Location: Uzbekistan is located in Central Asia, east of the Caspian Sea, directly south of Kazakhstan, north of Turkmenistan, and on the western borders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Size: The area of Uzbekistan is 447,400 square kilometers, of which 425,400 square kilometers is land surface.
Land Boundaries: Uzbekistan has land boundaries with the following countries: Kazakhstan, 2,203 kilometers; Turkmenistan, 1,621 kilometers; Tajikistan, 1,161 kilometers; Kyrgyzstan, 1,099 kilometers; and Afghanistan, 137 kilometers.
Climate: The climate of landlocked Uzbekistan is continental, with hot summers and cool winters. Summer temperatures reach 40°C, averaging 32°C. Winter temperatures reach –38°C, averaging –23°C. Rainfall averages vary between 100 millimeters per year in the northwest and 800 millimeters per year in the Tashkent region. Precipitation falls mainly in the winter and spring.
Natural Resources: Uzbekistan is self-sufficient in natural gas and oil in the near term. Gold is the most plentiful mineral having export value. Significant amounts of copper, lead, silver, tungsten, uranium, and zinc also are present. Nearly all of Uzbekistan’s arable land requires intensive irrigation. Water, Uzbekistan’s most crucial resource, comes mainly from rivers whose sources are in other countries, requiring bilateral agreements with source countries as well as with other user countries downstream. Uzbekistan’s chronically poor water and irrigation management has resulted in severe environmental crises and regional tensions.
Land Use: Some 10.5 percent of Uzbekistan’s land, most of it in the Fergana Valley, is classified as arable, and 0.8 percent is planted to permanent crops. About 0.4 percent is forested. Most of the rest is desert.
Time Zone: Uzbekistan’s time zone is five hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
In the first millennium B.C., Iranian nomads established irrigation systems along the rivers of Central Asia and built towns at Bukhoro and Samarqand. These places became extremely wealthy points of transit on what became known as the Silk Road between China and Europe. In the seventh century A.D., the Soghdian Iranians, who profited most visibly from this trade, saw their province of Mawarannahr overwhelmed by Arabs, who spread Islam throughout the region. Under the Arab Abbasid Caliphate, the eighth and ninth centuries were a golden age of learning and culture in Mawarannahr. As Turks began entering the region from the north, they established new states. After a succession of states dominated the region, in the twelfth century Mawarannahr was united in a single state with Iran and the region of Khorazm, south of the Aral Sea. In the early thirteenth century, that state then was invaded by Mongols led by Genghis Khan, under whose successors Turkish replaced Iranian as the dominant culture of the region. Under Timur (Tamerlane), the last great Mongolian nomadic leader (ruled 1370–1405), Mawarannahr began its last cultural flowering, centered in Samarqand. After Timur the state began to split, and by 1510 Uzbek tribes had conquered all of Central Asia.
In the sixteenth century, the Uzbeks established two strong rival khanates, Bukhoro and Khorazm. In this period, the Silk Road cities began to decline as ocean trade flourished. The khanates were isolated by wars with Iran and weakened by attacks from northern nomads. In the early nineteenth century, three Uzbek khanates—Bukhoro, Khiva, and Quqon (Kokand)—had a brief period of recovery. However, in the mid-nineteenth century Russia, attracted to the region’s commercial potential and especially to its cotton, began the full military conquest of Central Asia. By 1876 Russia had incorporated all three khanates (hence all of present-day Uzbekistan) into its empire, granting the khanates limited autonomy. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Russian population of Uzbekistan grew and some industrialization occurred.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Jadadist movement of educated Central Asians, centered in present-day Uzbekistan, began to advocate overthrowing Russian rule. In 1916 violent opposition broke out in Uzbekistan and elsewhere, in response to the conscription of Central Asians into the Russian army fighting World War I. When the tsar was overthrown in 1917, Jadadists established a short-lived autonomous state at Quqon. After the Bolshevik Party gained power in Moscow, the Jadadists split between supporters of Russian communism and supporters of a widespread uprising that became known as the Basmachi Rebellion. As that revolt was being crushed in the early 1920s, local communist leaders such as Faizulla Khojayev gained power in Uzbekistan. In 1924 the Soviet Union established the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, which included present-day Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan became a separate republic in 1929. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, large-scale agricultural collectivization resulted in widespread famine in Central Asia. In the late 1930s, Khojayev and the entire leadership of the Uzbek Republic were purged and executed by Soviet leader Joseph V. Stalin (in power 1927–53) and replaced by Russian officials. The Russification of political and economic life in Uzbekistan that began in the 1930s continued through the 1970s. During World War II, Stalin exiled entire national groups from the Caucasus and the Crimea to Uzbekistan to prevent “subversive” activity against the war effort.
Moscow’s control over Uzbekistan weakened in the 1970s as Uzbek party leader Sharaf Rashidov brought many cronies and relatives into positions of power. In the mid-1980s, Moscow attempted to regain control by again purging the entire Uzbek party leadership. However, this move increased Uzbek nationalism, which had long resented Soviet policies such as the imposition of cotton monoculture and the suppression of Islamic traditions. In the late 1980s, the liberalized atmosphere of the Soviet Union under Mikhail S. Gorbachev (in power 1985–91) fostered political opposition groups and open (albeit limited) opposition to Soviet policy in Uzbekistan. In 1989 a series of violent ethnic clashes involving Uzbeks brought the appointment of ethnic Uzbek outsider Islam Karimov as Communist Party chief. When the Supreme Soviet of Uzbekistan reluctantly approved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Karimov became president of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan in 1992 following its independence from the Soviet Union. Since then, the United States and Uzbekistan have developed a broad-based relationship, cooperating in such areas as border and regional security programs, economic relations, political and civil society issues, and English language training. Uzbekistan is important to U.S. interests in ensuring stability, prosperity, and security in the broader Central Asian region, and the U.S. has provided security assistance to the country to further these goals. Regional threats include illegal narcotics, trafficking in persons, terrorism, and extremism. Uzbekistan is a key partner supporting international efforts in Afghanistan, primarily through provision of electricity, development of rail infrastructure connecting Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, and support to the Northern Distribution Network logistics system serving North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan.
US Assistance to Uzbekistan
U.S. assistance goals are to improve livelihoods of citizens through support for the agricultural sector, address the threats of infectious disease and transnational crime, increase citizen input into government decision-making, and aid the government’s efforts to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Uzbekistan’s economy was historically based primarily on agriculture and natural resource extraction. While the country remains a major producer of energy and minerals, with uranium one of Uzbekistan’s largest exports to the United States, manufacturing has grown in recent years and now accounts for approximately one quarter of GDP, surpassing agriculture. Uzbekistan has signed a trade and investment framework agreement with the United States and other Central Asian countries establishing a regional forum to discuss ways to improve investment climates and expand trade within Central Asia. Uzbekistan has taken some steps toward accession to the World Trade Organization.
Uzbekistan’s Membership in International Organizations
Uzbekistan and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. Uzbekistan is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Partnership for Peace and an observer to the World Trade Organization.