|Uzbekistan :: Brief History|
Capital City: Tashkent
National Holiday: Independence Day, 1 September (1991)
National Anthem: Click here for anthem.Brief History: Located in the heart of Central Asia between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, Uzbekistan has a long and interesting heritage. The leading cities of the Silk Road - Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva - are located in Uzbekistan, and many famous conquerors passed through the land.
Alexander the Great stopped near Samarkand on his way to India in 327 BC and married Roxanna, daughter of a local chieftain.
The territory of present day Uzbekistan was referred to as Transoxiana until the 8th century.
Conquered by Muslim Arabs in the 8th century AD, the indigenous Samanid dynasty established an empire in the 9th century. Its territory was overrun by Genghis Khan and his Mongols in 1220.
In the 1300s, Timur (1336 - 1405), known in the west as Tamerlane, built an empire with its capital at Samarkand. Uzbekistan's most noted tourist sights date from the Timurid dynasty.
Later, separate Muslim city-states emerged with strong ties to Persia.
In 1865, Russia occupied Tashkent and by the end of the 19th century, Russia had conquered all of Central Asia. In 1876, the Russians dissolved the Khanate of Kokand, while allowing the Khanates of Khiva and Bukhara to remain as direct protectorates. Russia placed the rest of Central Asia under colonial administration, and invested in the development of Central Asia's infrastructure, promoting cotton growing, and encouraging settlement by Russian colonists.
Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and, in 1924, following the establishment of Soviet power, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan was founded from the territories, including the Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva and portions of the Fergana Valley that had constituted the Khanate of Kokand.
During the Soviet era, Moscow used Uzbekistan for its tremendous cotton-growing ("white gold"), grain, and natural resource potential. The extensive and inefficient irrigation used to support the former has been the main cause of shrinkage of the Aral Sea to less than one-third of its original volume, making this one of the world's worst environmental disasters. The overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, have left large parts of the land poisoned.
Uzbekistan declared independence on September 1, 1991. Islam Karimov, former First Secretary of the Communist Party, was elected president in December 1991 with 88% of the vote; however, the election was not viewed as free or fair by foreign observers.
The country now seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves.
The problem of terrorism by Islamic militant groups was demonstrated by an explosion in the central part of Bukhara that killed ten people in a house used by alleged terrorists on March 28, 2004. Later that day police were attacked at a factory, then at a traffic check point early the following morning.
The violence escalated on March 29, when two women separately set off bombs near the main bazaar in Tashkent, killing two people and injuring around twenty, the first suicide bombers in this county. On the same day, three police officers were shot dead and in Bukhara, another explosion at a suspected terrorist bomb factory claimed ten fatalities. Police raided a militant's hideout south of the capital city in retaliation the following day.
President Karimov claimed the attacks were probably the work of a banned radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir ("The Party of Liberation"), although the group denied responsibility. Other possibly responsible groups include militant groups from Tajikistan and Afghanistan, opposed to the government's support of the United States since September 9, 2001.
Other current concerns include a non-convertible currency, and the curtailment of human rights and democratization.
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