Facts & Figures
President: Islam A. Karimov (1990)
Prime Minister: Shavkat Mirziyayev (2003)
Land area: 164,247 sq mi (425,400 sq km); total area: 172,741 sq mi (447,400 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 28,929,716 (growth rate: 0.93%); birth rate: 17.02/1000; infant mortality rate: 19.84/1000; life expectancy: 73.29; density per sq mi: 159.1
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Tashkent, 2.227 million
Other large cities: Namangan, 1.565 million; Andijan, 1.448 million; Samarkand, 1.309 million
Monetary unit: Uzbekistani sum
- Uzbekistan Main Page
- Indpendent, but with Appalling Conditions
- A Rocky Relationship with the United States
- Human Rights Watch Expelled
- Militant Leader Killed by U.S. Drone Strike
Uzbekistan is situated in central Asia between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, the Aral Sea, and the slopes of the Tien Shan Mountains. It is bounded by Kazakhstan in the north and northwest, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the east and southeast, Turkmenistan in the southwest, and Afghanistan in the south. The republic also includes the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, with its capital, Nukus (1992 est. pop., 182,000). The country is about one-tenth larger in area than the state of California.
Republic; authoritarian presidential rule.
The Uzbekistan land was once part of the ancient Persian Empire and was later conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th centuryB.C.During the 8th century, the nomadic Turkic tribes living there were converted to Islam by invading Arab forces who dominated the area. The Mongols under Ghengis Khan took over the region from the Seljuk Turks in the 13th century, and it later became part of Tamerlane the Great's empire and that of his successors until the 16th century. The Uzbeks invaded the territory in the early 16th century and merged with the other inhabitants in the area. Their empire broke up into separate Uzbek principalities, the khanates of Khiva, Bukhara, and Kokand. These city-states resisted Russian expansion into the area but were conquered by the Russian forces in the mid-19th century.
The territory was made into the Uzbek Republic in 1924 and became the independent Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1925. Under Soviet rule, Uzbekistan concentrated on growing cotton with the help of irrigation, mechanization, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides, causing serious environmental damage.
Indpendent, but with Appalling Conditions
In June 1990, Uzbekistan was the first central Asian republic to declare that its own laws had sovereignty over those of the central Soviet government. Uzbekistan became fully independent and joined with ten other former Soviet republics on Dec. 21, 1991, in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Vozrozhdeniye, an island in the Aral Sea, was a secret test site for biological weapons during the Soviet era. In 1988, the Soviets attempted to bury the evidence on the island, a frightening legacy that Uzbekistan inherited upon independence. U.S. scientists have confirmed that the island contains live anthrax and other deadly poisons.
President Karimov, a former Communist Party boss, is an autocrat who has brutally suppressed political parties and religious freedom and maintained rule with an iron fist. In 1999, after a bus hijacking, he declared, "I am prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their lives, in order to save peace and calm in the republic." The country's thousands of political and religious prisoners are subject to appalling conditions and horrific torture, including being boiled alive.
In 1999, the country battled against militant Islamic groups bent on the overthrow of the secular government. Fighting against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) continued for the next several years.
A Rocky Relationship with the United States
In 2001, Uzbekistan provided the U.S. and UK with a base to fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in neighboring Afghanistan and became the United States' main regional partner in the war on terror. Karimov linked his own battle against the Islamic opposition to the global fight on terrorism. He also exploited the real threat of Islamicism by labeling all of his opponents as Islamic extremists. As a strategic partner, the U.S. has been reluctant to take a firm stand regarding Uzbekistan's dismal human rights record. According to a report in the New York Times in May 2005, the U.S. has sent clandestine planeloads of accused terrorists to Uzbekistan as part of its controversial "rendition" program, the delivery of prisoners to countries with abusive interrogation tactics that are prohibited in the United States.
On May 13, 2005, unarmed antigovernment demonstrators in the city of Andijan were killed in a military crackdown; the number of casualties is still disputed, but it may be as many as 1,000. Earlier, a number of protesters had stormed a prison and released about 2,000 prisoners to protest what they saw as the rigged trial of 23 businessmen. The government claimed the men were Islamic terrorists; the protesters insisted the 23 were antigovernment civic leaders whom the government saw as a threat to its authority. In July 2005, President Karimov ordered the U.S. military to close its air base in Uzbekistan after the U.S. called for an inquiry into the massacre and supported the airlift of Uzbek refugees escaping the violence. The base was shut down four months later, with U.S. forces moving to Kyrgyzstan.
Karimov was reelected in December 2007, taking 88.1% of the vote. The opposition claimed the vote was rigged.
Human Rights Watch Expelled
In March 2011, the Uzbekistan government expelled all Human Rights Watch employees from the country. The government gave no reason for the expulsion. Human Rights Watch released a statement that indicated the decision came after years of harassment by government officials. In the statement, the group said, "Well over a dozen human rights and political activists and independent journalists are in prison, torture and ill-treatment in the criminal justice system are systematic, and serious violations go unpunished." Human Rights Watch called on the European Union and the United States to come down harder on Uzbekistan for its human rights violations.
Both the U.S. and the European Union have worked to improve relations with Uzbekistan in recent months. A neighbor of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan offers a route for the United States to get supplies to get into that country.
Militant Leader Killed by U.S. Drone Strike
In early August 2012, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a major militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda, announced that the group's leader, Uthman Adil, had been killed in a U.S. drone strike. Adil was killed in Pakistan, near the Afghan border back in April 2012 when a U.S. drone fired missiles into a tribal region. Adil's death was confirmed by a security official from Pakistan who said his death was a "major blow" to the militant group.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has a reputation for extreme violence even when compared to other militant groups in the region. Therefore, its members have been attacked repeatedly by U.S. drones. One of these previous attacks killed Tahir Yuldashev, the group's leader before Adil.
Presidential elections were held in March 2015. Incumbent Islam Karimov won, receiving more than 90% of the vote. Election turnout was 91%. Uzbekistan's first and only president, Karimov has been in office since 1990.