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History of Uzbekistan

From Academic Kids

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, and many famous conquerors passed through the land.

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 Tajiks, a Persian-speaking people of Iranian stock who still comprise a large minority in Uzbekistan. The area was a bone of contention between the Uzbek emirs and the Persian Kings for many centuries.

Alexander the Great conquered Marakanda (Modern Samarkand) on his way to India in 327 BC, marrying Roxanna, daughter of a local Persian chieftain. However, as the story tells thr conquest was of little help Alexander as popular resistance was fierce; causing Alexander's army to be bogged down in the region.

The territory of present day Uzbekistan was referred to as Transoxiana until the 8th century. See also: Sogdiana

Conquered by Muslim Arabs in the 8th century AD, the indigenous Persian Samanid dynasty established an empire in the 9th century. Samanids brought about a revival of the Persian culture in the area. Its territory was overrun by Jenghis Khan and his Mongol tribes in 1220.

In the 1300s, Timur (1336 - 1405), known in the west as Tamerlane, overpowered the Mongols and built an empire. In his military campaigns Tamerlane reached as far as the Middle East. He defeated Ottoman Emperor Bayazid and rescued Europe from Turkish conquest. In recognition of this, France erected his monument in Paris.

Tamerlane sought to build a capital of his empire in Samarkand. From each campaign he would send artisans to the city, sparing their lives. Samarkand became home for many people; there used to be Greek and Chinese, Egyptian and 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.

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 Khanates of Khiva and 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.

Though 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 till 30-ies. In 1924, following the establishment of Soviet rule, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan was founded from the territories, including the Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva and portions of the Fergana Valley that had constituted the Khanate of Kokand.

During the Soviet era, Moscow used Uzbekistan for its tremendous cotton-growing ("white gold"), grain, and natural resource potential. The extensive and inefficient irrigation used to support the former has been 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.

Uzbekistan issued its declaration of independence on August 31, 1991, marking September 1 as a national holiday. Islam 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 not free and fair by international observers.

The country now seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves.

Activities of missionaries from some Islamic countries coupled with absence of real opportunities to participate in public affairs contributed to popularization of radical interpretation of Islam. In February 1999, car bombs hit Tashkent and President Karimov nearly escaped an attempt. The government blamed the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in the attacks. In result of law-enforcement operations, dozens of hundreds of people suspected in complicity were imprisoned. In August 2000, the militant groups tried to penetrate to the Uzbek territory from the Kyrgyz soil; acts of armed violence were noted in the southern part of the country as well.

In March 2004, another wave of attacks committed reportedly by international terrorist network shook the country. 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 faced an attack at a factory, then at a traffic check point early the following morning. 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, the first suicide bombers in this county. On the same day, three police officers were shot dead; and in Bukhara another explosion at a suspected terrorist bomb factory claimed ten fatalities. Police raided a militant's hideout south of the capital city in retaliation the following day.

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 possibly responsible groups 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.

Other current concerns include a non-convertible currency, and the curtailment of human rights and democratization.

On July 30, 2004 terrorists bombed the embassies of Israel and the United States in Tashkent, killing 3 people and wounding sereral in the process. The Jihad Group in Uzbekistan posted a claim of responsibility for those attacks on a website linked to al Queda. Terrorism experts say the reasons for the attacks is Uzbekistan's support of the United States and its War on terror.

See also: History of present-day nations and statesde:Geschichte Usbekistans fr:Histoire de l'Ouzbékistan he:היסטוריה של אוזבקיסטן

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