HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
According to Cached Health, Uzbekistan is an internal state of central-western Asia. Population growth (19,810,077 residents at the last census dating back to 1989, 27,307,000 residents to a 2006 estimate) has slowed down (2.3 % in the period 1990-1998 and 1.5 % in the 2000 period -2005), but still remains too high for the country’s resources: the natural movement is high (26.4 ‰ the birth rate and 7.8 ‰ the death rate in 2006) and only partially limited by the net migration rate ( – 1.5 ‰). According to the estimates of international organizations, the 26% of the population lives below the poverty line. The only real city remains the capital, Tashkent, which in 2003 had 2,155,000 residents, while all the other major centers have a demographic consistency that does not exceed 400,000 residents.
Contrary to the post-socialist transition models and despite the repeated requests for liberalization from international institutions, in the Uzbekistan the state has maintained a strong role in the economic field, maintaining the ownership of monopolistic companies and controlling all forms of planning. However, Uzbek economic policy has achieved brilliant results with GDP growth of 7.7 % in 2004 and 7 % in 2005. Agriculture, flanked by the agri-food industry, is the main activity: in particular, the production of cereals recorded a record level (6 million t in 2005), allowing the country to achieve food self-sufficiency, while cotton remains the dominant crop (1,250,000 t of fiber and 3,770,000 t of seeds produced in 2005) and ensures about 45 % of total exports.
The other two main sectors of the Uzbek economy are the industrial one (in particular the mechanical sector) and the mining one (the Uzbekistan appears as one of the world’s largest producers of both uranium and gold, and the eleventh in the world for gas. natural), which since 2004 has benefited from the rise in the prices of raw materials on international markets.
Former Soviet republic, independent since 1991, the Uzbekistan on the threshold of 2000 did not present substantial changes compared to previous years: the People’s Democratic Party (name assumed by the Communist Party in November 1991) and its leader, I. Karimov (President of the Republic since 1990), continued to exercise strict control on the political and economic life of the country, preventing the opposition from any form of dispute. The repressive measures, moreover justified by the regime with the need to contain the strong pressures of Islamic fundamentalism, which has always been particularly active in the Uzbek part of the Fergana region, were accentuated following the attacks of 11 September 2001 at the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon. In October 2001 the government therefore decided, amid lively protests from the population, to grant the United States the use of the Qarshi-Xanabad air base (in the south, near the border with Turkmenistan) to send humanitarian aid to Afghānistān. In January 2002, a popular referendum approved the extension of the presidential term from 5 to 7 years (thus postponing the deadline to December 2007) and the creation of a bicameral Parliament for 2004 ; in April 2003 further constitutional changes introduced a reduction in the powers of the president, who was nevertheless granted immunity during and after the end of his mandate. Advertised as measures aimed at increasing internal democracy to adapt to the standards of Western partners, with which diplomatic and economic relations had intensified over the years, the measures did not change the situation: Karimov continued to exercise strict control over the means. of information and to persecute the representatives of the opposition forces, accusing anyone who dared to criticize the regime of terrorism and fundamentalism. The repression failed to prevent new terrorist attacks (particularly serious those that occurred between March and July 2004, which also hit the US and Israeli embassies in the capital), and was condemned by international public opinion; in April 2004 the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBDR) therefore decided to limit the loans granted to the country.
In the following months the tension remained high – fueled by the evident abuses perpetrated by the government in the legislative elections of December 2004, open only to pro-presidential parties and inevitably won by them – and exploded in May 2005 in Andijon (in Fergana), where an assault on the prison to free some political prisoners it turned into a demonstration in favor of democratic reforms, which involved thousands of people. The intervention of government troops in order to quell the protest resulted in 187 deaths, at least according to official reports from the executive; opponents, on the other hand, denounced over a thousand of them, and also appealed to the international community to shed light on the massacre. Despite pressure from Great Britain and the United States, among Karimov’s main allies in the fight against terrorism, the president nevertheless refused to allow an international investigation into the massacre, also preventing both journalists and humanitarian organizations from investigating the events. The European Union reacted by imposing sanctions on the country relating to arms imports (Oct 2005). The line taken by Western countries increased the distance between them and the United States, accelerating the process of rapprochement with Russia. In July 2005 the government decided to revoke the US concession of the Qarshi-Xanabad base; in the following November, a few days after the departure of the last US troops, the Uzbek authorities declared that they would no longer allow NATO forces to use their territory and airspace to support the humanitarian mission to Afghānistān. New agreements were signed instead with Moscow, both military (like the one in November 2005 for mutual assistance in the event of aggression) and financial and commercial (like the January 2006 one relating to the extraction of hydrocarbons). The complete return to the orbit of Moscow was sanctioned in June 2006,when the Uzbekistan decided to rejoin the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty of the CIS countries (known as the Tashkent Treaty), from which he left in 1999.