Uzbekistan is a landlocked country located right in the heart of Central Asia. It occupies 447,400 square kilometers of land and is home to more than 33.9 million Uzbeks. Known for its ancient cities, Uzbekistan is a beautiful country that is steeped with tradition.
1. It is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world.
Alongside Liechtenstein, Uzbekistan is one of two doubly landlocked nations on the planet, a fun fact about Uzbekistan. This means that to get to a coastline, travelers from Uzbekistan need to traverse two more nations. The country is surrounded by the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan.
2. Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
In June 1990, the former Soviet state declared its sovereignty. More than a year later, on August 31, 1991 to be exact, the country separated from the union to become its own country of Uzbekistan. The young nation’s first president was Islam Karimov, who was also the leader of the former Uzbek SSR. He led the country for 25 years – right until his death in September 2016.
Replacing Karimov was Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who was the country’s prime minister. His leadership was entirely different from the former president, as Mirziyoyev believed in foreign policy and hiring ‘young people who love the country.’ He toured around Uzbekistan to personally see the progress of the government’s many projects. For this, his leadership has been heralded as the start of “Uzbek Spring.”
3. Ancient Uzbeks were the first to occupy Central Asia.
The Scythians, who occupied what is now the Northern Uzbek grasslands, were tagged as the first inhabitants of Central Asia. This occupation in 1000 BC saw the building of irrigation systems, among many other reformations. It also led to the eventual rise of the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, which were part of the famed Silk Route.
Uzbekistan became part of different regimes, including that of the Persians, Parthians, and Sassanids. Such was the case until the 8th century when Uzbekistan was conquered by the Arabs during what is called the “Islamic Golden Age.”
4. Uzbekistan was once ruled by Genghis Khan’s son.
Uzbekistan changed hands several times. By the 13th century – like much of Central Asia – it was under the control of the infamous Genghis Khan. When he died, the country was placed under the command of his second-born son, Chagatai Khan, an interesting fact about Uzbekistan. Much of the country became part of the Chagatai Khanate, except for the city of Khwarezm, which was under the Golden Horde rule back then.
5. The country became governed by Tamerlane (Timur-ilang) later on.
By the 14th century, the Khanate rule transferred to the hands of the fierce Tamerlane (Timur-ilang), who was known for his brutal conquests. Despite this, he brought many positive changes to the country. More than just influencing the people with Perso-Islamic culture, he spearheaded the construction of grand buildings. He even welcomed distinguished academics and laureates from the different parts of Asia.
Following Tamerlane’s death, Uzbek nomadic tribes occupied the country until Russia’s capture of Central Asia in the 19th century.
6. The country is the most densely populated in Central Asia.
Without Kazakhstan in the list, Uzbekistan is the highest-populated country in Central Asia with more than 33.9 million citizens. The population is relatively young, with 34% of its people aged 12 years and below.
Currently, Uzbeks comprise 80% of the population. Completing the demographic profile are the Karakalpaks and the Tatars, as well as foreigners from Russia, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.
7. Uzbekistan has 12 provinces, one autonomous republic, and one independent city.
The 12 provinces that comprise Uzbekistan are Andijan, Bukhara, Fergana, Jizzakh, Kashkadarya, Khorezm, Namangan, Navoiy, Samarkand, Surkhandarya, Syrdarya, and Tashkent Region. Apart from 12 provinces, Uzbekistan also has an autonomous republic, Karakalpakstan, which has the largest land size.
Uzbekistan also has an independent city, which is its capital of Tashkent. An interesting fact about Uzbekistan is that it is heralded as the “Cultural Capital of the Islamic World,” many thanks to its beautiful mosques and historical sites. The city is where the Samarkand Kufic Quran, one of the oldest versions of the Islamic scriptures, can be found.
8. The country enjoys a very high literacy rate.
Thanks to Russia’s free educational system, Uzbekistan remains to be one of the countries with the highest literacy rates. In 2016, the country’s literacy rate was an impressive 99.99%. Adult literacy rates in individuals aged 15 to 24 years old were 100%, while the rest of the population scored an almost perfect score of 99.99%.
9. The Uzbek flag has profound meanings.
The flag makes use of four colors, a crescent moon, and 12 stars. Despite its simplicity, these symbols hold very deep meanings. The color blue represents the sky, as well as the Turkic people. White signifies peace and purity, while green symbolizes Islam and the color of nature. The red stripes, on the other hand, serve as links between the sky and the earth. Islam is again represented by the crescent moon, while the 12 stars denote the 12 months as well as the constellations of the Uzbek calendar.
10. Islam is the country’s major religion.
About 93.3% of the population are Muslims. While they enjoy religious freedom at the moment, it wasn’t the case when the nation was still under the Soviet command. Despite such repression, Uzbeks did not practice fundamentalism once Soviet control subsided.
Apart from Islam, other religions in the country include Russian Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.
11. Uzbekistan has a large number of gold deposits.
An interesting Uzbekistan fact is that the sheer number of its gold deposits makes it the 4th largest in the world. About 80 tons of gold are mined from the country, making it the seventh most productive in the entire planet.
Much of its precious resources are obtained from the Muruntau gold deposit, which is located in the Qizilqum desert. Discovered in 1958, it features the largest open-pit gold mine in the entire world.
Uzbekistan is a young country that is slowly opening up to trade and foreign relations. With its high literacy rate, progressive leader, and immense gold mines, the country is poised to have a GDP growth of as much as 5.40% this 2020.
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