History & Culture of Uzbekistan
The first inhabitants of Uzbekistan were said to be the Indo-Iranians, who came to the region in 1000 BC. Their settlements grew into the cities of Bukhara, Samarqand, and the capital of modern Uzbekistan, Tashkent and are some of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world
By the 5th century BC China and Europe began trading along the Silk Road. Uzbekistan was at the heart of the ancient Silk Road trade route connecting China with the Middle East and Rome. Bukhara and Samarkand are now both UNESCO World Heritage sites due to their history, cultural legacy and architectural heritage.
In 327 BC, Uzbekistan came under the rule of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great, becoming part of the Macedonian Empire which stretched from the Ionian Sea to the western portions of the Himalayas.
In the 8th century the Arabs came, bringing with them Islam at a time of the Islamic Golden Age.
Changes came in the thirteenth century when the Mongolian ruler Genghis Khan conquered Central Asia and rid the Indo-Iranians of power. By the fourteenth century, the region began breaking up into tribes and one tribal chief, Timur, became the dominant power and under his rule, artists and scholars once again flourished. After the death of Timur in the fifteenth century, the Uzbek tribe became the predominant ethnic group in modern Uzbekistan.
Modern Uzbekistan was established in the 1900s and with other states in Central Asia, was under the firm hold of the Soviet Union until 1991 when Uzbekistan declared itself an independent and sovereign country. Uzbekistan’s National Independence Day is celebrated every 1 September.
Under President Islam Karimov, in power from 1989 to his death in 2016, the political system has been highly authoritarian and opposition squashed. The interim President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is expected to be elected to President in December 2016 since there is no legal political opposition and the media is tightly controlled by the state.
Uzbekistan is home to many cultures. The majority group is the Uzbek, forming seventy-one percent of the population, followed by Russians, Tajiks, Kazakhs, and other minority groups. The population of Uzbekistan is predominantly Muslim, though this was suppressed by the state during the Soviet era. The observance of Islam has gradually increased since 1991.
Music is an important part of Uzbek culture. Shashmaqam is a form of classical music similar to classical Persian music. Folk music lives on in religious and family events such as weddings as well as special events.
The applied art of Uzbekistan has a wide variety when it comes to style, materials and ornamentation. Silk, ceramics and cotton weaving, stone and wood carving, metal engraving, leather stamping, calligraphy and miniature painting are some genres passed down from ancient times. Embroidery, carpet weaving and miniature painting have also been revived in their traditional form as well as some modern variants. Today, Uzbek craftsmen still practice ancient jewellery making techniques for cutting gemstones, grain filigree, granular work, engraving and enamelling.