Uzbekistan is one of the ancient centres of the Islamic civilisation, with unique historical and cultural monuments in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and other cities. The country’s land used to be the heart of the ancient Silk Road trade route connecting China with the Middle East and Rome. Today, Uzbekistan has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Mixing between ancient sceneries and modernisation, the country represents an important destination for tourists from all over the world.
The doubly landlocked country, Uzbekistan, is located in Central Asia. With an area of 414,240 square kilometers, it stretches 1,425 kilometers from west to east and 930 kilometers from north to south. It is bordered by Afghanistan in the south, Turkmenistan in the west, Kazakhstan in the north, and Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic in the east. The physical environment of Uzbekistan is diverse, ranging from the flat, desert topography that comprises almost 80% of the country’s territory to mountain peaks in the east reaching about 4,500 meters above sea level. Uzbekistan’s central region consists mostly of a desert broken by the oases of the Zarafshan and Sukhandarye rivers. The land that is now Uzbekistan was once at the heart of the ancient Silk Road trade route connecting China with the Middle East and Rome.
|Area||414,240 sq. km|
|Major Language (s)||Uzbek|
|Major Religion (s)||Islam|
|Life Expectancy||Male: 64.95 years ; Female: 71.67 years|
|Currency||Uzbekistani Som (UZS)|
|Literacy rate||Youth 99.95%, Adults 99.59%|
|GDP Per Capita||2,110.65 USD (2016)|
The history of Uzbekistan goes back to more than 2,000 years filled with incidents that established for the current performance excellence. During the first century BC, Uzbekistan – as part of Central Asia – formed an important part of the overland trade routes known as the Great Silk Road linking China with the Middle East and imperial Rome. Islam entered the area as early as the seventh century and soon after that Bukhara was developed as an important centre for Islamic cultures. Genghis Khan invaded the region and conquered Central Asia, including today’s Uzbekistan, in the thirteenth century. Before Uzbekistan was able to enjoy complete independence, Russia took over Tashkent in the mid-nineteenth century and established it as the capital of Turkestan, incorporating vast areas of Central Asia. Uzbekistan represented part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) which was formed in the early years of the twentieth century.
Uzbeks, who were majority Muslims, were denied many of their rights when communist rulers closed mosques and persecuted Muslim clergy. Under USSR’s cruel ruling, people focused on protecting their identity, culture and traditions which are now admired by travellers from all over the world. Uzbeks are also known for their energetic adherence to excel in business. Between 1950s and 1980s, major projects were implemented to develop agriculture in particular and several other sectors to help the economic development. Nowadays, Uzbekistan is among the largest producers of cotton in the world. In 1991 Uzbekistan was announced independent after the dissolution of USSR. The country then joined the Commonwealth Independent States (CIS) and the first constitution was adopted in 1992. Mr Islam Karimov has been the president of Uzbekistan since independence. Under his leadership, the country has witnessed revolutionary economic development more than other CIS countries.
Uzbekistan aspires to be an industrialised, high-middle-income economy by 2050. The economy benefits from a highly educated workforce, an abundance of natural resources and a relatively well-developed infrastructure system. The government has announced plans aiming to privatise hundreds of state-owned establishments by 2017. This would be a great step towards improving the status of the economic development. Strategies to allow more foreign investor ventures in the country will undoubtedly enhance the freedom score of Uzbekistan’s economy which is 46 according to the latest updates of The Heritage Foundation. This score is lower than both regional (59) and world (60.7) averages. Attracting more investors is one of several activities that may open valuable opportunities for Uzbekistan to boost its economic growth. In ten years, the GDP per capita increased exponentially from nearly USD 550 in 2005 to more than USD 2,000 in 2015 after being steady at an average of around USD 650 since 1990 – except for further reduction below USD 500 due to the financial crisis in 1998.
Besides cotton production, which contributes significantly to the country’s exports, Uzbekistan enjoys abundant natural resources like oil, gas and golds. This widens the opportunities for the country to swell investment in infrastructure and various other projects. One very remarkable finding about Uzbekistan’s economy is its strong ties with other OIC member countries, unlike many members whose economies rely heavily on the East and the West. Over 52 per cent of Uzbekistan’s merchandise exports are towards other OIC member countries, and about 20 per cent of its merchandise imports come from OIC member countries, according to SESRIC statistics. More interestingly, intra-OIC tourist arrivals represent almost 90 per cent of the total tourist arrivals.
The fact that almost 70 per cent of Uzbekistan’s population is between 15-64 years old represents another great opportunity for the country’s economy to grow in the near future. The very young population in Uzbekistan is much similar to most other OIC member countries. Relatively high rates of unemployment posit a great challenge on Uzbekistan and other OIC members to benefit from a young highly qualified workforce. The government has been trying to build and implement strategies to increase employability of youth.
Contribution to modern civilisation
Uzbekistan is a host of Great Medieval thinkers and Islamic philosophers, like Imam al-Bukhari; founder of modern medicine – Abu Ali Ibn Sina (more famous in Europe as Avicenna. Western Europeans being unable to pronounce name of Abu Ali Ibn Sina, gave him name of “Avicenna”.); founder of modern mathematics – Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Khorazmi, who founded algorithms. His Latin name is Algoritmus. In Renaissance Europe he was considered the inventor of algebra although his work was based on older, Indian and/or Greek sources. He wrote The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing, which established algebra as an independent mathematical discipline. Other names from Central Asia that contributed to Islamic and world civilisation include:
Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ismail al-Bukhari (810-870) Bukhara-born complier and editor of An Abridged Collection of Authentic Hadiths with Connected Chains (of Transmission) Regarding Matter Pertaining to the Prophet, His Practices, and His Times, the most revered book in Islam after the Quran.
Ahmad al-Fargani (797-860) An astronomer who hailed from the Fergana Valley in the present-day Uzbekistan. Fergani’s The Elements was among the earliest works on astronomy to be written in Arabic. In the West “Alfraganus” as he was known, became the “Arab” astronomer with the widest readership; among his readers was Columbus.
Abu Rayhan Muhammad bin Ahmad Biruni (973-1048) A polymath from Khorezm who flourished first at the court of the Khorezmshahs in Gurganj (now Turkmenistan) and then at the court of Mahmud of Ghazni in Afghanistan. His works on astronomy, geodesy, history and the social sciences established him as arguably the greatest scientific thinker between antiquity and the European Renaissance.
Mahmud al-Kashgari The eleventh-century author of A Compendium of the Turkish Dialects, a comprehensive guide to the Turkic languages and their oral literature. A masterful treasure of linguistic, anthropological, and social information, Koshgari’s work was designed to claim for Turkic culture the same status as Arab and Persian in the Muslim world.
Muhammad Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (853- 944) A truculent and influential defender of literalist and traditionalist Islam from Samarkand, author of many combative “Refutations” of rationalism.
Mirza Ulughbek (1394-1449) Carrying the honourific name of Mirza Muhammad Taragay, Ulughbek, a grandson of Timur, briefly ruled Central Asia and was an educator and astronomer. His tables of the movements of stars were long unsurpassed for accuracy, while his encouragement of mathematical and scientific studies was the Islamic world’s last great push in this field.
Alisher Navoiy (1441-1501) The founder of modern Uzbek literature was not only a poet but also a prime minister of huge country, which included the eastern part of Iran, the western part of Afghanistan and the southern part of Turkmenistan. The capital of the country was the great city of Herat, which is in modern day eastern Afghanistan. This year Uzbekistan celebrated the 575th birth anniversary of Alisher Navoiy. He caroled such important human qualities as fairness, mutual harmony, generosity, compassion, respect for parents, a desire to help the needy, friendship between the people, and promoted the prosperity of the motherland.
Culture and attraction
Registan, Bibi-Kahnym Mosque, Gur-e Amir Mausoleum and the Observatory of Ulugbek are sights that travellers must not miss. There you will find buildings designed and made with distinctive Islamic traits and characteristics. The colours of the buildings have significant meanings behind them – blue, a symbol of wealth, is the most common and dominant colour found on most of them. Siyob Bazaar is the largest bazaar in Samarkand where you can find daily necessities such as dairy products, fresh and dried fruits, delicious watermelons, rainbow-coloured spices and all kinds of tasty vegetables. Foreigners visit Siyob Bazaar to experience the busy daily life of the indigenous society there.
In addition, authentically silk made attire, accessories and bed linen are sold for reasonable prices and in various designs. Fine craftsmanship is involved in making the colorful pattern designs of the kurpacha (colorful sitting mattresses), doppi (skull caps), chapan (traditional cloaks) and knives. The country also has a unique artistic tradition of doll making. Spring time sees many local or provincial celebrations taking place in various parts of Uzbekistan. Shark Taronalari is Uzbekistan’s international world music festival and is held in the summer time with folks singers who practice traditional musical genres such as uran khai (throat singing) and makom (sacred classical, melodic Uzbek music) performing there.
Well-known travellers such as Marco Polo and the warrior Alexander the Great have passed through this hub of trade and cultural exchanges. The names of Uzbek cities have been synonymous with the exotic and wonderful, their fame spreading for many centuries far and wide.