The majority of the population (23. 574,000 residents An estimate of 1998) consists of Uzbeks, but there are substantial minorities Tajik, Kazakh, Tatar, while down sharply after independence is the Russian presence. The numerical growth of the population, which is characterized by a youth structure and a lively demographic behavior, is too rapid (23 ‰ in the period 1990 – 98), especially in relation to the limited resources available to the country. The largest demographic, economic and cultural center is represented by the capital, Tashkent (Toshkent), which in 1995 had 2. 107.000 residents. There are also a dozen cities with a population of between 100. 000 and 400. 000 residents, including Samarkand (Samarqand), Namangan and Andijon.
In 1994, the use of the Latin alphabet was reintroduced to replace Cyrillic. In the same year, a new national currency was adopted, the Sum.
According to Beautypically, the economy of the Uzbekistan it is closely linked, after the establishment of a common economic area (1994), with those of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
In the first half of the nineties the economic and social indicators of the country remained at unsatisfactory values; some favorable signs come from the growth of exports and western investments, and from a renewed positive orientation of the GDP (+ 2.4 % in 1997). While remaining very high, inflation has shown a tendency to contain (64 % in 1996 against 305 % in 1995, but 72 % in 1997), while industrial production, albeit with some difficulties, continues to show signs of recovery (+ 5.8 % in 1998).
Tensions arose with the International Monetary Fund due to the critical assessments of the reform policy implemented by the government, judged to be inadequate and hesitant. The slow progress of economic reforms (still in 1997 there was no precise law on privatization and private ownership of land) is explained not only by the fear of social reactions, but also by the concern that the control of the economy will escape the state and to the ruling classes, which still largely come from the old Soviet ‘nomenclature’.
Among the productive sectors, in terms of number of employees (45 % of the total), the primary one, only partially privatized, prevails. About 60 % of the land area is occupied by desert, arid steppes or in any case unproductive land; the rest is mainly made up of meadows and pastures, where numerous sheep are bred (mostly Karakul sheep, suppliers of fine wool) and also cattle. Real crops are practiced intensively, thanks to a capillary irrigation obtained through a network of 170. 000 km of canals, on about a tenth of the territorial surface: cereals (wheat, rice), potatoes, sunflowers, vegetables, fruit and, above all, cotton, for which the Uzbekistan (with 9.7million q of fiber in 1998) is the fifth largest producer in the world and one of the largest exporters.
The subsoil Uzbek has minerals of all kinds (not missing uranium and gold in the desert of Kyzylkum), but in particular is rich in hydrocarbons (natural gas, 49. 000 million m ³ in 1996 ; oil, 7. 600. 000t). As regards the use of these energy resources, the Uzbekistan has to face the typical problems of the producing countries of ex-Soviet Asia (in particular the hydrocarbon producing area that extends on the edges or near the Caspian Sea) in terms of choosing the itineraries on which to focus for the preparation of oil and gas pipelines (see below: History); problems aggravated by the geographical position of the Uzbekistan, which does not even have a direct outlet on the Caspian.
The metallurgical, mechanical, chemical, food and, above all, cotton textile sectors represent the most widespread industrial branches, mostly closely linked to the natural resources present in the country. They are still largely state controlled.
Communications. – Communications are ensured, first of all, by the railway that leads from Leninsk to Tashkent, which represents the extension of the so-called Transcaspiana and its junction with the Orenburgo line, in turn connected by the Turksib to the Trans-Siberian; from Buchara the branch for Kerki Termez and Samarkanda starts, another branch runs along the Fergana basin up to Andigian. There are also numerous caravan routes. There are regular air services with Moscow, the Caucasus, Siberide and Afghānistān; in general the overhead lines follow the route of the railway.
In Uzbekistan there are numerous urban centers and not a few of them, very ancient, have a long and beautiful historical tradition. The centers of the Zerafšan valley, the ancient Sogdiana, and of the Fergana basin are above all important. Arab geographers speak of the first with great admiration and compare it to the Earthly Paradise, and not wrongly, since it can be considered as one of the most fertile regions in all of Central Asia. There are no less than 126 oases spread over a distance of 416 kilometers, all of which owe their prosperity to the irrigation from the Zerafšan. The major center is Samarkand, built 7 kilometers from Zerafšan, at the foot of an isolated plateau of very ancient origin, with 155,000 residents. Other centers are Katta-Kurgan, Ziaeddin, Kerminé, then Bukhara, divided into New and Old Bukhara, with 60. 000 residents, Former capital of the homonymous khanate, which however until 1918 was simply a protectorate of Russia; last cities, after the small center of Bek-budi, are Kunja-Urgenč, formerly known as Gurgandi, and the famous Chiva, also the capital of a khanate, formerly a vassal of Russia. In the Fergana basin, 270 km long. and on average 100 large, where the natural fertility of the soil is increased by the abundance of water available for irrigation, the urban centers are distributed on the outskirts and some of them had a certain historical importance. Kokand stands out, former capital of the homonymous khanate, once called “Iski-Kurgan” with 85,000 residents; Namangan, with 90,000 residents Andigian, ancient Andukan, former capital of Fergana, with approximately 98,000 residents; Marghelan (60,000 residents), and Novis Marghelan, now called Fergana (35,000 residents), are the other urban centers of the basin. Capital is Tashkent, built in the center of an oasis irrigated by Čirc̄ik, one of the most populated cities in Russian Central Asia, having over 490,000 residents. About 25% of the population lives in cities and this is one of the percentages above the average for the entire USSR.