History, Language & Culture Uzbekistan
What is now Uzbekistan was in ancient times part of the Iranian-speaking region of Transoxiana and Turan. The first recorded settlers were Eastern Iranian nomads, known as Scythians, who founded kingdoms in Khwarazm (8th–6th centuries BC), Bactria (8th–6th centuries BCE), Sogdia (8th–6th centuries BCE), Fergana (3rd century BCE – 6th century CE), and Margiana (3rd century BCE – 6th century CE). The area was incorporated into the Iranian Achaemenid Empire and, after a period of Macedonian Greek rule, was ruled by the Iranian Parthian Empire and later by the Sasanian Empire, until the Muslim conquest of Persia in the seventh century. The Early Muslim conquests converted most of the people, including the local ruling classes, into adherents of Islam. During this period, cities such as Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara began to grow rich from the Silk Road, and witnessed the emergence of leading figures of the Islamic Golden Age, including Muhammad al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmidhi, Ismail Samani, al-Biruni, and Avicenna. The local Khwarazmian dynasty, and Central Asia as a whole, were decimated by the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. After the region became dominated by Turkic peoples. The city of Shahrisabz was the birthplace of the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur (Tamerlane), who in the 14th century established the Timurid Empire and was proclaimed the Supreme Emir of Turan with his capital in Samarkand, which became a centre of science under the rule of Ulugh Beg, giving birth to the Timurid Renaissance. The territories of the Timurid dynasty were conquered by Uzbek Shaybanids in the 16th century, moving the centre of power to Bukhara. The region was split into three states: the Khanate of Khiva, Khanate of Kokand and Emirate of Bukhara. Conquests by Emperor Babur towards the east led the foundation of India's proto-industrialised Mughal Empire.
Central Asia, bar Afghanistan, was gradually incorporated into the Russian Empire during the 19th century, with Tashkent becoming the political center of Russian Turkestan. In 1924, national delimitation meant constituent republics of the Soviet Union, here the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, was created. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it declared independence as the Republic of Uzbekistan on 31 August 1991.
Uzbekistan has a diverse cultural heritage due to its layers of history and strategic location. Its official language is Uzbek, a Turkic language written in a modified Latin alphabet and spoken natively by approximately 85% of the population. Russian has widespread use as an inter-ethnic tongue (pidgen) and in governance. Uzbeks constitute 81% of the population, followed by Russians (5.4%), Tajiks (4.0%), Kazakhs (3.0%) and others (6.5%). Muslims constitute 79% of the people while 5% follow Russian Orthodox Christianity and 16% of the population follow other religions or are non-religious. A majority of Uzbeks are non-denominational Muslims. Uzbekistan is a member of the CIS, OSCE, UN and the SCO. While officially a democratic republic,by 2008 non-governmental human rights organisations defined Uzbekistan as "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights".
Official languages: Uzbek