Uzbekistan, formally the Republic of Uzbekistan, is a Central Asian nation with two geographical borders. It is a presidential republic with twelve provinces, one autonomous republic, and a capital city. Kazakhstan to the north, Tajikistan to the southeast, Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Afghanistan to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southwest border Uzbekistan.
The area that now comprises the Republic of Uzbekistan was captured in the early 16th century by Eastern Turkic-speaking nomads who were formerly part of the Turkic Khaganate and later Timurid Empires. During the nineteenth century, the region was progressively absorbed by the Russian Empire, and in 1924, what is now Uzbekistan became a bounded component republic of the Soviet Union called as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). On August 31, 1991, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it proclaimed independence as the Republic of Uzbekistan (officially celebrated the following day).
Officially, Uzbekistan is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional country with a rich cultural history. The official language of the nation is Uzbek, a Turkic language written in the Latin script and spoken natively by roughly 85 percent of the people; nevertheless, Russian is also widely used. Uzbeks make up 81 percent of the population, followed by Russians (5.4%), Tajiks (4.0%), Kazakhs (3.0%), and others (6.5 percent ). The overwhelming majority of Uzbeks are non-denominational Muslims. Uzbekistan is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations (UN), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Uzbekistan’s economy is mostly based on commodity production, which includes cotton, gold, uranium, and natural gas. Despite its stated goal of transitioning to a market economy, its government continues to retain economic restrictions that favor domestic “import substitution” over imports.
Uzbekistan has a total land area of 447,400 square kilometers (172,700 sq mi). It is the world’s 56th biggest nation in terms of land area and 42nd in terms of people. It is the fourth-largest CIS country by land and the second-largest by population.
Uzbekistan is located between the latitudes of 37° and 46° N, and the longitudes of 56° and 74° E. It is 1,425 kilometers (885 miles) long from west to east and 930 kilometers (580 miles) long from north to south. Uzbekistan, which borders Kazakhstan and the Aral Sea to the north and northwest, Turkmenistan to the southwest, Tajikistan to the southeast, and Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, is one of the biggest Central Asian nations and the only one to border all four. To the south, Uzbekistan shares a short border (less than 150 km or 93 mi) with Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan is a landlocked nation with an arid climate. It is one of the world’s two doubly landlocked nations (a country entirely encircled by landlocked countries), the other being Liechtenstein. Furthermore, none of its rivers flow into the sea owing to its position inside a series of endorheic basins. Less than 10% of the land area is heavily farmed irrigated land in river valleys and oasis. The remainder consists of huge desert (Kyzyl Kum) and mountains.
The Khazret Sultan, at 4,643 meters (15,233 feet) above sea level, is located in the southern section of the Gissar Range in Surkhandarya Province, on the border with Tajikistan, approximately northwest of Dushanbe (formerly called Peak of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party).
The Republic of Uzbekistan has a continental climate, with minimal precipitation anticipated each year (100–200 millimetres, or 3.9–7.9 inches). The average high temperature in the summer is 40 °C (104 °F), while the average low temperature in the winter is about 23 °C (9 °F).
Uzbekistan is the most populated nation in Central Asia. Its 31,576,400 residents account for almost half of the region’s total population. Uzbekistan has a relatively youthful population: 34.1 percent of its population is under the age of 14. (2008 estimate). According to official statistics, Uzbeks account for the vast majority (80 percent) of the overall population. Other ethnic groups include Russians (5.5%), Tajiks (5%, official estimate, contested), Kazakhs (3%), Karakalpaks (2.5%), and Tatars (1.5%). (1996 estimates).
There is considerable disagreement regarding the Tajik population proportion. While official state figures from Uzbekistan put the figure at 5%, this is considered to be an underestimate, with some Western academics putting it as high as 20%–30%. The Uzbeks mingled with the Sarts, a Turko-Persian people from Central Asia. The bulk of Uzbeks nowadays are admixed and can trace their ancestors back to the Mongols and Iranian peoples.
Uzbekistan has an ethnic Korean community that Stalin forcefully moved from the Soviet Far East to the area in 1937–1938. There are also tiny Armenian communities in Uzbekistan, mostly in Tashkent and Samarkand. The country is 88 percent Muslim (primarily Sunni, with a 5% Shi’a minority), 9 percent Eastern Orthodox, and 3% other religions. According to the United States State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2004, 0.2 percent of the population is Buddhist (these being ethnic Koreans). For thousands of years, the Bukharan Jews have resided in Central Asia, mostly in Uzbekistan. In 1989, there were 94,900 Jews in Uzbekistan (approximately 0.5 percent of the population according to the 1989 census), but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the majority of Central Asian Jews have fled to the United States, Germany, or Israel. In 2007, less than 5,000 Jews remained in Uzbekistan.
Russians make about 5.5 percent of the overall population of Uzbekistan. During the Soviet era, Russians and Ukrainians made up more than half of Tashkent’s population. In the 1970 census, the country counted almost 1.5 million Russians, accounting for 12.5 percent of the population. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a large exodus of ethnic Russians, mostly for economic reasons.
Crimean Tatars, along with Volga Germans, Chechens, Pontic Greeks, Kumaks, and many other ethnicities, were exiled to Central Asia in the 1940s. Approximately 100,000 Crimean Tatars remain in Uzbekistan. Tashkent’s Greek population has shrunk from 35,000 in 1974 to about 12,000 in 2004. Following the pogroms in the Fergana valley in June 1989, the majority of Meskhetian Turks fled the country.
At least 10% of Uzbekistan’s labor force is employed overseas (mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan).
Uzbekistan has a 99.3 percent literacy rate among adults over the age of 15 (2003 estimate), which may be attributed to the Soviet Union’s free and universal education system.
In Uzbekistan, males have a life expectancy of 66 years and women have a life expectancy of 72 years.
According to a 2009 US State Department statement, Islam is by far the largest religion in Uzbekistan, with Muslims constituting 90 percent of the population, 5 percent of the population following Russian Orthodox Christianity, and 5 percent of the population following other faiths. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center study, Uzbekistan’s population is 96.3 percent Muslim. There were once an estimated 93,000 Jews in the nation.
Despite its supremacy, Islamic practice is far from uniform. In Uzbekistan, several different forms of the religion are practiced. Throughout the twentieth century, the struggle between Islamic tradition and different reform or secularization agendas left the outside world with a diverse range of Islamic practices throughout Central Asia. Non-denominational Muslims account for 54% of Muslims, Sunnis account for 18%, and Shias account for 1%.
The fall of Soviet authority in Uzbekistan did not result in an explosion of fundamentalism, as many had anticipated, but rather a gradual re-acquaintance with the faith’s tenets.
According to local legend, Jews first settled in the region 2,000 years ago, after the Babylonians’ expulsion from the kingdom of Israel. Other legends center on Jewish merchants who settled in the silk route region and Jews who fled to the region during Persian persecutions 1,500 years ago.
The Jewish community thrived for centuries, with only minor setbacks throughout the reigns of several kings. During Tamerlane’s 14th-century reign, Jews made significant contributions to his attempts to reconstruct Samarkand, and a large Jewish center was built there.
Jews were given equal rights with the indigenous people when the region was taken over by Russia in 1868. Approximately 50,000 Jews resided in Samarkand at the time, with another 20,000 in Bukhara. Following the 1917 Russian revolution and the creation of the Soviet government, Jewish religious activity was severely limited. By 1935, just one of Samarkand’s 30 synagogues remained; nevertheless, clandestine communal activity persisted throughout the Soviet period.
During WWII, tens of thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union’s European portions fled to Uzbekistan as refugees or were banished by Stalin. By 1970, the republic had 103,000 Jews registered.
With the emergence of nationalistic riots in the late 1980s as a consequence of the Soviet Union’s disintegration, which damaged, among other things, the Jewish quarter in Andijan, the majority of Uzbek Jews fled to Israel and the United States. Today, the nation has a tiny population of several thousand people: 7,000 in Tashkent, 3,000 in Bukhara, and 700 in Samarkand.
Uzbekistan has the world’s fourth biggest gold reserves. The nation mines 80 tons of gold each year, ranking sixth in the world. Uzbekistan’s copper reserves are ranked tenth in the world, while its uranium reserves are ranked twelfth. The nation ranks eighth in the world in terms of uranium production. Uzbekneftegas, the Uzbek national gas corporation, ranks 11th in the world in natural gas production, with an annual output of 60–70 billion cubic meters (2.1–2.5 trillion cubic feet). Uzbekistan has substantial undeveloped oil and gas reserves: there are 194 hydrocarbon resources in the nation, including 98 condensate and natural gas deposits and 96 gas condensate deposits.
The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Petronas, the Korea National Oil Corporation, Gazprom, Lukoil, and Uzbekneftegas are the major companies engaged in Uzbekistan’s energy industry.
Uzbekistan’s economy, like many other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, fell during the early years of transition and subsequently rebounded after 1995, when the cumulative impact of policy changes became apparent. It grew at a rapid pace, increasing by 4% per year between 1998 and 2003 and then accelerated to 7%–8% per year afterwards. According to IMF projections, GDP in 2008 will be almost twice that in 1995. (in constant prices). Since 2003, yearly inflation rates have averaged less than 10%.
Uzbekistan has a GDP per capita of US$1,900 (in current currency in 2013), which equates to US$3,800 in PPP terms. Commodities dominate economic output. Uzbekistan was the world’s seventh-largest producer and fifth-largest exporter of cotton in 2011, as well as the world’s seventh-largest producer of gold. It is also a major producer of natural gas, coal, copper, oil, silver, and uranium in the area.
Agriculture employs 26 percent of Uzbekistan’s labor force and accounts for 18 percent of the country’s GDP (2012 data). Cultivable land covers 4.4 million hectares, or approximately 10% of Uzbekistan’s total land area. While official unemployment is extremely low, underemployment is believed to be at least 20%, particularly in rural regions. During the cotton harvest, all students and instructors are still recruited as unpaid laborers to assist in the fields. In South Korea, Uzbek cotton is even used to manufacture banknotes. Because to the exploitation of child labor in Uzbekistan, many businesses, including Tesco, C&A, Marks & Spencer, Gap, and H&M, have decided to boycott Uzbek cotton.
Faced with a slew of economic difficulties after gaining independence, the government pursued an evolutionary reform approach that emphasized state control, import reduction, and energy self-sufficiency. Since 1994, the state-controlled media has frequently declared the success of this “Uzbekistan Economic Model,” claiming that it is a one-of-a-kind example of a seamless transition to a market economy while avoiding shock, pauperism, and stagnation.
Significant macroeconomic and structural changes have been postponed as part of the gradualist reform approach. The state, in the hands of the bureaucracy, has remained a major economic force. Corruption pervades society and becomes increasingly prevalent with time: Uzbekistan was 137th out of 159 nations in the 2005 Corruption Perception Index, but ranked 175th out of 179 countries in 2007. According to the International Crisis Group’s February 2006 assessment on the country, earnings from major exports, including cotton, gold, maize, and now gas, are allocated within a relatively narrow circle of the governing class, with little or no benefit to the general public. Recent high-profile corruption scandals involving government contracts and major multinational corporations, most notably TeliaSoneria, have shown that firms operating in Uzbekistan are especially susceptible to corruption.
The government, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, is “resistant to permitting the growth of an independent private sector over which it would have no influence.”
Economic policies have discouraged foreign investment, resulting in the lowest per capita income in the CIS. For many years, the most significant obstacle to international firms entering the Uzbekistan market has been the difficulties in changing money. In 2003, the government accepted the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) requirements under Article VIII, which provided for complete currency convertibility. However, stringent currency restrictions and border tightening have mitigated the impact of this policy.
Immediately after independence (1992–1994), Uzbekistan suffered severe inflation of over 1000 percent per year. Stabilization measures carried out with IMF assistance paid well. Inflation rates were reduced to 50% in 1997 and subsequently to 22 percent in 2002. Since 2003, yearly inflation rates have averaged less than 10%. Tight economic measures in 2004 resulted in a significant decrease in inflation to 3.8 percent (although alternative estimates based on the price of a true market basket, put it at 15 percent ). Inflation rates rose to 6.9 percent in 2006 and 7.6 percent in 2007, but have since stayed in the single digits.
Uzbekistan’s government limits international imports in a variety of methods, including hefty import tariffs. To safeguard locally produced products, excise taxes are used in a very discriminating way. Official tariffs are coupled with unofficial, discriminatory levies, resulting in total costs of up to 100 to 150 percent of the product’s real worth, making imported goods practically expensive. Import substitution is an officially stated strategy, and the government proudly claims that the amount of consumer products imported has been reduced by a factor of two. Import tariffs in Uzbekistan are officially waived for a number of CIS nations.
The Republican Stock Exchange (RSE) first opened its doors in 1994. RSE trades the equities of all Uzbek joint stock enterprises (about 1250). As of January 2013, there were more than 110 listed businesses. Securities market volume surpassed $2 trillion in 2012, and the figure is constantly increasing due to businesses’ increased interest in obtaining required resources via the capital market. According to the Central Depository, the par value of outstanding shares of Uzbek emitters surpassed 9 trillion in January 2013.
Since 2003, Uzbekistan has maintained a solid external stance. The current account turned into a large surplus (between 9 percent and 11 percent of GDP from 2003 to 2005), thanks in part to the recovery of world market prices for gold and cotton (the country’s key export commodities), expanded natural gas and some manufacturing exports, and increased labor migrant transfers, and foreign exchange reserves, including gold, more than doubled to around US$3 billion.
In 2010, foreign exchange reserves totaled 13 billion US dollars.
According to a worldwide bank HSBC study, Uzbekistan is expected to be one of the world’s fastest expanding economies (number 26) in the next decades.