|Uzbekistan islamic architecture|
|001 Gur-i-Amir, Samarkand||002 Registan Square, Samarkand||003 Timurid|
|History of Uzbekistan
Located in the heart of Central Asia between the Amu Darya (Oxus) and Syr Darya (Jaxartes) Rivers, Uzbekistan has a long and interesting heritage. The leading cities of the Silk Road - Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva - are located in Uzbekistan. As Russia extended its empire into Central Asia in the second half of the nineteenth century, Uzbekistan became part of Tsarist Russia and later of the Soviet Union. It declared its independence from Soviet rule in 1991.
The territory of Uzbekistan was already populated in the second millennium BC. Early human’s tools and monuments have been found in the Ferghana, Tashkent, Bukhara, Khorezm (Khwarezm, Chorasmia) and Samarkand regions. The first civilizations to appear in Uzbekistan were the Sogdiana, Bactria and Khwarezm (Chorasmia). The territories of these states became a part of the Achaemenid empire in the 6th century.
Alexander the Great conquered Sogdiana and Bactria in 327 BC, marrying Roxane, the daughter of a local Sogdian chieftain. However, the story goes that the conquest was of little help to Alexander, as popular resistance was fierce, causing Alexander's army to be bogged down in the region.
The territory of Uzbekistan was referred to as Transoxiana until the 8th century.
The area was conquered by Muslim Arabs in the 8th century AD. A century later, the Persian Samanid dynasty established an empire. The Samanids encouraged Persian culture in the area. Later, the Samanid empire was overthrown by the Kara-Khanid Khanate. Uzbekistan and rest Central Asia was invaded by Genghis Khan and his Mongol tribes in 1220.
In the 1300s, Timur (1336 - 1405), known in the west as Tamerlane, overpowered the Mongols and built his own empire. In his military campaigns Tamerlane reached as far as the Middle East. He defeated the Ottoman Emperor Bayezid I and rescued Europe from Turkish conquest. Tamerlane sought to build a fitting capital for his empire in Samarkand. From each campaign he would send artisans to the city, sparing their lives. Samarkand became home to many peoples: there used to be Greek,Chinese, Egyptian, Persian, Syrian and Armenian neighborhoods. Uzbekistan's most noted tourist sights date from the Timurid dynasty.
Later, separate Muslim city-states emerged with strong ties to Persia.
A fabric merchant in Samarkand, ca. 1910
In 1865, Russia occupied Tashkent and by the end of the 19th century, Russia had conquered all of Central Asia. In 1876, the Russians dissolved the Khanate of Kokand, while allowing the Khanate of Khiva and the Emirate of Bukhara to remain as direct protectorates. Russia placed the rest of Central Asia under colonial administration, and invested in the development of Central Asia's infrastructure, promoting cotton growing, and encouraging settlement by Russian colonists.
Although stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed, resistance groups called basmachi operated in the region (reaching as far as the Pamir mountains) until the 1930s. In 1924, following the establishment of Soviet rule, the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created from ethnic Uzbek areas of Central Asia, including most of the territories of the Emirate of Bukhara and Khanate of Khiva as well as portions of the Fergana Valley that had constituted the Khanate of Kokand.
During the Soviet era, Moscow used Uzbekistan for its tremendous potential in cotton-growing ("white gold"), grain, and natural resources. The extensive and inefficient irrigation used to support cotton growing is the main cause of shrinkage of the Aral Sea to less than one-third of its original volume, making this one of the world's worst environmental disasters. The overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies have left large parts of the land poisoned.
The following is a chronology of major recent events in Uzbekistan:
1989 - Islom Karimov becomes leader of Uzbek Communist Party. - Violent attacks against minorities in Ferghana Valley. Nationalist movement Birlik (Unity) is founded.
1991 - Uzbekistan declares independence from the Soviet Union, joining the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) -- a grouping of former Soviet republics -- after the Soviet Union's collapse. - Karimov is returned as president in elections in which few opposition groups are allowed to field candidates.
1992 - Karimov bans the Birlik and Erk (Freedom) parties. Large numbers of opposition party members are arrested for alleged anti-state activities.
1995 - A number of Erk party activists are given prison sentences for allegedly conspiring to oust the government.
1999 - Bomb blasts in the capital, Tashkent, kill more than a dozen people. Karimov blames the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). -IMU broadcasts a declaration of jihad from a radio station in Iran, demanding the resignation of the Uzbek leadership. -IMU insurgents launch a series of attacks against government forces from mountain hideouts.
2000 - Karimov is re-elected president. Western observers call the elections neither free nor fair. - New York-based Human Rights Watch accuses Uzbekistan of the widespread use of torture.
June 2001 - Uzbekistan jails 73 people for up to 18 years for aiding Islamic extremists in its southern Surkhandarya region in 2000.
October - Uzbekistan allows the United States military to use its airbases for attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan.
January 2002 - Karimov wins backing to extend his presidential term from five to seven years in a referendum derided by the West as a ploy to hang on to power.
August - Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan military leader Juma Namangany is reported killed.
June 2003 - Erk opposition party holds first formal meeting since it was banned 11 years earlier.
December - Karimov sacks Prime Minister Otkir Sultanov, citing the country's poorest cotton harvest on record. Shavkat Mirziyayev is appointed to replace him.
March 2004 - Uzbek special forces storm a suspected Islamic militants' hideout, killing up to 23 people after a day-long siege.
July - Suicide bombers target U.S. and Israeli embassies in Tashkent. A third blast hits a state prosecutor's office, killing three people.
November - New restrictions on trading practices lead to civil disorder in eastern town of Kokand. Several thousand people are reported to have taken part in street protests.
May 13, 2005 - Hundreds are feared dead when Uzbek troops fire on thousands of protesters in the eastern town of Andijon. Uzbek authorities maintain that only 176 people died during the clashes, most of them "terrorists" and their own soldiers. Independent estimates of the death toll range from 500, through 700 to 1000.
On August 31, 1991, Uzbekistan declared its independence from the Soviet Union, marking September 1 as a national holiday. 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.
Islom Karimov, former First Secretary of the Communist Party, was elected president in December 1991 with 88% of the vote; however, the elections were viewed as neither free nor fair by international observers. After independence Karimov encouraged anti-Russian nationalist sentiment, and 80% of ethnic Russians - more than 2 million people - fled Uzbekistan.
The activities of missionaries from some Islamic countries, coupled with the absence of real opportunities to participate in public affairs, contributed to the popularization of a radical interpretation of Islam. In February 1999, car bombs hit Tashkent and President Karimov narowly escaped an attempt. The government blamed the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) for the attacks. As a result of law-enforcement operations, thousands of people suspected of complicity were imprisoned. In August 2000, the militant groups tried to penetrate Uzbek territory from Kyrgyz soil; acts of armed violence were noted in the southern part of the country as well.
In March 2004, another wave of attacks shook the country. These were reportedly committed by an international terrorist network An explosion in the central part of Bukhara killed ten people in a house used by alleged terrorists on March 28, 2004. Later that day, policemen were attacked at a factory, and early the following morning they were attacked at a traffic check point. The violence escalated on March 29, when two women separately set off bombs near the main bazaar in Tashkent, killing two people and injuring around twenty. These were the first suicide bombers in Uzbekistan. On the same day, three police officers were shot dead. In Bukhara, another explosion at a suspected terrorist bomb factory caused ten fatalities. The following day police raided a militant's hideout south of the capital city in retaliation.
President Karimov claimed the attacks were probably the work of a banned radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir ("The Party of Liberation"), although the group denied responsibility. Other groups that might have been responsible include militant groups operating from camps in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and opposed to the government's support of the United States since September 9, 2001.
In 2004, British ambassador Craig Murray was removed from his post after speaking out against the regime's human rights abuses.
On July 30, 2004, terrorists bombed the embassies of Israel and the United States in Tashkent, killing 3 people and wounding several in the process. The Jihad Group in Uzbekistan posted a claim of responsibility for those attacks on a website linked to Al-Qaeda. Terrorism experts say the reason for the attacks is Uzbekistan's support of the United States and its War on terror.
In May 2005, several hundred demonstrators were killed when Uzbek troops fired into a crowd protesting against the imprisonment of 23 local businessmen. (For further details, see Andijan massacre.)
In July 2005, the Uzbek government gave the US 180 days' notice to leave the airbase it had leased in Uzbekistan. A Russian airbase and a German airbase remain.
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