Uzbekistan (05/01)

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Republic of Uzbekistan

Area: 477,000 sq. km. (117,868 sq. mi.)--slightly larger than California.
Major cities: Capital--Tashkent (pop. 2.5 million); Samarkand (600,000); Bukhara (350,000).
Terrain: Flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes; broad, flat intensely irrigated river valleys along Amu Darya, Syr Darya; shrinking Aral Sea; semiarid grasslands in east.
Climate: Mid-latitude desert--long, hot summers, mild winters.

Nationality: Uzbek.
Population (2000 est.): 24,755,519.
Ethnic groups: Uzbek 80%, Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5% (1996 est.).
Religion: Moslem 88% (Sunni), Eastern Orthodox 9%, other 3%.
Language: Uzbek 74.3%, Russian 14.2%, Tajik 4.4%, other 7.1%.
Education: Literacy--99% (total population).
Health (1996): Life expectancy--60.09 years men; 67.52 years women.
Work force (11.9 million): Agricultural and forestry--44%, industry--20%; services--36%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: September 1, 1991.
Constitution: December 8, 1992.
Branches: Executive--president, prime minister, cabinet. Legislative--Supreme Assembly (Oliy Majlis)-- unicameral (250 seats). Judiciary--Supreme Court, constitutional court, economic court.
Administrative subdivisions (viloyatlar): 12, plus autonomous region of Karakalpakstan and city of Tashkent.
Political parties and leaders: Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party--Turgunpulat DAMINOV, first secretary; Democratic National Rebirth Party (Milly Tiklanish) or MTP--Ibrahim GAFUROV, chairman; Fatherland Progress Party (Vatan Tarakiyoti) or VTP--Anvar YULDASHEV, chairman; People's Democratic Party or NDP (formerly Communist Party)--Abdulkhafiz JALOLOV, first secretary; Self-Sacrificers Party or Fidokorlar--Erkin NORBOTAEV, general secretary. Other political or pressure groups and leaders--Birlik (Unity) Movement--Abdurakhim PULATOV, chairman; Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party--Mohammed SOLIH, chairman (was banned Dec. 1992; Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan--Abdumannob PULATOV, chairman; Independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan--Mikhail ARDOZINOV, chairman.
Suffrage: Universal at age 18 (unless imprisoned or certified as insane).
Defense: Military manpower - fit for military service males age 15-49: 5,161,926 (2000 est.) Universal 18-month military service for men.
Flag: Blue, white, and green horizontal bands separated by thin red lines; white crescent and 12 white stars representing 12 regions in upper left (on blue band).

GDP (1999 est.- purchasing power parity): $59.3 billion.
GDP real growth rate (1999 est.): -1%.
Per capita GDP (1999 est. - purchasing power parity): $2,500.
Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead and zinc, tungsten, molybdenum.
Agriculture: Products--Cotton, fourth-largest producer worldwide; vegetables, fruits, grain, livestock.
Industry: Types--textiles, food processing, machine building, metallurgy, natural gas.
Trade: Total exports (1999 est.)--approx. $2.9 billion cotton, gold, natural gas, mineral fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, food products, automobiles. Major markets--Russia 15%, Switzerland 10%, UK 10%, Belgium 4%, Kazakhstan 4%, Tajikistan 4% (1998). Total imports--approx. $3.1 billion (1999 est.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals; foodstuffs. Major partners--Russia 16%, South Korea 11%, Germany 8%, US 7%, Turkey 6%, Kazakhstan 5% (1998). Debt (1998 est.)--external: $3.2 billion.

Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most highly populated country. Its 24 million people, concentrated in the south and east of the country, are close to half the region's total population. Uzbekistan had been one of the poorest republics of the Soviet Union; much of its population was engaged in cotton farming in small rural communities. The population continues to be heavily rural and dependent on farming for its livelihood. The predominant nationality is Uzbek. Other nationalities represented include Russians, 8% of the population, Tajiks 5%, Kazakhs 4%, Tatar 2%, Karakalpak 2%, and others 8% (1989 census). The nation is 88% Sunni Moslem, 9% Eastern Orthodox, and 3% other. Uzbek is the official state language; however, Russian is the de facto language for interethnic communication, including day-to-day government and business use.

The educational system has achieved 98% literacy, and the mean amount of schooling for both men and women is 11 years. However, due to budget constraints and other transitional problems following the collapse of the Soviet Union, texts and other school supplies, teaching methods, curricula, and educational institutions are outdated, inappropriate, and poorly kept. Additionally, the proportion of school-aged persons enrolled has been dropping. Although the government is concerned about this, budgets remain tight, and foreign aid for education has not been sufficient to compensate. Similarly, in health care, life expectancy is long, but after the breakup of the Soviet Union, health care resources have declined, reducing health care quality, accessibility, and efficiency.

Located in the heart of Central Asia between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, Uzbekistan has a long and interesting heritage. The leading cities of the famous Silk Road--Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva--are located in Uzbekistan, and many famous conquerors passed through the land. Alexander the Great stopped near Samarkand on his way to India in 327 B.C. and married Roxanna, daughter of a local chieftain. Conquered by Muslim Arabs in the eigth century A.D., the indigenous Samanid dynasty established an empire in the 9th century. Its territory was overrun by Genghis Khan and his Mongols in 1220. In the 1300s, Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, built an empire with its capital at Samarkand. Uzbekistan's most noted tourist sights date from the Timurid dynasty. Later, separate Muslim city-states emerged with strong ties to Persia. Russian trade with this region grew during the 16th and 17th centuries and, in 1865, Russia occupied Tashkent. By the end of the 19th century, Russia has conquered all of Central Asia. During this time, hostilities between Russia and Great Britain were prevented by Afghanistan, which served as a buffer state between the two empires, and through an agreement that East Turkestan was to be under Chinese rule.

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. In 1924, following the establishment of Soviet power, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan was founded from the territories of 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 and natural resource potential. The inefficient irrigation used to support the former has been the main cause of shrinkage of the Aral Sea to half its former volume, making this one of the world's most important environmental disasters. Uzbekistan declared independence on September 1, 1991. Islam Karimov, former First Secretary of the Communist Party, was elected President in December 1991 with 88% of the vote; however, the election was not viewed as free or fair by foreign observers. Most government leaders are former Soviet or communist officials; the dominant political party, the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, is the former Communist Party.

Constitutionally, the Government of Uzbekistan provides for separation of powers, freedom of speech, and representative government. In reality, the executive holds almost all power. The judiciary lacks independence and the legislature, which meets only a few days each year, has little power to shape laws. The President selects and replaces provincial governors. Under terms of a December 1995 referendum, Karimov's first term was extended to 2000 and he will be eligible to run for another 5-year term then. Several political parties have been formed with government approval but have yet to show ability to or interest in advocating alternatives to government policy. Similarly, although multiple media outlets (radio, TV, newspaper) have been established, these either remain under government control, or rarely broach political topics.

Principal Government Officials
President--Islam Karimov
Prime Minister--Otkir Sultanov
First Deputy Prime Minister--Rustam Azimov (Macroeconomics and Statistics)

Deputy Prime Ministers
Anatoliy Isayev
Uktam Ismailov
Hamidulla Karamatov
Torup Kholtoyev
Azimjan Mukhiddinovv
Valeriy Otayev
Mirabror Usmonov
Rustam Yunosov
Dilbar Ghulomova--Women's Issues
Mirabror Usmonov--Trade, Communal Services
Rustam Yunosov--Transport, Construction

Key Ministers
Fahtullah Abdullaev--Communications
Hairulla Jurayev --Culture
Kodir Ghulomov--Defense
Risboy Jorayev-Education

Bakhodir Kasymov--Emergency Situations
Valery Atayev--Energy and Fuel
Mamarizo Normuradov-Finance
Abdulaziz Kamilov--Foreign Affairs
Elyor Ghaniyev--Foreign Economic Relations
Feruz Nazirov--Health
Saidakhror Ghulomov--Higher and Secondary Specialized Education
Zokirjon Almatov--Internal Affairs
Abdusamad Polvon--Zoda-Justice
Okiljon Obidov--Labor
Bakhodir Umurzakov--Social Protection

Other Key Officials
Zanutdin Mirkhojaev--Chairman, National Bank-Foreign Economics
Fayzulla Mullajanov--Chairman, State Bank
Said-Azim Oripov--Chairman, State Committee for Customs
Botir Khojayev--Chairman, State Committee for Taxation
Tulkin Shayakubov--Chairman, State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources
Rustam Inoyatov--Chairman, National Security Service
Mirakbar Rakhmonqulov--Secretary, National Security Council
Ambassador to the United States--Shavkat Khamrakulovv-designate

Ambassador to the United Nations--Alisher Vohidov

The Republic of Uzbekistan maintains an embassy at 1746 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. Tel.: (202) 887-5300; fax (202) 293-6804. Its consulate and mission to the U.N. in New York are located at 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 326/327a, New York, N.Y. 10017. Consulate tel.: (212) 754-7403; fax: (212) 486-7998.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan's economy was insulated from much of the economic decline that plagued most of the NIS because of its labor-intensive economy based on agriculture and mineral extraction. Rapid growth in oil and gas production allowed Uzbekistan to eliminate oil imports and increase gas exports. Additionally, Uzbekistan shifted some of its crop acreage from cotton to grains to approach grain self-sufficiency as well. However, this success has masked steep declines in some areas of industry.

GDP and Employment
GDP fell 18% from 1991-95, a remarkably good performance compared to the other countries in the NIS, and grew 1.6 % in 1996. But Uzbekistan avoided undertaking much of the systemic change that could serve as a basis for future growth. Government claims that GDP rose 5.2% in 1997, but the IMF estimates the growth at 1.7%. Official unemployment stood at 0.4% in 1996, but effective unemployment is estimated at 5%, and another 10% are underemployed in the agricultural sector.

Prices; Monetary /Fiscal Policy
Uzbekistan's inflation averaged nearly 1,000% p.a. in 1992-94, peaking at 1,281% in 1994 (12 month change in CPI). Following introduction in July 1994 of the national currency, the soum, however, the government undertook stabilization and economic reforms supported by an IMF Systemic Transformation Facility. These brought inflation down to 117% in 1995, 64% in 1996, and 45% in 1997. Annual growth in money supply (M2) fell progressively from 680% in 1994 to 158% in 1995, 100% in 1996, and an estimated 70% in 1997. The later reductions would have been sharper but for a surge in government credit at the end of 1996 to finance the cotton harvest and pay pension and wage arrears.

At the end of 1996, the government instituted currency convertibility restrictions which have resulted in widely divergent official and market exchange rates: the average soum/dollar rate in 1997 was 79.3 at the Central Bank and 177.5 on the parallel market. The IMF's standby facility was suspended in October 1996 due primarily to the restrictions on currency convertibility. Uzbekistan has a strong tax collections system but has had some difficulty in controlling expenditures, estimated at 34% of GDP in 1997. While the government succeeded in reducing its budget deficit from 10.4% of GDP in 1993 to 4.1% in 1995, the deficit ballooned to 7.3% in 1996. Renewed austerity brought the deficit to an estimated 3.9% of GDP in 1997, although much government spending remains off-budget. External debt has grown rapidly but remains modest at about $2.3 billion, and debt/GDP has declined since 1994. Debt service/exports was 14.4% at year-end 1997.

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agriculture and the agroindustrial sector contribute more than 40% to Uzbekistan's economy. Cotton is Uzbekistan's dominant crop; it is the world's fourth-largest producer and second-largest exporter, accounting for roughly 45% of the country's exports (gold is second at 22%). It also produces significant amounts of silk, fruits, and vegetables. In recent years, Uzbekistan has switched some territory from cotton to grains in an effort to achieve self-sufficiency in the latter. Virtually all agriculture involves heavy irrigation. Agriculture faces intense competition from other states in the region, and agricultural workers receive very low wages.

Minerals and mining are another foundation of Uzbekistan's economy. Gold is most prominent; Uzbekistan is the world's seventh largest producer, about 80 tons p.a., and holds the fourth largest reserves. Uzbekistan has an abundance of natural gas, used both for domestic consumption and export; oil almost sufficient for domestic needs; and exportable reserves of copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, and uranium.

Trade and Investment
While exports and imports have both grown rapidly since independence, imports have grown faster and have left the country with a large current account deficit. In the face of this, Uzbekistan has adopted a policy of import substitution reflected, for example, in its strong focus on increased wheat and oil and gas production. However, much of the import growth has been in capital equipment related to investment projects. Currency convertibility restrictions have severely constrained trade and new investment.

Uzbekistan's traditional "trade" partners are NIS states, notably Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the other Central Asian countries. Non-NIS partners have been increasing in importance in recent years, with the U.S., Korea, Germany, Japan, and Turkey being the most active.

Uzbekistan is a member of the IMF, World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It has observer status at the World Trade Organization and is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization. It is a signatory to the Convention on Settlement of Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other States, the Paris Convention on Industrial Property, the Madrid Agreement on Trademarks Protection, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The government states that it is in process of acceding to the Bern Copyright Convention and Geneva Phonogram Convention. Uzbekistan has patent, copyright, and trademark laws dating from 1996.

Uzbekistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in December 1991 and has supported economic ties within this bloc. However, it is opposed to reintegration and has rejected any CIS collective security arrangement or political organization. It participates in the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan and in UN-organized groups to help resolve the Tajik and Afghan conflicts, both of which it sees as posing threats to its own stability. It is a member of the United Nations, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Partnership for Peace, and the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It belongs to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (comprised of the five Central Asian countries, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan). It is a founding member of the Central Asian Union, formed with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and joined in March 1998 by Tajikistan.

Uzbekistan's military is sizeable, with total forces of close to 100,000, but lacks sophisticated training and modern equipment. It spent approximately 3.7% of its GDP on the military in 1996. It has accepted the arms control obligations of the former Soviet Union and has acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. It is a contributor to the Central Asian Peacekeeping Battalion with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which the U.S. has supported.

The U.S. recognized the independence of Uzbekistan on December 25, 1991, and opened an embassy in Tashkent in March 1992. The U.S. believes that its own interests will best be served by development of an independent, stable, prosperous, and democratic Central Asia. As the most populous country in Central Asia and the only one that borders all the others, Uzbekistan plays a pivotal role in the region. The United States accordingly has developed a broad relationship covering political, military, nonproliferation, economic, trade, assistance and related issues. This has been institutionalized through the establishment of the U.S.-Uzbekistan Joint Commission, which held its first meeting in February 1998.

Uzbekistan has been a strong partner of the United States on foreign policy and security issues ranging from Iraq to Cuba, nuclear proliferation to narcotics trafficking. It has sought active participation in Western security initiatives under the Partnership for Peace, OSCE, and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Uzbekistan views its American ties as balancing regional influences, helping Uzbekistan assert its own regional role, and encouraging foreign investment. The United States, in turn, values Uzbekistan as a stable, moderate force in a turbulent region; a market for U.S. exports; a producer of important resources (gold, uranium, natural gas); and a regional hub for pipelines, transportation, communications, and other infrastructure in which U.S. firms seek a leading role.

The United States urges greater reform as necessary for long-term stability and prosperity. Registration of independent political parties and human rights NGOs would be an important step. Enforcement of constitutional safeguards ensuring personal, religious, and press freedom and civil liberties also is needed. Additionally, the U.S. urges continued support of UN peace efforts in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and neutrality toward the Afghan factions.

Bilateral Economic Relations
Trade and investment. Between 1992 and 1996, United States' trade and investment with Uzbekistan grew rapidly. U.S. exports reached $352 million in 1996, concentrated in passenger aircraft, wheat, and agricultural machinery. U.S. imports from Uzbekistan reached $157 million in 1996. Both fell sharply in 1997, reflecting in part Uzbekistan's currency convertibility restrictions (enacted in late 1996); U.S. exports to Uzbekistan were $234 million, while U.S. imports were $39 million.

Nonetheless, Uzbekistan's large consumer market, educated work force, and potential as a production/distribution base for goods for the region warrant U.S. interest. Trade relations are regulated by a bilateral trade agreement, which entered into force January 14, 1994. It provides for extension of most-favored-nation trade status between the two countries. The U.S. additionally granted Uzbekistan exemption from many U.S. import tariffs under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP status) on August 17, 1994. A Bilateral Investment Treaty was signed December 16, 1994; it has been ratified by Uzbekistan and received advice and consent of the U.S. Senate in October 2000. However, the Bilateral Investment Treaty will be unlikely to enter into force until Uzbekistan embarks on economic reform. The U.S.-Uzbekistan civil aviation agreement, signed February 27, 1998, which provides for "Open Skies," offers potential for greatly expanded air transport by U.S. carriers to the region.

Assistance. Between 1992 and 1998, the United States has provided roughly $144 million in humanitarian aid, technical assistance, and investment support in Uzbekistan. These programs were designed to promote market reform and to establish a foundation for an open, prosperous, democratic society.

--USAID provides both technical and humanitarian assistance. Technical assistance to Uzbekistan promotes sound fiscal and management policies, improved private business operations, a competitive private sector, citizens participation in political and economic decisionmaking, improved sustainability of social benefits and services, private investment in the energy sector, reduced environmental risks to public health, and other multi-sector reform programs. Programs include business training, subsidies for business development, environmental and science education, and environmental preservation programs. The latter includes the Aral Sea/ Regional Water Cooperation program involving the ICKKU, the establishment of water users' associations, waste minimization demonstration programs, and the National Environmental Action Plan. Humanitarian assistance is primarily in the health sector to alleviate effects of the Aral Sea ecological disaster.

--Peace Corps staff arrived in Uzbekistan in August 1992, and a bilateral agreement to establish Peace Corps in Uzbekistan was signed November 4, 1992. The first volunteers arrived in December 1992. As of May 1998, there were 55 volunteers working in education and small business development. Peace Corps also plans to start a program in health care.

-- The U.S. Trade and Development Agency helps fund feasibility studies by U.S. firms and provides other planning services related to major projects in developing countries including Uzbekistan. TDA sponsored a May 1998 conference of all the Central Asian states concerning business development and expansion in the region.

--USIA exchange programs, farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and the Department of Commerce's SABIT Business Internship Program contribute to expansion of technical know-how and support bilateral relations. The U.S. also provides export finance/guarantees and political risk insurance for U.S. exporters and investors through the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC).

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--John E. Herbst
Secretary--Mary Cross
Deputy Chief of Mission--Molly O'Neal
Political/Economic Officer--Larry Memmott
SCO/FCS--Tyrena Holley
Administrative Officer--Elizabeth Cobb
Public Affairs Officer/USIS--Mark Asquino
Consul--Phillip Slattery
DAO--LTC Matthew Brand v

U.S. Agency for International Development--James Goggin
Peace Corps--Lawrence Leahy

The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent is at 82 Chilanzarskaya; tel. [998] (71) 120-5450; fax: [998] (71) 120-6335; duty officer (cellular): [998] (71) 180-4060. The Foreign Commercial Service, U.S. Information Service, and U.S. Agency for International Development are at the Sharq Building, 41 Buyuk Turon St. FCS tel.: [998] (71) 120-6705 or 6706, 133-2880, 1870 or 0597; fax: 120-6692. USIS: [998] (71) 133-7096, 3581, or 5974; fax: 120-6224; duty officer (cellular): 180-4087. USAID tel.: [998] (71) 133-1852, 1797, or 7656; fax: 120-6309. Peace Corps is at 2 Sapernaya St. 63/65; tel.: [998] (71) 54-92-96, 54-94-84, or 54-96-60; fax: 54-98-50; duty officer (cellular): [998] (71) 180-4093. Until March 1, 1999, a dual country/area code system is in effect, allowing use of the former country/area codes. For Tashkent, this was [7] (3712) for six-digit numbers and [7] (371) for seven-digit numbers.