Uzbekistan lies in the ancient region of Sogdiana, which was crossed by caravan routes linking China, India, Persia, and the countries of the eastern Mediterranean. Sogdiana was conquered by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. and was taken by Muslim Arabs in about the eighth century A.D. Thereafter the region was controlled by the Samanid Persians and then overrun by the Mongol conquerors Genghis Khan and Tamerlane.

Uzbeks ruled the region from the 16th through the mid-19th century. The region was an important link in the trading route between Europe and China. Under Czar Alexander II, Russia annexed Uzbekistan during 1865–76. It became a union republic of the Soviet Union in 1924. In 1930 the capital was moved from Samarkand to Tashkent.

In 1990, during a period of rising nationalism throughout the Soviet Union, the Uzbek parliament declared that its laws would take precedence over those enacted by the central government of the Soviet Union.

In 1991, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Uzbekistan became independent. Also that year, Uzbekistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States. In parliamentary elections in 1995, the first such elections since independence, the former Communist party won a majority of seats, and its leader Islam A. Karimov became president of Uzbekistan.

In a 1995 referendum, voters extended the presidential term of Karimov to the year 2000. He won another presidential election in 2000. In 2005, thousands of Uzbeks protested in Andijon against the imprisonment of 23 local businessmen charged with being Muslim extremists. Eyewitnesses claimed hundreds of people were killed by Uzhek troops; however, the government reported that around 185 people died.

See also Amu Darya; Aral Sea; Bukhara; Flag (picture page); Samarkand; Syr Darya; Tashkent; Turkestan.