuals interested in studying, training, and/or pursuing research in the United States. Tashkent EAC also monitors three similar regional educational advising centers located in the other cities. EAC provides ongoing training for the advisors.

Finally, the European Training Foundation (ETF) established an observatory to monitor the vocational education and training in Uzbekistan. It also disseminates the language training programs and helps the European Commission with the implementation of the Tempus program. Since 1994 the latter has financed over 12 projects, including the restructuring of the Geography Faculty at Samarkand State University and the development of a new history curriculum at Tashkent State University.

Education has and will continue to play a significant role in development. First, it increases an individual's internal potential, self-respect, and self-esteem. Second, it makes an individual a better prospect for employment. Third and most importantly, an educated individual gives more back to the society. Unfortunately, the results of education and training are less directly connected to revenue for immediate business growth, which is why the government tends to cut educational budgets.

Preprimary & Primary Education

In the past, kindergartens were part of state enterprises and factories, but the decline of the state economy led to the closure of many kindergartens. In the mid-1990s over 8,500 kindergartens accommodated 950,000 children, and there were plans for building new facilities to accommodate 135,000 more children. Out of over 90,000 teachers working in the preprimary education, about 20 percent have higher education and 77 percent have vocational education. Enrollment to the preprimary schools (detsky sad or kindergartens) is voluntary. Children enter elementary school (a part of secondary school) at the age of six or seven. One teacher teaches all subjects for four years. Children at elementary school are trained in Uzbek using the Latin script. Elementary schools, as a part of secondary schools, are mainly located in the same buildings.

With the lack of inspection, control, suitable materials, funds, and curricula reflecting all the changes that have occurred, preschool education quality has declined. On the primary school level, the new language orientation has caused major problems. New curriculum, new programs, and new teachers speaking Uzbek are limited. The quality of education differs depending on the location of the kindergarten or school. Urban kindergartens and schools traditionally have better teachers and financial support than the rural ones because parents have more influence. Moreover, new graduates of the pedagogical institutes prefer to settle in the cities with more cultural amenities. The highest-ranking graduates tend to select city schools. Less academically successful graduates go to rural schools; thus continuing a downward spiral.

Kindergarten teachers are called vospitatel, which literally means the upbringing person, not just a teacher who teaches. In order to work as a vospitatel in the kindergarten, an individual must have a diploma in vocational teachers' education, which is earned at the pedagogical uchilishe. Elementary (primary) schoolteachers are also graduates from the ped-uchilishe. Many of the kindergartens and schools lack qualified personnel, and additional teachers are recruited from pedagogical institute students.

At the preschool level, there are no repeaters and no dropouts. Underdeveloped children just move to the next year with their peers. In primary education (from 6 to 10), children are grouped together irrespective of intellectual ability and development. Children who fail to perform are required to repeat the course. They are given two opportunities to successfully repeat the course and, if they are still unsuccessful, they may be transferred to schools for the mentally impaired. Dropping out of the school was not an option in the Soviet-style system of education. Teachers and school directors (principals) would be responsible for any such a case, and all measures (including enforcement) would be taken to prevent this. Compulsory education meant that every person must be educated. Today, with the deep economic decline and lack of political and legal stability, the percentage of dropouts is growing.

Secondary Education

There are approximately 9,700 schools including about 1,850 secondary schools, 1,919 high schools, 75 evening schools, 107 centers of adult education, and 85 special schools for disabled children. In the year's 1999 to 2000, the number of pupils in these schools reached over 5.7 million. Compulsory-type education provided by the State (Republic of Uzbekistan) is free. This form of education allows the country to reach the 98 percent literacy rate. The Uzbekistan government builds schools; purchases equipment, material, and textbooks; educates teachers; conducts research; creates curricula and methodologies of teaching; and establishes examination procedures. The school system includes both urban and rural schools, all of which fall under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Education.

Secondary education is divided into two stages. The first stage includes nine years of compulsory schooling with the same programs all over Uzbekistan. The second stage covers education and vocational training after nine years. It includes general secondary education and specialized secondary education. Young people receive general secondary education while staying in school for the tenth and eleventh grades. Upon successful completion, they get a Certificate of Complete Secondary Education.

Specialized secondary education is provided through a net of schools:

  • Professionalno-Tehnicheskoye Uchilishe (PTU or Professional Technical School). Graduates receive a Junior Specialist Diploma equal to a Certificate of Complete Secondary Education.
  • Tehnikum (Technical College). Graduates receive a Junior Specialist Diploma equal to a Certificate of Complete Secondary Education.
  • Lytsei (Lyceum) or various training courses offered by higher education institutions or industry. Graduates receive a Junior Specialist Diploma equal to a Certificate of Complete Secondary Education.

Formerly, Soviet-type schools had one curriculum for all schools across the union. Today, the curriculum is less rigid and defined. However, there are two new subjects: the Uzbek language and a basic ecology course included in every teaching plan. All students of the same grade study together and change classes together.

Teachers grade oral answers during lessons and test papers. Standardized tests and multiple-choice tests are rare. At the end of the quarter (semester), grades are averaged. Exams, written or oral, are given at the end of the year. At the completion of secondary school, a certificate or diploma is awarded. The first certificate is awarded for the completion of the compulsory ninth grade after which the individual can go to any type of school. The second certificate, Certificate of Complete Secondary Education (attestat zrelosti or certificate of maturity), is awarded after the eleventh grade. Those who graduate from technical colleges receive a diploma that is legally equal to the certificate and also qualifies them in technical fields.

Teachers in the secondary education schools must be graduates of the pedagogical institute (old Soviet-style) or graduates at the Master's degree level in the new system. Teachers are taught many background professional subjects; general courses in philosophy, language, literature, and education-related courses like psychology (general, developmental, and educational); the history of education; and general educational methodology. They also study methodology in their area of specialization, for example, the methodology of teaching math or a foreign language. Teachers specialize at least in two subjects and traditional pairs are as follows: language/literature, math/physics, chemistry/biology, English/German (or French as a second foreign language), and history/geography. Another source of teachers comes from the professional community. For example, engineers would teach drafting and accountants would teach mathematics. In vocational schools, professionals teach their own specialties.

Students who fail to pass exams in one or two subjects are normally given a re-examination. Teachers and peers provide help. When the student fails a year exam, summer classes are prescribed, and a re-examination is given in the fall. A student who fails all possible reexaminations, demonstrates a poor attitude, and also has discipline problems must repeat the grade. Education is compulsory and dropping out is not permitted. Only a serious family reason, (such as the pupil being the only wage earner in the family, a trouble-maker, or a runaway) causes students to be considered dropouts. Teachers and administration do everything possible to keep children in school and to educate them to the required level.

There are about 440 Secondary Specialized Educational Institutions, including 209 trade (professional) schools, 180 academic Lycea, and 53 business schools. Approximately 221,000 individuals are trained in technical and vocational schools that offer more than 260 specialties. Vocational or specialized secondary education as a system exists in two traditional subsystems (PTU and Tehnikums ) and one relatively new subsystem (Lytsei ). Professional Technical School or prof-teh-uchilishe (PTU ) trains the blue-collar workers at a basic technical level like electricians, turners, technicians, cooks, hairdressers, plumbers, tailors, medical personnel, and machinists. About 60 percent of the students enter PTU after the ninth grade of compulsory school and some after the eleventh grade. This system trains about 260,000 students throughout the country. Today PTU has made a transition to preparing specialists of two to three modern professions. Depending on profession and preparation level, the training may be of different lengths. Annually, about 110,000 to 115,000 students graduate from these schools.

Under the former Soviet system, the Ministry of Public Education controlling the PTU's received "orders" from major enterprises on the type of specialists they needed. Approximately 50 percent of the students are still being trained to fulfill these "orders." Tehnikums (technical colleges) belong to a number of different ministries, but the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education has overall responsibility for the system. Tehnikums educate and train blue-collar workers of middle and higher qualification levels, as well as some white-collar professions who can be first level supervisors in the technical fields. Young people can enter Tehnikum after the ninth or eleventh grade, and depending on the profession, the program duration varies from one and a half to four years.

Approximately 180 Lycea were created, using the model of technical colleges, to fill the gap in new professions (mainly in the economic and service fields) that were not addressed by the previous system. Some Lycea are established by universities, and courses are taught by university instructors and professors. Since Lyceum takes three years (not two like the tenth and eleventh grade), the Bachelor's degree can be obtained in three years after that (not in four years like those who finish a traditional school). Experiments on this new multi-level system are being held on the basis of the Tashkent Pedagogical Institute. The government plans to have about 300 Lycea to educate about 1.5 million students in the next five to ten years.

Additionally, several training centers belonging to national enterprises and over 50 business-schools offer training for accountants, assistants, and business managers. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for the retraining of the active labor force for the labor market. It has three training centers, but prefers to direct trainees to other vocational training institutes. After finishing the eleventh grade of secondary school, PTU, Tehnikum, or Lytsei, regardless of the type of secondary training completed, a citizen of Uzbekistan at the age of seventeen-eighteen, may continue his or her education in higher education institutions. Despite this opportunity, every year 80,000 to 100,000 young people, who received a basic 9 year compulsory education, remain unclaimed by the industries.

Admission to all types of schools is based on the results of entrance exams. In 1993, standardized university admission exams were adopted. These tests are administered throughout Uzbekistan.

Higher Education

The Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education is responsible for the higher education system and its restructuring. During the transition period, higher education was hindered by a shortage of laboratories, libraries, computers, data banks, and publishing facilities to disseminate research findings; however, progress can also be seen. There are 62 higher education institutions, including 2 academies (in Uzbekistan, as it was in the Soviet system, the word academia means the top-level research and educational institutions), 16 universities (universitet ), and 44 institutes (institut ). In 1999 to 2000 the system provided education to about 166,000 students.

The Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences is the leading institution in all types of research. Only top graduate studies can be conducted within the Academy. Universities and institutes are both research and educational institutions. Universities are educational institutions responsible for the preparation of skilled professors and teachers, as well as academic staff and researchers in a variety of disciplines. Institutes are responsible for the preparation of various specialists.

Institutions of higher education belong to different Ministries:

  • The Ministry of Higher Education administers 32 universities and institutes to offer students a variety of programs including economics, engineering, finance, languages, oriental studies, architecture, chemistry, and technology.
  • The Ministry of Public Education administers six institutes for the training of teachers in elementary, secondary, and higher education.
  • The Ministry of Health administers seven institutes for medical and pharmaceutical training.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture administers four institutes for training students in agriculture, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, and economics.
  • The Ministry of Justice administers one law institute in Tashkent.
  • The Ministry of Culture administers three institutes for the study of art, music, theater, and cinema of which all are in Tashkent.
  • In Samarkand, Uzbekbirlashov, the cooperative company administers the Cooperative institute.

Finally, there is the Uzbek State Institute for Physical Training, the Tashkent Institute of Railway Engineers, the Institute for Civil Aviation, and the University of World Economics and Diplomacy. The latter comes under the auspices of the President and prepares students majoring in journalism, world diplomacy, and economics.

The number of majors offered in higher education in Uzbekistan is over 270, and the number of specialties is over 600. The Soviet-style higher education system differed greatly from the western model. A five-year education was equal to the Master's degree level in the West, for example. Today this causes confusion in recalculating the degrees. Educational authorities therefore decided to adopt the western system and reduce higher education programs to four years. According to some sources, the transition from five-years of higher education to the international system with Bachelor's (four years) and Master's degrees (two years) has been completed. However, according to American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Study (ACCELS) administering the American Educational Advising Center (EAC) in Tashkent, only some of the accredited higher education institutions have changed. One example is the University of World Economics and Diplomacy that offers Bachelor's degrees after four years of study and Master's degrees after two additional years of study. Medical institutes have five to six year programs depending on specialty.

In Uzbekistan, all universities and institutes are public. Private institutions of higher education are not yet available. To be admitted to university-level studies, an individual must complete any form of secondary school and have either a Certificate of Complete Secondary Education or a Diploma equal to this certificate. Because higher education in the Soviet system was free and the government provided assistance in the form of stipends, the demand for the university seats was always very high. Thousands of people competed for the limited slots (sometimes over 10 candidates per slot). This system allowed universities and institutes to select the best individuals by giving entrance exams, but caused millions to be deprived of the opportunity for higher education. Additionally, admission occurred only once a year for the same program. Unfortunately, results of these examinations and selections were too often influenced by high-ranking officials and senior leaders trying to help their youngsters. This was the area where nepotism, clannishness, and even corruption were normal. This caused even the most talented and gifted school graduates to be rejected.

Since 1993, entrance exams have been changed to tests. All entrance tests take place simultaneously on 1 August throughout the republic. Admission to higher educational institutions is based primarily on merit. However, in some institutions, authorities require an interview to determine the student's aptitude and motivation in a given field. Universities and institutes also require a basic medical check to ensure that students are free from all types of infections and fit to pursue their studies.

Traditionally, universities and institutes were divided into fakultets. Facultets are like schools (of business or of education, for example) in American universities. They are structural units reflecting major fields of specialization. Fakultet is further divided into specific kafedras or chairs (departments) dedicated to narrower specialties. As an example, it may be the German language kafedra (chair) and French language kafedra (chair) within the fakultet of Foreign languages. The latter may belong to the Pedagogical Institute that also has a facultet of physics and math (educating teachers of physics and math), a facultet of geography (educating teachers of geography), and a fakultet of biology (educating teachers of biology). Each institution of higher education is headed by a rector with the fakultets led by deans and the kafedras (chairs) led by chair chiefs.

In addition to normally enrolled students, universities and institutes often accept some candidates with marginal scores compared to the already enrolled students that can replace poor performing students or possible dropouts. Teaching styles and techniques at the higher education level differ greatly from, for example, a pure lecture style to absolute improvisation. Using technology, such as TVs and VCRs, is possible (if the equipment is available), but computers and LCD projectors are quite rare because of the high cost, inferior maintenance structure, and high probability of theft. In the Soviet system, studying in the institutions of higher education was free of charge, and moreover, the government paid students some stipends. These stipends covered at least some of life's expenses because students did not have any time for work. Many students had to have their parents' support or work at night to sustain them.

Since 1995, due to the processes of democratization, many institutions introduced admission on a contractual basis with tuition charges paid by the student. In the 1999 to 2000 academic year 25 higher education institutions admitted 2012 students to the undergraduate courses and 830 of them (41.3 percent) were on the contract basis. In general, out of 39,500 students studying for their bachelor degree, 17,600 (44.6 percent) have been admitted on the contract basis. Further commercialization of the educational system will make this situation normal.

Classes generally last five to six hours a day every day of the week. Students often study on Saturdays and usually have 30 to 36 hours of studying a week. Semester courses have an exam at the end of semester. If courses last for more than a semester, then there is zachet (test with no grade that is pass or fail) at the end of the first semester and an exam at the end of the course. Semester requirements allow no more than five examinations (two exams plus three zachets or three exams plus two zachets ) to be taken. During the last two to three years of education, students also have some writing examinations in the form of a "diploma paper" that shows the student's ability to conduct research. Students also take one or two State Exams that cover all the specialty material studied. Generally, the State Examination Commission includes the industry representatives or science authorities from other universities. Successful graduates get a Diploma of a Specialist that is accepted at all jobs.

With the decline of the Soviet system and lack of financial support, professional education and training for specialists has also declined. What was previously called kursy povysheniya kvalifikatsii (qualification raising courses) seldom occurs. Conferences and symposia for teachers and other professionals to exchange experiences are often canceled. Professional journals and magazines are no longer available, and foreign editions are often too costly. Some industries and commercial entities that have their own centers can afford retraining and targeted training. Otherwise, teachers and many other specialists are left on their own in their quest for perfection.

In 1998, almost 300 educational and research institutions employed over 25,000 scientists and researchers. Most talented graduates from the university or institute enter aspirantura (postgraduate trainingfirst level). After three years of study, two to three exams, and the writing and Defending of a dissertation, a Kandidat Nauk degree (Candidate of Sciences, which is equivalent to a Ph.D.) is conferred by the Cabinet of Ministers. Kandidat Nauk (unlike the Ph.D. in the United States) is not a terminal degree. The highest scientific level is the Doktor Nauk (Doctor of Sciences) degree, which is approximately equal to the postdoctoral level in the United States. Because this degree is highly honored and influential, the government places significant requirements on those pursuing it. To apply for this degree and/or to enter doktorantura, an individual must:

  • become a distinguished researcher in their chosen field
  • provide a very broad generalization for the field of study,
  • patent and implement a very important (revolutionary) invention
  • discover or establish a new field of research or new science.

To obtain this degree, the scholar must also have many years of experience and publications in major scientific journals. Such a scholar either enters a doktorantura (no exams, only a competitive dissertation proposal and the highest credentials), or writes the dissertation during his or her free time. There are no formal classes or exams because the student is practically the first "specialist" in a particular field. The dissertation (two times longer than the Ph.D. dissertation) is formally and publicly defended in the presence of the scientific council with 10 to 20 specialists of the Doctor of Sciences level. So after two to three years of doktorantura, if the dissertation is accepted and successfully defended, the scholar earns the Doctor of Sciences degree conferred by the Cabinet of Ministers (not by University authorities as it is traditionally done in the West). His or her contribution opens new areas of research for future Ph.D. candidates, and the scholar becomes a scientific mentor in their research or establishes a school. Government requirements, defending procedure, and conferring authority are what differentiates the Doctor of Sciences degree from Western postdoctoral studies. This former Soviet system-based degree, which is required to get a full professorship, is available in Uzbekistan (as well as in many other European and Asian countries, including Denmark, Latvia, and so on).

All top administrators and rectors of universities and colleges, deans of schools, and heads of departments have a Doctor of Sciences degree. Finally, in order to become a full member of the Academy of Science, this degree is a must. In very rare cases when the quality of research and dissertation is exceptionally high, a Doctor of Sciences degree may be awarded right after the Kandidat Nauk dissertation. From 1994 to 1998 the number of Doktor Nauk (Doctors of Sciences) in Uzbekistan grew by 8 percent and has reached 2.5 thousand, while the number of Kandidat Nauk (Candidates of Sciences) grew by 9 percent and reached 155,000.

In order to be admitted to the university, foreign students should hold a Complete Secondary Education Certificate (or its equivalent) and fulfill certain entry requirements. Applicants must contact the proper embassy to obtain information on visa regulations and educational requirements. Since the languages of instruction in the educational institutions of Uzbekistan are Uzbek and Russian, most institutions offer Uzbek and Russian courses for foreign students. Uzbekistan, as is the case with many other developing countries, builds its international future through educating new generations abroad. In addition to over 700 students and young professionals studying abroad thanks to the sponsorship of the Umid Foundation, the Ustoz foundation was established to ensure the re-training of teachers on leading pedagogical technologies and innovations both in Uzbekistan and abroad. American specialists and organizations also help to identify talented and gifted students for study in the United States.

Most schools have their own libraries. The majority of school libraries have only 70-75 percent of required materials. As a result, pupils have inadequate access to information. Some of the higher institution libraries, such as the Samarkand State University library that contains over three million volumes (including 10,000 unique medieval manuscripts,) are big. Others are small and contain a few hundred books. Libraries also offer a number of current magazines and periodicals. In addition to the school libraries, regions, towns, and cities have their own public libraries. Libraries traditionally play a significant role in education and the daily life of the citizens.

New electronic libraries are being introduced with the help of the international community. For example, LIBANTA (LIBrary ANtverpen TAshkent) was built as an international project with Belgium at the Tashkent Electrotechnical Institute of Communication. It includes a graduate center equipped with lecture halls, computer classes with Internet access, and a scientific-technical library with automation data. It also offers students video-cassettes and CD-ROMs.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

All educational institutions come under control of Ministries. For instance, the Samarkand State University is administered through the University Council headed by the rector, who is appointed by a presidential decree. The other members of the Council include a vice-rector, Deans of Facultets (Schools), and representatives of departments and research centers. The rector administers the educational, administrative, and financial affairs of the University. He or she represents the university to other organizations and implements the resolutions approved by the council. The vice-rector assists the rector in conducting the business of the university; supervises the educational, cultural, recreational, and social activities of the students; and presides over the Board of Postgraduate Studies and Research.

To accelerate major changes that are currently underway, the administration of Uzbekistan education has been streamlined. In place of the former bureaus and departments scattered about in different locations, there is now a single Republic Education Methodology Center in Tashkent. This center coordinates all the institutions supervised by the Ministry of Education, including preschools, general academic schools, teacher training schools, pedagogical institutes, qualification-raising centers, and special schools.

The Uzbekistan system of education is administered by the Ministry of Public Education and the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education. The Ministers, as with all other members of the cabinet, are appointed by the President. Education absorbs about 8 percent of the GDP per annum. In 1998, however, according to Europa Publications, budgetary expenditure on education was 107,484 million or 22.8 percent of the budget. State educational institutions are funded from Republic and local budgets, as well as additional funds. The government also looks for heavy financial investments in the construction and equipment of new colleges, the development and implementation of modern training programs, and the system of pre-service and in-service training for teachers. The Minister of Education stated that, "The priority of education in the area of social development of the country, the development of the educational sphere, and therefore the investment into human resources, is one of the government priorities" (Gulyamov 1999).

Typical budget expenditures include the construction and reconstruction of new buildings, the acquisition of educational equipment and materials, and the acquisition of academic and research funds. Educational research is conducted by numerous Kandidat Nauk (Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences) and directed by the Doctor Nauk (Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences) in all universities and institutes. The results of research are published in journals and generalized by the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences. Scientific research is viewed as an essential part of every higher education institution. Contemporary budgets are restricted though. Research activities are therefore funded through university budgets, grants from the Republican State Committee of Science, and international foundations.

Nonformal Education

Nonformal education is the education given in either volunteer or non-certifiable form. This type of training is provided through numerous kruzhki (hobby or vocational circles) in schools or culture clubs, which make it possible for children to follow their interests. There may be fine arts, performance, sewing, culinary, or any other kruzhki that bring children together on a regular basis and give them skills and knowledge. Teachers, parents, or volunteers from the neighborhood can be leaders.

There are also various sektsii (sections) for athletic training. Those normally are used for training in basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and other similar activities. No professional diplomas or certificates (except for winning) are awarded at the end of these programs. No specialists are prepared for this type of education either. Athletic training is provided by sections at schools, palaces of sports, or stadiums. Usually, a physical education teacher takes care of these extra-curricular activities to prepare the school basketball, soccer, volleyball, and other teams for competitions at the region, city, or even republic levels.

Traditionally, those who have not finished school attend the evening schools or centers of adult education. Approximately 93,000 students attend the evening classes in technical schools only. In addition to traditional education and professional training, the adult education system must solve some other problems. One of them is the retraining of adults from Cyrillic to Latin script. The second is training in new disciplines like democratic principles, which are necessary for participation in any international communication. The third one is management skills, which were never taught under the old system.

Due to low income and high computer prices, access to computer technology is limited, and massive distance learning (DL) is still an issue for the future. However, some institutes, like the Tashkent Electrotechnical Institute of Communications, do have DL centers and offer several courses on line. In March 1999, the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), sponsored by the United States Information Agency, organized the third in a series of conferences and seminars addressing the development of distance learning in Uzbekistan.

Teaching Profession

According the US State Department, in the early 1990's, Uzbekistan higher education produced about 20,000 new teachers annually for the primary and secondary levels and another 20,000 for higher education. In 1993 the ratio of staff to students was 1 to 12 in preschool institutions, 1 to 11.5 in primary and secondary schools, 1 to 12 in vocational schools, and 1 to 6.8 in institutions of higher education. Experts indicate the need to reduce the teacher-training program to concentrate funds. Since experts suggest that the existing staff is inadequately trained to deal with upcoming curriculum changes and the requirement to teach in Uzbek. They also noted the necessity to open a few high-quality research and training centers for intensive retraining and inservice training for teachers. The implementation of this National Program requires in-service training of more than half a million teachers and pre-service training of new teachers for the system of secondary specialized and vocational training.

Thanks to the concentration of funds efforts in the 1990s, the government has made significant improvements in teacher salaries and benefits. A monthly salary of teachers ranges from 40 to 60 American dollars. These salaries are closer to those of engineers and doctors (who are also poorly paid); however, many teachers leave the educational sector because salaries are still not competitive with those elsewhere in the economy. In higher education, professors get about 60 to 70 dollars per month, which is more competitive with those in other occupations in Uzbekistan, but certainly not with those on the international teaching market. Finally, as it was stated by many high-ranking officials, including the Ministry of Education, there is not sufficient money to raise teacher salaries to a level that will attract and keep them in the profession.


Two main ideas, the democratization of education (as a political slogan) and the global free-market orientation (as economical reality), define the transitional period of the Uzbekistan educational system. The democratization of education means that there is liberation from the Soviet ideology, doctrines, and centralized stiffness. Global free-market orientation means that there is a risk of lacking support from the state and the obvious necessity to seek support abroad with the goal of one day to becoming self-sustained. Uzbekistan education is going through two types of transformations in regard to its structure and content. New administrative structures, educational institutions as new forms, restructured old institutions as renewed forms, and seemingly the same schools with less or more years to study all need new content for education. The change of ideology, language, and orientation all lead to dramatic changes in the taught subjects, tested knowledge, and results of education.

Political leaders state that the new Constitution, laws, and regulations provide a political foundation for the restructuring of Uzbekistan economical life and education that will take at least 10 to 15 years. According to educational leaders, new standards based on international experience have been developed for all four levels of education. New textbooks and instructive materials for schools in the Latin script are being published. In collaboration with various international organizations and financial institutions, a number of projects for the restructuring of the system of education in Uzbekistan are being implemented. The gradual transition to a market economy leads to the introduction of a network of business-schools and new technologies and the establishment of distant education.

However, the country is still on the same level as developing countries. With its high literacy rate (98 percent) achieved by the former Soviet system, Uzbekistan is seeking international standards and financial help to become accepted on the international market. The modernizing efforts and reforms of the educational system, as well as the tuning of it to fit the free market global economy, will take a lot of time. Estimations by politicians' of 10 to 15 years for noticeable results should probably be doubled.

International programs assisting the transformation of Uzbekistan education generally work in the following directions:

  • language help and instructional help in language acquisition
  • financial help to individuals and organizations open for change
  • technological help (libraries, computer centers, and research and communications equipment)
  • organizational (restructuring existing structures, aiming for reform and change, introducing new structures, and providing help to self-growing structures), and informational help.

Many foreign entities, including the American Embassy in Tashkent, as well as hundreds of volunteers, work with Uzbek universities and secondary schools in hopes of improving the quality of English instruction. The idea is to increase access to internationally available information and resources in order to ensure the process of opening. Teacher training activities and information exchange lie at the center of this process. Some universities introduce community outreach activities to involve students; others introduce a weekly English language radio program and the publication of an English newspaper. Volunteers make efforts to introduce English as early as possible and to reach youth. They organize day camps for Uzbekistan youth to teach English and discuss issues of common interest.

In 1998 almost 600 teachers and students participated in international conferences, and over 300 professors from other countries worked at the universities of Uzbekistan. Education in Uzbekistan is undergoing significant change. It needs and seeks change. The educational system and educators liberated from Soviet control are heading toward the future. The needs are numerous. One of the most serious needs is the change of an ideological system from stable Marxism to eclectic, but flexible free-market ideology. Teachers and professors have been trained in a predominantly atheistic way of thinking, and this ideological core has influenced all aspects of education. It will take time and effort to overcome this influence. The fact that the president of Uzbekistan and most of its modern leaders are former Communist leaders, and the leading political party is the former Communist party, only adds to the complexity of the situation.

There is the need for language changes. This touches domains such as language education, history, and literature with less involved scientific education. However, in a few years with the students speaking only Uzbek, it will also be necessary to use Uzbek in teaching sciences. There will be a significant need for teachers and professors newly trained in Uzbek. Not all teachers and professors are able to do so. There is also a need for new textbooks. Leading experts from the Uzbek Academy of Sciences have been called upon to produce new books for the secondary schools. The Republic Education Methodology Center planned to introduce "Stories of the History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan" in pictures to the fourth grade in 1993 and a country history for eighth and ninth grades.

The ultimate success of educational reforms will depend on funding, public or private. The latter will become more likely when Uzbekistan demonstrates a desire to join the mainstream of the world economy. The eventual goal of the country is to move from state to private funding and make the system self-supporting or self-sufficient. According to Gulyamov, the educational system must go through the following phases of change:

  • The first phase (1997-2001) foresees the creation of a legislative foundation for the restructuring of the system and the renovating of educational content. During this period, teachers must be trained and retrained for the use of new techniques, educational standards, and training programs.
  • The second phase (2001-2005) foresees the implementation of the main objectives of the National Program on Personnel Training, which includes implementation of the necessary transformations to fit the labor market and social conditions.
  • The third phase 2005 and further foresees the further improvement of educational system on the basis of the twenty-first century's accumulated experience.


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Andrei G. Aleinikov

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Republic of Uzbekistan

Major City:

Other Cities:
Andizhan, Bukhara, Samarkand, Karakalpakstan


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated November 1995. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Many of the cities of the fabled Silk RoadSamarkand, Bukhara, Khivaare located in UZBEKISTAN , and many famous conquerors passed through the land. Alexander the Great stopped near Samarkand on his way to India in the 4th Century B.C. and married Roxanna, the daughter of a local chieftain. Genghis Khan and his Mongols arrived in 1220 and leveled everything in their path, leaving only one tower in Bukhara standing from earlier ages. Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, was born in Shahrisabz, turned Samarkand into the cultural capital of the world, and established the greatest empire of the time (14th century), becoming the most feared warrior since Genghis Khan. His grandson, Ulug Beg, helped found the modern science of astronomy, and his grandson Bobur went to India to establish the Moghul Empire. Alisher Navoi, the greatest Uzbek writer, wrote not only in Persian but in Uzbek; as the first to do so, he did what Luther did for German and is venerated as Shakespeare is in Britain.

Russian incursions into Central Asia began in the mid-1800s, when the demand for cotton led Slavic settlers and Imperial troops into the region. The power of traditional entities such as the Khanates of Kokand and Khiva and the Emirate of Bukhara waned as Imperial Russia strengthened its grip. In the wake of the October Revolution, the Red Army enforced Bolshevik control. The Basmachi movement offered fierce resistance. Total Soviet control came in the 1930s with the imposition of collectivization and a culture of repression; many perished in the purges, and others fled abroad. In Stalinist times, Soviet authorities resettled displaced and deported peoples from other parts of the USSR in Uzbekistan, including Ukrainian Kulaks, Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans, Koreans, Meskhetian Turks, Armenians, and others. Moscow used Uzbekistan as a resource base, promoting a cotton monoculture and shipping natural resources to Russia for processing. During these years, it had one of the lowest levels of per capita income among Soviet republics. In the wake of the failed Moscow coup attempt in August 1991, Uzbekistan declared its independence.



Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and its largest city, with a population of approximately 2,495,000, making it the fourth largest city in the former Soviet Union, behind Moscow, St. Petersburg, and approximately the same size as Kiev. Tashkent sits in the Chirchik River Valley (the River feeds into the Syr Darya), and two main canals, the Ankhor and the Bozsu, run through the city. Though the climate is semiarid, the extensive system of canals, parks, gardens, and tree-lined avenues gave Tashkent the reputation of being one of the greenest cities in the USSR. The spring rains usually subside by mid-May; the greatest heat, often over 104°F (40°C), comes in July and early August, but nighttime temperatures are much lower. Fall can extend into November and early December, with a short January-February winter occasioned by scattered snow falls but few sustained freezing spells.

While located on a historical site along the Silk Road, Tashkent can be considered a relatively modern city. It was a small community before the Russians conquered it and made it their administrative center in 1865, a time when Samarkand and Bukhara were the main cities in Central Asia. The Russians then developed the city in a primarily Imperial Russian architectural style. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, a core of radicals established a Soviet which controlled Tashkent, the first foothold of Bolshevism in a region generally hostile to the revolutionary ideas. During World War II, when much of the European part of the Soviet Union crumbled and starved under the Nazi onslaught, Tashkent became known as the "City of Bread." In 1966, a devastating earthquake leveled much of the old city. The 14 other republics of the USSR were each given a section of Tashkent to rebuild; the resulting lack of coordination contributed to Tashkent's current dispersed layout. Remnants of the old city can be found in the neighborhoods northwest of the center of town. The architecture elsewhere, however, is decidedly contemporary Soviet. In addition to the central city administration ("hokimiat"), there are 13 district hokimiats which provide many of the services normally associated with city administration. Long-term residents of Tashkent will often identify more with their makhallah (neighborhood/district) and the chaikhana (tea-house) there than with any city-wide institution or identity.

Tashkent boasts the only underground metro system in Central Asia; ongoing construction aims to add a third line to the two presently in place. The Supreme Soviet recently voted to spend $500 million to construct a new airport complex in an effort to bolster Tashkent's potential as an air gateway between Europe and Asia.

Many of the Russians, Ukrainians and other nationalities who came to rebuild the city in the aftermath of the earthquake preferred the warmer climate and decided to settle here, further diluting the Central Asian character of the City. As a result of the lengthy Russian presence and the use of Tashkent as a regional center for Central Asia, Tashkent is home for over 100 nationalities and retains the flavor of an international city. It is here that you will find the largest concentration of Russians (17% vs. 8% countrywide). The smaller Korean community makes its presence known in the marketplaces and in restaurants around town.

Despite its size and status as a capital, Tashkent can seem surprisingly provincialthere is little night life and few restaurants. Ample parks and other recreational facilities, however, help to offset this reality and make life interesting in this city.


Fresh vegetables and fruits are available in season in Tashkent year 'round. Available fruits include pomegranates, grapes, pears, cherries (bing and sour), apples, oranges, lemons, limes, nectarines, melons, peaches, plums, apricots, raspberries and strawberries. Canned fruits are available but most residents prefer to can their own. Vegetables in the market include eggplant, pumpkin, squash, green beans, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, garlic, green and red peppers, cauliflower and leaf lettuce. Potatoes, cabbage, carrots and tomatoes are available year 'round.

Beef, lamb, pork and chickens are generally available in the markets; the quality ranges from average to poor. Ham, bacon and sausage are also available at Tashkent's main market. Smoked fish is available throughout the year, but may involve health risks; fresh fish, of varying quality, is seasonally available. There is no other seafood. Eggs are available and good, usually fresh. Locally produced butter, milk and other dairy products are scarce; and due to improper hygienic conditions in handling and packaging, their use is not recommended (except for hard cheese). Occasionally, Turkish butter, long life milk and imported cheeses are available. Flour and sugar are rationed items and not always available. Bread is plentiful through state-controlled bread stores, and is heavier than American-type bread, is preservative-free, tasty and freezes well. About five or six different kinds, including a French-type loaf and an Uzbekistan-style pita, are baked fresh and shelved several times during the day.

Hard currency shops stock limited supplies of hard liquor and wines, and beer is usually available from those shops or from street vendors. Prices are somewhat high. Coca-Cola has recently opened a bottling plant in Tashkent and a limited variety of other Western products, including Pepsi-Cola, is available. Locally produced soft drinks are plentiful and good.


Tashkent is not a particularly fashion-conscious city; good quality clothing is not available, and many residents who are well dressed make their own.

Men: Social life is informal; blacktie affairs are rare. Men wear coats and ties and dark suits for more formal occasions. A lined raincoat is useful; heavy winter coats are occasionally necessary. In summer, lightweight suits are useful for the office, and short-sleeved shirts are acceptable. In winter, light-to medium-weight wool or wool-synthetic blend suits are useful.

As in Southern Europe, men do not wear shorts outside of their own house. Use discretion while playing sports or hiking in the mountains, and change to trousers.

Women: There are two dress codes, one for most parts of Tashkent and one for everywhere else. In Tashkent: It is acceptable in many places to wear short skirts, tops with bared shoulders, and pants. Outside Tashkent: The dress is much more closed. A dress or skirt should be below the knee; short sleeves are fine, but the shoulder and front should be fully covered. Pants are acceptable if covered by a long top, as is done in Uzbek or Pakistani national dress. Women do not need to cover their heads, as is the case in more Muslim countries.

In Tashkent, there are few occasions for cocktail dresses, but dressy evening outfits will be used. In summer, cotton, linen, blends and knits in casual styles are most comfortable for office and home wear. Revealing dresses or shorts are not suitable for street wear, particularly in bazaar (market) areas. Younger Uzbek women wear slacks, and they are acceptable in restaurants, modern shopping areas, etc., in Tashkent only. For winter, medium-to heavyweight woolens will be comfortable, as will be a warm coat. Dresses, skirts, blouses, sweaters, jackets, suits, slacks, etc., are all worn. Although houses have central heat, winter dampness makes it feel much colder than it actually is. Wool stoles and sweaters are also useful on many winter evenings. Tashkent has no storage facilities for furs.

Walking shoes with low heels are good for shopping and sight-seeing. Shoes are not worn inside homes and are removed at the entrance. Rubbers or wet-weather-type shoe/boots are essential. Lingerie, pantyhose and the like are not available locally.

Supplies and Services

Toilet articles and cosmetics are few and far between, as are drugs and medications, and cleaning products.

Dressmaking and tailoring are available; work can be good and is reasonable. Shoe repair in Tashkent can be satisfactory. Dry-cleaning is available, but of poor quality.

Adequate beauty shops abound. Some Americans take their own shampoo, or shampoo at home and go to the shop for a cut and/or set only. Most hairdressers don't speak enough English to understand instructions. Barbershops are also available; prices are much lower than in the U.S.

Much of Tashkent commerce is conducted in "bazaars," open-air markets around town. Tashkent has five main bazaars, with many smaller ones scattered through the city. There are also stores that have essential and local mass-produced goods. There are places to buy handicrafts and souvenirs, but they are limited and not necessarily oriented to the needs and desires of tourists.

With the freeing of most food prices, bazaars have the widest selection of foods and offer the best quality. Buyers should be aware of the sanitary conditions of the food.

For goods, bazaar sales are catch as catch can; what may appear new could well be broken, and what may appear antique probably is an imitation. Prices are never fixed, and first demands should never be paid; intuition and desire are the best guides.

Tashkent does not have hard-currency stores that offer the range of goods found in a U.S. convenience store. There are small stores scattered around the city which sell Western alcohol (beer, some wine and spirits), soft drinks, cigarettes, sweets and some dairy products. Some carry consumer electronics and a variety of other luxuries. Selection is limited and prices are very high by U.S. standards.

Despite its storied Silk Road heritage and legendary cities, Uzbekistan has surprisingly little to offer to the casual buyer or tourist; even finding post cards can be demanding and unsuccessful. The best quality goodsfrom rugs and tapestries to silk and potterycan be obtained directly from factories, mostly located outside Tashkent.

Religious Activities

Uzbekistan is a Muslim country. There are, however, communities of ChristiansOrthodox, Catholic, and Protestantand Jews, all of which maintain places of worship and conduct services.


A small international school opened its doors in September 1994 to approximately 50 students. It will be somewhat larger in 1995-96, with kindergarten through grade ten, using correspondence courses. The school is not accredited.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Samarkand. Timur's capital city is a four-hour drive or an hour's flight from Tashkent, either of which could facilitate a day trip. The five main sites are: Gur Emir, Tamerlane's tomb; the Registan, the most magnificent Square in Central Asia; Shah-i-Zinda, Tomb of the Living King; Bibi-Kanim Mosque; and Ulug Beg's Observatory. The best way to travel by car is to hire a driver with vehicle for the day; they are quite available, and reasonable. It's more convenient to travel to Samarkand by plane; but once there, a car will be needed. Guides are available for hire at the Intourist Hotel or the Business Center.

Bukhara. Bukhara is another 2-3 hours by car beyond Samarkand; the flight from Tashkent is 1.5 hours one way. It is possible to visit many of the sites of Bukhara on foot, but one might wish to arrange a vehicle for airport pickup and transfer to outlying sites. Guides are available. Sites include the Pool in the City Square, the Tower before which Genghis Khan bowed, the unique 11th century Mausoleum, various madrassas, and the Summer Palace located a few kilometers outside of town.

Khiva. Khiva is less accessible than either Samarkand or Bukhara. One must fly about two hours to Urgench, and travel the last 25 kilometers by bus, minibus or taxi. Old Khiva is a museum city, in which the many madrassas, palace and other ancient buildings have been restored. The Museum of Applied Arts, well worth a visit, is near the palace tower, which provides a good view of the city. One of the city's mosques boasts 200 carved wooden pillars.

Shahrisabz. The birthplace of Tamerlane has several monuments of note, including the remains of Timur's massive gate. Shahrisabz is 80 kilometers from Samarkand over a steep mountain pass which is closed in winter, but offers a great view from spring through early fall.

While most people have heard of the Silk Road cities, few know of the beauty and serenity of the mountains and nature preserves within an hour or two of Tashkent. In all cases, it is best to drive, by either personal or hired vehicle. Popular destinations include:

Chirvak. A reservoir which offers swimming, sail boating, wind surfing and hang gliding.

Chimgan. An area for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. The Beldeersai chairlift is 2 km long and offers intermediate and advanced ski slopes. Helicopter skiing can be arranged.

Chatkal Nature Reserve. This reserve facilitates hiking and has a beautiful ranger station/caravanserai with river swimming.

For travel outside Uzbekistan, there are frequent direct flights to such places as London, Moscow, Frankfurt, Tel Aviv, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, New Delhi, Islamabad/Peshawar and Sharja (providing access to Abu Dhabi and Dubai).


Aside from the ballet, concerts and theater described in the section on Arts and Education, Tashkent offers dinner shows at many restaurants around the city. The food served at these establishments is adequate, although the variety is quite limited and the quality average to poor, as are the sanitary standards. Oftentimes, music is providedeither live or recordedfor dancing after the floor show. The larger hotels have "night bars" where people can gather until the early morning hours. There are also theaters which screen movies in the local languages; some even boast an occasional screening in English

Social Activities

A sports center is located about five minutes from the U.S. Embassy. For a nominal monthly fee, one may use its outdoor Olympic-sized swimming pool and gyms catering to weightlifters, boxers and gymnasts. Tennis courts, and lessons, are available. The Hippodrome has facilities for boarding horses, but horses available locally for riding are definitely not for the amateur.

Since outside social activities are limited, many people entertain at home with dinners, cocktail parties, card parties, and the like. Currently, there is a Hash House Harriers event on Sundays, with the group gatheringon a rotating basisat a participant's home after the run/walk.

An international women's group meets monthly; the group can offer programs relating to archeological, cultural and social aspects of life in Uzbekistan, as well as various special activities such as gourmet cooking, handicrafts, exercise, bridge lessons, etc., depending on the interest of the group.


ANDIZHAN is a cotton growing and transport (road and rail) center. Located in the Fergana Valley, the city is 155 miles southeast of Tashkent. The region is subject to earthquakes and the city was rebuilt after a severe 1902 quake caused massive destruction. Andizhan has over 300,000 residents.

BUKHARA , 140 miles west of Samarkand, is a historic city. Once known as an Islamic intellectual center and holy place, the city has many magnificent ancient monuments. The population of Bukhara is more than 230,000.

SAMARKAND , located 180 miles southwest of Tashkent, is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. Many of its ancient monuments and buildings, dating from the 13th century, represent some of the best of Central Asian architecture. With a population of 370,000, Samarkand is the second largest Uzbek city. Now a rail and industrial center, much of the city's industry is dependent on the area's agricultural crops. Major industries include cotton and silk processing, canning, and the production of fertilizers, textiles, and wine. The city has a university and is known as a center for karakul sheep breeding research.

Spanning the delta of the Amu Darya and comprising nearly one-third of the territory of Uzbekistan, KARAKALPAKSTAN is an autonomous republic within the Republic of Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan has its own legislature and executive branches, as well as its own constitution, but its autonomy does not apply in areas such as foreign affairs, defense or security. About 1.2 million people live in Karakalpakstan, a third of them Karakalpaks, who are closer ethnically and linguistically to Kazaks than to Uzbeks. Karakalpakstan has borne the brunt of the ecological damage associated with the Aral Sea disaster.


Geography and Climate

Located between the Amu Darya (OXUS) and Syr-Darya Rivers, Uzbekistan lies at the heart of Central Asia. Along its borders are Afghanistan to the south, Turkmenistan to the west and south, Kazakhstan to the north and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to the east. Covering an area of 500,000 sq. km, Uzbekistan is roughly the size of California. Most of the country is desert (the Kyzylkum and the Karakum) or irrigated steppe, but it has rugged mountains in the east (a branch of the Tien Shan range). The area has a severe continental climate that is dry and hot in the summer months and cool and wet in the winter. In the long summer, daytime temperatures often reach 40°C (104°F); during the short winter, daytime temperatures generally stay above freezing, but on occasion can dip well below, and snow is not unusual. Spring and fall are the most comfortable seasons. In all seasons, the differences between daytime and nighttime temperature and humidity is much greater than most parts of the U.S.


Uzbekistan has an estimated population of 24.4 million people. Of these, approximately 16 million are ethnic Uzbeks and between one and two million are Russian. The rest of the population is made up of Tajiks, Tatars, Kazaks, and Karakalpaks, along with over 100 other ethnic groups. Most of the population lives in the eastern part of the country, particularly the Fergana Valley, and in the parts of the desert made habitable by heavy irrigation.

The Uzbeks (as well as the Karakalpaks, Kazaks, Turkmen and Tatars) are a Turkic people and speak a Turkic language. The language and culture in Uzbekistan has also been strongly influenced by the Mongols and Persians (Iranians, Tajiks). The Uzbek language employed Arabic script until 1929 and the Latin alphabet for a decade, but since 1940 it has been written in Cyrillic; the Supreme Soviet recently decreed that the transition back to the Latin script should occur by the year 2000. Although Uzbek is the official language of the country, Russian is also widely spoken in the cities, particularly among the educated elite and government officials. The historical towns of Bukhara and Samarkand are primarily Tajik speaking; and in the countryside, Russian is hardly spoken at all.

Aral Sea Crisis

The Aral Sea lies between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in a vast geological depression, fed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, with no outlet. Before its drastic decline, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest inland water lake in the world. In the past 30 years, the Aral Sea has lost nearly two-thirds of its volume and half of its previous surface area; its level has dropped nearly 50 feet, splitting it in two. Its salinity has increased nearly threefold. The almost total use of water from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers for irrigation purposes has been exacerbated by excessive use of chemicals for growing cotton and rice, much of which returns to the Rivers upstream. The desiccation of the Aral Sea has wiped out its fishing industry and destroyed nearby ecosystems. Toxic blowing salts from the exposed seabed and the pollution of surface and groundwater have caused serious health problems and damaged agricultural production. The United Nations Environment Program has stated that, in terms of its ecological, economic, and social consequences, the Aral Sea is one of the most staggering disasters of the twentieth century. Restoring the Aral Sea to its pre-disaster (1960) conditions is generally considered impossible, given expanding populations and pressures for increased agricultural production.

All five republics of Central Asia depend on the two river systems, but Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are heavily dependent upon existing allocations of water. International and regional efforts to stabilize the ecological situation on the basis of available river flows and more efficient irrigation techniques will take years to achieve, so international assistance also focuses on the health problems among those living near the Aral Sea.

Public Institutions

Uzbekistan's political institutions, inherited from the Soviet Union when Uzbekistan declared independence on September 1, 1991, are gradually evolving away from their Soviet models. A new constitution was adopted in December 1992, and a new parliamentary election law passed a year later provided the basis for electing a new parliament, the Oliy Majlis, which met for the first time in February 1995. The Constitution provides for a strong President; in addition, opposition parties and public criticism of the President have been suppressed. President Islam Karimov was elected for five years in December 1991, and his term was extended until 2000 by referendum in March 1995. While many Soviet laws are still valid, they are steadily being replaced by new ones, and even some of the new laws (especially those affecting business) have been revised. Radical changes are rare, but the changes in public life are continuous and cumulative.

Social Customs

There is no question that Uzbekistan is a male-dominated society. Much of the local social life revolves around the chaikhanas (tea-houses). While foreign women are allowed in, the chaikhanas basically serve as a men's club where they congregate and talk; local women do not frequent the establishments. When there are large social gatherings of mixed company, the women and men usually sit in separate groupings (again, exceptions are made for "honored foreign guests"). Mosques are segregated during regular prayers, and head coverings for women may be required. Women should take the lead in greetings and in offering a handshake; Uzbek women normally do not shake hands, and well-behaved men do not take the lead in greeting unknown women. Women should avoid walking alone in the evening or in crowded public places such as the bazaar, and should dress more conservatively there.

Uzbeks are a very friendly people, especially when foreigners take the trouble to learn a few introductory greetings in Uzbek. Most people will be happy to help with directions, and Uzbeks often invite people to their homes. On such occasions, small gifts, especially for children would be appreciated but not expected; your hosts are more likely to offer you small gifts/souvenirs.

The standard Uzbek celebratory meal is lengthy and expansive; be careful not to eat too much during the first several rounds. The end of the meal is near when the plov (national dish of rice with some vegetables and sheep meat) is served, followed by tea. Plov is traditionally eaten from a communal plate using the right hand as a scoop, with a garnish of sliced tomatoes and onions. Uzbeks fill their tea bowls only halfway, so the guest knows that he or she is not expected to leave immediately upon finishing.

Arts and Education

In the last decades of the Soviet Union, Tashkent had become one of its most vibrant and progressive artistic and intellectual centers, because of the rich mix of Asian and European cultures here, especially, because intellectuals and artists who did not end up in the Gulag but who were exiled from Moscow frequently moved to Tashkent. Since independence in September 1991, state subsidies for the arts and for education have fallen precipitously; and a good number of European-nationality artists, intellectuals, and journalists have emigrated. Furthermore, independent Uzbekistan is experiencing the cultural dislocation common to post-colonial situations. The dominant Soviet/Russian culture is beginning to wane, and Uzbek culture is moving to the fore. Tashkent, as well as Samarkand and Bokhara, as they have long been, are the artistic and intellectual centers of Uzbekistan.

Uzbek culture, long repressed under the Soviet Empire, strongly emphasizes tradition and ceremony, especially on the life-cycle occasions of weddings, circumcisions, and funerals. For the first two, the celebration features traditional Uzbek music, poetry, and dance. Professional artists who perform at these events are highly regarded in the Uzbek communityand highly paid. A wedding celebration, with its procession of musicians, is an event not to be missed.

Tashkent is the most Europeanized city in the country. The National Museum of Art has a representative selection of Russian, Soviet, European, and Uzbek paintings and other objects from the 17th century to the present. The museum occasionally hosts temporary exhibits from other countries. The Museum of Applied Arts, housed partly in a restored 19th-century trader's mansion, has a permanent exhibit of the traditional arts and contemporary glass and ceramic products of Uzbekistan. Both of these museums have small but interesting consignment shops which sell Central Asian and Russian antiques, carpets, jewelry, and contemporary arts and crafts. Handwritten signs in these shops note that it is illegal to take anything out of the country which was made before 1947.

Uzbekistan's rich collection of Central Asian antiquities and jewelry has been put into storage awaiting the opening of the Uzbekistan Historical Museum, which will be housed in the former Lenin Museum, a lattice-covered modernist cube located across the street from Independence Square. Tashkent also has a Museum of Natural History, a Museum of Military History, the Museum of Ancient Oriental Manuscripts, as well as other small, specialized museums. Several small, private art galleries also exist and are gathering spots for the artistic and bohemian communities of the capital. The Archduke Romanov's home as Governor of Turkestan in the 1890s has been fully restored and is now used as a reception hall by the Foreign Ministry. The Samarkand Museum, abutting the world-famous Registan ensemble of medieval buildings, has one of the best displayed and richest exhibits of the arts of daily life in all of Central Asia.

The Navoi State Opera and Ballet Theater is the most prestigious in the country and has a full season of Western opera, ballet and symphony productions, which sometimes star visiting artists from Russia. Tashkent also has ten theaters with regular repertoires. The most popular are Ilkhom Theater, Young Spectator's Theater, Khidoyatov Uzbek Drama Theater, and Gorky Russian Drama Theater, and Russian Operetta Theater. The Conservatory of Music, one of the best of the former Soviet Union, sponsors numerous concerts and recitals during the year. All performances in Tashkent begin at 5 or 6 p.m., and audiences are home before 10 p.m.

Uzbekistan may become a major tourist destination because of its world-class monuments of medieval Islamic architecture. Samarkand is the richest city with its Registan ensemble, the ruins of Bibi Khanum Mosque, the tomb of Amir Timur (Tamerlane), and the haunting Street of Mausoleums. Bokhara and Khiva, great cities of the Silk Route, also merit visits. UNESCO has begun a 20-year project to restore properly these World Heritage sites and to develop a responsible tourism industry.

As elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, education had high priority in Uzbekistan. With independence, the language of instruction is shifting from Russian to Uzbek, and a number of non-Uzbek nationality educators and scholars have emigrated. Some students and educators complain that the quality of education and the integrity of academic administration have fallen. All education is under the Ministry of Higher Education or the Ministry of Public Education. No private schools are accredited, although a few private academies exist, especially to teach business subjects. Tashkent has an extensive system of specialized high schools for students gifted in the sciences, the arts, and languages.

There are four important universities in Tashkent: The University of World Economy and Diplomacy (the elite school for government service), Tashkent State Economics University, Tashkent State University, and the University of World Languages. There are also many institutes and think tanks in Tashkent, including the prestigious Oriental Studies Institute. Tashkent State University has recently decentralized and upgraded provincial training centers to the status of state universities.

Commerce and Industry

Since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has been engaged in the process of converting from a planned to a market economy. The government regularly states its determination to complete this process, but that it must be done carefully, in keeping with Uzbekistan's unique conditions, to maintain social stability. The result has been slower and more centrally-managed reform than in some other former Soviet republics. Following introduction of Uzbekistan's own currency, the som, in summer 1994, macroeconomic stabilization measures met with IMF approval and led to an agreement in early 1995.

Uzbekistan's economy is primarily based on agriculture and agro-processing, accounting for about one-half of the GNP. Uzbekistan is the world's third largest producer of cotton (second largest exporter after the U.S.), and cotton accounts for over 40% of the agricultural production. Much of the industrial production is linked to agriculture, including the production of cotton harvesting equipment, textiles, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Uzbekistan also has promising mineral reserves, including significant amounts of gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead, zinc, wolfram and tungsten. Uzbekistan is a net exporter of natural gas and hopes to achieve oil self-sufficiency.

Although Uzbekistan is a large net exporter of fruits and vegetables, mostly to the former Soviet Union, it must import four million tons of wheat each year, much of it from the United States. Uzbekistan hopes to reach wheat self-sufficiency in the near future by increasing yields and shifting land from cotton to wheat cultivation. However, it is likely that the country will remain a net importer in the near term.

Uzbekistan has a very liberal investment code which, in theory, allows for, among other things, free and full repatriation of profits and tax holidays of 2-5 years, depending upon the type of investment. However, in practice, even negotiating and registering joint ventures is a cumbersome process (taking anywhere from three to six months). This requires the approval of numerous government agencies and usually at the highest levels of government. Repatriation of funds, the system for which is still unclear, is complicated by the limited amount of foreign exchange in the country. Uzbekistan signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty with the U.S. in late 1994.

The government has targeted oil and gas, mining, processing of agricultural commodities, textiles and tourism as priority areas for foreign investment. However, foreign ownership is limited in "strategic" industries, such as in the mining, energy, cotton processing and oil and gas sectors.

American firms currently operating in Uzbekistan include Newmont Mining, Bateman Engineering, M.W. Kellogg/Dresser, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Price Waterhouse, Deloitte Touche, KPMG Peat Marwick, and others. Prospects for long-term opportunities in this market are excellent and we expect to see the number of American firms in this market increase dramatically over the next several years.



The public transportation system within Tashkent consists of buses, trolleybuses, trams, taxis and a metro system. City bus service is one class and inexpensive; however, it is not recommended for use because of crowding and petty crime. The underground "metro" system, the only one in Central Asia, currently has two lines; a third is under construction. It, too, is inexpensive, and the crowds can be intense at rush hour, but it is reliable. Taxis, used frequently by Americans, are readily available during daylight hours. They are marked with the checkerboard stamp on the side. Accepting rides from "private" taxis late at night can be dangerous and is discouraged. If the taxi is not equipped with a meter, the fare should be determined prior to the journey.


All-weather roads exist between the larger cities and points of interest. But most of these roads are in poor repair and can wreak havoc on your auto. Highway driving at night is dangerous due to pedestrians, and unlit parked and moving vehicles.

The use of personal vehicles for overnight trips outside the city is discouraged unless someone will be with the car at all times; vandalism is prolific. Cars and drivers are available for hire on an hourly, daily, or several-day basis for a reasonable fee.



The quality of the phone lines in Uzbekistan is abysmal, and for local calls, you will frequently need to try many times before making contact. Making long-distance calls can be a frustrating experience if you are not a Russian speaker. The operator often demands that the calls be paid for beforehand and places a 10-minute limit on calls. Direct-dial capability is available, but can be an extremely frustrating experience due to the low number and quality of lines.

Radio and TV

Both radio and TV in Uzbekistan are government-operated in Uzbek and Russian. Shortwave reception of STAR TV, BBC-TV, BBC-Radio and VOA are, at best, sporadic. However, in August 1993, an Uzbek-American joint venture, Kamalak-TV, began offering cable service with eight channels in addition to the five available on local TV, and have promised to add CNN.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Subscriptions to the International Herald Tribune, Newsweek and The Economist through a private expediter arrive a few days late and are very expensive. There are currently no English-language periodicals available in Tashkent. Avoid having magazines or newspapers sent through international mail.

Health and Medicine

A subscription international clinic has recently been established, under the operation of a nurse practitioner. There are no doctors, medical or dental facilities of western standards, or adequately stocked pharmacies in Uzbekistan.

Residents of Tashkent should take appropriate precautions against the health conditions existing in Tashkent. Following are recommended vaccines for Uzbekistan:

Diphtheria, Tetanus: boosters every 10 years.

Hepatitis A: a series of three shots over a 6-month period.

Hepatitis B: a series of three shots over a 6-month span.

Meningococcal: every three years.

Rabies: three injections over a one-month period; booster recommended every 2 years.

Tuberculin skin test: if initial test comes up positive, further investigation required.

Typhoid: oral every 5 years; not completely effective; water still needs to be treated.

Food Preparation and Storage

Tap water, restaurant water, and ice throughout Uzbekistan are unsafe, particularly during the warmer months. All water should be filtered and treated. A distiller, which boils the water and produces sedimentfree water, is recommended. Another option is to boil the water and use a basic charcoal filter, such as the Brita system, which removes sediment and improves taste. Make sure plates, glasses and flatware in restaurants are dry.

Produce which will be peeled should be washed. Other vegetables and fruit should be soaked in a chlorine (three drops Clorox per liter) for 15 minutes. (State Department no longer recommends iodine.)

Meat in local markets has been exposed to dust and flies; it should be rinsed well, allowed to dry, and cooked very thoroughly. Eggs should be washed well just before use.

Dairy products in state stores or hard currency shops should be safe, having been pasteurized, but are poorly handled; those in the market normally have not been pasteurized. Fresh milk should be brought to a boil before being used. Soft cheese should be avoided; hard cheese is okay.

Remember to wash hands before preparing food and before eating.

Brush teeth with "safe" water (boiled, distilled, or chlorine-filtered).

Be aware of problematic snacks at receptions (cream-filled pastries; chicken, etc.).

Community Health

Garbage is usually dumped on the street and is collected infrequently. Flies, rodents and mosquitoes can be a problem, as can cockroaches, ants, and other household pests. Stray cats and dogs might be infested with parasites; if you want to take one of them into your home, have it checked by the veterinarian.


Passage, Customs & Duties

The best way to reach Tashkent is by air from Frankfurt or Istanbul, but London, Moscow and other points can also be convenient. Make reservations as far in advance as possible.

A passport and visa are required; official invitations from a sponsoring organization or individual are no longer required for American citizens. Visas are issued by Uzbek embassies and consulates abroad. Visitors coming from countries where Uzbekistan does not have diplomatic or consular representation should obtain visas in a third country. Visas are not available upon arrival at any Uzbek airport.

Importantly, Uzbek visas indicate not only the validity of the visa, but also the period of time a person is allowed to stay in Uzbekistan on a given trip. Although Uzbek visas given to private American citizens are generally valid for four years with multiple entries, a visitor will have to leave the country after the number of days indicated as the duration of stay on the visa. Therefore, it is important to indicate your intended period of stay when applying for your Uzbek visa.

Further visa information is available at the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan, located a 1746 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; telephone (202) 887-5300;; or the Uzbek Consulate in New York, located at 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 327A, New York, N.Y. 10017; telephone (212) 754-6178 or (212) 754-7403;

All travelers, even those simply transiting Uzbekistan for less than 72 hours, must obtain an Uzbek visa before traveling to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan has suspended the 72-hour transit rule that allowed travelers with visas from other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States to transit Uzbekistan without an Uzbek visa.

On December 1, 2001, the Uzbek Government imposed travel restrictions on large parts of the Surkhandarya Oblast region bordering Afghanistan, including the border city of Termez. Foreign citizens intending to travel to this region must obtain a special permission card from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs or Uzbek embassies and consulates abroad.

All travelers present in Uzbekistan for more than three days must register with the Office of Entry, Exit, and Citizenship. Hotel guests are registered automatically, but all other travelers are responsible for registering themselves. Visitors without proper registration are subject to fines and possible harassment by local authorities. Uzbek law mandates that visitors carry a medical certificate attesting that they are not infected with HIV. However, this requirement is only sporadically enforced.

Travelers to Uzbekistan are subject to frequent document inspections. Therefore, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport and their Uzbek visa with them at all times so that they may more readily prove that they are U.S. citizens.

Uzbek customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import or export from Uzbekistan of items such as armaments and ammunition, space technology, encryption devices, X-ray and isotope equipment, nuclear materials, poisons, drugs, precious and semi-precious metals, nullified securities, pieces of art and antiques of historical value. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate of Uzbekistan in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Foreigners must complete a customs declaration upon entering Uzbekistan and may face fines upon departure if unable to produce certificates verifying legal conversion of foreign currency. Old U.S. dollar bills (prior to 1990) and/or those in poor condition (with tears, writing or stamps) are not acceptable forms of currency in Uzbekistan. Although payment in U.S. dollars is required for certain hotel charges, plane tickets, and visa fees, other dollar transactions, as well as black market currency exchanges, are prohibited.

Americans are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security in Uzbekistan. The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, is located at Ulitsa Chilanzarskaya, 82. The main Embassy telephone number is (998 71) 120-5450, fax (998 71) 120-6335; the Consular Section's direct line is (998 71) 120-5444, e-mail address: Current information may also be obtained from the Embassy web site at


Pets should arrive with all inoculations, including rabies, up to date. Vaccines are not available locally. A health certificate from a veterinarian and certificate showing a current and valid rabies inoculation are required for dogs and cats entering the country. No quarantine is required.

There is no dog food of American quality and standards available in Uzbekistan. Appropriate food for your pets should be shipped with consumables.

Veterinarian services in Tashkent are below U.S. standards, and have been used by Americans with varying degrees of success.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

In general, Uzbekistan is a cash-only economy, with the majority of transactions in the local currency, the Sum. Many vendors and merchants, however, will request payment in cash dollars once they discover you are American. Prices for goods that are available for sums are usually quite reasonable by Western standards; because of low prices and constantly changing exchange rates, it is recommended to exchange only small amounts of cash per accommodation transaction.

Travelers checks are generally not accepted in Uzbekistan. Credit cards are not widely accepted in Tashkent; the few shops which do accept credit cards add a service charge to the price of the merchandise to cover costs.

Uzbekistan uses the metric system of weights and measures. A metric tape measure is useful.

Disaster Preparedness

Uzbekistan is an earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 7 Christmas (Orthodox)

Mar. 8 Women's Day

Mar. 21 Novruz

Apr/May Good Friday*

Apr/May Easter*

May 1 Labor Day

May 9 Victory Day

Sept. 1 Independence Day

Oct. 1 Teacher's Day

Nov. 18 Flag Day

Dec. 8 Constitution Day

Id al-Adha*


Id al-Fitr*

Hijra New Year*

Mawlid an Nabi*



Akchurian, Morat. Red Odyssey. An entertaining account by a Tashkent native of a car trip through Central Asia at the time of the breakup of the USSR.

Akiner, Shirin, ed. Cultural Change and Continuity in Central Asia. New York: Keegan Paul, 1991.

Allworth, Edward, ed. Central Asia: 120 Years of Russian Rule. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1989.

. The Modern Uzbeks: From the Fourteenth Century to the Present, a Cultural History. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1990.

. The Nationality Question in Soviet Central Asia. New York: Praeger, 1973.

. Uzbek Literary Politics. The Hague: Mouton, 1964.

Bacon, Elizabeth. Central Asians under Russian Rule: A Study in Culture Change. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980.

Bailey, F.M. Mission to Tashkent. Memoires of a British agent who was trapped in Tashkent during the Bolshevik Revolution. Solid political and social history as well as an exciting read.

Critchlow, James. Nationalism in Uzbekistan. Westview Press. One of the best modern political histories of Uzbekistan.

Fierman, William, Ed. Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation. Westview Press. 1991. An excellent collection by outstanding Western commentators on Soviet Central Asia.

. Language Planning and National Development: The Uzbek Experience. New York: Mouton de Grayter, 1991.

Grousett, Rene. Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. A classic account of the peoples of the Steppe, from the 13th-18th centuries.

Hopkirk, Kathleen. Central Asia: A Traveler's Companion. John Murray (Publishers) Inc. 1993. An alphabetical handbook to the region and an epic tale of violence and treachery, courage, faith and vision.

Hopkirk, Peter. Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, Kodansha Int'l. Set on the Silk Road, especially the Chinese Central Asian region. Describes the great explorers who found artistic artifacts in Chinese Central Asia and took them home.

. The Great Game. Kodansha International. Great Britain and Russia in 19th Century Central Asia.

. Setting the East Ablaze, Kodansha Int'l. Set in Tashkent, describes the sovietization of Central Asia.

Katz, Zeu, ed. Handbook of Major Soviet Nationalities. New York: Free Press, 1975.

Khanga, Yelena. Soul to Soul. The story of a Black Russian American Family. Tashkent in the 1930's.

Khodjayev, E., and V. Mizhiritsky. Uzbekistan: Questions and Answers. Tashkent: Uzbekistan, 1987.

Lansdell, Henry. Russian Central Asia. New York: Arno Press, 1970.

McClean, Fitzroy. Eastern Approaches. British Diplomat in Moscow travels in Central Asia.

Medlin, William K., William M. Cave, and Finley Carpenter. Education and Development in Central Asia: A Case Study of Social Change in Uzbekistan. Leiden: Brill, 1971.

Nahaylo, Bohdan and Victor Swoboda. Soviet Disunion: A History of the Nationalities Problem in the USSR. The Free Press, New York. 1990. An important and timely book about the many nations of the Soviet Union which are not Russian and which are currently campaigning for the restoration of their national rights and the transformation of the USSR from a Soviet Russian empire into a confederation of "free and equal" peoples.

Uzbekistan. Moscow: Novosti Press Agency Pub. House, 1987.

Whittell, Giles. Central Asia: The Practical Handbook. Cadogan Guide.

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Republic of Uzbekistan

Uzbekiston Respublikasi



Uzbekistan is located in central Asia, bounded on the north and west by Kazakhstan (2,203 kilometers/1,369 miles), on the east by Kyrgyzstan (1,099 kilometers/683 miles) and Tajikistan (1,161 kilometers/721 miles), on the south by Afghanistan (137 kilometers/85 miles), and on the southwest by Turkmenistan (1,621 kilometers/1,007 miles). Uzbekistan has an area of 447,400 square kilometers (172,741 square miles), which is slightly smaller than California. Uzbekistan's area includes 22,000 square kilometers (8,494 square miles) of inland water, mainly the Aral Sea. It is one of only two countries in the world bounded only by other landlocked countries. The capital, Tashkent, is located in the eastern arm of the country, near the Kazakhstan border.


The population of Uzbekistan was estimated at 25.1 million in July 2001 and it was youthful, with 36.3 percent aged 14 years or younger, and only 4.6 percent 65 or older. The birth rate was 26.1 births per 1,000 and the death rate was 8 per 1,000 people. The population growth rate was 1.6 percent in 2001, and the fertility rate was approximately 3 children per woman. Life expectancy was lower than in industrialized countries, 63.81 years total; 60.24 for men, and 67.56 for women. The average population density was 51.2 people per square kilometer (132.6 per square mile), but 1995 figures show that most of the population was concentrated in the fertile Fergana Valley at 474.5 persons per square kilometer (1,229 per square mile). The central and western desert areas were sparsely populated, at only 6.6 persons per square kilometer in the region of Navoi, and 8.5 in the region of Karakalpakstan in 1995. In Tashkent, the largest city in central Asia with a population of 2.1 million in 2000, the population density reached higher than 7,000 persons per square kilometer (18,130 per square mile). About 35 percent of the population in 2000 was urban, down from 41 percent in 1995.

Uzbeks, a Turkic people, comprised 80 percent of the population in 1996, while Russians (5.5 percent), Tajiks (5 percent), Kazakhs (3 percent), Karakalpaks (2.5 percent), Tatars (1.5 percent), and Koreans (1 percent) made up the rest. Religious groups include mostly Muslims (88 percent, mostly Sunni), and Orthodox Christians (9 percent). The official language is Uzbek, spoken by 74.3 percent of the population. Russian is spoken by 14.2 percent and is still predominant in business and science, while Tajik is spoken by 4.4 percent of the population.


Although rich in natural resources, particularly natural gas and gold, Uzbekistan was among the poorest republics of the Soviet Union before its independence in 1991. The Soviet regime stressed the development of heavy industry, particularly mining, machines, and chemicals, while neglecting consumer goods production and the country's infrastructure . Although it developed as a major producer and exporter of natural gas and gold and a sizable regional manufacturer of automobiles, aircraft, machinery, textiles, and chemicals, Uzbekistan remained predominantly rural. Nearly two-thirds of its population was concentrated in the heavily farmed river valleys where cotton production was the top priority of the central government. Uzbekistan was the principal cotton supplier to the Soviet Union and became the third largest cotton exporter worldwide in 2000. Monocultural (production of a single crop) agriculture and extensive irrigation in the arid Uzbek plains, however, caused severe environmental problems during the 1970s and 1980s. Poor land management resulted in the depletion of water supplies, the partial drying of the Amu Darya and Sir Darya rivers and the Aral Sea, heavy water and soil contamination, and newly formed patches of desert.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbek manufacturing experienced some decline in demand from its former Soviet markets, but the industrial sector protected the economy from the massive contraction seen in other former Soviet republics. The government of communist leader Islam Karimov, who stayed in office as president throughout the 1990s, subsidized state-owned, loss-making companies to keep them open. Karimov adopted protectionist policies in order to boost domestic industry, leading to expensive and inefficient industrial import substitutions . Industrialization was achieved but with the accumulation of a large external debt (US$3.3 billion in 1999) that was to be repaid with cotton and gold exports. In the late 1990s, however, the world prices of these key exports dropped, and the lack of competitiveness of the new Uzbeki industrial sector produced a hard currency shortage. The situation was aggravated by the government's reluctance to introduce current-account convertibility of the sum. The sum is not freely convertible to foreign currencies, and exchange rates for different purposes are set by the administration. The financial crises in Asia and Russia in the late 1990s and the lack of sufficient foreign investment caused economic stagnation and additionally-tightened import controls, fueling inflation and a deficit of goods in the domestic consumer market. Poor cotton harvests in the 1990s added to the growing budget deficit , and by 1995, Uzbekistan had received US$276.6 million in foreign aid to help meet its financial obligations.

To counter the negative trend towards debt, by the mid-1990s, the government introduced tighter monetary controls, launched a privatization program, and tried to lure foreign investors. However, its legal regimes still lacked transparency and many foreign partners complained about slow decision-making and persistent bureaucratic control complicated by red tape. Before 2000 there were several designated strategic industries that were not subject to privatization, such as mining of precious metals and gems, oil and gas drilling and processing, defense, aerospace, and communications. But by 2000, about 20 enterprises with foreign capital were expected to manufacture a wide variety of consumer and other goods, from tomato paste to electrodes to marble and granite. Unfortunately, a large South Korean investor, Daewoo Motors, went bankrupt in late 2000, threatening the future of its automotive plant in Uzbekistan.

By 1995 the country had returned to the level of industrial production that it had reached before the collapse of the Soviet Union. By the late 1990s, however, reforms had not been able to restructure the economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended a US$185 million loan due to the failure of Uzbekistan to meet its structural adjustment program requirements. Without IMF aid and without hard currency, external debt default (suspension of all debt repayments) became likely. However, the IMF insisted that Uzbekistan adopt a stabilization program requiring a radical change in economic policy, including further privatization, an end to import substitutions, and a shift to the convertibility of the sum.

In early 2001 a 2-year government program was launched, envisaging the privatization of 1,244 enterprises. Thirty-eight of these, including several strategic enterprises and banks, were to be turned into joint-stock companies with the participation of foreign investors who would be offered between 39 percent and 70 percent of the shares. Approximately 49 enterprises were to be sold directly to foreign investors on the understanding that they would renovate their production processes, introducing modern technology and management. The number of firms with shares placed on the securities market and the off-exchange market to foreign investors in early 2001 reached 535, covering practically all sectors of the economy. Convertibility of the sum, however, was not yet on the government's agenda in 2001.


Uzbekistan declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and a new constitution was adopted in 1992, declaring a multiparty democracy and a presidential republic. Since reelection in 2000, President Karimov has consolidated the government's power to run more like a dictatorship than a democracy. The 250-seat unicameral Ali Majlis (supreme council/parliament) has very little political clout. Although there has been universal suffrage since early Soviet times, members of parliament are nominated by local governors or selected from the People's Democratic Party (the former communist party) and other pro-government groups. The cabinet is headed by a prime minister who is nominated by the president, exerting total control on all other high-ranking national-and local-level officials. Other pro-government parties include the Home-land Progress, the National Revival, and the People's Unity Movement. Opposition groups, such as Birlik (Unity) and Erk (Will), were either silenced or banned in the early 1990s, and their leaders were banished. Only 2 human rights groups have survived under the strict government control. None of them has any large political role or represents any particular social group, and no opposition party at all existed legally in 2000. Adolat (Justice), an Islamic movement, was disbanded in 1992 and most of its members were incarcerated.

President Karimov considers Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism a major threat to the country, repeatedly citing it to justify his authoritarian rule to the public and the international community. Tajikistan is seen as a potential source of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism against Uzbekistan, as was Afghanistan prior to the toppling of that country's ruling fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001. In many cases, the government's overreaction to real or imagined terrorist threats had the unintended effect of arousing sympathy from Uzbekistani citizens and pushing devout Muslims towards fundamentalism. Economic hardship also became a fertile ground for religious dissent during the 1990s. During the pre-1990 Soviet atheist regime, knowledge of Islam was minimal in central Asia. Even in early 2001, an attempt to overthrow the secular government and to establish Islamic rule was hardly thinkable. But in the late 1990s, tens of thousands of people were arrested by the government for their fundamentalism and put on trial to discourage the possibility of an Islamic fundamentalist revolution.

The key to understanding Uzbekistan politics lies in the domestic society's traditional clan structure, based on both kinship and territorial proximity. This society has survived the cultural impositions of both the czarist and the communist Russian regimes. Uzbekistan is ruled by representatives of the renowned Samarkand-Bukhoro clan. The clan's leader, President Karimov, took office in 1989 as a result of a compromise between the country's major clans, but he was resented by the powerful Fergana and Tashkent clans. In 1992 Vice President Shukrullo Mirsaidov, the chieftain of the Tashkent clan, along with the Birlik and Erk opposition groups tried to uproot Karimov but failed. The weakness of the opposition groups was mostly due to their inability to agree on one leader. In the early 1990s several independent organizations were created by young technocrats and businessmen, forming an important talent pool that the president was able to draw on for technical and political support for his policies. The importance of traditional clans is expected to shrink with the modernization of the country.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Turkey was regarded as the bridge between Europe and the central Asian states, including the ethnically Turkic Uzbekistan. By 2000 Turkey's importance as a mediator declined considerably because Uzbekistan turned eastward to its former trading partners for political and economic support. Post-Soviet integration was more active than western European integration, and Uzbekistan was still dependent on Russia for its security and for more than half of its trade. Since the mid-1990s, the United States has also boosted its presence in Uzbekistan and considers it as an important ally against the spreading of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in central Asia.

Taxation in Uzbekistan is considered rather restrictive, although the actual collection rate is quite low. In 2001, the government proposed a reduction of the income tax rate from 31 percent to 26 percent to boost investment. Foreign debt service problems are very serious given the country's lack of foreign exchange revenues and shrinking exports. The government plans to pay off its official debt, which is owed to other governments, before paying back its debt to private creditors. In this manner, Uzbekistan hopes to stay in the good graces of multilateral lenders such as the IMF, from which it receives debt assistance.


Uzbekistan's infrastructure is extensive, but badly needs modernization. In 1993 there were 3,380 kilometers (2,113 miles) of railroads, 300 kilometers (187.5 miles) of which were electrified, and 81,600 kilometers (51,000 miles) of highways, 71,237 kilometers (44,523 miles) of which were paved, including gravel. The construction of a 2,300 kilometer (1,437.5 miles) long high-speed highway is expected to start in 2002. An international tender will be announced for implementing the project, and credits from international organizations and local budget resources are to be mobilized. The system of inland waterways included 1,100 kilometers (687.5 miles) in 1990: crude oil pipelines 250 kilometers (156 miles), petroleum products pipelines 40 kilometers (25 miles), and natural gas pipelines 810 kilometers (506 miles) in 1992. There was 1 port at Termiz on the Amu Darya River and 3 airports with paved runways in 1997.

The policy of import substitution has made Uzbekistan self-sufficient in energy. Since independence, oil production increased by 189 percent to 8.1 million tons in 1998, thereby eliminating oil imports. This self-sufficiency was not achieved with foreign investment, but through the compulsory allocation of national credit and large amounts of government-guaranteed foreign debt. Natural gas production rose from 41.9 billion cubic meters in 1991 to 54.8 billion cubic meters in 1998, but most natural gas is exported to former Soviet markets that pay late, if at all. Relations with neighboring Kyrgyzstan deteriorated in 2000 when the Uzbekistan government demanded that Kyrgyzstan hand over part of its land as payment for natural gas.

The Uzbeki energy sector has lost efficiency since 1991 because of government-controlled energy prices favoring individuals over industries. According to the IMF, industrial gas users payed 812.5 percent more than private families in 1997, though this disparity fell to 203 percent in 1998. Smuggling oil out of Uzbekistan is a widespread occurrence since the domestic price is very low when converted at the free market exchange rate. Despite self-sufficiency in fuel production, fuel is in short supply, encouraging drivers to buy smuggled imported gasoline from private traders at a premium of more than 45 percent above the official price. Electricity production generally meets the needs of the country, standing at 43.47

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Uzbekistan 3 465 275 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.05 8
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Turkmenistan N/A 276 201 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.56 2
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

billion kilowatt hours in 1998. Approximately 85.2 percent of Uzbekistan's electricity is generated in thermal plants, and 14.2 percent is generated at hydropower stations in the mountains. In 2000, the government launched a US$113 million import substitution program for power-sector machinery. It also planned to increase local coal production at the Angren mine from 3 million tons in 1999 to 5 million tons by 2007. Elimination of energy imports has come at the heavy price of high foreign debt, which Uzbekistan is finding difficult to service.

The Uzbekistan telephone system is outdated, with only 1.976 million main lines in 1999, and 26,000 cellular phones in 1998. In the late 1990s, the telephone system was expanded and improved under contracts with foreign companies, particularly in and around Tashkent and Samarkand. By 1998, 6 cellular networks were in operation, 4 of them of the European GSM type (Groupe Spéciale Mobile; or Global System for Mobile Communications). Uzbekistan communications are linked with other post-Soviet republics and other countries by a leased connection via the Moscow international switch. With the opening of a link to the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic cable, the country will become independent of Russia for its international communications. There was only 1 Internet service provider in 1999 and computer usage was low. In 2000 a shortage of hard currency made the state-owned telecommunications company Uzbektelekom repay its US$1.2 million debt to Kazakhstan's Kazakhtelekom in supplies of Uzbek telephone boxes and natural gas. Kazakhtelekom cut off calls coming from Uzbekistan in August 2000, claiming that the debt was in fact US$4.4 million.


Agriculture contributed 28 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1999 and employed 44 percent of the workforce in 1995. Most agricultural and light industry output is related to cotton, accounting for 30.8 percent of total exports in 1999. Lack of environmental and management reform has plagued the agricultural sector. The cotton crop failed twice, in 1996 and 1998, and remained below the government's target of 4 million tons in 1999. The government's pursuit of self-sufficiency in food production led to some land reserved for cotton being reassigned for food growing.

Industry produced 21 percent of GDP in 1999, employing 20 percent of the workforce in 1995. Manufacturing made up the greatest part of the industrial sector and accounted for 13.9 percent of GDP and 12.8 percent of the workforce in 1999. A car factory in Andijan assembled Daewoo cars from imported components, while an aircraft factory assembled Russian aircraft. The rest of the industrial sector was comprised of truck and bus assembly, electrical engineering, textiles, agricultural machinery, and agricultural processing. Gold mining and refining is the country's next largest industrial endeavor, accounting for 10.4 percent of GDP in 1999. Most gold is mined at Muruntau in Navoi, where annual output is about 80 tons per year. Gold brings in less money than it did during Soviet times due to a drop in its price in the late 1990s.

Approximately 51 percent of GDP came from services in 1999; the sector employed 36 percent of the workforce in 1995. Economic volatility and isolation, the lack of consumer credit, and government controls have inhibited the development of a modern services sector. Outside of education and health, there were 398,000 employees in the services sector in 2000, or just 4.5 percent of the total workforce.


Agriculture in arid central Asia is heavily dependent on irrigation. Arable land comprises only 9 percent of the territory because much of the land is desert. Only 1 percent is covered by permanent crops, about 3 percent is occupied by forests, and 46 percent is permanent pastures used by sheep and other livestock. Under the Soviet regime vast formerly-deserted terrain has been reclaimed for cotton growing, and agriculture was collectivized into large state-controlled farms. These lands remain under the control of the Uzbekistani government. The cotton sector is still the most important employer and export producer, characterized by the extensive use of machines and chemicals. The drying up of the Aral Sea due to excessive irrigation in the cotton fields has resulted in growing concentrations of pesticides and salts blown from the exposed bed of the lake. Mismanaged irrigation has contributed to soil contamination, desertification , water pollution, and many health disorders.

Apart from cotton, leading products include vegetables, fruits, grain, livestock, and animal products, including the world-famous karakul sheep. In 1998, President Karimov threatened to impose criminal penalties on local leaders who anticipated food shortages and restricted the sale of food at market in order to stockpile food locally. In 2000 the grain and cotton harvests were low due to persistent drought and mismanagement of water resources. The government would not raise water prices to encourage farmers to use it more efficiently, because allowing the sale of water at market prices defies the communist ideal of a state-run economy. To ensure that water shortages would not happen again in 2001, the government reached an agreement with Tajikistan (where its rivers originate) to cooperate on water use. Another pricing problem exists in the cotton industry: the domestic cotton fiber price was just 43 percent of the world price in 2000. In order to achieve self-sufficiency in grain production, the government is still shifting land from cotton to grain production, which deprives the economy of export revenue. A ton of cotton on the world market in 2000 was worth around US$1,100 in export revenue, while a ton of grain was worth approximately US$200.


Manufacturing in Uzbekistan is based on its wealth of natural resources including natural gas, petroleum, coal, gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, and molybdenum. Mining and metallurgy are the most important areas, but textiles, food processing, machine building, and electrical engineering are also well developed. Due to self-sufficiency policies, the industrial production growth rate was 6 percent in 1999, but the sector was performing poorly financially.


Uzbekistan has failed so far to promote oil and gas exports due to its isolationist economic policy. The prices that Uzbekistan gets for its oil and gas exports in post-Soviet markets are low, and payments are insecure. Approximately 41.5 billion cubic meters of gas was produced in the first 9 months of 2000, up by 1 percent from 1999. Most gas is consumed locally by enterprises at prices above the cost of production, and by households at subsidized prices. Officially recorded crude oil production fell in the first 9 months of 2000 to 5.7 million tons, down by 6.2 percent from 1999. Refined oil production was rising though. It is likely that oil is illicitly exported to Kazakhstan. Fuel oil production, at 1.3 million tons, increased slightly during 2000, and the kerosene output of 300,000 tons rose by 17.1 percent in 2000. The government intended to increase investment in the state-owned oil and gas giant Uzbekneftegaz by taking on further external debts, expanding exploration and production in 2001. Free-market domestic prices were seen as a more efficient method to generate the capital for industrial investment domestically, without increasing the large external debt burden. The government also planned to sell 49 percent of Uzbekneftegaz to foreign investors in 2001. The subsidiaries of Uzbekneftegaz also were scheduled for partial sale to foreign investors, including 44 percent in Uzneftegazdobycha (exploration and development), and 39 percent in each of Uzneftepererabotka (oil refineries), Uzburneftegaz (drilling), and Uzneftegazstroi (oil and gas construction).


Uzbekistan is the world's eighth largest producer of gold. The gold mine is owned by the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combine (NGMK), a Soviet-era, state-owned firm that the government refuses to privatize or reform. The estimated output in 1999 was 80 tons but there was no independent confirmation. Gold accounts for 10 to 20 percent of export earnings and the drop in its price since 1997 has discouraged foreign companies from investing. Yet, Newmont Mining of the United States has entered a joint venture with NGMK to extract gold from a 242 million-ton pile of tailings left beside the mine from the Soviet era. The project, with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) funding, should produce almost 143 million grams (5 million ounces) over 17 years.


As a result of the policy of import substitution, most industrial production supplies the domestic market and is not export-oriented. Even Uzdae-motors, a joint venture between Daewoo Motors and state-owned Uzavtosanaot that assembles motor vehicles, produces cars primarily for the Russian and domestic market. Production started in 1996 when investment was expected to reach US$658 million. Supplies were ordered from Russia and South Korea. Uzbekistan was to provide the labor; however, Russia's economic problems in 1998 damaged export prospects, and few locals could afford to buy Daewoo cars. As a result, production in 2000 was even less than the 1997 target of 125,000 units and the 1998 target of 80,000 units. Although Daewoo's stake reached 70 percent in 1998, the Uzbekistan government kept the venture operational after the bankruptcy of Daewoo in 2000, switching it from a foreign investment into another government asset backed with foreign debt.


In 1997 Jahn International of Denmark joined Intertrade from the United States and local Tashkent Sud to form Sun Juice, a fruit juice company. Nestle of Switzerland plans to invest US$30 million for the construction of a chocolate factory in Namangan, while British companies have invested in the Uzbek tobacco industry.



Due to excessive government restrictions and controls, financial services are poorly developed. The central bank is not independent and acts as a money printing press for the finance ministry. Banks do not act as financial intermediaries for their clients, rather they pay negative interest rates on deposits, confiscate savings, and funnel government credit and foreign loans to enterprises and sectors selected by the government. The government refuses to push insolvent state-owned enterprises into bankruptcy, allowing them to stay in business. Banks fund their operations by refusing to pay back creditors, suppliers, and workers, eroding the banking sector. Of the 31 banks in Uzbekistan in 2000, just 4 small ones were private. Most banks were considered insolvent by international lenders, relying on further foreign debt inflows for survival. The largest bank was the state-owned National Bank of Uzbekistan (NBU), with 70 percent of the total loan portfolio and around 66 percent of the foreign exchange turnover in the country. The NBU is 1 of 4 banks allowed to deal in foreign exchange and makes a good profit by borrowing from the EBRD, nearly doubling the interest rate when lending to Uzbekistan firms. The government plannedbut failedto sell a 40 percent stake in the NBU in 1999. The main foreign-owned bank is ABN-AMRO (Nether-lands), which operates in a joint venture with NBU.


Trading in domestically produced food and imported consumer goods in the vibrant traditional oriental bazaars is a major economic activity and important income source. Many government and other employees add to their income as small traders, and the vast majority of Uzbekistan people shop at the local bazaar. The largely unregulated bazaars have so far survived the govern-ment's restrictions, with illegal currency traders providing the dollars that fund the smuggling of consumer items into the country. Outside of the bazaars, Tashkent is the fourth most expensive city in the world, and its modern retail complexes are reserved for the rich and for foreigners. Levi Strauss (United States) and Benetton (Italy) have outlets in both, and Sony (Japan) and Daewoo have large consumer electronics stores. Several other international retailers entered the market in the late 1990s, including Jahn International, and Nestle. Uzbekistan may have a future in imported consumer goods trade since it shares a border with all central Asian states and has the largest domestic population, making it a natural distribution center. Yet in 2000, most consumer goods were flowing into Uzbekistan illegally from its neighbors.


Uzbekistan has many important historic and cultural monuments in the medieval capitals of Samarkand, Bukhoro, and elsewhere. The lack of adequate facilities and high prices for western goods have prevented the development of any significant international tourism. No particular government plans in the area have been revealed.


The Uzbeki policy of self-sufficiency prevents active international trade. The country exports cotton, gold, natural gas, mineral fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, foods, and automobiles; it imports machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals, and foods. Russia is Uzbekistan's principal trade partner, responsible for 53 percent of volume (1999). Russian imports include machinery and tools, metals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paper and lumber, and grains; exports to Russia include raw cotton (70 percent of all Russian imports in 1999), metals, chemicals, and farm products. There were about 250 Russo-Uzbekistani joint ventures in 2000. Other major export destinations included Switzerland (10 percent), the United Kingdom (10 percent), Belgium (4 percent),

Trade (expressed in millions of US$): Uzbekistan
Exports Imports
1994 3044 2478
1995 3100 2900
1996 4590 4721
1997 4387 4522
1998 3528 3288
1999 N/A N/A
SOURCE: United Nations. Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (September 2000).

Kazakhstan (4 percent), and Tajikistan (4 percent) in 1998. Imports to Uzbekistan originated from South Korea (11 percent), Germany (8 percent), the United States (7 percent), Turkey (6 percent), and Kazakhstan (5 percent) in 1998. Uzbekistan has a large current-account deficit and the ratio of external debt to exports in 1999 was 96 percent. With a more precise account of exchange rates, however, it might be as high as 137 percent.


Despite government pledges that in 2000 the sum would be convertible (freely exchangeable for foreign currencies at market rates), Uzbekistan continued to operate a system of administratively-set multiple exchange rates in 2001. These were used to protect import substitution industrialization, including a set commercial bank rate and an administratively set commercial exchange rate, which kept the sum at around 50 percent of the commercial bank rate. The black market is widely used. In December 2000 President Karimov said that convertibility would take 3 to 5 years, but he was pushed to take action when a default on the country's external debt was imminent because of a threatened halt to IMF funding. Uzbekistan is plagued by a hard currency shortage and has serious problems with servicing its debt. It was scheduled to make US$900 million of repayments in 2000.

The Tashkent Stock Exchange is 26 percent government-owned, and most of the stocks in companies that are listed are owned by the employees of those companies. Trade at the Tashkent Stock Exchange is predominantly conducted through treasury bills because they are considered a liquid and safe asset, despite the fact that yields are negative and the market is extremely small.


Under the Soviet regime, Uzbekistan was arguably a land of economic equality, although among the poorest republics of the Soviet Union. The vast majority of the population was state-employed, no private initiative was allowed, and central funds were allocated comparatively

Exchange rates: Uzbekistan
Uzbekistani soms per US$1
Jan 2001 325.0
2000 141.4
1999 111.9
1998 110.95
1997 75.8
1996 41.1
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Uzbekistan N/A N/A N/A 1,338 1,007
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Russia 2,555 3,654 3,463 3,668 2,138
Turkmenistan N/A N/A N/A 1,154 486
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

equitably as free health care, higher education, pensions, and other benefits. The only exceptions of the modest standard of living were the nomenklatura (the communist party elite) and the organized crime and black market economy players. The market reforms in the 1990s generated new wealth for a limited number of entrepreneurs who were well connected to the government yet understood the economic hardships of everyday Uzbeki life. In 1995 the country's Gini index was 33.3, lower than that of the United States and the United Kingdom but higher than in most former communist countries. Due to the government's policies of protectionism and import substitution, unemployment is still a minor problem, but the loss-making state industries and struggling agricultural sector are no longer able to sustain the living standards of the 1980s. Monthly salaries in the state manufacturing sector reached as low as US$34 in 1994, and had increased only slightly by 2001. Inflation, at 29 percent in 1999, is also a concern. Many Uzbekistanis suffer from problems other than financial insolvency such as a poor health system, the lack of safe water, epidemics, and excessive soil pollution and desertification. These problems are most apparent in the intensely farmed river valleys, where almost two-thirds of the population are concentrated. On many occasions throughout the 1990s, the government has appealed to international organizations for aid in dealing with severe droughts. In particular,

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Uzbekistan
Lowest 10% 3.1
Lowest 20% 7.4
Second 20% 12.0
Third 20% 16.7
Fourth 20% 23.0
Highest 20% 40.9
Highest 10% 25.2
Survey year: 1993
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Uzbekistan 34 3 13 4 7 9 30
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Russia 28 11 16 7 15 8 16
Turkmenistan 32 6 14 6 18 11 14
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Karakalpakstan has been an environmental disaster area plagued by the drying up of the Aral Sea and unprecedented scarcity of water.


Uzbekistan is party to all major universal legal instruments on economic and social rights, the rights of the child, the right to equal compensation and collective bargaining, and the elimination of employment discrimination. Its labor force numbered 12 million in 1999, and official unemployment was low at 2.2 percent in 1995, but no data have been released since. The hidden unemployment figure, made up of workers who receive no pay from cash-stripped companies or who are put on mandatory leave, affected about 1 million people in the agricultural sector in 2000. State employees' wages increased by 36 percent in 1996 (from a US$34 monthly average in 1994) but remained among the lowest of the former Soviet republics. The government has tried to hold wages in check to prevent inflation, setting the minimum wage to 75 percent of a typical consumer's spending. Pay raises in both the state and private sector are limited to a maximum of 70 percent of the sector's increase in output and are subject to government approval. Labor unions are government controlled. Many labor practices are inefficient due to obsolete technology, lack of management skills, and import substitutions.


100s B.C. The territory that is now Uzbekistan becomes a part of the Silk Road, linking China with the Middle East and Europe.

600s A.D. Arab invaders conquer Uzbekistan and introduce Islam.

1300s. The land is ruled by the empire of Tamerlane. Samarqand becomes the capital in 1369. Nomadic Turkic tribes form the Uzbek confederation and start moving south into Uzbekistan.

1700s. The Kokand principality emerges in the Fergana Valley. The Turkic-speaking Karakalpaks in the Amu Darya delta are subjugated by the new khanate of Khiva. Feudal agricultural economy develops.

1850. Russian forces march on Kokand, Tashkent, Bukhoro, and Khiva and take them over by 1876. A modern commodity economy starts developing but many locals resent the non-Muslim administration and colonists.

1916. Burdened with Russian demands to aid in its World War I effort, the locals revolt against a military draft but are suppressed.

1917. The Bolsheviks seize power in Russia and establish new political divisions in central Asia ruled by local soviets (councils), which are opposed by guerrillas of the Action for National Liberation party (called Basmachi by the Russians).

1918. Southern central Asia, including part of Uzbekistan, is organized into the Turkistan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.

1919. The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic is carved out from Turkestan (with the Bukharan and the Khorezmian republics), officially becoming a republic of the Soviet Union in 1922.

1928. Land is collectivized into state farms.

1931. The Uzbek S.S.R. is enlarged with the addition of the Karakalpak ASSR.

1941. In World War II, many industries are relocated to Uzbekistan from the western regions of the Soviet Union. Many non-Uzbek nationals immigrate to the republic.

1960s. Excessive irrigation brings an ecological disaster in the Aral Sea basin.

1991. Uzbekistan declares independence from the Soviet Union and joins the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Presidential elections, in which most opposition groups are not allowed to participate, leave Islam Karimovthe incumbent president and former communist leaderin office. Karimov establishes an authoritarian regime, banning opposition parties and claiming that more democracy would render the country vulnerable to Islamic fundamentalism.


With President Karimov firmly in office, Uzbekistan will likely be characterized by political stability, but the policy of import substitution and the lack of sufficient structural reform may further aggravate economic problems. Poor cotton crops and recurrent droughts may add to the crisis. If accompanied by economic crisis, the president's exaggerated security threatsparticularly about Islamic groupscould contribute to the authoritarian character of the regime and lead towards further political violence.

Particularly troublesome will be the persistent inconvertibility of the sum, the lack of hard currency, and the growing external debt. The country will not be able to serve its financial obligations in the 21st century without IMF help, but the IMF requires the closure of many loss-making industrial enterprises that would be particularly difficult for the government to effect. Significant reforms were promised in 2000, and there were hints that some harmful old policies would be abandoned.

Growth in the former Soviet area, Uzbekistan's main export market, is expected to be robust, but a weakening global economy in 2001 will restrain growth because of its impact on key commodity prices, especially of cotton and gold. Due to its natural wealth and strategic location, Uzbekistan has significant growth prospects once it implements market reforms and controls environmental hazards.


Uzbekistan has no territories or colonies.


Curtis, Glenn E., editor. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan: Country Studies. Library of Congress: Washington, D.C., 1997.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Uzbekistan. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Eurasia Information Analytic Center. Uzbekistan. <>. Accessed April 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Valentin Hadjiyski


Tashkent (Toshkent).


Uzbekistani sum (UZS). One sum equals 100 tyyn. Notes come in denominations of 100, 50, 25, 5, and 1 sum. Coins include 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 tyyn.


Cotton, gold, natural gas, mineral fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, food products, and automobiles.


Machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals, and foodstuffs.


US$60 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$2.9 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$2.6 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Uzbekistan
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 25,155,064
Language(s): Uzbek, Russian, Tajik
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 447,400 sq km
GDP: 7,666 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 4
Number of Television Sets: 6,400,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 254.4
Number of Cable Subscribers: 74,400
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 3.0
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 25,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 1.0
Number of Radio Stations: 37
Number of Radio Receivers: 10,800,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 429.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 120,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 4.8

Background & General Characteristics

The state of the press in Uzbekistan has to be viewed in the context of a century old repressive Russian rule, first as a part of the authoritarian Czarist regime and then as a constituent of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). On September 1, 1991, Uzbekistan cut itself loose from the Soviet Union and proclaimed itself a sovereign republic. It has the distinction of being the most authoritarian country in Central Asia, with no real domestic opposition; its media is generally tightly controlled media despite the constitutional provisions for a free press without censorship. The head of Uzbekistan's authoritarian government, President Abduganiyevich Karimov, is a long-time, high-profile member of the Uzbek Communist Party's Central Committee and a cabinet minister in the Soviet Uzbek government (most notably as finance minister), He is accustomed to political obedience from one and all including the press. In 1990, Karimov became president of the Soviet Uzbek republic, and in December 1991, following the fall and break-up of the Soviet Union, he became the country's elected president. When the country first gained its independence. there was a somewhat benign attitude toward the media in keeping with the Birlik movement, the Uzbek equivalent of perestroika. Analysts have noticed that his authoritarianism has worsened since the mid-1990s, perhaps because of his determination to root out the Islamic fundamentalism that has raised its head since the Soviet defeat in neighboring Afghanistan; he wants his government to remain secular.

Although President Karimov periodically mouths platitudes espousing the cause of freedom of the press and asking his ministers and officials to work closely with the media, his numerous legislative measures, administrative fiats, and pressure placed on the judiciary to mete out severe punishments to independent-minded journalists leave no doubt about his policy to streamline the press and make it support his political agenda,, including economic policies. His policies resemble those of China in combining economic liberalization with political repression. Part of the latter includes tightening controls over the press and ending "intolerance of defiance" among journalists and broadcasters.

Historical Traditions

Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous country, located between Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, has had a long and glorious heritage. Its famous citiesSamarkand, Bukhara, and Khivalay on the vital Silk Road, the trading artery of premodern times linking China with the Middle East and the Mediterranean. On his way to India, Alexander the Great stopped near Samarkand long enough to marry Roxana, daughter of a local chieftain. Uzbekistan came under Arab rule in the eighth century A.D. The local Samanid dynasty established an empire in the ninth century. In 1220, the Mongol leader, Genghis Khan conquered the territory. In the fourteenth century, Timur Lane built an empire with Samarkand as his capital, which he adorned with many monuments. The empire then broke into several principalities, some of which joined Persia. In 1865, when Czarist Russia conquered Tashkent, the present capital of Uzbekistan, the major political entities in the present-day Uzbekistan were the Khanates of Kokand, Bukhara, and Khiva. Russia incorporated Kokand in 1876 and allowed the other two to remain as protectorates.

Following the formation of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan was established in 1924 from the territories of the protectorate Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva, and Ferghana, which constituted a portion of the former Khanate of Kokand. During the Soviet Union's control, Uzbekistan was developed into one of the largest cotton growing centers thanks to an irrigation system based on the Aral Sea. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, its Central Asian Republics proclaimed their independence; Uzbekistan did so on September 1, 1991, under the leadership of Islam Karimov, the powerful former First Secretary of the Uzbekistan Communist Party. He was elected president of the country in December of the same year.


With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan became independent on September 1, 1991. Under a constitution effective December 8, 1992, it became a republic with a separation of powers. Although the executive consists of the president, prime minister, and the cabinet, in reality, President Islam Karimov holds firm control over the government as President and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers. He also appoints and dismisses provincial governors, who answer only to him. Under the terms of a referendum held in December 1995, Karimov's first term was extended by five years; another referendum held on January 27, 2002 extended it to December 2007. The constitution provided for a unicameral legislature, the Olly Majlis, or Supreme Assembly, of 250 members. It meets only a few days each year and has very little power to shape legislation. The referendum of January 2002, proposed a bicameral parliament. The judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court, constitutional court, and economic court, lacks independence.. The country is divided into 12 villoyatlars, or administrative subdivisions, plus the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan and the city of Tashkent. All those 18 and above have the right to vote "unless imprisoned or certified as insane." Uzbekistan is theoretically a multiparty democracy. However, government approval is needed for the formation of a party. The prominent parties in the current Supreme Assembly are: Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party, which was established in 1995; Democratic National Rebirth Party (Milly Tiklanish Democratic Party, or MTP, established in 1995; Fatherland Progress Party (Vatan Tarakiyoti, or VTP), which merged in April 2000 with the National Democratic Party (Fidokorlar, or Fidokorlar Milly Democratic Partiya); and the People's Democratic Party, or PDPU (Uzbekistan Halq Democratic Partiya, formerly Communist Party, which was established on November 1, 1991).


In 1999, there were 471 newspapers and magazines, of which 328 were published by the various ministries and departments of the government, state enterprises, or "political parties." Almost all newspapers are printed at the state printing facilities, which makes it convenient and not-so-obvious for the print copy to be censored. Of the total number, 66 may be regarded as national, 68 regional (although the government does not accept such a category on grounds that Uzbekistan is not split into regions), and the remaining local. Some 109 were public or organizational, representing trade unions, the military, or other associations. The remaining 34 were in the private sector, which is a growing segment and financially independent of the government. They were mostly commercial or religion-based.

Listed below are the principal newspapers of Uzbekistan, the year of their founding, name of the owner, and circulation (wherever available):

Uzbek Newspapers:

  • Uzbekistan Ovozi, June 21, 1918; People's Democratic Party; 40,000
  • Uzbekistan Adabieti Va Sanati (Literature and Art of Uzbekistan ); January 4, 1956; Ministry of Culture & Association of Writers; 6,500
  • Marifat (Education ), 1931, Ministry of Education, 21,500
  • Adolat (Justice ); February 22, 1995; "Adolat" Socialist Democratic Party; 5,900
  • Turkiston, 1925, "Kamolot" Youth Foundation, 8,000
  • Toshkent Hakikati (Tashkent Truth ), February 1954, Tashkent Oblast Administration, 19,000
  • Mulkdor (Proprietor ); January 10, 1995; Real Estate Exchange & State Committee for Entrepreneurship; 20,000
  • Hurriyat, December 1996, Fund for Democratization of Media, 5,000
  • Savdagor; August 19, 1992; Uzbeksavdo & Uzbekbirlashuv firms, 17,000
  • Fidokor, May 1999, NDP, 32,000
  • Sport; June 2, 1932; State Committee for Sport & Physical Training; 8,500
  • Respublika; September 1, 1998; UzA Government Wire Service; NA

Uzbek/Russian Newspapers:

  • Narodnoe; January 1, 1991; Government; 50,000
  • Biznes Vestnik Vostoka (BVV), August 1991, Pravda Vostoka and Uzfininvest Joint Stock Company, 20,000
  • Novosti Nedeli, August 1996, National Commodity Exchange, 5,000
  • Na postu/Postda; May 12, 1993; Ministry of the Interior; 18,000
  • Soliqlar va Bojhona I Tamojennie Vesti, January 1994, State Tax Committee, 45,000
  • Vechernly Tashkent/Tashkent Oqshomi; January 1, 1966; City Mayor's Office, NA

English Newspapers:

  • Good Morning
  • Uzbekistan Ovozi Times
  • Business Partner
  • Business Review

Russian Newspapers:

  • Pravda Vostoka (Truth of the East ); April 2, 1917; 20,000
  • Tashkentsaya Pravda, February 1954, Tashkent Oblast Administration, 6,400
  • Business Partner Uzbekistana
  • Golos Uzbekistana (Voice of Uzbekistan ); June 21, 1918; PDP; 40,000
  • Uchitel Uzbekistana (Teacher of Uzbekistan ); January 1, 1980; Ministry of Education; 7,000
  • Norodnoe Slovo (People's Word )
  • Molodyozh Uzbekistana (Youth of Uzbekistan ), November 1926,"Kamolot" Youth Foundation & "Career-Service" Agency, 6,000
  • Vechernij Tashkent (Evening Tashkent )
  • Business-vestnik Vostoka, Bvv (Business News of the East )
  • Novly Vek (formerly Kommercheskij Vestnik, Commercial News), January 1992, State Property Committee, 22,000
  • Chastnaya Sobstvennost, May 1994, State Property Committee, 8,000

Russian/English Newspapers:

Delovoy Partner, 1991, Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, 20,000

Economic Framework

Uzbekistan has a large agricultural sector and is a leading exporter of cotton. The economy is primarily based on agriculture and processing of agricultural products. The country is a part of the large Central Asian oil and gas fields. Its potential, particularly for the export of natural gas, is immense. Uzbekistan is also a major producer of gold, with the largest open-pit gold mine in the world, and has substantial deposits of copper and strategic minerals.

Uzbekistan's economic performance, however, is mediocre, largely because of the restrictive trade and investment climate that is a hangover of the communist system. Of late, the government has publicly committed itself to a gradual transition to a free market economy. China seems to be the government's role model, combining economic liberalization and political repression. Yet, it falls far short of the intended liberalization, which is the reason why there is very little foreign direct investment in the country. In 2002, Uzebekistan signed the Staff Monitored Program (SMP) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to introduce current account convertibility. Thus far, a very restrictive exchange regime is justified on grounds of the need to limit the imports of consumer goods and to channel the foreign exchange to finance the import of machinery and high technology. If the IMF reforms are implemented, the country would attract much-needed foreign direct investment. Analysts point out that what is really needed to move the economy forward is major structural reform, which should include getting rid of the state controls over the vital agricultural sector.

In March 2002, Uzbekistan devalued the exchange booth rate from approximately 920 to about 1,300, much closer to the curb market rate. The aim is to reduce the gap between the official and market rates, with the curb rate not to exceed 20 percent by June 2002. In April, 2002, a new decree allowed the sale of bonds by the Central Bank of Uzbekistan, which utilizes technical advice from the World Bank, the UNDP, and the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Technical Assistance. All these measures are expected to pump some momentum in the country's fiscal and monetary policy to make them truly market-oriented.

Uzbekistan's exports, according to 2000 government statistics, were $3.26 billion, mainly cotton, gold, natural gas, mineral fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, and food products. Major export markets are Russia, 16.7 percent; U.K., 7.2 percent; Switzerland, 8.3 percent; South Korea, 3.3 percent; and Kazakhstan, 3.1 percent. The imports were $2.94 billion, mainly machinery and equipment, chemicals and foodstuffs. Major partners were: Russia, 15.8 percent; South Korea, 9.8 percent; United States, 8.7 percent; Germany, 8.7 percent; Kazakhstan, 7.3 percent; and Ukraine, 6.1 percent. Uzbekistan's external debt in 2001 were estimated at U.S.$ 4.5 billion.

Financial Condition of Newspapers

In terms of finance, the government subsidizes only a very limited number of newspapers. Most of them sustain themselves on the revenues they receive from advertisements, many of which are in the form of announcements, notices, or calls for tenders from various state agencies. Another source of income indirectly provided by the government is mandatory subscriptions by the various state offices to the state publications, The newspapers do not get much advertising from international companies, which find it difficult to operate because of the laws disallowing currency convertibility.

Press Laws

The Constitution of Uzbekistan plainly provides "freedom of thought, speech and convictions." Article 67 of the Constitution states that "media are free censorship is impermissible." Yet in reality, the press and the other media experience censorship. Moreover, there are registration requirements that are misused to screen those who want to start a newspaper or magazine or renew their licenses. The basic law governing the media was adopted on June 14, 1991, three months before Uzbekistan's independence from the Soviet Union. It was supplemented by several decrees and regulations, including decree number 244, which laid down rules for registration. On November 26, 1996, the Uzbek Parliament promised liberalization of the press, to bring it in line with international standards. The following February, it adopted several laws on the relationship between the government and the media. Article 4 of the Law on Mass Media reiterated: "In the Republic of Uzbekistan, censorship on mass media is not permitted. No one has the right to request that materials and reports be approved prior to publication, or that any text be altered or completely removed from print (air)."


Although the constitution of Uzbekistan and the Law on Mass Media forbids censorship, the government has "enforced a virtual censorship." The Committee for the Protection of State Secrets at the State Print Committee acts as an unofficial censor, having the authority to approve the newspaper copy before it goes for printing. Significantly, the Law on Mass Media does not provide for solving the disputes in court; it gives that authority to the State Print Committee, actually placing the latter above appeal or arbitration proceedings. In fact, this committee censors newspapers before publication and radio and TV texts and footage before they are broadcast. Television and radio stations practice self-censorship so well that the Committee, by and large, does not find it necessary to censor the broadcasts on a daily basis.

The process of self-censorship is further helped by the fact that most editors and media executives fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of the President, or some minister or the other. Therefore, editors and the top echelons of the media hierarchy put certain types of programs "off limits" by way of self-censorship. The self-censorship is also encouraged by a number of administrative measures. The government's ire is manifested through endless delays in registration and license renewals, judicial decrees, or obstacles in purchasing news-print. Consequently, as a professional organization commented, the "media landscape is one-sided. There are no opposition media in the country; the independent media in the private sector simply refrain from political reporting. The media appear to compete for the title 'most loyal to the authorities."'

In mid-1996, President Karimov announced he would liberalize the press. Six months later, even while the new law was on the legislature's anvil, the newspaper Vatan was temporarily closed down for publishing an analytical article on the President's human rights policy agenda. In February 1997, the parliament passed laws on the access to information and the rights of journalists. Although these appear liberal on paper, they have not been implemented, nor has their been qualitative change in the working conditions of journalists or in the subtle standards of censorship imposed through "self-censorship." The 1991 law prohibiting writing that would "offend the honor and dignity of the president" continues. The new laws hold journalists responsible for the accuracy of their reporting and potentially subjects them to criminal prosecution if the government officials who are under scrutiny disagree with news reports. The new laws also permit closure of any media outlet without court judgments, prohibits incitement of ethnic or religious conflict, and disallow the registration of organizations whose purposes include "subverting the constitutional order." And although there is no official censorship, no newspaper can be printed (all printing facilities are state-owned) without the prior approval of the Committee for the Control of State Secrets.

Even the newspapers and magazines in the private sector are not free from editorial constraints. In fact, "true" opposition papers ceased to exist in 1993, when severe restrictions were imposed on the media. Although the restrictions were relaxed in 1997, the harsh sentence of 11 years meted out to a Samarkand state radio reporter, Shodi Mardiev, in 1998, and the manhandling of two Russian journalists for talking with human rights activists in the same year, were enough proof that the government expected self-censorship of all journalists.

State-Press Relations

In practice, the government created a process that effectively compels obedience and loyalty on the part of the press through self-censorship. This was done through the Uzbekistan State Committee on the Press, which was supposed to protect the rights of the press and the journalists. Instead, its chairman, who is close to the president's office, has been placed in charge of the registration and renewal of licenses to media companies, as well as the accreditation of journalists. The authority is often used to streamline those deemed "prejudicial to the public good". The State Committee on the Press also regulates the availability of newsprint, which is a monopoly held by a state-owned agency. In order to enforce the provisions of the "law," the committee maintains an Inspectorate.

The other laws affecting the media adopted in 1997 includes one guaranteeing freedom of access to information. It lists the various categories of information "except for the state secrets" to which the citizen would have access. Most of the access guaranteed under article 3 of the law was taken away by the limits set in article 9, which forbid "state agencies, bodies of citizen self-government, public associations, enterprises, institutions, organizations and officials" to provide information containing "national secrets or other secrets protected by law." Another piece of legislation entitled "On the Protection of the Professional Work of Journalists" defined a journalist and listed his/her basic rights, notably in investigative journalism. It also laid down guidelines for the accreditation of foreign journalists working in Uzbekistan and for Uzbeki journalists working abroad. As for the broadcasting media, they come under the Ministry of Communications for the issue and renewal of licenses. The Uzteleradio, the Television and Radio Company of Uzbekistan, which operates in the capital as well as in the provinces, is directly responsible to the government through the Ministry of Broadcasting for their programming.

In sum, although the extensive 1997 legislation concerning the media was in keeping with President Karimov's promise in mid-1996 that he would improve journalists' working conditions, in practice, the several laws passed by the Parliament in 1997 have "not translated into a free and pluralistic media landscape." Besides, the new laws did not invalidate the 1991 law that prohibited any criticism "offending the honor and dignity of the president." Reviewing the media laws and the bureaucratic structure controlling the media, Roger D. Kangas lamented: "For organizations that have followed Uzbekistan's policy of complete media control, such laws might very well be considered empty additions to the litany of legislation that has little substantive meaning. the reality has been a system wherein the media remains completely censored by the government and void of serious debate on current political issues."

Can such restrictions, including self-censorship, be viewed differently from the working conditions of journalists in countries where the freedom of the press is truly guaranteed by the courts? Thus, the practice of self-censorship may rightly be equated with official censorship and condemned in truly democratic countries. However, in societies accustomed to tight government control of many aspects of life, self-censorship may not appear tyrannical. A survey conducted in the year 2000 indicated that 38 percent of journalists in Uzbekistan felt some kind of censorship was necessary to protect against anarchy. A prominent Uzbek TV journalist and station director, Shukhrat Babadjanov, attributed such thinking to "the absence of democratic thinking in the mentality of the Uzbek journalist."

One major exception to such self-censorship is the independent Uzbek-language Hurriyat (The Liberty ), which publishes articles and stories critical of government officials in numerous state enterprises but not of the top hierarchy.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The presence of foreign media in Tashkent is impressive for its comprehensiveness but not for its staffing, which, with the exception of Russian Public Television (ORT), is mostly at the level of local stringers. The foreign media represented are: Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Russian news agencies (Interfax; ITAR-TASS; Novosti, ORT news bureau), Internews (U.S.), Associated Press, UPI, BBC, VOA, Radio Liberty, and Chinese Economic Daily. The government is polite and helpful to foreign media and though it expects them to follow the same guidelines as the domestic media, in practice, the foreign media, particularly those from Western Europe and the United States, prefer to have a low-profile presence rather than confrontation with the government.

Russian Media In the CIS and In Uzbekistan

Rus-sian is widely spoken throughout the CIS, including in Uzbekistan. The Moscow-based media, notably the Russian Public Television (ORT), is available everywhere and is almost invariably more popular than the domestic state-controlled TV channel. Russian channel 1, RTR, as well as the private channels TV-6 and NTV, are fairly popular thanks to the greater freedom their news broadcast and current affairs programs, mostly political, show. Another reason for their popularity is that both the ORT and RTR include American soaps in their programming, which makes the channels popular with large audiences. Some CIS members, however, like Uzbekistan, have taken steps to delay and censor the Russian transmission because they fear the impact of the discussions on current affairs unpalatable to the governing regime in Uzbeki-stan.

Russian newspapers and magazines do not have an equally attractive market in Uzbekistan, or for that matter, in the CIS. One major reason is the problem with currency convertibility, which makes the cover price of Russian newspapers prohibitive in Uzbekistan. Even so, prominent newspapers such as Pravda, Izvestya, Argumenti I Facti and Trud are available on newsstands in Tashkent and are regularly read by the political elite and Uzbeki media persons.

News Agencies

There are three main news agencies. UzA is the national information agency, owned by the state and serving as a channel of information which is carefully screened before its distribution to newspapers. Jahon News Agency is run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reporting mostly on the Uzbek presence and activities of its diplomatic establishments abroad. It also assists the flow of information from Uzbekistan to the outside world and, in the process, controls the content. It also serves as a liaison with representatives of the foreign media in the country. Lastly, Turkiston Press Outside World Agency is a new, independent agency established by young, professional journalists. It has so far managed to steer clear of government intervention.

Broadcast Media


Just as in television, there are state-owned and independent radio stations in Uzbekistan. The State Radio has FM, medium-wave and short-wave transmissions. The State Radio has four channels, each with its own specialty: Channel 1 ("Uzbekistan") is the most important channel, paralleling Uzbek TV 1 in its programming (frequencies; LW, MW, SW, FM); Radio Channel 2, popularly known as "Mashal" (MW and FM), is directed to the youth and has more entertainment programs than others. Radio Channel 3, known as "Dostlik" (MW and FM) focuses on the minorities in the country; Radio Channel 4, known as "Yoshlar" (MW and FM), is directed toward the youth. Yet another government-owned radio station, "Radio Tashkent" broadcasts on a short-wave to numerous countries in 12 languages.

There are seven FM radio stations in the capital city of Tashkent, one independent station that covers the three provinces of Ferghana, Andijan, and Namanghan. Five out of those in Tashkent are independent, Radio Grande (FM-101.5 MHZ) being the most popular among them. It was established in 1999 with substantial assistance from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Germany and the International Center for the Training of Journalists. It has one-hour programs in Russian, Uzbek, and English every day and besides music, it broadcasts hourly news local, national, and international. Among the other private FM stations is radio Sezum, an Uzbek-US joint venture.


According to the U.S. nongovernmental organization, Internews, there are about 35 independent TV stations in Uzbekistan along with the State TV and Radio Company. It is not designated as a "state" company by a decree of the Uzbek Cabinet, which expects it to be financially fully independent "as soon as possible." Analysts observe that, given its size and operations and the state of the private sector, it is likely to be state-owned for a long time.

The State TV, which was predominantly dependent on Russian programs in the first few years, has reduced the transmission of broadcast hours of Russian channels like ORT and RTR. In order not to deprive people who would like to continue to watch Russian television as well as to cater to the sizeable ethnic Russian population in the cities, the government has encouraged the growth of cable TV, which operate as small stations providing individuals with such a service for a monthly fee. Such cable TV stations often provide international programs with channels such as CNN, TNT, ESPN, and BBC. The largest of the cable TV stations is Kamalak TV, with as many as 10 Russian and international channels.

The Uzbek government manages not to allow any "independent" TV stations to operate in the capital city of Tashkent, where political sensitivities matter far more than in smaller cities and towns and the rural areas. The one exception is Channel 30 in Tashkent, which walks a tightrope in terms of self-censorship. It also transmits foreign and Russian licensed programs. The independent stations mostly broadcast to provincial areas. Even so, they practice self-censorship, only less than the State TV. Most independent stations have outmoded equipment and depend on the U.S. Internews, which helps them by providing equipment and training. Because most independent stations do not and cannot afford sophisticated editorial staff, the Internews collects news reports from most of these stations, develops them into a program, and then redistributes the news program to the stations ready for broadcast.

Although all independent stations are, by definition, financially independent, some of them, such as those in Samarkand and Andijan are well-funded and can afford plans for expansion and quality improvement. They have their own news programs at the local level and are not, to that extent, completely dependent on the Internews. Besides, they have their own talk shows, which they broadcast on their own FM radio stations as well.

The State TV has four channels, each with a different coverage, language of broadcast, and content. The Uzbek Channel 1 is the primary channel, and bears a resemblance to C-SPAN, with an emphasis on all government activities, speeches, and public events, with a pronounced political and economic bias. It broadcasts in Uzbek (except for news in Russian) and is the most censored of all State TV channels. The Uzbek Channel 2 is called "Yoshlar," or Youth Channel. It covers one-half of the geographical area of the country. Although the channel is supposed to compete with Channel 1, its coverage, apart from some emphasis on "entertainment of the youth" covers political events such as presidential and parliamentary elections, political events, and talk shows on political and economic issues. The channel uses both Uzbek and Russian in its broadcasts, It is, like Channel 1, subject to strict censorship. Channels 3 and 4 are entertainment-oriented with movies, and sports;Channel 3, also known as TTV because of its coverage focused on Tashkent, sometimes creates its own programs.

All four channels retransmit pirated western and Russian movies and other programs by downloading them off satellites and dubbing them into Uzbek and/or Russian. Copyright violations are routine in Uzbekistan despite the country's membership in the International Intellectual Property Organization.

Electronic News Media

There are several companies that provide paging, cellular phones, and cable TVall of them based in Tashkent: Kamalak-TV; Radio Page; Kamalak-paging; Orbitel Ltd. Scooner Trading Telecom, U-tel, and Uzdunrobita. In the decade following its independence from the former Soviet Union, Uzbekistan's telephone services have improved remarkably. So has the demand for telephones despite the increase in the tariff since the mid-1990s. The demand from rural areas has outpaced that from urban centers, with the overall increase in telephone connections totalling 250 per cent since 1991. While it is almost impossible to gauge the numbers of users of the Internet anywhere, the impact of the Internet is far greater than such numbers may indicate. According to Yash Lange, who regularly monitors the media in the CIS, the access to the Internet is so far "confined to the educated, successful or (often) young" limited by the "obsolete telecommunication infrastructure" that inhibits expansion. Thus, a survey conducted in January 1997 placed the number of hosts in Uzbekistan at 122, which compares most unfavorably with Russia: 50,000; Ukraine: 6,966; Kazakhistan: 807; Georgia: 210; and Armenia: 175.

There are several reasons for such a limited use of the Internet. Only a small minority can afford an IP connection that would enable them to surf the Web or have access to e-mail. It is also not possible to determine the exact number of users since the number of subscribers at the providers gives the number of connections, not the number of users, who pay a small fee to the subscribers for the facility. This is especially true of universities and research institutes where a single connection may be used by several faculty, researchers, and students. While the cost of a connection is prohibitive, even the hourly use charge can be very high, particularly to young people who do not have access to a common academic facility.

The impediments to Internet expansion include poor telecommunications infrastructure, the over-loaded, low-speed international channels which make the use of the Web complicated. This is so in Russia itself; it is many times worse in the CIS including, Uzbekistan. Another problem is the alphabet used by the receiver and the sender in transmitting the data if it is not in Roman script, which is used on the Internet. Moreover, the Internet is predominantly in English. "As data travels from one system," Lange notes, "the messages may change (parts of words disappear) because the server where the message travels through on its way to its final destination may not support the type of coding. When messages are sent from east to West it becomes much more pronounced." Yet, the greatest hurdle in the expansion and use of the Internet would be the will of the government and its desire to link its citizenry with the world, in seeing the inevitability and long-term benefits of such an interaction. Uzbekistan is, in this respect, way behind Russia and Ukraine; its newspapers are not yet on line.

Education & Training

Training in journalism and telecommunications is given at the Electro-technical and Communication Institute, 108 Amir Temur Street, Tashkent (Tel. 35-0934).


The contradiction in President Karimov's pronouncements on the freedom of the press and the reality of repression was most clearly manifested in the case of Shodi Mardiev, a Uzbek state-run radio reporter sentenced by a Samarkand court on June 11, 1998 to 11 years in prison. He was found guilty of slandering an official in a program satirizing the alleged corruption of the Samarkand deputy prosecutor and of attempting to extort money from him. According to the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), the prosecution and the sentence were "in reprisal" for Mardiev's generally critical stance toward government officials. In addition to writing to the Uzbekistan president, the CPJ drew attention to the plight of Mardiev and two other imprisoned journalists at hearings on human rights in Washington D.C. in April 2000 and July 2001. It was a matter of great relief and joy to the media community that Shodi Mardiev was released in January 2002, in terms of a presidential amnesty order of August 22, 2001, marking the 10th anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence from the former Soviet Union. The amnesty was extended to some 18,000 ordinary prisoners including about 700 religious and political detainees. Mardiev was eligible for early release on grounds that he was over 60 (he was 63 at the time of his release). A special circumstance that is advanced by the government as an excuse for "supervising" the media, is the need to contain the insurgency conducted by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Ironically, on June 27, 2001, declared "Press and Media Workers Day" in Uzbekistan, President Karimov warned the journalists that they would suffer serious consequences if they complained about restrictions even where the national security was involved. It is not just the issues related to Islam that provoke the government's ire. Even expressions of discontent over the government's economic performance are closely "monitored" by the government, and frequently editors of newspapers and magazines receive callsthey never writefrom the State Press Committee or from the President's office ordering changes. and the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute (New York) have brought to light instances of government's back-door censorship, although there is no official censorship. As Eurasianet comments: "The government appears unconcerned by the contradictions between existing legislation and its own actions to restrict media freedom." Such practices have not gone well with all journalists, some of whom have chosen to resist the government's tight grip over what appears in print. In April 2002, Tashpulat Takhmatullaev, publisher of the weekly independent newspaper, Samarkand, published an article, "Who loves his Motherland morethe one who praises it, or the one who criticizes it?" along with some blank space, which government officials had asked to be cut. The excised portions asked for abolition of censorship in the country. Similar pressures are applied to independent TV stations; those who offer "alternative point of view" are often punished. Thus, Shukhrat Babadjanov, director of the independent ALC-TV in Urgench, received orders closing down his station as many as four times since 1995. In April 2002, the government confiscated its frequency, completely disabling the operation of the TV station. Another extreme case was the death of Imin Usmanov, a well-known Uzbek writer and journalist, in the basement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on March 10, 2002. The local press was completely silent about the incident, which was widely rumored to have been a "punishment" for incendiary writing.

Significant Dates

  • 1990: Karimov becomes President of the Soviet Uzbek Republic.
  • 1991, June 14: The Basic Law for the Media approved.
  • 1991, September 1: Uzbekistan becomes an independent Republic.
  • 1991, December: Karimov becomes President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
  • 1992, December 8: Uzbekistan adopts a constitution.
  • 1995, December: Referendum held; Karimov's term as president extended by five years.
  • 1996, November 26: Parliament promises liberalization of the press.
  • 1997, February: Parliament approves law on access to information.
  • 1999: Radio Grande inaugurates its services
  • 2002, January 27: Referendum held; extends Karimov's term as president till December 2007.


Bey, Yana. "When a Free Press Might Aid Terrorists, Getting News in Uzbekistan," World Press Review Online (November 14, 2001).

Internews, Uzbekistan, "Radio Stations of Uzbekistan," available online at

Internews, Uzbekistan, "TV Stations of Uzbekistan," available online at )

Kangas, R. D. "New Media Law in Uzbekistan: Finally Turning the Corner?" OMRI Analytical Brief no. 556 (February 24, 1997).

Kabirov, Lutfulla. "Structural Reconstruction of Uzbek Press," Post-Soviet Media Law and Policy Newsletter nos. 4-49 (September 15, 1998). Kabirov is director of the Creative Center for Journalists, Likhom, in Tashkent.

Johnson, Eric, with Martha Olcott and Robert Horwitz. "The Media in Central Asia. An Analysis Conducted by Internews for USAID." April 1994.

Lange, Yasha. "Media In the CIS:Uzbekistan," (May 13, 1997) Available online at

Open Society Institute (New York), Central Eurasia Project. "Journalists Struggle to Cope with Censorship in Uzbekistan." (July 3, 2001). Available at

Republic of Uzbekistan. "Law on the Mass Media." (December 26, 1997) Available on

U.S. Department of State. Uzbekistan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997. (January 1998) Available online at

Damodar R. SarDesai

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Uzbekistan (ŏŏzbĕkĬstän´), Uzbek Ozbekiston, officially Republic of Uzbekistan, republic (2005 est. pop. 26,851,000), 173,552 sq mi (449,500 sq km), central Asia. The republic borders on Afghanistan in the south, on Turkmenistan in the southwest, on Kazakhstan in the west and north, and on Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the east. Tashkent, the capital, and Samarkand are the chief cities.

Land and People

The terrain of the republic encompasses two unequal sections: the larger northwest area, which is part of the Kyzyl Kum desert; and the smaller southeast area, which has fertile loess soil and touches on the Tian Shan mountain system. The Aral Sea lies on the northwest frontier. Central Asia's two major rivers—the Amu Darya and Syr Darya—pass through Uzbek territory. The Khiva oasis is irrigated by the Amu Darya, the fertile Fergana Valley by the Syr Darya and its tributaries, the Tashkent oasis by the Chirchik and Angren rivers, and the Samarkand and Bukhara oases by the Zeravshan. Uzbekistan has a dry continental climate. In the Fergana Valley, several small sections of Uzbekistan form enclaves in Kyrgyzstan, and there are a Kyrgyzstani and a Tajikistani enclave in Uzbekstan. The jumbled geography has led at times to border incidents.

The Uzbeks, a Turkic-speaking group who have a Persian culture and are mostly Sunni Muslims, make up 80% of the population. Russians (who live mostly in the cities) constitute more than 5%, and there are Tajik, Kazakh, Karakalpak, and Tatar minorities. About 10% of the population belong to the Orthodox Eastern church. Uzbek is spoken by about 75% of the people; other languages include Russian and Tajik.


Uzbekistan's rivers and many irrigation canals furnish water for the cotton crop, the country's main export; the annual cotton harvest is dependent on the used of forced labor. Large quantities of rice also come from Uzbekistan (notably from the Zeravshan valley). Other crops include cereals, fruits, vegetables, alfalfa, wine grapes, sesame, tobacco, and sugarcane. There is extensive use of irrigation for farming, but the diversion of water for irrigation from the tributaries of the Aral Sea is drying up the sea and reducing the flow of freshwater in the region. Livestock are raised in the more arid western areas; Uzbekistan also produces Karakul sheep pelts. Cotton, silk, and wool provide the basis for Uzbekistan's extensive textile industry. Traditional crafts such as silk dying and carpet weaving, discouraged under Soviet rule, have enjoyed a renaissance since independence.

Industrialization increased after the transfer during World War II of many industries from European Russia to the less vulnerable Uzbek region. Food processing, machine building, metallurgy, and the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, fertilizer, and building materials are leading industries. Uzbekistan has more than 20 hydroelectric power plants. The Trans-Caspian RR and the Great Uzbek Highway are the republic's main transportation routes.

Uzbekistan is rich in mineral resources. The Fergana Valley, an important cotton, silk, and wine region, is also the site of oil fields. Western Uzbekistan has large natural-gas deposits. Gold, coal, lead, zinc, copper, tungsten, molybdenum, fluorspar, and uranium are also found. Remittances from citizens working abroad, especially in Kazakhstan and Russia, are also important to the economy. Government corruption is a significant problem; it has resulted in losses for foreign firms investing in Uzbekistan.

Cotton, gold, natural gas, oil, fertilizers, metals, textiles, food products, machinery, and automobiles are the major exports. Imports include machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, and metals. The main trading partners are Russia, China, South Korea, Kazakhstan, and Turkey.


Uzbekistan is governed under the constitution of 1992 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected and may serve two terms. The president's term was extended from five to seven years by a 2002 constitutional amendment, then reduced to five years again by a 2011 amendment. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is nominated by the president. There is a bicameral legislature, the Supreme Assembly. Of the 100 members of the Senate, 84 are elected by regional councils and 16 are appointed by the president. Of the 150 members of Legislative Chamber, 135 are popularly elected; 15 seats are reserved for the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan. All legislators serve five-year terms. In practice, most opposition parties are banned, opposition figures are monitored and frequently jailed, and the president rules in an autocratic manner. Administratively, Uzbekistan is divided into 12 provinces or wiloyats, one autonomous republic (the Karakalpak Republic), and the capital city.


Early History

Uzbekistan was the site of one of the world's oldest civilized regions. The ancient Persian province of Sogdiana, it was conquered in the 4th cent. BC by Alexander the Great. Turkic nomads entered the area in the 6th cent. AD It passed in the 8th cent. to the Arabs, who introduced Islam, and in the 12th cent. to the Seljuk Turks of Khwarazm. Jenghiz Khan captured the region in the 13th cent., and in the 14th cent. Timur made his native Samarkand the center of his huge empire. The realm was much reduced under his successors, the Timurids, and began to disintegrate by the end of the 15th cent.

Throughout these turbulent times, the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Tashkent, situated on major trade routes to China, India, Persia, and Europe, were centers of prosperity, culture, and fabulous luxury. In the early 16th cent., the Uzbek, formerly called Sarts, invaded the region from the northwest. A remnant of the empire of the Golden Horde, they took their name from Uzbeg Khan (d. 1340), from whom their dynasty claimed descent. Later in the 16th cent., the Uzbek leader Abdullah extended his domain over parts of Persia, Afghanistan, and Chinese Turkistan; but the empire soon broke up into separate principalities, notably Khiva, Kokand, and Bukhara.

Modern History

Weakened by internecine warfare, these states were conquered by Russian forces, who took Tashkent in 1865, Samarkand and Bukhara in 1868, and Khiva in 1873. Kokand was annexed outright to the Russian empire, but Khiva and Bukhara remained under their native rulers as vassal states of Russia. Efforts by Uzbek leaders to establish a European-style democratic republic in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917 were unsuccessful.

In 1918 the Turkistan Autonomous SSR was organized on Uzbek territory, in 1920 the Khorezm and Bukhara People's Republics were established, and finally, in 1924, the Uzbek-populated areas were united in the Uzbek SSR. Tajikistan was part of the Uzbek SSR until 1929, when it became a separate republic. In 1936 the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous SSR was joined with Uzbekistan. In 1956 and 1963, the Mirzachul Steppe ( "Hungry Steppe" ) was transferred from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan. Some of the area was returned in 1971.

In June, 1990, the Uzbek parliament passed a resolution declaring the republic's sovereignty. Islam Karimov, who had been named Uzbekistan's Communist party chief in 1989 and given the new title of president earlier in 1990, initially did not oppose the abortive coup of Aug., 1991, in Moscow (see August Coup), but he denounced it when it failed. On Aug. 31, Uzbekistan was declared independent, and it joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in December. During the same month, Karimov was elected president by popular vote.

Karimov began a crackdown against political opponents, some of whom were jailed; at the same time, some free-market reforms were undertaken. Karimov also established controls on devout Muslims, which grew increasing harsh and indiscriminate during the late 1990s, when such Muslims were among the few remaining critics of his rule. In 1995, in a referendum in which voters' preferences could be observed by election officials, Karimov won an overwhelming endorsement to remain in office until the year 2000.

Several people were killed by car bombs outside government offices in Tashkent in Feb., 1999, in an apparent attempt on the president's life; a number of radical Islamists were held in connection with the bombings. In Jan., 2000, Karimov was reelected to the presidency, again by a lopsided majority. In August there were clashes with Uzbek Islamic guerrillas who had crossed into Uzbekistan from bases in Tajikistan. The following year, Uzbekistan allowed U.S. forces to use bases there in its campaign against Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's Taliban; the U.S. campaign there also weakened Uzbek Islamic guerrillas supported by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In 2002, after a referendum that was criticized by Western nations, Karimov's term was extended to Dec., 2007.

In Mar., 2004, there was an outbreak of terrorist violence in Tashkent and Bukhara in which several dozen people died, and in July there were suicide attacks in Tashkent. Islamic groups were blamed for the attacks, but international rights groups said that Karimov's rigid authoritarian regime created a climate that fostered Islamic militancy and antigovernment attacks. In November there protests in several cities against new regulations on traders in the bazaars; the most serious one, in Kokand, involved attacks on police and other officials. Despite Uzbekistan's strategic alliance with the United States, the country failed to win U.S. certification for aid in 2004. At the same time, however, relations with Russia, which had been strained, improved. The Dec., 2004, parliamentary elections were contested only by candidates from parties that supported the president.

In May, 2005, protest in Andijan against the arrest and trial of local businessmen turned into an antigovernment uprising when the local prison and a regional administration building were seized. The uprising, which spread to other areas of E Uzbekistan was brutally suppressed by government forces, who claimed that less than 200 terrorists had been killed. Other sources, however, estimated that more than 700 men, women, and children had died when security forces shot indiscriminantly at protesters. Subsequently, the government engaged in a widespread, ongoing crackdown designed to suppress dissent generally and limit access to information about the uprising and its aftermath. The events strained relations with the United States and European Union nations in the following months. Meanwhile, in July, 2005, Uzbekistan terminated the agreement that allowed U.S. forces to be based in the country, and U.S. forces were withdrawn by the end of 2005.

In Dec., 2007, Karimov was again reelected; the vote was criticized as undemocratic and being of questionable constitutionality. Since 2009 Uzbekistan has restricted the flow of goods, electricity, and natural gas into or out of neighboring Tajikistan in response to Tajikistan's construction of a hydroelectric dam that could reduce the flow of water needed for irrigation in Uzbekistan. Elections for the Legislative Chamber, held in Dec., 2009, and Jan., 2010, were again open only to candidates of parties aligned with Karimov; elections for the legislature in Dec., 2014, and Jan., 2015, were again monopolized by the pro-Karimov parties. In Mar., 2015, Karimov was reelected president in an election in which no opposition candidate ran.


See S. Akinev, Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union (1986); E. A. Allworth, The Modern Uzbeks (1990).

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Uzbekistan and Uzbeks


The Uzbeks are a people who settled in the oases regions of Central Asia more than five hundred years ago. Early references to Uzbeks suggest that they were nomadic peoples who lived in the steppes of what is today Kazakhstan and southern Siberia, although there is conflicting evidence as to their origin. Gradually moving southward, they became a political force in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and were associated with the region between the great rivers of the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. During the early twenty-first century, ethnic Uzbeks can be found in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, as well as smaller communities in Turkey and China. The majority of Uzbeks live in the country of Uzbekistan, which is located among the states noted above in the region between the Aral Sea to the west and the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains to the east. Uzbekistan has an area of 447,400 square kilometers (172,700 square miles) and a population estimated at 25,563,441 people. Approximately 20,450,000 of these citizens are ethnic Uzbeks (80%). Significant minorities in Uzbekistan include Russians (5.5%), Tajiks (5.0%), Kazakhs (3.0%), Karakalpaks (2.5%), and Tatars (1.5%). The capital city of Uzbekistan is Tashkent, which has an estimated population of 2.6 million, although unofficial counts place the number at nearly 3.5 million people. Other significant cities include Samarkand, Bukhara, Andijon, Namangan, and Fergana.

The majority of Uzbeks are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi School. Given that several key cities of Uzbekistan, specifically Bukhara and Samarkand, were centers of learning in the Islamic world for centuries, the traditions of that faith are strong in the country. Even during the Soviet period, when there were stringent restrictions on Islamic practices, the religion was practiced in the country.

Other religions coexist in Uzbekistan and reflect the ethnic minorities, such as the Russians.

Linguistically, Uzbek is a Turkic language and, to varying degrees, is mutually intelligible with the other Turkic languages in the region such as Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Karakalpak, and Turkmen. Originally Uzbek was written in the Arabic script. During the Soviet period, this was switched to the Latin script in the 1920s and later to the Cyrillic script in 1940. In the post-Soviet period, the Uzbek government decided to return to a Latin script, using Turkish orthography.

There are significant discussions as to the origins of the Uzbeks and when they arrived in the region they occupy today. Indeed, it is accepted that Tamerlane (Timur the Lame) was an Uzbek and the first Uzbek unifier of Central Asia. Interestingly, the Timurid dynasty under Babur (Tamerlane's grandson) was defeated by Shaybani Khan, an Uzbek leader, at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Many international historians consider this event to be the true introduction of Uzbeks to the region and the first Uzbek state in Central Asia. For the next four centuries, three main Uzbek states developed in Central Asiathe Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanates of Khiva and Kokand. Identity at this time focused on which city one belonged to, or more importantly, to one's faithIslam. At the time, these states were not really identified with the ethnic group of Uzbeks, which was seen as a population more divided by and distinguished among tribal sub-groupings. Up through the twentieth century, these states more often used Persian as the court languages, while Uzbek was used among the common people.

During the 1850s and 1860s the Russian empire began to aggressively seek control over the various regions of Central Asia. This has often been couched in terms of the Great Game with the British Empire, which was a contest for dominance in the region. In 1865 Russian military forces systematically took over cities in the Kokand Khanate and Bukharan Emirate, beginning with the sacking of Tashkent in that year. By 1876 the Khanate of Kokand was dissolved and incorporated into the Governor-Generalship of Turkestan. The Khanate of Khiva in the west and the Bukharan Emirate were reduced to the status of protectorates. During the next forty years, this region was part of the Russian empire. In general, the Russian over-lords sought to obtain taxes and raw materials from the region and left the indigenous populations to their own social and cultural traditions.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War resulted in radical changes for Central Asia. Eventually, the region was consolidated under Bolshevik rule and new political structures were created. The first entity called Uzbekistan appeared in 1924 with the National Delimitation in the Soviet Union. The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic actually included the Tajik Autonomous Republic. This easternmost portion was granted full Union Republic status in 1929. With modest border adjustments over the ensuing decades, the Uzbek S.S.R. was considered to be the homeland for the Uzbeks living in the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Uzbek S.S.R. declared its independence and has henceforth been called the Republic of Uzbekistan.

For much of the Soviet period, Uzbekistan was the primary cotton-producing region of the Soviet Union, with annual quotas exceeding four and five million metric tons by the 1980s. In addition, Uzbekistan was a major supplier of gold, strategic minerals, gas, and agricultural products. In the post-Soviet period, these commodities remain the foundation for Uzbekistan's economy. Uzbekistan is one of the few states of the former Soviet Union that did not experience a radical drop in production and income during the 1990s, largely because of its reliance on exporting these goods. However, the country's economy has not rebounded quickly because of difficulties in the currency market and the obstacles faced by foreign investors. Moreover, the steady increase in population has resulted in a growing labor force that continues to experience a high unemployment rate.

Politically, there was also continuity at the time of independence. In 1991 the president of the Uzbek S.S.R., Islam Karimov, was elected President of Uzbekistan. In 1999 and 2000 the militant Islamic Movement for Uzbekistan (IMU) unsuccessfully attempted to destabilize the country. The government since considers Islamic extremism to be a major security concern for the country, whether it is in the guise of the IMU or the broader, internationally based group Hezb-ut Tahrir.

Throughout the 1990s and the early twenty-first century, Uzbekistan has tried to assert itself as a leading state in Central Asia. Of great importance was the desire to reduce the influence of Russia and remove the notion of an elder brother in the region. Consequently, Uzbekistan has diplomatic and economic ties with a number of important powers, such as China, India, the United States, the European Union, Turkey, and Iran. Since the events of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent U.S. led actions in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan has been more active in NATO Partnership for Peace programs and bilateral security relations with the United States. Ultimately, Uzbekistan would prefer to see a greater emphasis on a Central Asian regional security arrangement, with itself as the key member.

See also: central asia; islam; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist


Allworth, Edward. (1990). The Modern Uzbeks: From The Fourteenth Century To The Present: A Cultural History. Stanford, CA: Hoover University Press.

Babushkin, L. N., ed. (1973). Soviet Uzbekistan. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Bohr, Annette. (1998). Uzbekistan: Politics and Foreign Policy. London: RIIA.

Gleason, Gregory. (1997). The Central Asian States: Discovering Independence. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Kangas, Roger. (2002). Uzbekistan in the Twentieth Century: Political Development and the Evolution of Power. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Karimov, Islam. (1997). Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Levitin, Leonid, with Carlisle, Donald S. (1995). Islam Karimov: President of the New Uzbekistan. Vienna: Agrotec.

MacLeod, Calum, and Mayhew, Bradley. (1999). Uzbekistan: The Golden Road to Samarkand. London: Odyssey.

Melvin, Neil. (2000). Uzbekistan: Transition to Authoritarianism on the Silk Road. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Roger Kangas

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Official name: Republic of Uzbekistan

Area: 447,400 square kilometers (172,741 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Adelunga Toghi (4,301 meters/14,111 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sariqarnish Kuli (12 meters/39 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 5 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries: 6,221 kilometers (3,866 miles) total boundary length; Afghanistan 137 kilometers (85 miles); Kazakhstan 2,203 k'ilometers (1,369 miles); Kyrgyzstan 1,099 kilometers (683 miles); Tajikistan 1,161 kilometers (721 miles); Turkmenistan 1,621 kilometers (1,007 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, located north of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, west of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and south and east of Kazakhstan. With an area of 447,400 square kilometers (172,741 square miles), it is somewhat larger than the state of California. Nearly 40 percent of western Uzbekistan is known as the Qoraqalpogh Autonomous Republic (known also as Qoraqalpoghistan or Karakalpakstan).


Uzbekistan has no territories or dependencies.


Uzbekistan is a hot, dry country with long summers and mild winters. It has a continental climate, with definite seasonal variations as well as significant differences in weather during the day and at night. July (summer) high temperatures are generally between 26°C and 32°C (79°F and 90°F) but can soar much higher. January highs are usually between -6°C to 2°C (21°F to 36°F). Most precipitation falls during March and April; droughts commonly occur during Uzbekistan's long, hot summers. Although snow falls regularly in the winter months, it seldom accumulates and soon melts. Overall, precipitation is light, with only the best-watered areas receiving more than 30 centimeters (12 inches) of rain or snow annually.


Uzbekistan's varied terrain includes high mountains and semiarid grasslands in the east, and lowlands and a predominantly flat plateau region in the west. In the center lies the vast Kyzyl Kum, one of the world's largest deserts.


Uzbekistan is landlocked, with no ocean coasts or islands. It does surround the southern half of the Aral Sea, with 420 kilometers (260 miles) of shoreline. Despite its name, however, the Aral Sea is technically a land-locked saltwater lake, not a sea.


The southern half of the Aral Sea is located in northwestern Uzbekistan, with the rest in Kazakhstan. The lake's salty water and large size have led to its being called a sea, but because it lacks an outlet to the ocean, it is technically a lake. Lake Aydarkul in eastern Uzbekistan is the largest freshwater lake in the country. Lake Sarygamysh extends into the country from Turkmenistan in the southwest.


The depletion of the Aral Sea is considered one of the worst ecological disasters in the world. As recently as the 1960s, it was the world's fourth-largest lake. Since then, massive irrigation withdrawals have reduced the lake to only half its former size.


There are three significant rivers in Uzbeki-stan: the Amu Dar'ya, the Syr Dar'ya, and the Zeravshan. All of these rivers originate in the high mountains east of Uzbekistan. The Amu Dar'ya, the largest of the three, flows west along the southern border with Afghanistan, then curves northwest into Turkmenistan. Further north it becomes the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Near the city of Nukus it turns north and spreads out into a delta. The Syr Dar'ya enters the country from Kyrgyzstan in the northeast and flows west through the fertile Fergana Valley. It cuts across the spur of northern Tajikistan, then turns north back through Uzbekistan and into Kazakhstan. The Zeravshan enters the country from the mountains of Tajikistan to the east, then arcs across southeast Uzbekistan.


The Kyzyl Kum desert (named for the red sand that covers most of it) occupies an immense area of some 298,000 square kilometers (115,000 square miles), making it the largest desert in Central Asia. It extends southeast of the Aral Sea, between the valleys of the Amu Dar'ya and Syr Dar'ya, and the bulk of it is located in Uzbekistan. It is an extremely arid and inhospitable area. Another desert, the Mirzachol, lies southwest of the capital, Tashkent, in northeastern Uzbekistan.


The western two-thirds of Uzbekistan consists predominantly of flat steppe and desert terrain, with mountains and the fertile Fergana Valley in the east.


In the east and northeast, Uzbekistan is predominantly mountainous. In the northeast, the Tian Shan extends into the country from the east. Further south, on the far side of the Fergana Valley, are the Alai Mountains, which belong to the Pamirs. Both ranges are tall, reaching up to 4,301 meters (14,111 feet) at Adelunga Toghi, and rising even higher further to the east in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.


With a depth of 1,415 meters (4,643 feet), the Boj-Bulok cave is one of the deepest in the world.


West and south of the Aral Sea is the Ustyurt (Ust' Urt) Plateau, a well-defined upland broken up by occasional small mountain ridges. It extends west from the shores of the Aral Sea to the Caspian Sea coastline in Kazakhstan. Its area is roughly 200,000 square kilometers (77,220 square miles).


Uzbekistan has extensive canal systems, most of which were built when the country was part of the former Soviet Union. The Amu-Bukhara canal is the most notable of these.



Ferdinand, Peter, ed. The New States of Central Asia and Their Neighbors. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994.

MacLeod, Calum. Uzbekistan: The Golden Road to Samarkind. New York: Odyssey Publications, 1999.

Malcomson, Scott L. Borderlands: Nation and Empire. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1994.

Web Sites

Advantour: Uzbekistan. (accessed April 17, 2003).

Lonely Planet: Destination Uzbekistan. (accessed April 17, 2003).

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447,400sq km (172,740sq mi)




Tashkent (2,117,500)

ethnic groups:

Uzbek 71%, sian 8%, Tajik 5%, Kazak 4%, Tatar 2%, Kara-Kalpak 2%, Crimean Tatar, Korean, Kyrgyz, Ukrainian, Turkmen


Uzbek (official)





Republic in central Asia; the capital is Tashkent.

Land and climate

The republic comprises plains in the w and highlands in the e. The main rivers, Amu Darya and Syr Darya, drain into the Aral Sea. So much water was diverted from these rivers to irrigate farmland that the Aral Sea shrank from 66,900sq km (25,830sq mi) in 1960 to 33,642sq km (12,989sq mi) in 1993. The dried-up lake area has become desert, like much of the rest of the country. Uzbekistan has a continental climate, with cold winters and hot summers. The w is extremely arid, with an average annual rainfall of c.200mm (8in), but parts of the highlands in the e have three times as much rain. Grassy steppe occurs in wetter areas, with forests on the mountain slopes.

History and politics

Turkic people first settled in the area c.1500 years ago. Islam was introduced in the 7th century ad. Mongols invaded in the 13th century, and in the late 14th century Tamerlane ruled a great empire from Samarkand. Turkic Uzbek people conquered the region in the 16th century, and gradually the area divided into states (khanates). Russia controlled the area in the 19th century. Following the Russian Revolution (1917), the communists took over, establishing the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924. Under communism, all aspects of Uzbek life were regulated; religious worship was discouraged, but education, health, housing, and transport services improved. The communists also increased cotton production, but caused great environmental damage in the process. In the 1980s, when the Soviet Union introduced reforms, the Uzbeks demanded greater freedoms. In 1990, the Uzbek government unilaterally declared itself sovereign. In 1991, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan became independent. Uzbekistan retained links with Russia through membership of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Islam Karimov, leader of the People's Democratic Party (formerly the Communist Party), became president at elections in December 1991. In 1992–93, many opposition leaders were arrested. In order to avoid internal disruption, Karimov asserted that economic reforms would be slow. Elections in 1994–95 saw a sweeping victory for the People's Democratic Party. A 1995 referendum extended President Karimov's term in office until 2000, when he was re-elected. Uzbekistan stands accused of widespread human rights' violations. In 2001, Uzbekistan allowed the US to use its airbases in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.


It is a lower-middle income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$2400). The government controls most economic activity. Uzbekistan produces coal, copper, gold, oil and natural gas, while manufactures include agricultural machinery, chemicals and textiles. Agriculture is important, with cotton the main crop. Other crops include fruits, rice, and vegetables; cattle, sheep, and goats are raised. Uzbekistan's exports include cotton, gold, textiles, chemicals, and fertilizers.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name


Alternative Names

Uzbeq, Ozbek


Identification. Uzbeks likely take their name from a khan. A leader of the Golden Horde in the fourteenth century was named Uzbek, though he did not rule over the people who would share his name.

Modern Uzbeks hail not only from the Turkic-Mongol nomads who first claimed the name, but also from other Turkic and Persian peoples living inside the country's borders. The Soviets, in an effort to divide the Turkic people into more easily governable subdivisions, labeled Turks, Tajiks, Sarts, Qipchaqs, Khojas, and others as Uzbek, doubling the size of the ethnicity to four million in 1924.

Today the government is strengthening the Uzbek group identity, to prevent the splintering seen in other multiethnic states. Some people have assimilated with seemingly little concern. Many Tajiks consider themselves Uzbek, though they retain the Tajik language; this may be because they have long shared an urban lifestyle, which was more of a bond than ethnic labels. Others have been more resistant to Uzbekization. Many Qipchaqs eschew intermarriage, live a nomadic lifestyle, and identify more closely with the Kyrgyz who live across the border from them. The Khojas also avoid intermarriage, and despite speaking several languages, have retained a sense of unity.

The Karakalpaks, who live in the desert south of the Aral Sea, have a separate language and tradition more akin to Kazakh than Uzbek. Under the Soviet Union, theirs was a separate republic, and it remains autonomous.

Location and Geography. Uzbekistan's 174,330 square miles (451,515 square kilometers), an area slightly larger than California, begin in the Karakum (Black Sand) and Kyzlkum (Red Sand) deserts of Karakalpakistan. The arid land of this autonomous republic supports a nomadic lifestyle. Recently, the drying up of the Aral Sea has devastated the environment, causing more than 30 percent of the area's population to leave, from villages in the early 1980s and then from cities. This will continue; the area was hit by a devastating drought in the summer of 2000.

Population increases to the east, centered around fertile oases and the valleys of the Amu-Darya River, once known as the Oxus, and the Zeravshan River, which supports the ancient city-states of Bokhara and Samarkand. The Ferghana Valley in the east is the heart of Islam in Uzbekistan. Here, where the country is squeezed between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the mountainous terrain supports a continuing nomadic lifestyle, and in recent years has provided a venue for fundamentalist guerrillas. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan also border the country. In 1867 the Russian colonial government moved the capital from Bokhara to Tashkent. With 2.1 million people, it is the largest city in Central Asia.

Demography. The current population of Uzbekistan is 24.8 million. Seventy-five to 80 percent are Uzbek, though many of these were originally from other ethnic groups. Russians and Tajiks are each 5 percent, Karakalpaks 2 percent, and other nationalities the remainder. From 1989 to 1996, five hundred thousand more people emigrated than immigrated; most of the emigrants were educated. Of the more than one million people who have left, essentially all were non-Uzbek. Cities like Andijan and Ferghana, whose populations had been only half Uzbek, are now virtually entirely Uzbek. In 1990, 600,000 Germans lived in Uzbekistan; 95 percent have left. In 1990, 260,000 Jews lived in Uzbekistan; 80 percent have left.

Linguistic Affiliation. Uzbek is the language of about twenty million Uzbeks living in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The language is Turkic and abounds with dialects, including Qarlug (which served as the literary language for much of Uzbek history), Kipchak, Lokhay, Oghuz, Qurama, and Sart, some of which come from other languages. Uzbek emerged as a distinct language in the fifteenth century. It is so close to modern Uyghur that speakers of each language can converse easily. Prior to Russian colonization it would often have been hard to say where one Turkic language started and another ended. But through prescribed borders, shifts in dialect coalesced into distinct languages. The Soviets replaced its Arabic script briefly with a Roman script and then with Cyrillic. Since independence there has been a shift back to Roman script, as well as a push to eliminate words borrowed from Russian.

About 14 percent of the populationmostly non-Uzbekspeak Russian as their first language; 5 percent speak Tajik. Most Russians do not speak Uzbek. Under the Soviet Union, Russian was taught as the Soviet lingua franca, but Uzbek was supported as the indigenous language of the republic, ironically resulting in the deterioration of other native languages and dialects. Today many people still speak Russian, but the government is heavily promoting Uzbek.

Symbolism. Symbols of Uzbekistan's independence and past glories are most common. The flag and national colorsgreen for nature, white for peace, red for life, and blue for wateradorn murals and walls. The twelve stars on the flag symbolize the twelve regions of the country. The crescent moon, a symbol of Islam, is common, though its appearance on the national flag is meant not as a religious symbol but as a metaphor for rebirth. The mythical bird Semurg on the state seal also symbolizes a national renaissance. Cotton, the country's main source of wealth, is displayed on items from the state seal to murals to teacups. The architectures of Samara and Bukhara also symbolize past achievements.

Amir Timur, who conquered a vast area of Asia from his seat in Samarkand in the fourteenth century, has become a major symbol of Uzbek pride and potential and of the firm but just and wise rulera useful image for the present government, which made 1996 the Year of Amir Timur. Timur lived more than a century before the Uzbeks reached Uzbekistan.

Independence Day, 1 September, is heavily promoted by the government, as is Navruz, 21 March, which highlights the country's folk culture.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The Uzbeks coalesced by the fourteenth century in southern Siberia, starting as a loose coalition of Turkic-Mongol nomad tribes who converted to Islam. In the first half of the fifteenth century Abu al-Khayr Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan, led them south, first to the steppe and semidesert north of the Syr-Daria River. At this time a large segment of Uzbeks split off and headed east to become the Kazakhs. In 1468 Abu'l Khayr was killed by a competing faction, but by 1500 the Uzbeks had regrouped under Muhammad Shaybani Khan, and invaded the fertile land of modern Uzbekistan. They expelled Amir Timur's heirs from Samarkand and Herat and took over the city-states of Khiva, Khojand, and Bokhara, which would become the Uzbek capital. Settling down, the Uzbeks traded their nomadism for urban living and agriculture.

The first century of Uzbek rule saw a flourishing of learning and the arts, but the dynasty then slid into decline, helped by the end of the Silk Route trade. In 1749 invaders from Iran defeated Bokhara and Khiva, breaking up the Uzbek Empire and replacing any group identity with the division between Sarts, or city dwellers, and nomads. What followed was the Uzbek emirate of Bokhara and Samarkand, and the khanates of Khiva and Kokand, who ruled until the Russian takeover.

Russia became interested in Central Asia in the eighteenth century, concerned that the British might break through from colonial India to press its southern flank. Following more than a century of indecisive action, Russia in 1868 invaded Bokhara, then brutally subjugated Khiva in 1873. Both were made Russian protectorates. In 1876, Khokand was annexed. All were subsumed into the Russian province of Turkistan, which soon saw the arrival of Russian settlers.

The 1910s produced the Jadid reform movement, which, though short-lived, sought to establish a community beholden neither to Islamic dogma nor to Russian colonists, marking the first glimmer of national identity in many years. With the Russian Revolution in 1917 grew hopes of independence, but by 1921 the Bolsheviks had reasserted control. In 1924 Soviet planners drew the borders for the soviet socialist republics of Uzbekistan and Karakalpakistan, based around the dominant ethnic groups. In 1929 Tajikstan was split off from the south of Uzbekistan, causing lasting tension between the two; many Uzbeks regard Tajiks as Persianized Uzbeks, while Tajikstan resented Uzbekistan's retention of the Tajik cities of Bokhara and Samarkand. Karakalpakistan was transferred to the Uzbekistan SSR in 1936, as an autonomous region. Over the ensuing decades, Soviet leaders solidified loose alliances and other nationalities into what would become Uzbek culture.

In August 1991 Uzbek Communists supported the reactionary coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. After the coup failed, Uzbekistan declared its independence on 1 September. Though shifting away from communism, President Islom Kharimov, who had been the Communist Party's first secretary in Uzbekistan, has maintained absolute control over the independent state. He has continued to define a single Uzbek culture, while obscuring its Soviet creation.

National Identity. The Soviet government, and to a lesser extent the Russian colonial government that preceded it, folded several less prominent nationalities into the Uzbeks. The government then institutionalized a national Uzbek culture based on trappings such as language, art, dress, and food, while imbuing them with meanings more closely aligned with Communist ideology. Islam was removed from its central place, veiling of women was banned, and major and minor regional and ethnic differences were smoothed over in favor of an ideologically acceptable uniformity.

Since 1991 the government has kept the Soviet definition of their nationhood, simply because prior to this there was no sense or definition of a single Uzbek nation. But it is literally excising the Soviet formation of the culture from its history books; one university history test had just 1 question of 850 dealing with the years 1924 to 1991.

Ethnic Relations. The Soviet-defined borders left Uzbeks, Kyrgiz, Tajiks, and others on both sides of Uzbekistan. Since independence, tightening border controls and competition for jobs and resources have caused difficulties for some of these communities, despite warm relations among the states of the region.

In June 1989, rioting in the Ferghana Valley killed thousands of Meskhetian Turks, who had been deported there in 1944. Across the border in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, the Uzbek majority rioted in 1990 over denial of land.

There is official support of minority groups such as Russians, Koreans, and Tatars. These groups have cultural centers, and in 1998 a law that was to have made Uzbek the only language of official communication was relaxed. Nevertheless, non-Uzbek-speakers have complained that they face difficulties finding jobs and entering a university. As a result of this and of poor economic conditions, many Russians and others have left Uzbekistan.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

In ancient times the cities of Samarkand and Bokhara were regarded as jewels of Islamic architecture, thriving under Amir Timur and his descendants the Timurids. They remain major tourist attractions.

During the Soviet period, cities became filled with concrete-slab apartment blocks of four to nine stories, similar to those found across the USSR. In villages and suburbs, residents were able to live in more traditional one-story houses built around a courtyard. These houses, regardless of whether they belong to rich or poor, present a drab exterior, with the family's wealth and taste displayed only for guests. Khivan houses have a second-story room for entertaining guests. Since independence, separate houses have become much more popular, supporting something of a building boom in suburbs of major cities. One estimate puts two-thirds of the population now living in detached houses.

The main room of the house is centered around the dusterhon, or tablecloth, whether it is spread on the floor or on a table. Although there are not separate areas for women and children, women tend to gather in the kitchen when male guests are present.

Each town has a large square, where festivals and public events are held.

Parks are used for promenading; if a boy and a girl are dating, they are referred to as walking together. Benches are in clusters, to allow neighbors to chat.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Bread holds a special place in Uzbek culture. At mealtime, bread will be spread to cover the entire dusterhon. Traditional Uzbek bread, tandir non, is flat and round. It is always torn by hand, never placed upside down, and never thrown out.

Meals begin with small dishes of nuts and raisins, progressing through soups, salads, and meat dishes and ending with palov, a rice-and-meat dish synonymous with Uzbek cuisine throughout the former Soviet Union; it is the only dish often cooked by men. Other common dishes, though not strictly Uzbek, include monti, steamed dumplings of lamb meat and fat, onions, and pumpkin, and kabob, grilled ground meat. Uzbeks favor mutton; even the nonreligious eschew pig meat.

Because of their climate, Uzbeks enjoy many types of fruits, eaten fresh in summer and dried in winter, and vegetables. Dairy products such as katyk, a liquid yogurt, and suzma, similar to cottage cheese, are eaten plain or used as ingredients.

Tea, usually green, is drunk throughout the day, accompanied by snacks, and is always offered to guests.

Meals are usually served either on the floor, or on a low table, though high tables also are used. The table is always covered by a dusterhon. Guests sit on carpets, padded quilts, chairs, or beds, but never on pillows. Men usually sit cross-legged, women with their legs to one side. The most respected guests sit away from the entrance. Objects such as shopping bags, which are considered unclean, never should be placed on the dusterhon, nor should anyone ever step on or pass dirty items over it.

The choyhona, or teahouse, is the focal point of the neighborhood's men. It is always shaded, and if possible located near a stream.

The Soviets introduced restaurants where meals center around alcohol and can last through the night.

The Karakalpaks' national dish is besbarmak, boiled mutton, beef, or horse served over a plate of broad noodles and accompanied by the reduced broth. Russians have brought many of their foods, such as pelmeni, boiled meat dumplings, borscht, cabbage and meat soup, and a variety of fried or baked savory pastries.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Uzbeks celebrate whenever possible, and parties usually consist of a large meal ending with palov. The food is accompanied by copious amounts of vodka, cognac, wine, and beer. Elaborate toasts, given by guests in order of their status, precede each round of shots. After, glasses are diligently refilled by a man assigned the task. A special soup of milk and seven grains is eaten on Navruz. During the month of Ramadan, observant Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset.

Basic Economy. The majority of goods other than food come from China, Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia. It is very common for families in detached homes to have gardens in which they grow food or raise a few animals for themselves, and if possible, for sale. Even families living in apartments will try to grow food on nearby plots of land, or at dachas.

Land Tenure and Property. Beginning in 1992, Uzbekistanis have been able to buy their apartments or houses, which had been state property, for the equivalent of three months' salary. Thus most homes have become private property.

Agricultural land had been mainly owned by state or collective farms during the Soviet period. In many cases the same families or communities that farmed the land have assumed ownership, though they are still subject to government quotas and government guidelines, usually aimed at cotton-growing.

About two-thirds of small businesses and services are in private hands. Many that had been state-owned were auctioned off. While the former nomenklatura (government and Communist Party officials) often won the bidding, many businesses also have been bought by entrepreneurs. Large factories, however, largely remain state-owned.

Major Industries. Uzbekistan's industry is closely tied to its natural resources. Cotton, the white gold of Central Asia, forms the backbone of the economy, with 85 percent exported in exchange for convertible currency. Agricultural machinery, especially for cotton, is produced in the Tashkent region. Oil refineries produce about 173,000 barrels a day.

The Korean car maker Daewoo invested $650 million in a joint venture, UzDaewoo, at a plant in Andijan, which has a capacity of 200,000 cars. However, in 1999 the plant produced just 58,000 cars, and it produced far less in 2000, chiefly for the domestic market. With Daewoo's bankruptcy in November 2000, the future of the plant is uncertain at best.

Trade. Uzbekistan's main trading partners are Russia, South Korea, Germany, the United States, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. Before independence, imports were mainly equipment, consumer goods, and foods. Since independence, Uzbekistan has managed to stop imports of oil from Kazakhstan and has also lowered food imports by reseeding some cotton fields with grain.

Uzbekistan is the world's third-largest cotton exporter.

Uzbekistan exported about $3 billion (U.S.), primarily in cotton, gold, textiles, metals, oil, and natural gas, in 1999. Its main markets are Russia, Switzerland, Britain, Belgium, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

Division of Labor. According to government statistics, 44 percent of workers are in agriculture and forestry; 20 percent in industry; 36 percent in the service sector. Five percent unemployed, and 10 percent are underemployed. Many rural jobless, however, may be considered agricultural workers.

A particular feature of the Uzbekistan labor system is the requirement of school and university students, soldiers, and workers to help in the cotton harvest. They go en masse to the fields for several days to hand-pick cotton.

Many Uzbeks, particularly men, work in other parts of the former Soviet Union. Bazaars from Kazakhstan to Russia are full of Uzbek vendors, who command higher prices for their produce the farther north they travel. Others work in construction or other seasonal labor to send hard currency home.

About 2 percent of the workforce is of pension age and 1 percent is under sixteen.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. During the Soviet Union, Uzbekistani society was stratified not by wealth but by access to products, housing, and services. The nomenklatura could find high-quality consumer goods, cars, and homes that simply were unattainable by others. Since independence, many of these people have kept jobs that put them in positions to earn many times the $1,020 (U.S.) average annual salary reported by the United Nations. It is impossible to quantify the number of wealthy, however, as the vast majority of their income is unreported, particularly if they are government officials.

Many members of the former Soviet intelligentsiateachers, artists, doctors, and other skilled service providershave been forced to move into relatively unskilled jobs, such as bazaar vendors and construction workers, where they could earn more money. Urban residents tend to earn twice the salaries of rural people.

Symbols of Social Stratification. As elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, the new rich tend to buy and show off expensive cars and limousines, apartments, and clothes and to go to nightclubs. Foreign foods and goods also are signs of wealth, as is a disdain for shopping in bazaars.

Political Life

Government. Uzbekistan is in name republican but in practice authoritarian, with Kharimov's Halq Tarakiati Partiiasi, or People's Democratic Party, controlling all aspects of governance. On 9 January 2000 he was reelected for a five-year term, with a 92 percent turnout and a 92 percent yes vote. Earlier, a March 1995 referendum to extend his term to 2000 resulted in a 99 percent turnout and a 99 percent yes vote. The legislature, Oliy Majlis, was inaugurated in 1994. At that time the ruling party captured 193 seats, though many of these candidates ran as independents. The opposition political movement Birlik, or Unity, and the party Erk, or Will, lack the freedom to directly challenge the government.

Makhallas, or neighborhood councils of elders, provide the most direct governance. Some opinion polls have ranked makhallas just after the president in terms of political power. Makhallahs address social needs ranging from taking care of orphans, loaning items, and maintaining orderly public spaces, to sponsoring holiday celebrations. In Soviet times these were institutionalized, with makhalla heads and committees appointed by the local Communist Party. Then and now, however, makhallas have operated less smoothly in neighborhoods of mixed ethnicities.

Leadership and Political Officials. The president appoints the head, or khokim, of each of Uzbekistan's 12 regions, called viloyatlars, and of Karakalpakistan and Tashkent, who in turn appoint the khokims of the 216 regional and city governments. This top-down approach ensures a unity of government policies and leads to a diminishing sense of empowerment the farther one is removed from Kharimov.

Khokims and other officials were chiefly drawn from the Communist Party following independencemany simply kept their jobsand many remain. Nevertheless, Kharimov has challenged local leaders to take more initiative, and in 1997 he replaced half of them, usually with public administration and financial experts, many of whom are reform-minded.

Corruption is institutionalized at all levels of government, despite occasional prosecution of officials. Students, for example, can expect to pay bribes to enter a university, receive high grades, or be exempted from the cotton harvest.

Social Problems and Control. The government has vigorously enforced laws related to drug trafficking and terrorism, and reports of police abuse and torture are widespread. The constitution calls for independent judges and open access to proceedings and justice. In practice, defendants are seldom acquitted, and when they are, the government has the right to appeal.

Petty crime such as theft is becoming more common; violent crime is much rarer. Anecdotal evidence points to an increase in heroin use; Uzbekistan is a transshipment point from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe, and access is relatively easy despite tough antidrug laws.

People are often reluctant to call the police, as they are not trusted. Instead, it is the responsibility of families to see that their members act appropriately. Local communities also exert pressure to conform.

Military Activity. Uzbekistan's military in 2000 was skirmishing with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group opposed to the secular regime, and numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Besides clashes in the mountains near the Tajikistani border, the group has been blamed for six car bombings in Tashkent in February 2000.

Uzbekistan spends about $200 million (U.S.) a year on its military and has 150,000 soldiers, making it the strongest in the region.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Most domestic nongovernmental organizations are funded and supported by the government, and all must be registered. Kamolot, registered in 1996, is the major youth organization, and is modeled on the Soviet Komsomol. Ekosan is an environmental group. The Uzbek Muslim Board has been active in building mosques and financing religious education. The Women's Committee of Uzbekistan, a government organization, is tasked with ensuring women's access to education as well as employment and legal rights, and claims three million members.

The government also has set up quasi nongovernmental organizations, at times to deflect attention from controversial organizations. The Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, for example, was denied registration from 1992 to 1997, before the government set up its own human rights monitor.

The leaders of these groups may receive privileges once granted to the Soviet nomenklatura, such as official cars and well-equipped offices.

There are no independent trade unions, though government-sponsored unions are common. The Employment Service and Employment Fund was set up in 1992 to address issues of social welfare, employment insurance, and health benefits for workers.

Ironically, some truly independent organizations from the Soviet period, such as the Committee to Save the Aral Sea, were declared illegal in 1994. Social groups associated with Birlik also have been denied registration.

As a result of the government's lack of reforms, in particular making the national currency convertible, major international donors are becoming reluctant to assist Uzbekistan. The International Monetary Fund is pushing hard for convertibility before it gives further assistance. The U.S. Agency for International Development in 2000 said it was hesitant to assist the government in any sectors other than health, as the government was smothering economic reform.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Before the Soviet period, men worked outside the house while women did basic domestic work, or supplemented the family income by spinning, weaving, and embroidering with silk or cotton. From the 1920s on, women entered the workforce, at textile factories and in the cotton fields, but also in professional jobs opened to them by the Soviet education system. They came to make up the great majority of teachers, nurses, and doctors. Family pressure, however, sometimes kept women from attaining higher education, or working outside the home. With independence, some women have held on to positions of power, though they still may be expected to comport themselves with modesty. Men in modern Uzbekistan, though, hold the vast majority of managerial positions, as well as the most labor-intensive jobs. It is common now for men to travel north to other former Soviet republics to work in temporary jobs. Both sexes work in bazaars.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Uzbekistan is a male-dominated society, particularly in the Ferghana Valley. Nevertheless, women make up nearly half the workforce. They hold just under 10 percent of parliamentary seats, and 18 percent of administrative and management positions, according to U.N. figures.

Women run the households and traditionally control the family budgets. When guests are present they are expected to cloister themselves from view.

In public women are expected to cover their bodies completely. Full veiling is uncommon, though it is occasionally practiced in the Ferghana Valley. Women often view this as an expression of their faith and culture rather than as an oppressive measure.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Uzbek women usually marry by twenty-one; men not much later. Marriage is an imperative for all, as families are the basic structure in society. A family's honor depends on their daughters' virginity; this often leads families to encourage early marriage.

In traditional Uzbek families, marriages are often still arranged between families; in more cosmopolitan ones it is the bride and groom's choice. Either way, the match is subject to parental approval, with the mother in practice having the final word. Preference is given to members of the kin group. There is particular family say in the youngest son's choice, as he and his bride will take care of his parents. People tend to marry in their late teens or early twenties. Weddings often last for days, with the expense borne by the bride's family. The husband's family may pay a bride price. Polygamy is illegal and rare, but it is not unknown.

Following independence, divorce has become more common, though it is still rare outside of major cities. It is easier for a man to initiate divorce.

Domestic Unit. Uzbek families are patriarchal, though the mother runs the household. The average family size is five or six members, but families of ten or more are not uncommon.

Inheritance. Children are the primary claimants to the deceased's property. The youngest son receives the family house, along with the obligation to care for his parents. Sons typically receive twice as large a share as daughters, though this can vary.

Kin Groups. Close relations extends to cousins, who have the rights and responsibilities of the nuclear family and often are called on for favors. If the family lives in a detached house and there is space, the sons may build their homes adjacent to or around the courtyard of the parents' house.


Infant Care. Uzbek babies are hidden from view for their first forty days. They are tightly swaddled when in their cribs and carried by their mothers. Men generally do not take care of or clean babies.

Child Rearing and Education. Children are cherished as the reason for life. The mother is the primary caretaker, and in case of divorce, she will virtually always take the children. The extended family and the community at large, however, also take an interest in the child's upbringing.

When children are young, they have great freedom to play and act out. But as they get older, particularly in school, discipline increases. A good child becomes one who is quiet and attentive, and all must help in the family's labor.

All children go to school for nine years, with some going on to eleventh grade; the government is increasing mandatory education to twelve years.

Higher Education. Enrollment in higher-education institutions is about 20 percent, down from more than 30 percent during the Soviet period. A major reason for the decline is that students do not feel a higher education will help them get a good job; also contributing is the emigration of Russians, and declining standards related to budget cutbacks. Nevertheless, Uzbeks, particularly in cities, still value higher education, and the government gives full scholarships to students who perform well.


Elders are respected in Uzbek culture. At the dusterhon, younger guests will not make themselves more comfortable than their elders. The younger person should always greet the older first.

Men typically greet each other with a handshake, the left hand held over the heart. Women place their right hand on the other's elbow. If they are close friends or relatives, they may kiss each other on the cheeks.

If two acquaintances meet on the street, they will usually ask each other how their affairs are. If the two don't know each other well, the greeting will be shorter, or could involve just a nod.

Women are expected to be modest in dress and demeanor, with clothing covering their entire body. In public they may walk with their head tilted down to avoid unwanted attention. In traditional households, women will not enter the room if male guests are present. Likewise, it is considered forward to ask how a man's wife is doing. Women generally sit with legs together, their hands in their laps. When men aren't present, however, women act much more casually.

People try to carry themselves with dignity and patience, traits associated with royalty, though young men can be boisterous in public.

People tend to dress up when going out of the house. Once home they change, thus extending the life of their street clothes.


Religious Beliefs. Uzbeks are Sunni Muslims. The territory of Uzbekistan has been a center of Islam in the region for a thousand years, but under the Soviet Union the religion was heavily controlled: mosques were closed and Muslim education was banned. Beginning in 1988, Uzbeks have revived Islam, particularly in the Ferghana Valley, where mosques have been renovated. The call to prayer was everywhere heard five times a day before the government ordered the removal of the mosques' loudspeakers in 1998.

The state encourages a moderate form of Islam, but Kharimov fears the creation of an Islamic state. Since the beginning of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan's terror campaign in February 1999, he has cracked down even further on what he perceives as extremists, raising claims of human rights abuses. The government is particularly concerned about what it labels Wahhabism, a fundamentalist Sunni sect that took hold in the Ferghana Valley following independence.

Nine percent of the population is Russian Orthodox. Jews, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists, evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, Buddhists, Baha'is, and Hare Krishnas also are present.

Religious Practitioners. Most Sunni Uzbeks are led by a state-appointed mufti. Independent imams are sometimes repressed, and in May 1998, a law requiring all religious groups to register with the government was enacted. In addition to leading worship, the Muslim clergy has led mosque restoration efforts and is playing an increasing role in religious education.

Death and the Afterlife. Uzbeks bury their deceased within twenty-four hours of death, in above-ground tombs. At the funeral, women wail loudly and at specific times. The mourning period lasts forty days. The first anniversary of the death is marked with a gathering of the person's friends and relatives.

Muslims believe that on Judgment Day, each soul's deeds will be weighed. They will then walk across a hair-thin bridge spanning Hell, which leads to Paradise. The bridge will broaden under the feet of the righteous, but the damned will lose their balance and fall.

Medicine and Health Care

Current health practices derive from the Soviet system. Health care is considered a basic right of the entire population, with clinics, though ill-equipped, in most villages, and larger facilities in regional centers. Emphasis is on treatment over prevention. Yet the state health care budget80 million dollars in 1994falls far short of meeting basic needs; vaccinations, for example, fell off sharply following independence. Exacerbating the situation is a lack of potable water, industrial pollution, and a rise in infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.

Perhaps the most common traditional health practices are shunning cold drinks and cold surfaces, which are believed to cause colds and damage to internal organs, and avoiding drafts, or bad winds. Folk remedies and herbal treatments also are common. An example is to press bread to the ailing part of the body. The sick person then gives a small donation to a homeless person who will agree to take on his or her illness.

Secular Celebrations

The major secular holidays are New Year's Day (1 January); Women's Day (8 March), a still popular holdover from the Soviet Union, when women receive gifts; Navrus (21 March), originally a Zoroastrian holiday, which has lost its religious significance but is still celebrated with Sumaliak soup, made from milk and seven grains; Victory Day (9 May), marking the defeat of Nazi Germany; and Independence Day (1 September), celebrating separation from the Soviet Union.

Uzbeks typically visit friends and relatives on holidays to eat large meals and drink large amounts of vodka. Holidays also may be marked by concerts or parades centered on city or town squares or factories. The government marks Independence Day and Navrus with massive outdoor jamborees in Tashkent, which are then broadcast throughout the country, and places of work or neighborhoods often host huge celebrations.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. During the Soviet period, the government gave extensive support to the arts, building cultural centers in every city and paying the salaries of professional artists. With independence, state funding has shrunk, though it still makes up the bulk of arts funding. Many dance, theater, and music groups continue to rely on the state, which gives emphasis to large productions and extravaganzas, controls major venues, and often has an agenda for the artists to follow.

Other artists have joined private companies who perform for audiences of wealthy business-people and tourists. Some money comes in from corporate sponsorship and international charitable organizationsfor example UNESCO and the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute. Yet many artists have simply been forced to find other work.

Literature. The territory of Uzbekistan has a long tradition of writers, though not all were Uzbek. The fifteenth-century poet Alisher Navoi, 14411501, is most revered; among his works is a treatise comparing the Persian and Turkish languages. Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, 9731048, born in Karakalpakistan, wrote a massive study of India. Ibn Sina, also known as Avicenna, 9801037, wrote The Cannon of Medicine. Omar Khayyam, 10481131, came to Samarkand to pursue mathematics and astronomy. Babur, 14831530, born in the Ferghana Valley, was the first Moghul leader of India, and wrote a famous autobiography.

Until the twentieth century, Uzbek literary tradition was largely borne by bakshi, elder minstrels who recited myths and history through epic songs, and otin-oy, female singers who sang of birth, marriage and death.

The Jadids produced many poets, writers, and playwrights. These writers suffered greatly in the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Later the Soviet Union asked of its writers that they be internationalists and further socialist goals. Abdullah Qahhar, 19071968, for example, satirized Muslim clerics. But with the loosening of state control in the 1980s, a new generation of writers renewed the Uzbek language and Uzbek themes. Many writers also were active in Birlik, which started as a cultural movement but is now suppressed.

Graphic Arts. Uzbekistan has begun a revival of traditional crafts, which suffered from the Soviet view that factory-produced goods were superior to handicrafts. Now master craftsmen are reappearing in cities such as Samarkand and Bukhara, supported largely by foreign tourists. Miniature painting is narrative in character, using a wide palette of symbols to tell their stories. They can be read from right to left as a book, and often accompany works of literature. Wood carving, of architectural features such as doors and pillars and of items such as the sonduq, a box given to a bride by her parents, also is regaining a place in Uzbek crafts. Ikat is a method of cloth dying, now centered in the Yordgorlik Silk Factory in Margilan. Silk threads are tie-dyed, then woven on a loom to create soft-edged designs for curtains, clothing, and other uses.

Performance Arts. Uzbek music is characterized by reedy, haunting instruments and throaty, nasal singing. It is played on long-necked lutes called dotars, flutes, tambourines, and small drums. It developed over the past several hundred years in the khanates on the territory of modern Uzbekistan, where musicians were a central feature of festivals and weddings. The most highly regarded compositions are cycles called maqoms. Sozandas, sung by women accompanied by percussion instruments, also are popular. In the 1920s, Uzbek composers were encouraged, leading to a classical music tradition that continues today. Modern Uzbek pop often combines elements of folk music with electric instruments to create dance music.

Uzbek dance is marked by fluid arm and upper-body movement. Today women's dance groups perform for festivals and for entertainment, a practice started during the Soviet period. Earlier, women danced only for other women; boys dressed as women performed for male audiences. One dance for Navruz asks for rain; others depict chores, other work, or events. Uzbek dance can be divided into three traditions: Bokhara and Samarkand; Khiva; and Khokand. The Sufi dance, zikr, danced in a circle accompanied by chanting and percussion to reach a trance state, also is still practiced.

Uzbekistan's theater in the twentieth century addressed moral and social issues. The Jadidists presented moral situations that would be resolved by a solution consistent with Islamic law. During the Soviet period dramatists were sometimes censored. The Ilkhom Theater, founded in 1976, was the first independent theater in the Soviet Union.

Admission to cultural events is kept low by government and corporate sponsorship. It also has become common for dancers to perform for groups of wealthy patrons.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Uzbekistan has several higher-education institutions, with departments aimed at conducting significant research. Funding, however, has lagged since independence. The goal of the Academy of Sciences in Tashkent is practical application of science. It has physical and mathematical, chemicalbiological, and social sciences departments, with more than fifty research institutions and organizations under them.


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Jeff Erlich

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It is estimated that about 70 percent of the population is Uzbek. Russians constitute 8 percent; Tajiks, 5 percent; Kazaks, 4 percent; Tatars, 3 percent; and Karakalpaks, 2 percent. To learn more about the Russians and the Tatars see the chapter on the Russia in Volume 7; for the Tajiks see Tajikistan in this volume; and for the Kazaks see Kazakstan in Volume 5.

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