Uzbekistan Culture and Religions


In contrast to the nomadic areas in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, the region of today’s Uzbekistan has been a core area of Islamic culture since the early Middle Ages. The highly developed, Persian-influenced urban culture was essential for this. In particular, the old centers in today’s central part of the country, Bukhara and Samarkand, have an extraordinary cultural history. They produced many great philosophers, scientists and theologians. The language and culture of Persia is still cultivated by many people in the vicinity of these cities, while the state language Uzbek developed from Eastern Turkish idioms. As the founder of the Uzbek language and literature current poet Mir Ali Sher Nava’i came from Herat and wrote in Chaghatai and Persian (15th century). One of the oldest and most important cultural traditions in the country is the traditional Indo-Iranian New Year festival, Navro’z, which is celebrated in spring. Navro’z is a public holiday.

According to ehistorylib, Uzbekistan inherited its theater scene from the Soviet Union. The best known abroad is the independent Ilhom Theater. But its existence is still in jeopardy. The situation was calmed down for the time being through an intervention by the president’s daughter.

Along the so-called Silk Road in Uzbekistan, many people living in poverty have to reflect on old handicraft traditions. Wonderful works can be found in the bazaars. But corruption and state intimidation and paternalism prevent an economically successful development of the arts and crafts and the cultural scene. Independent artists are persecuted and suppressed. In the state art museums originals of employees stealing and copies replaced.

  • Bukhara’s rich heritage of craftsmanship
  • Art Museum in Tashkent

A worldwide unique expressionist art collection in Uzbekistan consists of works by artists who were scorned and not tolerated in Moscow and Leningrad. Thanks to the courageous collecting passion of its founder Igor Savitzky, these works were able to survive in the museum far from the influence of Moscow, which is already known as the ” Louvre in the desert “.


Approx. 89% of the Uzbekistan Population are Muslims (mostly Sunni Islam, local Shiite minorities); 8% are Orthodox Christians; At the beginning of the 1990’s there were around 93,000 Jews, at the end of December 2000 there were around 3,000 Roman Catholics. After independence, large numbers of new mosques, Koran schools and Islamic centers sprang up everywhere; some of them were financed from other Islamic countries. The new spiritual administration of the Muslims of Uzbekistan is under state supervision. Islam has become visible again in Uzbekistan, unofficial Islamist currents are being used by Uzbekistan government persecuted, however, also abroad. Radical political Islamism seems to be concentrated mainly in the Fergana Valley. Since 1998 religious groups and mosque communities have had to register (at least 100 members are required). The new religious law prohibits missionary activity, among other things, and otherwise allows little religious freedom. The fight of the Uzbek government against religious radicalization of the population sometimes takes on grotesque and absurd forms, such as the compulsion exercised by the local police to shave off beards. You can shave off beards, but what do you do with the corresponding content in people’s heads ?!

The extra-parliamentary religious opposition includes the global Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IBU). The operations of the US forces in Afghanistan appeared to be the IBUto have weakened structurally and personally. While the IBU wants to achieve its goals with military force, the second important Islamist movement, Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, is officially non-violent. Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami is banned in Uzbekistan and its followers are persecuted. She advocates the establishment of a caliphate in which existing social problems such as poverty and corruption are to be solved through Islamic jurisprudence. However, the protest by Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami against the government is not only religious in nature. Many young people see the Islamist opposition as the only way to politically express their will and to express their dissatisfaction with the social situation in Uzbekistan. The IS could do this dissatisfaction take advantage of and massively recruited for themselves. It is therefore no coincidence that the assassins of Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Istanbul and New York from Uzbekistan come.

The government, in turn, uses Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, like the IBU, as a “bogeyman” and symbol for “Islamist terror” and legitimizes its repression in the religious field with reference to the “conditions” in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In 2018, the U.S. Department of State ranks Uzbekistan among the states with the worst violations of religious freedom, although the new president has taken some steps to relax the state’s repressive policies in the religious sphere. A slight improvement will be noted in 2020, but there will still be no decisive U-turn.

“Central Asian” Islam: Like everywhere else in the Islamic world, Islam is not a monolith in Central Asia, but manifests itself in so diverse manifestations that one can with some justification from a Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Turkmen and Tajik Islam or even from Islam of the former nomads and that of the urban population. This would also highlight the great differences between (sub) ethnic and localTake account of the manifestations of Islam in the region. But similarities can also be identified. This includes the ability of the Central Asian expressions of Islam to incorporate behavior that is incompatible with classical teachings. As in other parts of the Islamic world, a pronounced radicalism can also be observed, which, however, has a different genesis. In addition, the structure of religious fatalism (belief in the absolute predestination of fate by God) is different. Last but not least, a “special path” can be seen in the ideals of equality and a unique belief in rituals, which in some places seems to replace “true” belief.

Central Asia / Uzbekistan as a haven for terror and Islamism? After the terrorist attacks in Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Stockholm and recently in New York, for which either ethnic Uzbeks from Central Asia and Uzbeks from Uzbekistan are responsible, there is a discussion about the causes: the hopeless political and economic Situation in their home country, which forms a breeding ground for Islamism and radicalism, and / or in the respective host society, because radicalization only takes place far away from home.

Uzbekistan Orthodox Church, Tashkent region