Uzbekistan History and Politics
Prehistory and early history and antiquity
In the south-east of Uzbekistan, 70,000-year-old bones were found in the Teschik-Tash Cave, which prove that Neanderthals lived here at that time.
In the 6th century BC The area of today’s Uzbekistan came under Persian rule, namely the Achaemenid Empire. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great ended this rule when he conquered Persia. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries, the region then belonged to the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. In the centuries that followed, the Silk Road ran across the area. This network of caravan routes connected Central Asia with China. Kokand, Samarkand and Bukhara were on the Silk Road.
Islamization and Muslim Rule
In the 8th century the Arab expansion also reached Uzbekistan. The area was Islamized. From 819 the Samanids ruled. They came from Persia and were Muslims. Bukhara was their capital. Their rule lasted until 1005. Then Turkish dynasties took over: the Qarakhanids ruled until 1213. In 1220 the Mongols invaded. Wars among the nomadic peoples determined this time.
In 1370 Timur Lenk proclaimed himself ruler of Transoxania. Transoxania was the name given to the area that today mainly belongs to Uzbekistan. Timur Lenk, also called Tamerlan, founded a great empire. He was brutal, but also promoted art and literature. The dynasty he founded ruled until the beginning of the 16th century.
The Uzbeks had immigrated from Western Siberia around 1430. They founded khanates in the 16th century. First the Scheibanids ruled, then the Janids. Many mosques and madrasas (Islamic schools) were built under them. Culturally, the influence from Persia was great. From the 18th century, there were three khanates in the region, which the Uzbeks ruled. Kokand, Xiwa and Bukhara were the capital cities.
Central Asia was a rich area and attracted Russia. In the 19th century there were several campaigns of conquest. The Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva became Russian “protected areas”, while the Kokand Khanate no longer existed.
In 1920 the Russians finally abolished the khanates. After several territorial reforms, the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was established in 1925. Resistance to the rule of the Bolsheviks was unsuccessful, but the Uzbeks grew together as one people.
Tajikistan, initially part of the Uzbek SSR, was spun off again. Karakalpakistan was initially part of Kazakhstan, but was then incorporated into Uzbekistan in 1936.
During the time of Soviet rule, Uzbekistan became one of the largest producers of cotton. The environment was badly affected. In 1959 Sharaf Ramidov became First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan. He was something like the head of government of the republic. A great personality cult was practiced around him. His rule did not end until 1983 when a corruption scandal became known and he subsequently committed suicide.
From independence until today
With the end of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan declared its independence on September 1, 1991. Islom Karimov, the first General Secretary since 1989, has now become President. Karimov extended his term of office several times, although the constitution does not actually provide for that. He was in office until 2016. Internationally, unfree elections and the violation of human rights and freedom of the press are criticized.
The economy was slowly transformed from a planned to a market economy. Nevertheless, the state still controls large areas. The cultivation of cotton was cut back in favor of other agricultural products, and mineral resources such as natural gas and gold were developed.
In 2005 there were riots and demonstrations in the country against the authoritarian government. Several hundred people died.
In December 2016, Shavkat Mirziyoyev became the new President of Uzbekistan after Karimov’s death. He promised an end to the forced labor in the cotton fields, but not much has happened so far – it is only being better veiled.
Mosques and madrasas
As a country located in Asia according to a2zgov, Uzbekistan is a traditionally Islamic country. That is why there are many mosques and madrasas in the cities. Muslims pray together in a mosque, while a madrasa (sometimes called a medresa) is an Islamic school. Many of these buildings in Uzbekistan are very old, around the 15th century. They are usually decorated in many ways, with mosaics, reliefs and wall paintings. Particularly beautiful of these buildings can be found in Samarkand, Bukhara and Xiva.
We don’t necessarily associate Uzbekistan with desert landscapes. In fact, most of the west of the country – around four tenths of the country – is desert. It’s called the Kyzylkum Desert. The name means “red sand”. Such red sand can be found here alongside gravel and crushed stone and also light sand.
Non and green tea
Omnipresent in Uzbekistan is non, the flat flatbread that is traditionally baked in the tandoor oven. Such bread is available for 20 cents. The typical drink in the country, on the other hand, is green tea. It is not only drunk at home, but also in their own tea houses, the choyxonas.