Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook
The Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia. 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.
For thousands of years the present area of Uzbekistan was a part of the Persian Empire. Before the gradual arrival of the Turkic invaders the area was populated by the Persian-speaking people of Iranian stock who still comprise a large minority in Uzbekistan and are called Tajiks today. The area was a bone of contention between the Uzbek emirs and the Persian Kings for many centuries.
In the 19th century, the Russian Empire began to expand, and spread into Central Asia. The "Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second less intensive phase followed. At the start of the 19th century there were some 2000 miles separating British India and the outlying regions of the Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Central Asia was firmly in the hands of Russia and despite some early resistance to Bolsheviks, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union.
On September 1, 1991, Uzbekistan reluctantly declared independence. While the Baltic States led the fight for independence, Central Asian states were afraid of it. "The centrifugal forces pulling the Union apart were weakest in Central Asia. Well after the August 1991 coup attempt, all Central Asian countries believed that the Union might somehow be preserved," wrote Michael McFaul in Russia's Unfinished Revolution.
On May 13, 2005, protests broke out in Andijan over the imprisonment of 23 Muslims accused of being Islamist extremists. Soldiers started to fire on the protestors, leaving at least nine of them dead. The protestors took thirty hostages as a result. On the same day in Tashkent, a suspected suicide bomber was shot dead outside the Israeli Embassy.