Uzbekistan is a double landlocked country in Asia – it requires the crossing of at least two national borders to reach a coastline!Its capital, Tashkent, has a multi-ethnic population, with the majority ethnic Uzbeks. In this fact file, we’ve prepared some interesting facts about Uzbekistan, a country at the crossroads of the world’s cultures, that’ll give you an insight into its past and present…
1. Who conquered Uzbekistan?
In 329 B.C, Alexander the Great occupied Uzbekistan by seizing Samarkand.
With a history of over 2,500 years, the historic city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Samarkand is known as the crossroad and centre of the world’s cultures.
2. Head to the centre square for some amazing history.
The Registan Mosque, a central square lined by ornately tiled, mosaic-clad madrassas is ancient’s Samarkand’s most famous site.
3. There’s a Silk Road here.
Uzbekistan’s Silk Road sites include Samarkand, Shakhrisyabz, Bukhara, and Itchan Kala.
Flag of Uzbekistan
4. Islam has been part of the country since the 600s.
Arabs occupied Uzbekistan and converted its population to Islam during the 7th and 8th Centuries.
5. Uzbekistan was a conquest of Genghis Khan.
Uzbekistan was seized by Genghis Khan and was incorporated into the Mongol empire, during the 13th and 14th Century.
6. However, it was also a Russian conquest.
For nearly 200 years, Uzbekistan was ruled by Russia, as part of the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet Union.
7. Eventually, the country became independent.
Uzbekistan gained its independence on the 31st of August, 1991.
September 1st is Uzbekistan’s national holiday, when the country’s independence is celebrated.
8. It’s had different names.
Uzbekistan was known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, during its time as a republic of the USSR from 1924 to 1991.
9. But what does the original name mean?
The name Uzbekistan is a mixture of the Turkic words “uz” (self) and “bek” (master) and the Persian suffix “-stan” (country), meaning the “Land of the Free”.
Tashkent Mosque, Uzbekistan
10. Uzbekistan recently had a ruler who took the helm for 27 years.
Islam Karimov, the authoritarian President ruled the country from 1989 until he died in 2016.
11. There were once pyramids here!
History fans will be intrigued to learn that in 2002, archaeologists discovered a series of ancient pyramids in a remote part of Uzbekistan, believed to be 2,700 years old!
12. It’s been the site of an earthquake or two.
In 1966 Tashkent was hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
13. Where is Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Tajikistan to the southeast, Afghanistan to the south and Turkmenistan to the southwest.
14. It has a unique status.
Uzbekistan is one of only two countries in the world to be ‘double landlocked’ (landlocked and totally surrounded by other landlocked countries). Liechtenstein is double landlocked by 2 countries whilst Uzbekistan is surrounded by 5!
15. Want to find Uzbekistan?
The coordinates for Uzbekistan are 41.0000° N, 69.0000°
16. There’s no real average terrain here.
The terrain here is varied throughout the nation. In the west there are lowlands and flat plateau, with one of the world’s largest deserts in the centre and high mountains and semiarid grasslands in the east.
17. There’s highs and lows!
The lowest point in Uzbekistan is actually 39 feet below sea level, whilst the highest point – the Hissar ridge – is 15,233 feet above sea level!
18. Uzbekistan is truly massive.
The total land area of Uzbekistan is 172,742 square miles (447,400 square kilometres).
19. There was once an enormous lake here.
The Aral Sea, lying on the border of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, was once the world’s fourth-largest lake, but since the construction of a Soviet irrigation project in the 1960s, the lake has almost disappeared.
20. Uzbekistan has around half the population of the UK.
Uzbekistan’s population was 33.58 million in 2019.
21. It holds an interesting record.
It’s the most populated country in Central Asia.
22. Impressively, 1 in 200 people live in Uzbekistan!
Uzbekistan’s population is equal to 0.43% of the entire world population and ranks number 42 in the list of countries.
23. What’s the capital of Uzbekistan?
The capital city is Tashkent; it covers an area of 129.2 square miles (334.8 square kilometres) and has a population of 2.393 million (2016).
24. Women live longer here than men.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) data from 2018, life expectancy in Uzbekistan is 69.7 years for males and 75 for females.
An elderly Uzbek man
25. It’s surprisingly hot out here.
The residents of Uzbekistan enjoy long hot summers and mild winters, so don’t forget to pack your shorts!
26. There are a few languages spoken here.
The official language of Uzbekistan is Uzbek, whilst Russian and Tajik are also spoken here. ‘Bu murakkab til!’ (‘It’s a hard language!’).
27. There’s gold in them hills!
Uzbekistan is home to the Muruntan gold mine, one of the largest open pit gold mines in the world!
28. Greetings will vary with gender.
Apparently, in Uzbekistan it is only acceptable for a handshake to take place between two men! When greeting a woman, a man must bow with his hand over his heart.
29. Change up your money!
You’ll need to exchange your holiday money into the Uzbekistani Sum if you want to sample a bottle or two of wine from one of Uzbekistan’s 14 wineries!
30. There’s an interesting work scheme.
Each year, about 1,000 000 students, doctors, and government employees are forced to work in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields to pick cotton for the government.
31. It’s a major part of Uzbekistan’s exports.
Cotton accounts for around 7% of the country’s exports, and in Uzbekistan, it’s referred to as “white gold”.
Uzbekistan is the world’s 5th largest cotton exporter and the 7th largest producer.
32. The gold scene here is massive.
The Muruntau gold deposit in Uzbekistan is the world’s largest gold mine by area. The mine is around 3.35km by 2.5km and at least 560m deep.
The country has the world’s 10th largest mine supply of gold and is the world’s 12th largest gold producer.
33. The country exports a lot of things.
Uzbekistan’s gold accounts for around 44% of the country’s exports. Uzbekistan grows vegetables, fruits, cotton and grain and rears livestock.
Its industry consists of food processing, textiles, metallurgy, machine building and natural gas. Uzbekistan also exports energy products, ferrous metals and mineral fertilisers.
34. There are some interesting dinner traditions.
At the end of a meal in Uzbekistan, it is common to run your hands over your face in the Amin gesture to show thanks.
35. There’s also a big tradition regarding tea.
There is a formal protocol for pouring tea in Uzbekistan. First, it’s tradition to rinse out a small tea bowl with a drop of hot tea, then return a bowlful to the pot three times before the tea is finally suitable for drinking.
36. The Uzbekistan flag has significant colors.
The flag of Uzbekistan is striped blue, white, and green with red narrow margins between the stripes. Blue signifies water, white-peace and purity, green-nature, fertility, and new life, red-the life force vital to all humans. The white crescent moon represents the rebirth of an independent republic and for each month of the year, there are 12 white stars.
37. The Rio 2016 Olympics were massive for Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan excelled at the boxing medal table, winning 3 gold and 2 silver medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
38. What do people eat in Uzbekistan?
Plov is a national Uzbekistan dish. This Central Asian pilaf contains rice and fried vegetables usually served for lunch.
It’s also said that Uzbekistan has the best melons and watermelons in the world.
39. It’s a hotbed for uranium.
Uzbekistan’s uranium reserves are ranked 7th in the world after Australia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada, South Africa, and Ukraine, and the 3rd in the world in its export, after Kazakhstan and Australia.
Uzbekistan is also among the top 10 countries in the world on reserves and production of copper and tungsten.
40. Uzbekistan is big on tradition and belief.
Even today arranged marriages are quite common in Uzbekistan.
The Uzbeks believe that turning bread upside-down brings bad fortune because they honour the bread.
41. Ancient human sites have been found here.
In Fergana, Tashkent, Bukhara, Khorezm, and Samarkand regions, early human tools and monuments have been found.
42. The night sky is really clear here.
One of the few cities in the world where you can see the starry night sky, possibly because of low gas content, is Tashkent.
Nasreddin Hodja Monument
43. There’s a massive tower here!
The 11th tallest tower in the world and the tallest TV tower in Central Asia is the Tashkent TV tower.
FAQs about Uzbekistan
Is Uzbekistan cheap to visit?
Uzbekistan is a little more expensive than its neighbours - such as Tajikistan - but it is generally affordable to visit.
Do people speak English in Uzbekistan?
It’s rare that you will find people who speak English fluently in Uzbekistan outside of the tourism industry.
What is the main religion in Uzbekistan?
The majority of Uzbekistan’s population follow Islam, and are specifically Sunni Muslims.
Do you know any fun or interesting facts about Uzbekistan? Share them in the comments below!