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Uzbekistan

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Ozbekiston Respublikasi aka Ozbekiston Zumhurijati
Republic of Uzbekistan
Missing image
Flag_of_Uzbekistan.png
Flag of Uzbekistan

Coat of Arms of Uzbekistan
Flag of Uzbekistan Coat of Arms of Uzbekistan
Image:LocationUzbekistan.png
National anthem National Anthem of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Capital Tashkent
President Islam Karimov
Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyayev
Official language Uzbek
Area
 – Total
 – % water
Ranked 55th
 447,400 km²
 4.9%
Population
 – Total (2002)
 – Density
Ranked 41st
 25,563,441
 57/km²
Independence
 – Date
From Soviet Union
 September 1, 1991
Currency Uzbekistani Som (UKS)
Time zone UTC +5
Calling Code 998
Internet TLD .uz

The Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia. 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.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Uzbekistan

For thousands of years the present area of Uzbekistan was a part of the Persian Empire. Before the gradual arrival of the Turkic invaders the area was populated by the Persian-speaking people of Iranian stock who still comprise a large minority in Uzbekistan and are called Tajiks today. The area was a bone of contention between the Uzbek emirs and the Persian Kings for many centuries.

In the 19th century, the Russian Empire began to expand, and spread into Central Asia. The "Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second less intensive phase followed. At the start of the 19th century there were some 2000 miles separating British India and the outlying regions of the Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Central Asia was firmly in the hands of Russia and despite some early resistance to Bolsheviks, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union.

On September 1, 1991, Uzbekistan reluctantly declared independence. While the Baltic States led the fight for independence, Central Asian states were afraid of it. "The centrifugal forces pulling the Union apart were weakest in Central Asia. Well after the August 1991 coup attempt, all Central Asian countries believed that the Union might somehow be preserved," wrote Michael McFaul in Russia's Unfinished Revolution.

On May 13, 2005, protests broke out in Andijan over the imprisonment of 23 Muslims accused of being Islamist extremists. Soldiers started to fire on the protestors, leaving at least nine of them dead. The protestors took thirty hostages as a result. On the same day in Tashkent, a suspected suicide bomber was shot dead outside the Israeli Embassy.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Uzbekistan

Constitutionally, the Government of Uzbekistan provides for separation of powers, freedom of speech, and representative government. In reality, the executive holds almost all power. The judiciary lacks independence and the legislature, which meets only a few days each year, has little power to shape laws. The president selects and replaces provincial governors. Under terms of a December 1995 referendum, Karimov's first term was extended. Another national referendum was held January 27, 2002 to yet again extend Karimov's term. The referendum passed and Karimov's term was extended by act of the parliament to December 2007. Most international observers refused to participate in the process and did not recognize the results, dismissing them as not meeting basic standards. The 2002 referendum also included a plan to create a bicameral parliament. The building to house the new parliament is currently under construction. Elections for the new bicameral parliament took place on December 26, but no truly independent opposition candidates or parties were able to take part. The OSCE limited observation mission concluded that the elections fell significantly short of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Several political parties have been formed with government approval but have yet to show interest in advocating alternatives to government policy. Similarly, although multiple media outlets (radio, TV, newspaper) have been established, these either remain under government control or rarely broach political topics. Independent political parties were allowed to organize, recruit members, and hold conventions and press conferences, but have been denied registration under restrictive registration procedures. Terrorist bombings were carried out March 28-April 1, 2004 in Tashkent and Bukhara. It is not yet clear who committed the attacks. The government reaction to the attacks, thus far, has been restrained.

Human Rights

Uzbekistan is nominally democratic but has been described as a police state. Several prominent opponents of the government have fled, and others have been arrested. The government severely represses those it suspects of Islamic extremism, particularly those it suspects of membership in the banned Party of Islamic Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir). Some 5,300 to 5,800 suspected extremists are incarcerated.

As Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, repeatedly spoke out against human rights abuse by the Karimov regime, most famously the case of Muzafar Avazov, believed to have been boiled alive by the Uzbek security forces. He also raised strong concerns behind closed doors. In a series of confidential memos wired back to London between 2002 and 2004, Murray criticised the use by Britain and other Western democracies of information extracted from "tortured dupes" by the Uzbek authorities. Murray argued that by accepting such information, Britain was encouraging further abuses, in contravention of international law, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, of which Britain is a signatory.

In October 2004, one of Murray's memos was leaked to the Financial Times. Shortly afterwards Murray was removed from his post by his employers, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and recalled to London. At this point Murray became openly critical of the British government's acceptance of information extracted under torture, giving a series of media interviews condemning the policy. In response to Murray's public criticisms, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office began disciplinary action against him, and Murray resigned shortly afterwards. No misconduct by him was proven. The FCO itself is being investigated by the National Audit Office because of accusations of victimisation, bullying and intimidating its own staff, as reported in the Sunday Times (London) on 20 March 2005.

Murray later stated that he felt that he had unwittingly stumbled upon what has been called "torture by proxy" (http://www.newyorker.com/online/content/?050214on_onlineonly01) - see also "extraordinary rendition". Murray claimed to have seen evidence that Western countries were purposely moving people to regimes and nations, including Uzbekistan, where it was known that information would be extracted by torture, and made available to them.

Prison conditions remain very poor, particularly for those convicted of extremist activities, and a number of such prisoners are believed to have died over the past several years from prison disease and abuse. The police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine investigation technique. No independent political parties have been registered, although they were for the first time able to conduct grass-roots activities and to convene organizing congresses. Following the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Government of Uzbekistan drafted an Action Plan to implement the Special Rapporteur's recommendations.

In a report dated 21 March 2005, Amnesty International stated that:

Thousands of people have been detained and imprisoned in Uzbekistan on accusations of "religious extremism". Among them are members and presumed members of independent Islamic congregations, members of banned Islamist and secular opposition parties and movements, and their relatives. Amnesty International has received persistent allegations that police have tortured many of those arrested to extract 'confessions'. Heavy sentences, including death sentences, have been imposed after trials which appear to have been grossly unfair.

In the area of freedom of expression, the Karimov regime maintains an iron grip on the country's media. State media routinely black out coverage of bombings by Islamic insurgents while foreign journalists and media outlets are harassed for reporting on growing unrest. Authorities also block Web sites that provide independent news, including those of Arena and the new Uzbek-language BBC.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Uzbekistan is the leading jailer of journalists in Europe and Central Asia, with four behind bars as of December 2004. Reporters Without Borders says the fight against terrorism is used as an excuse by authorities to step up their crackdown on independent media.

In May 2005, several hundred demonstrators were killed after Uzbek troops fired into a crowd protesting against the imprisonment of 23 local businessmen. (For further details, see May 2005 unrest in Uzbekistan, and news, below.)

Recently, a Uzbekistan pastor facing up to eight years in prison for leading an unregistered church is asking for the prayers of fellow Christian believers in the West, says the Voice of the Martyrs, an organization fighting for the persecuted church around the world.

Two members of the Bethany Protestant Church in Tashkent have already been punished for "illegally" teaching their faith, while six others including Pastor Nikolai Shevchenko are due to face trial next month for leading an unregistered religious organization.

The church has repeatedly been denied registration in a district of the city where mosques are banned also.

On June 10, 2005 a criminal court sentenced Nail Kalinkin to 15 days in prison and fined his wife, Marina, the equivalent of $68. They were found guilty of expounding the meaning of biblical texts.

Uniformed and plain clothes police officers burst into the Bethany Church during the Sunday service June 12. The authorities cut short the service, saying that the church could not meet there any more. They demanded the pastors write statements explaining the reason for the meeting.

Shevchenko and five other church members were taken to the police station.

When interrogations began, Shevchenko asked for an attorney to be present.

"Those at the police station answered us that they required neither lawyer nor summons, because all they needed was to destroy us," he said.

He has been repeatedly fined since 2000 for leading an unregistered religious community. In 2001, he was accused of unlawful religious activity and faced criminal charges, but the case was closed after pressure from the international community.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Uzbekistan

Map of Uzbekistan
Enlarge
Map of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a dry, double-landlocked country of which 10% consists of intensely cultivated, irrigated river valleys. It is one of two double-landlocked countries in the world - the other being Liechtenstein, although in the case of Uzbekistan this is less clear, since it has borders with two countries (Kazakhstan in the north and Turkmenistan in the south) bordering the landlocked but non-freshwater Caspian Sea from which ships can reach the Sea of Azov and thus the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the oceans.

The highest point in Uzbekistan is Adelunga Toghi at 4301 meters.

See also: List of cities in Uzbekistan

Subdivisions

Main article: Subdivisions of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is divided into 12 provinces (viloyatlar; singular - viloyat), 1 autonomous republic* (respublika), and 1 city** (shahar):


note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions and alternate spellings have the administrative center name following in parentheses)

Economy

Main article: Economy of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan was one of the poorest areas of the former Soviet Union with more than 60% of its population living in densely populated rural communities. Uzbekistan is now the world's third largest cotton exporter, a major producer of gold and natural gas, and a regionally significant producer of chemicals and machinery.

Following independence in December 1991, the government sought to prop up its Soviet-style command economy with subsidies and tight controls on production and prices. Faced with high rates of inflation, however, the government began to reform in mid-1994, by introducing tighter monetary policies, expanding privatization, slightly reducing the role of the state in the economy, and improving the environment for foreign investors. The state continues to be a dominating influence in the economy, and reforms have so far failed to bring about structural changes. The IMF suspended Uzbekistan's $185 million standby arrangement in late 1996 because of governmental steps that made fulfillment of Fund conditions impossible. Uzbekistan has responded to the negative external conditions generated by the Asian and Russian financial crises by tightening export and currency controls within its already largely closed economy. Economic policies that have repelled foreign investment are a major factor in the economy's stagnation. A growing debt burden, persistent inflation, and a poor business climate cloud growth prospects in 2000.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most populous country. Its 25 million people, concentrated in the south and east of the country, are nearly 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. Uzbek is the predominant ethnic group. Other ethnic groups include Russian 5.5%, Tajik 15%, Korean 4.7%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, and Tatar 1.5%. The nation is 88% Sunni Muslim and 9% Eastern Orthodox. 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 97% 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.

Communications

Main article: Communications in Uzbekistan Template:Sect-stub

Transportation

Main article: Transportation in Uzbekistan Template:Sect-stub

Military

Main article: Military of Uzbekistan Template:Sect-stub

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of Uzbekistan Previously close to Washington, the government of Uzkekistan has restricted American military use of the airbase at Karshi-Khanabadwhich is used for air operations in neighboring Afghanistan. See AP article (http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-eur/2005/jun/15/061505239.html)

Template:Sect-stub

Culture

Main article: Culture of Uzbekistan

External links

Democracy-related links

News


Countries in Central Asia

China (PRC) | Kazakhstan | Kyrgyzstan | Mongolia | Russia | Tajikistan | Turkmenistan | Uzbekistan


af:Oesbekistan

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