Introduction / History
The earliest ancestors of the Uzbeks, the Central Asian Turks, aided Genghis Khan in his conquest of Eastern Europe in the 1300s. Eventually, as unity between the Turks and Mongols faded, there were numerous warring kingdoms that emerged. It was from several of these kingdoms that the Uzbeks descended. As time progressed, they developed their own language and culture, though it is similar to the others in Central Asia. By the mid-1800s, the Russians had conquered most of the Uzbeks. The Russians controlled much of Central Asia including what is now Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. They lived under czarist rule until the Bolshevik Revolution brought the communists to power in 1917. The new socialist government forced many of the Uzbek nomads and farmers to live on collective farms. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the Central Asians controlled by Moscow became independent of Russian rule. In Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, Uzbeks speak the Southern Uzbek dialect which is mutually intelligible with Northern Uzbek. The main differences are about the grammar and certain loan words from other languages. Those in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan speak Northern Uzbek. There are large Uzbek communities in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as small communities in many other nations, including Belarus, Turkey, Azerbaijan and even the United States.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Traditionally, most Uzbeks were semi-nomadic shepherds; however, today, most of those living in Central Asian countries like Turkmenistan either farm or live and work in larger towns and cities. They grow cotton, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Pasta is a common staple food item for Uzbeks wherever they live. It was probably brought to Central Asia hundreds of years ago by Italian or Chinese traders who traveled along the Silk Road. Two favorite pasta dishes are ash (a noodle dish sometimes mixed with yogurt) and ashak (an Uzbek-style ravioli). In urban settings, Uzbeks wear Western style clothing and live in small apartment complexes. The buildings, which are drab in appearance, are typical of those built during the communist era. The rural Uzbeks generally live in one of three major types of dwellings: ordinary mud brick houses; long, rectangular houses with individual rooms opening onto a front porch; or Central Asian yurts, which are circular, portable tents, often made out of animal hair. Like other Central Asian people, Uzbek men love to play buzkashi, a wild polo-like game with two teams on horseback. The game, which uses the headless carcass of a goat or calf as the "ball," can be very violent and go on for two or three days. The object of the game is to pick up the carcass and carry it to a goal that may be as far as two miles away. The other team attempts to stop whoever has the animal with any means necessary, even using whips to attack him. Another popular past-time is to hunt wild birds with falcons. Uzbek families are extended, with a patriarchal authority ruling over several generations. Each village has an elder, and several villages comprise an elat. Each elat is governed by a council of male elders.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Uzbeks are Sunni Muslims of the conservative Hanafite branch. Like other Muslims, the Uzbeks believe that there is one God, Allah, whose will was revealed through the prophet Mohammed and then recorded in the Koran. They are generally not Orthodox Muslims since they usually traditional beliefs with their Islamic practices. Many of the younger generation are either atheists or non-religious.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to give the Uzbek people teachable and understanding hearts. Pray that a strong movement of the Holy Spirit will bring entire Uzbek families into a rich experience of God's blessing. Pray for Uzbek families to be drawn by the Holy Spirit to seek forgiveness, and to understand the adequacy of Christ's work on the cross. Pray for teams of believers to do sustained, focused prayer for the Lord to open the hearts of Uzbek family leaders to experience God's blessing through a movement of family-based discovery Bible studies.
Scripture Prayers for the Uzbek, Northern in Turkmenistan.