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Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan, officially the Republic of Uzbekistan, is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia, formerly part of the Soviet Union. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south. Once part of the Persianized Samanid and later Timurid empires, the region was conquered in the early 16th century by Uzbek nomads, who spoke an Eastern Turkic language. Most of Uzbekistan’s population today belong to the Uzbek ethnic group and speak the Uzbek language, one of the family of Turkic languages. Uzbekistan was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 19th century and in 1924 became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). It has been an independent republic since December 1991.

Uzbekistan's economy relies mainly on commodity production, including cotton, gold, uranium, and natural gas. Despite the declared objective of transition to a market economy, Uzbekistan continues to maintain rigid economic controls, which often repel foreign investors. The policy of gradual, strictly controlled transition has nevertheless produced beneficial results in the form of economic recovery after 1995.

History

The territory of Uzbekistan was already populated in the second millennium BC. Early human tools and monuments have been found in the Ferghana, Tashkent, Bukhara, Khorezm (Khwarezm, Chorasmia) and Samarkand regions.

Alexander the Great conquered Sogdiana and Bactria in 327 BC, marrying Roxana, daughter of a local Bactrian chieftain. The conquest was supposedly of little help to Alexander as popular resistance was fierce, causing Alexander's army to be bogged down in the region. For many centuries the region of Uzbekistan was ruled by Iranian Empires, including the Parthian and Sassanid Empires.

In the fourteenth century AD, Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, overpowered the Mongols and built an empire. In his military campaigns, Tamerlane reached as far as the Middle East. He defeated Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, who was captured, and died in captivity. Tamerlane sought to build a capital for his empire in Samarkand. Today Tamerlane is considered to be one of the greatest heroes in Uzbekistan. He plays a significant role in its national identity and history. Following the fall of the Timurid Empire, Uzbek nomads conquered the region.

In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire began to expand, and spread into Central Asia. The "Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second less intensive phase followed. At the start of the 19th century, there were some 2,000 miles (3,200 km) separating British India and the outlying regions of Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Asia was firmly in the hands of Russia and despite some early resistance to Bolsheviks, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union. On 27 October 1924 the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created. On August 31, 1991, Uzbekistan declared independence, marking September 1 as a national holiday.

The country is now the world's second-largest exporter of cotton – while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves.

 Geography

Uzbekistan is approximately the size of Morocco and has an area of 447,400 square kilometers (172,700 sq mi). It is the 56th largest country in the world by area and the 42nd by population. Among the CIS countries, it is the 5th largest by area and the 3rd largest by population.

Uzbekistan stretches 1,425 kilometers (885 mi) from west to east and 930 kilometers (578 mi) from north to south. Bordering Kazakhstan and the Aral Sea to the north and northwest, Turkmenistan to the southwest, Tajikistan to the southeast, and Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Uzbekistan is not only one of the larger Central Asian states but also the only Central Asian state to border all the other four. Uzbekistan also shares a short border (less than 150 km) with Afghanistan to the south.

Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country; it is one of two double-landlocked countries in the world, i.e., a country completely surrounded by land-locked countries – the other being Liechtenstein. Less than 10% of its territory is intensively cultivated irrigated land in river valleys and oases. The rest is vast desert (Kyzyl Kum) and mountains. The highest point in Uzbekistan is 4,643 meters (15,233 ft), located in the southern part of the Gissar Range in Surkhandarya Province, on the border with Tajikistan, just north-west of Dushanbe (formerly called Peak of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party, today apparently unnamed).

The climate in the Republic of Uzbekistan is continental, with little precipitation expected annually (100–200 millimeters, or 3.9–7.9 inches). The average summer temperature tends to be 40 °C, while the average winter temperature is around 0 °C.

Major cities include: Bukhara, Samarqand, Namangan, and the capital Tashkent.

 Politics

Constitutionally, the Government of Uzbekistan provides for democracy. In reality, the executive holds a great deal of power and the legislature and judiciary has little power to shape laws. Under terms of a December 27,1995 referendum, Islom Karimov's first term was extended. Another national referendum was held January 27, 2002 to extend Constitutional Presidential term from 5 years to 7 years. The referendum passed and Karimov's term was extended by act of the parliament to December 2007. Most international observers refused to participate in the process and did not recognize the results, dismissing them as not meeting basic standards. The 2002 referendum also included a plan to create a bicameral parliament, consisting of a lower house (the Oliy Majlis) and an upper house (Senate). Members of the lower house are to be "full time" legislators. Elections for the new bicameral parliament took place on December 26.

  Provinces and districts

Uzbekistan is divided into twelve provinces (viloyatlar, singular viloyat, compound noun viloyati e.g. Toshkent viloyati, Samarqand viloyati, etc.), one autonomous republic (respublika, compound noun respublikasi e.g. Qaraqalpaqstan Avtonom Respublikasi, Karakalpakistan Autonomous Republic, etc.), and one independent city (shahar. compound noun shahri , e.g. Toshkent shahri). Names are given below in the Uzbek language, although numerous variations of the transliterations of each name exist.

Division  

Capital City  

Area
(km²)  

Population  

Andijon Viloyati

Andijon

4,200

0,1,899,000

Buxoro Viloyati

Buxoro (Bukhara)

39,400

0,1,384,700

Farg'ona Viloyati

Farg'ona (Fergana)

6,800

0,2,597,000

Jizzax Viloyati

Jizzax

20,500

0, 910,500

Xorazm Viloyati

Urganch

6,300

0,1,200,000

Namangan Viloyati

Namangan

7,900

0,1,862,000

Navoiy Viloyati

Navoiy

110,800

0, 767,500

Qashqadaryo Viloyati

Qarshi

28,400

0,2,029,000

Qaraqalpaqstan Respublikasi

Nukus

160,000

0,1,200,000

Samarqand Viloyati

Samarqand

16,400

0,2,322,000

Sirdaryo Viloyati

Guliston

5,100

0,648,100

Surxondaryo Viloyati

Termez

20,800

0,1,676,000

Toshkent Viloyati

Toshkent (Tashkent)

15,300

0,4,450,000

Toshkent Shahri

Toshkent (Tashkent)

No Data

0,2,205,000

The provinces are further divided into districts (tuman).

 Economy

Along with many Commonwealth of Independent States economies, Uzbekistan's economy declined during the first years of transition and then recovered after 1995, as the cumulative effect of policy reforms began to be felt. It has shown robust growth, rising by 4% per year between 1998 and 2003 and accelerating thereafter to 7%-8% per year. According to IMF estimates, the GDP in 2008 will be almost double its value in 1995 (in constant prices). Since 2003 annual inflation rates averaged less than 10%.

Uzbekistan has a very low GNI per capita (US$610 in current dollars in 2006, giving a PPP equivalent of US$2,250). By GNI per capita in PPP equivalents Uzbekistan ranks 169 among 209 countries; among the 12 CIS countries, only Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan had lower GNI per capita in 2006. Economic production is concentrated in commodities: Uzbekistan is now the world's sixth-largest producer and second-largest exporter of cotton, as well as the seventh largest world producer of gold. It is also a regionally significant producer of natural gas, coal, copper, oil, silver, and uranium. Agriculture employs 28% of Uzbekistan's labor force and contributes 24% of its GDP (2006 data). While official unemployment is very low, underemployment - especially in rural areas - is estimated to be at least 20%.Still, at cotton-harvest time, all students and teachers are mobilized as unpaid labour to help in the fields. The use of child labor in Uzbekistan has led several companies, including Tesco, C&A, Marks & Spencer, Gap, and H&M, to boycott Uzbek cotton.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Facing a multitude of economic challenges upon acquiring independence, the government adopted an evolutionary reform strategy, with an emphasis on state control, reduction of imports, and self-sufficiency in energy. Since 1994, the state controlled media have repeatedly proclaimed the success of this "Uzbekistan Economic Model" and suggested that it is a unique example of a smooth transition to the market economy while avoiding shock, pauperization, and stagnation.

The gradualist reform strategy has involved postponing significant macroeconomic and structural reforms. The state in the hands of the bureaucracy has remained a dominant influence in the economy. Corruption permeates the society and grows more rampant over time: Uzbekistan's 2005 Corruption Perception Index was 137 out of 159 countries, whereas in 2007 Uzbekistan is at the very bottom of the ranking, 175 out of 179. A February 2006 report on the country by the International Crisis Group suggests that revenues earned from key exports, especially cotton, gold, corn, and increasingly gas, are distributed among a very small circle of the ruling elite, with little or no benefit for the populace at large.

The economic policies have repelled foreign investment, which is the lowest per capita in the CIS. For years, the largest barrier to foreign companies entering the Uzbekistani market has been the difficulty of converting currency. In 2003, the government accepted the obligations of Article VIII under the International Monetary Fund, providing for full currency convertibility. However, strict currency controls and the tightening of borders have lessened the effect of this measure.

Uzbekistan experienced galloping inflation of around 1000% per year immediately after independence (1992-1994). Stabilization efforts implemented with active guidance from the IMF rapidly paid off, as inflation rates were brought down to 50% in 1997 and then to 22% in 2002. Since 2003 annual inflation rates averaged less than 10%. Tight economic policies in 2004 resulted in a drastic reduction of inflation to 3.8% (although alternative estimates based on the price of a true market basket, put it at 15%). The inflation rates moved up to 6.9% in 2006 and 7.6% in 2007, but have remained in the single-digit range.

The government of Uzbekistan restricts foreign imports in many ways, including high import duties. Excise taxes are applied in a highly discriminatory manner to protect locally produced goods. Official tariffs are combined with unofficial, discriminatory charges resulting in total charges amounting to as much as 100 to 150% of the actual value of the product, making imported products virtually unaffordable. Import substitution is an officially declared policy and the government reports a reduction by a factor of two in the volume of consumer goods imported. A number of CIS countries are officially exempt from Uzbekistan import duties.

The Republican Stock Exchange (RSE) 'Tashkent' opened in 1994. It houses a securities exchange, real estate traders, the national investment fund and the national securities depositary. It does not trade all joint-stock companies each month and therefore market capitalisation varies widely.

Uzbekistan's external position has been strong since 2003. Thanks in part to the recovery of world market prices of gold and cotton, the country's key export commodities, expanded natural gas and some manufacturing exports, and increasing labour migrant transfers the current account turned into a large surplus – of between 9 and 11 per cent of GDP in 2003-05 – and foreign exchange reserves, including gold, more than doubled to around US$3 billion.

 Demographics

Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most populous country. Its 27.7 million people (July 2007 estimate) comprise nearly half the region's total population.

The population of Uzbekistan is very young: 34.1% of its are people are younger than 14 (2008 estimate). According to official sources, Uzbeks comprise a majority (80%) of the total population. Other ethnic groups include Russians 5.5%, Tajiks 5%, Kazakhs 3%, Karakalpaks 2.5%, and Tatars 1.5% (1996 estimates).There is some controversy about the percentage of the Tajik population. While official numbers from Uzbekistan put the number at 5%, some Western scholars believe it to be much higher, going as high as 20%. Uzbekistan has an ethnic Korean population that was forcibly relocated to the region by Stalin in the 1930s. There are also small groups of Armenians in Uzbekistan, mostly in Tashkent and Samarkand, most of them immigrating during the Armenian Genocide. The nation is 88% Muslim, 9% Eastern Orthodox and 3% other faiths.
 
 
 
 
 
At least 10% of Uzbekistan's labour force works abroad (mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan).

Uzbekistan has a 99.3% literacy rate among adults older than 15 (2003 estimate), which is attributable to the free and universal education system of the Soviet Union.

 Languages

The Uzbek language is the only official state language. The Tajik language is widespread in the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand because of their relatively large population of ethnic Tajiks. Russian is still an important language for interethnic communication, especially in the cities, including much day-to-day technical, scientific, governmental and business use. The use of Russian in remote rural areas has always been limited, and today school children have no proficiency in Russian even in urban centers.

In 1992 Uzbekistan officially shifted back to Latin script from traditional considerations of consistency with Turkey, but many signs and notices (including official government boards in the streets) are still written in Uzbek Cyrillic script that had been used in Uzbek SSR since 1940. Computers as a rule operate using the "Uzbek Cyrillic" keyboard, and Latin script is reportedly composed using the standard English keyboard.

 Communications

According to the official source report, as of 10 March 2008, the number of cellular phone users in Uzbekistan reached 7 million, up from 3.7 million on 1 July 2007. The largest mobile operator in terms of number of subscribers is MTS-Uzbekistan (former Uzdunrobita and part of Russian Mobile TeleSystems) and it is followed by Beeline (part of Russia's Beeline) and Coscom (owned by US MCT Corp., but there is news that it is selling its asset to TeliaSonera.

As of 1 July 2007, the estimated number of internet users was 1.8 million, according to UzACI.

  Culture

Uzbekistan has a wide mix of ethnic groups and cultures, with the Uzbek being the majority group. In 1995 about 71% of Uzbekistan's population was Uzbek. The chief minority groups were Russians (8%), Tajiks (5%), Kazaks (4%), Tatars (2.5%), and Karakalpaks (2%). It is said however that the number of non-Uzbek people living in Uzbekistan is decreasing as Russians and other minority groups slowly leave and Uzbeks return from other parts of the former Soviet Union.

When Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, there was concern that Muslim fundamentalism would spread across the region.

Uzbekistan has a high literacy rate, with about 99.3% of adults above the age of 15 being able to read and write. However with only 88% of the under 15 population currently enrolled in education this figure may drop in the future. Uzbekistan has encountered severe budgeting shortfalls in its education program. The education law of 1992 began the process of theoretical reform, but the physical base has deteriorated, and curriculum revision has been slow.

Uzbekistan's universities churn out almost 600,000 graduates annually.

 Environment

Uzbekistan's environmental situation ought to be a major concern among the international community. Decades of questionable Soviet policies in pursuit of greater cotton production has resulted in a catastrophic scenario. The agricultural industry appears to be the main contributor to the pollution and devastation of the air and water in the country.

The Aral Sea disaster is a classic example. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest inland on Earth, acting as an influencing factor in the air moisture.[ Since the 1960s, the decade when the misuse of the Aral Sea water began, it has shrunk to less than 50% of its former area, and decreased in volume threefold. Reliable – or even approximate – data has not been collected, stored or provided by any organization or official agency. The numbers of animal deaths and human refugees from the area around the sea can only be guessed at. The question of who is responsible for the crisis – the Soviet scientists and politicians who directed the distribution of water during the sixties, or the post-Soviet politicians who did not allocate sufficient funding for the building of dams and irrigation systems - remains open.

Due to the virtually insoluble Aral Sea problem, high salinity and contamination of the soil with heavy elements are especially widespread in Karakalpakstan – the region of Uzbekistan adjacent to the Aral Sea. The bulk of the nation's water resources is used for farming, which accounts for nearly 94% of the water usage and contributes to high soil salinity. Heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers for cotton growing further aggravates soil pollution.