Uzbekistan, republic in Central Asia, bordered on the west and north by Kazakhstan, on the east by Kyrgyzstan, on the southeast by Tajikistan, and on the south by Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The Qoraqalpogh Autonomous Republic (also known as Qoraqalpoghiston, or Karakalpakstan) occupies 37 percent of Uzbekistanís territory in the western portion of the country. Toshkent (Tashkent), located in the northeast, is the capital city and chief industrial and cultural center. Uzbeks make up the majority of the republicís population. In the official state language of Uzbek, the republic is called Uzbekiston Respublikasy (Republic of Uzbekistan).

Uzbekistan was the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1924 until 1991, when it gained its independence. In 1992 Uzbekistan was officially designated a secular and democratic republic with the ratification of its first post-Soviet constitution. However, many of the centralized controls that were characteristic of the Soviet period remain entrenched in the economic and political structures of Uzbekistan. Although the constitution guarantees a multiparty system, the republicís president, Islam Karimov, has established an authoritarian-style regime that has been intolerant of opposition groups. Karimov has also proceeded cautiously with market-oriented economic reforms, and the government retains control over most sectors of the economy.

Read more from: MSN "Encarta" Encyclopedia

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