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(self-designation, Uzbek), a nation (natsiia; nation in the historical sense) of the USSR and the basic population of the Uzbek SSR. The Uzbeks in the USSR number 9,195,100 (1970 census), of which 7,724,700 live in the Uzbek SSR, where they make up 65.5 percent of the population. There are 665,700 Uzbeks in the Tadzhik SSR, 216,300 in the Kazakh SSR, 332,600 in the Kirghiz SSR, and 179,500 in the Turkmen SSR. Outside the USSR more than 1 million Uzbeks live in northern Afghanistan, and approximately 14,000 live in several cities in the western part of the People’s Republic of China. The language of the Uzbeks is Uzbek; religious believers are Sunni Muslims.

The ancient forbears of the Uzbeks included Saka-Massagetae tribes and the peoples of Sogdiana, Khwarazm, Bactria, and Fergana. Groups of Turkic-speaking tribes penetrated into the Middle Asian interfluve in the first centuries of the Common Era; this movement intensified in the second half of the sixth century A.D., when Middle Asia was incorporated into the Turkic Kaganate. Over the centuries in the Middle Asian interfluve, the Iranian-and Turkic-speaking settled population and the mainly Turkic-speaking nomadic population mingled and partially merged. With the development of feudal relations, the Tadzhik and Uzbek nationalities emerged; each had a distinct language and culture. The primary stage in the formation of the Uzbek nationality was completed when the Middle Asian interfluve became part of the Karakhanid state in the 11th and 12th centuries. The term “Uzbek” came into use later, however, after the Uzbeks assimilated the Dasht-i-Kipchak Uzbeks (seeDASHT-I-KIPCHAK), who, led by Sheiban Khan, appeared in the region in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

By the early 20th century the Uzbeks had not yet been consolidated into a nation. They made up three large ethnic groups. The first consisted of oasis-dwelling Uzbeks who had long since adopted a settled way of life and who had no form of clan tribal division; their chief occupations were irrigation farming, handicrafts, and trade.

The second group was formed by descendants of pre-Mongo-lian Turkic tribes of the Middle Asian interfluve and Turko-Mon-golian tribes of Genghis Khan’s time. These Uzbeks led a semi-nomadic existence and engaged chiefly in the raising of sheep. Clan tribal traditions survived among such tribes as the Karluks and Barias. Most members of this second group still called themselves Turks. Some Uzbek ethnic groups, particularly those Uzbeks of Khorezm who had adopted a settled mode of existence, were partly descended from the medieval Oghuz.

The third group consisted of the descendants of the Dasht-i-Kipchak Uzbek tribes of the 15th and 16th centuries. Most of these Uzbek tribes bore the names of peoples and tribes well known in the Middle Ages, including Kipchak, Naiman, Kangly, Khitai, Kungrat, and Mangyt. These Uzbek tribes began to adopt a settled way of life in the 16th and 17th centuries; the transition was essentially completed by the early 20th century. Some of the tribes had gradually merged with the settled Uzbek population, but most preserved some features of the nomadic existence and clan tribal traditions, as well as the characteristic features of their dialects. They engaged in land cultivation, although the raising of livestock, which grazed throughout the year, remained one of the chief occupations in the foothill and steppe zone.

Although each of the three Uzbek groups had certain distinctive ethnic traits, the groups’ language and material and spiritual culture exhibited common, fixed features that defined the ethnic and cultural character of the Uzbek nationality.

The social system of the Uzbek population of the Middle Asian khanates of the 16th to 19th centuries was feudal, with considerable vestiges of patriarchal relations. Later, as a result of Middle Asia’s incorporation into Russia, capitalist relations emerged among the Uzbeks and accelerated their development as an ethnic group. By the eve of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, however, the formation of the Uzbek bourgeois nation had not yet been completed.

The Soviet system, through the implementation of the Leninist nationalities policy, has provided the Uzbeks with their own state—the Uzbek SSR—and they have become a socialist nation. Within a brief period the Uzbeks overcame their economic and cultural backwardness, created a modern industry, reorganized agriculture on a socialist basis, and made great advances in the development of their culture, science, and art.


Narody Srednei Azii i Kazakhstana, vol. 1. Moscow, 1962.
Istoriia Uzbekskoi SSR, vols. 1–4. Tashkent, 1967–68.
Ivanov, P. P. OcherkipoistoriiSrednei Azii (XVI–ser. XIXv.). Moscow, 1958.
Vakhabov, M. G. Formirovanie uzbekskoi sotsialisticheskoi natsii. Tashkent, 1961.
Kary-Niiazov, T. N. Ocherki istorii kul’tury Sovetskogo Uzbekistana. Moscow, 1955.


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