Uzbekistan was already populated during the older Paleolithic period, perhaps some 70,000 years ago. The disputed find in Tajik-Tash in 1938 by a 12-year-old Neanderthal boy who may have received a ceremonial burial belongs to the Middle Paleolithic (about 50,000 years ago). For the following period, the Mesolithic, dates both several settlements and rock carvings. The oldest Neolithic is represented by the Celestial Seminary culture (which dates back to approximately 4000 BC), which, however, was probably the only livestock. During the 2000s BC used copper.
The most important innovations of the Bronze Age in the following millennium were irrigation agriculture and an emerging urbanization (sapalli culture). This development characterized the oases in Uzbekistan and continued during the Iron Age, from about 1000 BC. Now, the dualism typical of Central Asia was also accentuated with permanent settlers in fertile regions and nomads on the steppes and mountains. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Uzbekistan.
At the end of the 500s BC the area was incorporated by the Persian great king Dareios I into the Akemenid Empire, where it came to form the provinces of Khwarezm and Sogdiana. Two centuries later, these areas were introduced into the Hellenistic world by Alexander the Great. Khwarezm soon made itself independent, while Sogdiana came under Baktriens domination. During the 20th century AD Sogdiana again became a Persian (Sasanidic) province. During the 300s, Uzbekistan’s territory was reached by Turkish nomads.
During the 7th century, smaller state formations in the Fergana Valley and around Buchara became subordinate to the Arab empire, which led to Islam winning followers among the area’s ethnic groups, mainly of Turkish origin. After the area in the 11th century was controlled by the Turkish seljuqs and linguistically turquoise, it was conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century. These entered 1219 cities of Buchara and Samarkand, the latter from about 1370 capital in the reign of Timur Lenk.
The Mongol conquest affected the area’s economic and cultural development, inter alia by stopping trade with the outside world. Political conditions also changed, especially since the Mongol kingdom was divided into competing Khanate. Mutual fighting enabled the subjugated peoples to secure their own position of power. Most successful in this regard were the Uzbeks, descendants of nomadic Mongolian tribes who were assimilated to the resident Turkish population and given their name after the Khan Uzbek (died about 1342). They came during the 16th century in competition with Persian rulers to dominate the Khanate of Buchara, Chivaand Kokand (see Chiva and Kokand). The term “uzbek” began to be used at this time about the entire Turkish population of the area.
The years 1865-76 conquered the weakened khanate of Russia by mutual contradictions and were incorporated into the General Government of Turkestan. This conquest was conditioned by both strategic goals: to stop Britain’s colonial expansion and financial interests: to find new commodity markets for the Russian textile industry in particular. Investment in cotton cultivation, ongoing Russian colonization and railway construction had a pervasive impact on Uzbekistan’s economic, social and cultural development. Embryos for an Uzbek resistance movement on Islamic grounds emerged among a group of intellectuals, which during the last Russian decades led to several revolts against the tsar power.
After the October Revolution of 1917 (see the Russian Revolution), a fierce battle was fought between the Red Army and Muslim nationalists before the Communist regime could be established and Sovietization implemented, with Moscow government, industrial action and anti-religious campaigns as a result. At the same time, several parts of the former Russian Empire in Europe and the Caucasus had proclaimed themselves independent states.
The counterpart of the Communist Party became the policy of Korenizatsia (of the Russian choir ‘root’), which was to give the different peoples their own territories with some cultural autonomy within the Soviet Union. Therefore, when the political map was redrawed, in 1924, the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan revolved around the largest ethnic group in Central Asia. However, the border demarcation became complicated and resulted in, among other things, four Uzbek enclaves in the territory of Kyrgyzstan but also a Kyrgyz and a Tajik within Uzbekistan. A native writing language and national curricula contributed to nation building. However, the new borders had no significance for freedom of movement and trade. This was particularly important for the people of the Fergana Valley (where one-fifth of Central Asia’s population lives) shared between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as in the Aral Sea’s delta, which also includes part of Turkmenistan.
During the last Soviet years up to 1991, several social groups were activated in Uzbekistan. The main opposition parties Birlik (‘Unity’) and Erk (‘Freedom’) emerged at this time. New religious preachers emerged in the Fergana Valley, where Islam has a strong grip on the population. National minorities were activated, not least residents of Buchara and Samarkand, who demanded that their ethnic status in the population register be changed from Uzbek to Tajik.
In November 1991, shortly after Uzbekistan declared its independence, communist leader Islam Karimov was granted 86 percent of the vote in the first presidential election. Popular poet Muhammad Salih (born 1949), who represented Erk, received 31 percent, according to the first information on Uzbek radio, but this was later changed to 12.6 percent.
From 1998 to 2001, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) conducted a series of blasts and attacks in Tashkent and Fergana and also engaged in drug transport. The organization cooperated with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and most of the IMU was eradicated there in conflict with NATO forces in 2002.
In 2005, a group of religious businessmen who expressed dissatisfaction with economic legislation were released from their detention in the city of Andizhan. Many civilians gathered outside an administration building where the liberators held some official hostages. On the orders of President Islam Karimov, called forces also shot at the crowd. According to official data, 187 people were killed, according to outside experts, significantly more than 300.
At the death of President Islam Karimov in August 2016, the country’s then Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev took over as interim president. He was elected by overwhelming majority to the president in the elections held in December the same year.