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The Republic of Uzbekistan (O‘zbekiston Respublikasi or Ўзбекистон Республикаси) is a Central Asian country, formerly part of the Soviet Union. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south.
Once part of the Persian Samanid and later Timurid empires, the region was conquered in the early 16th century by Uzbek nomads, who spoke an Eastern Turkic language. Most of Uzbekistan’s population today belong to the Uzbek ethnic group and speak the Uzbek language, one of the family of Turkic languages.
Uzbekistan was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 19th century and in 1924 became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). It has been an independent republic since December 1991.
Uzbekistan's economy relies mainly on commodity production, including cotton, gold, uranium, potassium, and natural gas. Despite the declared objective of transition to a market economy, Uzbekistan continues to maintain rigid economic controls, which often repel foreign investors. The policy of gradual, strictly controlled transition has nevertheless produced beneficial results in the form of economic recovery after 1995. Uzbekistan's domestic policies on human rights and individual freedoms are often criticized by international organizations (when there's a pervasive rumour that your leader enjoys boiling dissidents alive, you have a bit of a problem...).
Uzbeks are found in other countries as well--mainly Afghanistan, where they are the third biggest minority group, and other former Soviet republics. Uzbekistan is one of Russia's biggest sources of immigrants, both legal and illegal.