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Religion in Uzbekistan

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Religion in Uzbekistan

Islam is by far the majority religion in Uzbekistan with a 96.3% Muslim population, in 2009.[1]


An image of a statue of Tamerlane in the Uzbek currency.

There are more Sunnite than Shi'ite Muslims among the residents. Islam was brought to ancestors of modern Uzbeks during the 8th century when the Arabs entered Central Asia. Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of Turkestan and thereafter gradually spread northward.[2] In the 14th-century, Tamerlane constructed many religious structures, including the Bibi-Khanym Mosque. He also constructed one of his finest buildings at the tomb of Ahmed Yesevi, an influential Turkic Sufi saint who spread Sufi Islam among the nomads. Islam also spread amongst the Uzbeks with the conversion of Uzbeg Khan. Converted to Islam by Ibn Abdul Hamid, a Bukharan sayyid and sheikh of the Yasavi order, Uzbeg promoted Islam amongst the Golden Horde and fostered Muslim missionary work to expand across Central Asia. In the long run, Islam enabled the khan to eliminate interfactional struggles in the Horde and to stabilize state institutions.

During the Soviet era, Moscow greatly distorted the understanding of Islam among Uzbekistan's population and created competing Islamic ideologies among the Central Asians themselves. The government sponsored official anti-religious campaigns and severe crackdowns on any hint of an Islamic movement or network outside of the control of the state. Moreover, many Muslims were subjected to intense Russification. Many mosques were closed and during Joseph Stalin's reign, many Muslims were victims of mass deportation. In Uzbekistan the end of Soviet power did not bring an upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism, as many had predicted, but rather a gradual reacquaintance with the precepts of the faith. Currently, according to a Pew Research Center report, Uzbekistan's population is 96.3% Muslim.[3]


Most of the Christians in Uzbekistan are ethnic Russians who practice Russian Orthodoxy. There are also communities of Catholics, mostly Poles.There are reports that a significant number of Russians have converted to Islam.


The number of Jews in Uzbekistan is upwardly corrected to 5,000 in 2007, which presents 0.2% of the total population.[4] Only a small minority of Bukharan Jews have remained in Uzbekistan.


  2. ^ Atabaki, Touraj. Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora, pg. 24
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ AMERICAN JEWISH YEAR BOOK, 2007, Page 592
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