Demography and economic geography. – Internal state of central-western Asia. The Uzbekistan is one of the largest countries in Central Asia, with an area of 447,400 km2, but most of the population is concentrated in the valleys of Fergana (partly shared with Tajikistan) and Tashkent, or close to the long Turkmen border along the ancient southern Silk Road, in towns with a thousand-year-old charm where Tajik is still spoken, such as Samarkand or Buhara. The Uzbekistan it is also the largest state in this area by demographics: less extensive than neighboring Kazakhstan, but clearly favored for its southernmost latitude and for its position along the historically busiest routes: in 1990 it had 20,780,000 residents, while in 2014, according to an UNDESA estimate (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), the residents were 29,324,920, with a growth of almost 50% in twenty-five years, especially in rural areas. The only city with more than half a million residents is the capital, Tashkent, which was the fourth largest by population in the USSR: the population has increased slightly, from 2,100,000 residents from 1990 to today’s 2.309.300, confirming its role as the largest metropolis in this chessboard of Central Asia.
According to Localcollegeexplorer, the territory of the Uzbekistan lends itself more to agriculture, both for the climate and for the presence of three major rivers, the Syrdar′ja, the Amudar′ja and the Zeravsan, at the center of an intense network of artificial canals built in Soviet times (partly responsible for the environmental disaster of the Aral Sea). Over time, the population has spread over all areas of arable land, so much so that in the nineties of the last century there was a greater growth in rural areas, especially in the fertile Fergana valley (where more than six million people live) ; in recent years, however, there has been a trend towards urbanization. The population is very young: more than 40% of the residents are under the age of 15, and only 5% are over 65.
A significant Russian minority largely emigrated after Parliament made the Uzbek language and script official in 1994 to replace Cyrillic. The Russian presence dropped from 8.3% in 1991 to 2.5% in 2012. Meanwhile, the main ethnic group of the Uzbekistan it rose from 71.4% to 78.3%. The other ethnic groups were substantially stable: Tajiks (4.7%), Kazakhs (4.1%), Tatars (3.3%), Kyrgyzs (0.9%). There is a significant presence (about 1%) of families of workers from the Republic of Korea, concentrated around the industrial plants of Daewoo (automotive and textile sectors). A separate chapter is the Karakalpaki ethnic group, stable at around 2.1%, concentrated in the Uzbek Republic of Karakalpakstan, near the north-western border. The centuries-old Jewish community, which still in the nineties counted more than one hundred thousand people, is completely emigrated from the Uzbekistan (especially towards Israel), due to social and religious tensions. In the geopolitical field, the Uzbekistan has experienced alternating phases. Until 1991 in the USSR; from 1991 to 1995 in the Commonwealth of Independent States; from 1995 to 1999 a cooperation with NATO; from 1999 to 2005 membership of GUAM with Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova; since 2001 member of the Shanghai Pact, i.e. SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) together with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
History. – Starting from the first years of the 21st century, President Islom Karimov, in power since 1989, consolidated his authoritarian power, increasing control over society and the economic and political life of Uzbekistan. In 2007, at the end of his office, the outgoing president bypassed the constitutional limit that imposed the maximum limit of two terms and was reappointed to the presidency by the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (OLDP). Karimov was thus reconfirmed in the presidential elections of 23 December 2007 with 88.1% of the votes, beating the other three pro-government candidates Asliddin Rustamov (3.17%), Diloram Tashmukhamedova (2.94%) and Akmal Saidov (2, 85%).
The four (pro-government) parties admitted to the parliamentary elections of December 27, 2009 and January 10, 2010 were the OLDP, which won 53 seats, the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (OXDP), which won 32, the Democratic Party of National Rebirth Uzbekistan (OMTDP) which won 31 and the Social Democratic Party “Justice” (ASDP) which won 19; while the remaining 15 seats were reserved – on the basis of the electoral reform of 2008 – for the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan (OEH). In December 2011, some constitutional changes were introduced that reduced the presidential term to 5 years and in March 2012 a further amendment set the following presidential elections to 2015, extending Karimov’s term of office by almost a year.
In addition, a struggle for political succession began in Karimov, who in the autumn of 2013 ousted his eldest daughter Gulnara Karimova, formerly an entrepreneur, singer, stylist and diplomat, on corruption charges. Karimova, who until then had appeared to be the designated heir, became – once marginalized – a dissident and human rights activist in Uzbekistan. Parliamentary elections were held on 21 December 2014 – with a second round on 4 January 2015 – in which 52 deputies from OLDP, 36 from OMTDP, 27 from OXDP, 20 from ASDP and the remaining 15 reserved for OEH were elected. Despite having initiated a greater opening of the economy with a privatization program announced in June 2012, the Uzbek political regime remained deeply authoritarian, the social situation precarious, frequent violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms – such as the exploitation of child labor in the cotton harvest – and the repressions on the opposition and civil society organizations continued. In the presidential elections of March 2015, Karimov was again confirmed at the helm of the country with 90.4% of the votes.
On the international level, the Uzbekistan participated in the stabilization process in Afghānistān – promoting various negotiating models of reconciliation and granting logistical support to the Western coalition – and in the fight against jihadist terrorism by fighting Islamist militants both at home and in neighboring Afghānistān and Tajikistan.
Western reproaches against the Uzbek regime – accentuated after the massacre of civilians in Andijan in May 2005 – created a diplomatic chill and substantially hampered logistical cooperation with various members of the coalition engaged in Afghānistān, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), until 2007. Subsequently, the gradual easing of sanctions and the attenuation of the Western critical attitude towards the Karimov regime and the lifting of the arms embargo in 2009 gradually restored cooperation between the West and the Uzbekistan, especially from 2012., when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began to seriously evaluate Central Asian routes for withdrawal operations from Afghānistān.
Relations with neighboring Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan remained strained – over disputes over water issues and gas and electricity supplies – and skepticism towards regional platforms continued: while remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (see CIS) and its free trade area, in June 2012 the Uzbekistan he suspended his participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and showed no particular interest in new multilateral initiatives promoted by the Kremlin, such as the Eurasian Economic Union. In any case, the intensification of trade with Russia and the substantial cancellation of the Uzbek debt in December 2014 brought the two countries closer together, strengthening an old friendship and opening up further margins for collaboration.