Uzbekistan has the largest population of any of the former Soviet republics, most recently counted at nearly 27 million. Its strategic importance is important, explaining why both the US and the European Union (EU) during the 1990s courted Uzbekistan. However, its strategic importance emerged more forcefully after the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon. US intelligence and military forces used former Soviet military bases in Uzbekistan to mount their campaign to oust the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and have maintained a presence in the predominantly Muslim country, although they were asked to leave after the regime became deeply suspicious of their on-going activities.
Tashkent – Capital of Uzbekistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, shows its shimmering roots as a Silk Road city even today. The 2,000 year-old-city is a major exporter to Eastern Europe of silk, cotton and textiles, as well as oil, coal, copper, sulfur, rice and manufactured products such as television sets, automobiles and tractors. Yet, this city, whose name means “Stone Fortress” — a title adopted in the 11th century, though Tashkent’s roots date back to the dawn of the first millennia A.D. — has the look of a modern metropolis. Little remains of the old city, thanks to a leveling April, 1966, earthquake and the subsequent Soviet rebuilding. Tashkent became a Muslim city in the 8th century AD, and was an important commercial center during the Middle Ages. Wars and natural calamities have swept most of the buildings dating back to the time of the ancient city. Among the survivors are: The Kukeldash Madrassah (XVII c.), the Sheikhantaur Ensamble (XV c.) and the Khazrati- Imam Complex (XVI c.). The city encountered many invadors: in 1220 the city became part ofthe empire of Genghis Khan and later in 1865 part of the Russian empire. The Russian influence pre-dates this century; in 1865, the Tsar’s forces took the city, establishing Tashkent as the capital of Imperial Russia’s Turkistan “satrapy,” and, with the arrival of the Trans-Caspian Railway in 1889, the link with Russia was forged. During the Russian Revolution, the area saw widespread violence as White Russians and local nationalists unsuccessfully battled the Red wave. Despite its modern appearance, Tashkent lacks neither beauty nor culture; this city of 2.3 million is surprisingly green, thanks to its beautifully laid-out parks and its glistening fountains. For the kids, Tashkent’s famous Uzbek Puppet Theater, established in 1939, holds an ages-old thrall that proves modern media can’t compete with old-fashioned entertainment. The city also boasts more than 15 colleges, a renowned university and academy of sciences, and a wealth of theaters and museums, including the Museum of Cinematic Art and the Museum of History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan. For researchers, the city offers resources galore, including the Alisher Navoi State Library, dating back to 1870, the Republic of Uzbekistan State Archives (including major pre-Soviet holdings) and the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences Library.
Karshi – Former Nasaf, defensive city of Uzbekistan
Samarkand – Former Capital of Uzbekistan
Bukhara – Religious Centre of Uzbekistan
Khiva – Tourist Centre of Uzbekistan
The constitution was adopted in December 1992. It guarantees respect for all citizens, regardless of language, custom or tradition, and forbids any group or individual to exercise power on behalf of the people of Uzbekistan except for the elected president and legislature. The creation of a state ideology and censorship of the media are also contrary to the constitution; however, media censorship is still practised.
The autonomous region of Karakalpakstan has its own constitution, but is subject to the laws of Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan has the right to withdraw from Uzbekistan depending on support via a referendum.
On 8 December 1992, Uzbekistan became the second Central Asian state to adopt a post-independence constitution. The already considerable powers of the president were increased, giving him the right to appoint regional governors who report directly to him. The constitution also included guarantees of freedom, of conscience and of travel, and a statement that the country should be a secular democracy. President Karimov has pointed to the Turkish state as his country’s model.
Form of state
Secular democratic and presidential republic.
The president is head of state, holds supreme executive power and is directly elected for no more than two consecutive terms. A January 2002 referendum approved a two-year extension of the president’s constitutional term of office from five to seven years.
The president appoints the prime minister and ministers, subject to confirmation by the legislature, appoints the judges of the lower courts and the governors of the regions.
The Cabinet of Ministers is the government of the country; it is subordinate to the president.
A January 2002 referendum approved increasing the country’s parliament from a one-chamber legislature to two.
From December 2004, parliament comprises a lower house (Legislative Assembly with 120 seats, elected for a term of five years), responsible for formulating legislation and considering ministerial nominations, and an upper house (Senate), which will be responsible for approving legislation. President Islam Karimov selects 16 of the Senate’s 100 representatives, with the remaining 84 elected from the ranks of regional, district and city legislative councils for each of the country’s 12 regions, the city of Tashkent and the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan.
Judicial power is nominally independent of government, but as the judges of the higher courts are selected from among lower court judges, who are themselves appointed by the president, there is in practice significant political control over the system.
The three highest courts are the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the High Commercial Court. The first rules on the validity of legislation and on disputes between the government of Uzbekistan and the Karakalpakstan autonomous region. The second is the highest court of appeal for criminal and civil cases initiated in the lower courts. The third is the highest court of arbitration for civil cases initiated in the lower courts.
Uzbekistan, situated on the route of the ancient Silk Road, is a country rich in historical and cultural heritage, giving it considerable tourist potential. Infrastructure is improving and attractions, including skiing, are being developed.
The Aral Sea is drying up due to the overuse of water from the two main rivers which feed into it and has lost 40 per cent of its water, dropping by up to 19 metres. This has resulted in desertification of the surrounding land. A UN study published in 2004 reported that there was no possibility of restoring the water and the need must be on preserving what is left.
The government has endorsed a 2004 joint strategy to resolve the demands of its water requirements with its neighbours.
Uzbekistan has numerous environmental problems, apart from the management of water resources and the Aral Sea Basin. More than half of irrigated land is heavily salinated and eroded. Surface and underground water sources used for human consumption in parts of the country have also been polluted by industrial and communal discharges.
Uzbekistan is rich in unexplored mineral deposits – its potential mineral wealth amounts to a value of US$3,000 billion. There are around 100 deposits of various metals, including gold, silver, uranium, zinc, copper and tungsten, which need developing. Uzbekistan is the fourth-largest uranium producer in the world.
Uzbekistan is the ninth-largest gold producer in the world. Its commercial reserves are associated with open-cast mines of the Muruntau field in the Kyzylkum desert in central Uzbekistan, which have been developed by the main state gold producer Kyzylkumredmetzoloto (Navoi Integrated Mining and Metallurgical Plant) since 1967. Its annual output amounts to 55-60 tonnes, producing 70 per cent of Uzbekistan’s total gold production.
The Zarafshan-Newmont joint-venture between Uzbekistan and the US mining company Newmont, set up in 1995, processes about 200 million tonnes of low-grade ore, previously regarded as waste, from the Muruntau open gold pit. The project is due to end in 2012. Dzhetymtau, located in the Kyzylkum desert is estimated to hold reserves of 400 tonnes of gold and 350,000 tonnes of tungsten ores.
There are silver deposits in the central Kyzylkum region, which also contain gold, platinum group metals, cobalt and nickel, which can be recovered as by-products.
Uzbekistan is the only producer of enriched uranium in the former Soviet Union. All output is exported, since Uzbekistan has no nuclear reactors. Uzbekistan’s proven uranium reserves are around 80,000 tonnes, while estimated reserves are around 178,000 tonnes. Sugraly is one of Central Asia’s biggest uranium fields and holds an estimated 38,000 tonnes of uranium. Kyzylkumredmetzoloto (Kyzylkum Precious Metals and Gold) is Uzbekistan’s only uranium producer and exporter.
Uzbekistan possesses considerable reserves of lead and zinc.
Copper production in Uzbekistan averages 80,000 tonnes per year, principally from the Kalmakir open mine, with the remainder mined at the Sari Checku open pit. The ore is processed at the Almalyk concentrator.
Uzbekistan produces over 100,000 tonnes per year of feldspar, about one-third of the output of the former Soviet Union. The non-ferrous metal industry includes the mining of bismuth, tungsten and molybdenum. Other natural resources include rock salt, potassium salts, anthracite, graphite, ozokerite, sulphur, quartz, limestone, gypsum, bentonites and semi-precious stones.
Uzbekistan had proved oil reserves of 600 million barrels in 2004 and produced 152,000 barrels per day (bpd). Production meets domestic demand of 131,000 bpd. Thereare three refineries -at Fergana, Alty-Arik and Bukhara with total capacity of 222,000 bpd.
Uzbekistan had proved reserves of natural gas of 1.86 trillion cubic metres in 2004 and is the tenth-largest natural gas producer in the world. Gas production was 55.8 billion cubic metres in 2004.
Principal oil and gas fields include Kuanish, Shakhpakthy and Chembar. Other fields have been discovered in the Mamangan and Ferghana regions. Whereas neighbouring Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and increasingly Turkmenistan have signed numerous multi-million and even multi-billion dollar oil and gas production agreements with foreign energy companies, external involvement in the Uzbekistani sector only began in 2004, when agreements were signed with Russian and Chinese companies. The industry is almost entirely state-controlled, with 14 companies grouped around Uzbekneftegaz (Uzbek Oil and Gas), which is responsible for all aspects of exploration, production, distribution and processing in the hydrocarbons sector.
Uzbekistan has abundant reserves of coal, about one-third of which is highly valued anthracite, but production has rapidly declined and the industry is in need of modernisation. Production meets nearly all domestic needs of around one million tonnes per annum.
The energy sector is almost entirely state-controlled. Natural gas provides most of the necessary energy for local power generation facilities. Uzbekistan is the largest electricity producer among the Central Asian republics and a net exporter of electricity, supplying regional countries, such as Tajikistan.
Uzbekistan is part of the Central Asian power distribution system along with Kyrgyzstan, southern Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In May 2002, the Uzbekistan government signed an agreement with the interim Afghan government to supply 30MW of electricity to northern Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan has 37 electric power plants with an overall capacity of over 11.2GW. There are hydroelectric power plants on the Syr Darya, Narin and Chirchik rivers, and thermal power stations at Syr Darya, Tashkent, Novo-Angren, Tachiatasch and Ferghana. Hydroelectric plants produce 15 per cent of Uzbekistan’s electricity and thermal-powered plants 85 per cent.
Work began on the construction of five hydro-electric power plants in 2002. The largest is the Topalang hydroelectric power station in southern Uzbekistan, which will produce 175MW of electricity annually when fully constructed.
The Republican Stock Exchange (RSE) ‘Tashkent’ opened in 1994. It houses a securities exchange, real estate traders, the national investment fund and the national securities depositary. It does not trade all joint-stock companies each month and therefore market capitalisation varies widely.