In 1990, 600,000 Germans lived in Uzbekistan; 95 percent have left.In 1990, 260,000 Jews lived in Uzbekistan; 80 percent have left. Uzbek is the language of about twenty million Uzbeks living in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.The arid land of this autonomous republic supports a nomadic lifestyle.Recently, the drying up of the Aral Sea has devastated the environment, causing more than 30 percent of the area's population to leave, from villages in the early 1980s and then from cities.But through prescribed borders, shifts in dialect coalesced into distinct languages.The Soviets replaced its Arabic script briefly with a Roman script and then with Cyrillic.Of the more than one million people who have left, essentially all were non-Uzbek.Cities like Andijan and Ferghana, whose populations had been only half Uzbek, are now virtually entirely Uzbek.
Amir Timur, who conquered a vast area of Asia from his seat in Samarkand in the fourteenth century, has become a major symbol of Uzbek pride and potential and of the firm but just and wise ruler—a useful image for the present government, which made 1996 the Year of Amir Timur.Since independence there has been a shift back to Roman script, as well as a push to eliminate words borrowed from Russian.About 14 percent of the population—mostly non-Uzbek—speak Russian as their first language; 5 percent speak Tajik. Under the Soviet Union, Russian was taught as the Soviet lingua franca, but Uzbek was supported as the indigenous language of the republic, ironically resulting in the deterioration of other native languages and dialects.The twelve stars on the flag symbolize the twelve regions of the country.
The crescent moon, a symbol of Islam, is common, though its appearance on the national flag is meant not as a religious symbol but as a metaphor for rebirth.
Russians and Tajiks are each 5 percent, Karakalpaks 2 percent, and other nationalities the remainder.