The land that is now Uzbekistan was once at the heart of the ancient Silk Road trade route connecting China with the Middle East and Rome. The country spent most of the past 200 years as part of Russia, and then the Soviet Union, before emerging as an independent nation in 1991.
Under President Islam Karimov, in power since 1989, Uzbekistan has boasted of steady economic growth based on exports like cotton, gas and gold. But the political system is highly authoritarian, and its human rights record widely decried.
There is no legal political opposition and the media is tightly controlled by the state. A UN report has described the use of torture as “systematic”.
- Republic of Uzbekistan
- Capital: Tashkent
- Population 28.1 million
- Area 447,400 sq km (172,700 sq miles)
- Major languages Uzbek, Russian, Tajik
- Major religion Islam
- Life expectancy 66 years (men), 72 years (women)
- Currency Uzbek som