History of UzbekistanLocated in the heart of Central Asia between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, Uzbekistan has a long and interesting heritage. The leading cities of the Silk Road - Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva - are located in Uzbekistan, and many famous conquerors passed through the land.
Later, separate Muslim city-states emerged with strong ties to Persia.
In 1865, Russia occupied Tashkent and by the end of the 19th century, Russia had conquered all of Central Asia. In 1876, the Russians dissolved the Khanate of Kokand, while allowing the Khanates of Khiva and Bukhara to remain as direct protectorates. Russia placed the rest of Central Asia under colonial administration, and invested in the development of Central Asia's infrastructure, promoting cotton growing, and encouraging settlement by Russian colonists.
Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and, in 1924, following the establishment of Soviet power, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan was founded from the territories, including the Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva and portions of the Fergana Valley that had constituted the Khanate of Kokand.
During the Soviet era, Moscow used Uzbekistan for its tremendous cotton-growing ("white gold"), grain, and natural resource potential. The extensive and inefficient irrigation used to support the former has been the main cause of shrinkage of the Aral Sea to less than one-third of its original volume, making this one of the world's worst environmental disasters. The overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, have left large parts of the land poisoned.
Uzbekistan declared independence on September 1, 1991. Islam Karimov, former First Secretary of the Communist Party, was elected president in December 1991 with 88% of the vote; however, the election was not viewed as free or fair by foreign observers.