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People, Language & Religion


According to official sources, Uzbeks comprise a majority (80%) of the total population. Other ethnic groups include Russians 5.5%, Tajiks 5%, Kazakhs 3%, Karakalpaks 2.5%, and Tatars 1.5% (1996 estimates). There is some controversy about the percentage of the Tajik population. Official data from Uzbekistan that put the number of Tajiks at 5% of the population do not include ethnic Tajiks who, for a variety of reasons, choose to identify themselves as Uzbeks in population census forms. Some Western scholars, citing anonymous "observers" or "Tajiks around the country", accordingly estimate the number of Tajiks in Uzbekistan at 20% or even as high as 25%-30%.

Uzbekistan has an ethnic Korean population that was forcibly relocated to the region from the Soviet Far East in 1937-1938. There are also small groups of Armenians in Uzbekistan, mostly in Tashkent and Samarkand. The nation is 88% Muslim (mostly Sunni, with a 5% Shi'a minority), 9% Eastern Orthodox and 3% other faiths (which include small communities of Korean Christians, other Christian denominations, Buddhists, Baha'is, and more). The Bukharian Jews have lived in Central Asia, mostly in Uzbekistan, for thousands of years. There were 94,900 Jews in Uzbekistan in 1989 (about 0.5% of the population according to the 1989 census), but now, since the collapse of the USSR, most Central Asian Jews left the region for the United States or Israel. Fewer than 5,000 Jews remain in Uzbekistan.


The Uzbek language is the only official state language. The Tajik language is widespread in the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand because of their relatively large population of ethnic Tajiks. Russian is still an important language for inter-ethnic communication, especially in the cities, including much day-to-day technical, scientific, governmental and business use. Russian is the main language of over 14% of the population and is spoken as a second language by many more. The use of Russian in remote rural areas has always been limited, and today school children have no proficiency in Russian even in urban centres.


Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution of 1992, adopted after independence, and there is a specific provision prohibiting the establishment of any state religion. Ethnic Uzbeks are primarily adherents of the Hanafi sect of Sunni Islam, but the Wahhabi sect has flourished as well in recent years. Muslims account for about 88% of the population; Eastern Orthodox Christians for 9%; and others for 3%. In 2002 Uzbekistan had a significant Jewish population of some 30,000 Ashkenazi and Bukharan Jews, primarily in the cities of Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand. Almost 70,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel or the US since independence. Other minority religions include small communities of Korean Christians, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, Buddhists, Baha'is, and Hare Krishnas.





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