Uzbekistan officially the Republic of Uzbekistan (Uzbek: O‘zbekiston Respublikasi or Ўзбекистон Республикаси, O'zbekiston Respublikasi) is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. 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. Prior to 1991, it was part of the Soviet Union. Uzbekistan is an observing member of the Turkic Council.
Once part of the Persian 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, potassium, 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. Uzbekistan's domestic policies on human rights and individual freedoms are often criticised by international organizations
Uzbekistan has an area of 447,400 square kilometres (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 lies between latitudes 37° and 46° N, and longitudes 56° and 74° E. It stretches 1,425 kilometres (885 mi) from west to east and 930 kilometres (580 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 or 93 mi) with Afghanistan to the south.
Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country; it is one of two doubly landlocked countries in the world, i.e., a country completely surrounded by landlocked 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 the Khazret Sultan, located at 4,643 metres (15,233 ft) above sea level, 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).
Travel to Uzbekistan
No country in Central Asia seems to have it so good, yet at the same time have it so bad, as Uzbekistan. The region's cradle of culture for more than two millennia, it is the proud home to a spellbinding arsenal of architecture and artefacts, all deeply infused with the raw, fascinating history of the country. But as students of that history know, it's also sprung a few bad apples over the years. Tyrants enamoured by the country's physical bounty have run the territory we now call Uzbekistan since time immemorial.
Concentrating on the good, if there was a Hall of Fame for Central Asian cities, Uzbekistan would own the top-three entries: Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva. The names practically epitomise the region, conjuring up images of knife-twirling dervishes, serpentine desert caravans and architecture that blends with the sand.
Seen in person, the Big Three do not disappoint (the occasional overzealous restorative effort notwithstanding). Alas, they sometimes overshadow the country's other attractions, which include dazzling bazaars, ancient desert fortresses and an impressive array of largely unsung natural attractions.
All of that is enough to eclipse the bad memories evoked by names such as Jenghiz Khan, Timur, Nasrullah Khan and Stalin. The country's long-serving current leader, Islam Karimov, is no saint either. Despite it all, the Uzbek people remain good-spirited and genuinely hospitable - yet another prime attraction in this oddly endearing country.
HIGHLIGHTS OF VISITING UZBEKISTAN
Samarkand : - The breathtaking Registan leads a formidable cast of larger-than-life Timurid architectural gems. Bukhara (p236) Exquisitely preserved holy city boasting stunning 15th-century medressas, awesome B&Bs and fascinating history.
Quirky Cultural Gems Carmen for a dollar at Tashkent's Alisher Navoi Opera & Ballet Theatre (p207) and Central Asia's greatest art collection in Nukus' Savitsky Museum (p259).
Khiva : - The last independent khanate frozen in time amid the desert. Crafty Uzbekistan Silk in Margilon (p220), ceramics in Rishton (p221), suzani (silk and cotton coverlets) in Shakhrisabz and everything under the sun in Bukhara.