|Background: Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th
century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually
suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1925. During the Soviet era,
intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to
overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have
left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry.
Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its
dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum
reserves. Current concerns include insurgency by Islamic militants based
in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, a non-convertible currency, and the
curtailment of human rights and democratization.
Government type: republic; effectively authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch; executive power concentrated in the presidency
Capital: Tashkent (Toshkent)
Currency: Uzbekistani som (UKS)
Geography of Uzbekistan
Location: Central Asia, north of Afghanistan
People of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most populous country. Its 24 million people, concentrated in the south and east of the country, are close to half the region's total population. Uzbekistan had been one of the poorest republics of the Soviet Union; much of its population was engaged in cotton farming in small rural communities. The population continues to be heavily rural and dependent on farming for its livelihood. The predominant ethnicity is Uzbek. Other ethnic groups include Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5%. The nation is 88% Sunni Moslem, 9% Eastern Orthodox, and 3% other. Uzbek is the official state language; however, Russian is the de facto language for interethnic communication, including much day-to-day government and business use.
The educational system has achieved 99% literacy, and the mean amount of schooling for both men and women is 11 years. However, due to budget constraints and other transitional problems following the collapse of the Soviet Union, texts and other school supplies, teaching methods, curricula, and educational institutions are outdated, inappropriate, and poorly kept. Additionally, the proportion of school-aged persons enrolled has been dropping. Although the government is concerned about this, budgets remain tight. Similarly, in health care, life expectancy is long, but after the breakup of the Soviet Union, health care resources have declined, reducing health care quality, accessibility, and efficiency.
Population: 26,851,195 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
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