Uzbekistan has a large and diverse cultural heritage primarily because of its storied history and strategic location along the Silk Road route that facilitate trade between East and West. It is now a multinational state with people ethnically Uzbek, Karakalpak,Tajik, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Russian, Ukrainian, Uyghur, and Dungans proudly wearing the hat of Uzbekistan.
The history of Uzbekistan stretches back multiple millennia where it was first settled by Iranian nomads as an oasis amidst barren desert land. These nomads were known as Scythians who went on to found the kingdom in Khwarezm, Bactria, Sogdia, Fergana, and Margiana. The region got annexed to the Persian Empire. Later after the Arab conquest during the 7th BC, majority of the population were Muslim.
The regions of Uzbekistan were ideally situated along the Silk Road route and cities like Samarkand, Khiva, and Bukhara began to grow rich from the trading route. This attracted rulers from various dynasties who sporadically conquered and ruled various cities of Uzbekistan. After the Mongol conquest, majority of the population were Turkic. Most of the today’s Uzbek population is considered ethnically Turkic. The Silk Road trading route also bought in Chinese, Buddhist, and Korean influence into the region which are evident in cities like Tashkent and Samarkand.
Then in the beginning of the 1920s, Uzbekistan and rest of the Central Asia became a part of Soviet Union which led to the creation of Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic or Uzbek SSR. They significantly helped industrialize cities of Uzbekistan and during the Tsarist period, Uzbekistan became the largest producer and exporter of cotton in Central Asia. In 1990, Uzbekistan declared its state sovereignty and became an independent state in 1991 on August 31st.
Uzbekistan is the most populous country in Central Asia with little over 32 million citizens. While 80% of the population is ethnically Uzbek, 5% are Tajiks, 3% are Kazakhs, 2.5% are Karakalpaks, and 2% are Russians. Minorities include Chinese, Tatars, Koreans and others.
While Islam is the main religion followed in here with 96.3% of population being Muslim, orthodox Christianity is the second followed religion. Jewish is also followed in Uzbekistan. Uzbek is the only official language of Uzbekistan which is related to Turkic and Uyghur. Russian is also widely spoken in various part of the country, albeit not recognized as an official language. Tajik and Kyrgyz language are also spoken mostly in cities like Bukhara and Samarkand, mostly by older generation who were ethnically Tajik or Kyrgyz.
Visitors have nothing but praise and respect for the people of Uzbekistan who they call as some of the most hospitable people on earth. They are very keen to learn about foreigners and their way of living, and are fond of showing them theirs.