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Culture & Identity of Uzbekistan

Introduction

Unlike many people in Central Asia, the Uzbeks have always been settled so their way of life and culture has always been quite different from that of their neighbors. However, the Uzbeks fell under Soviet rule when major changes were made to the way of life. Religion slowly died, regular working hours were introduced, and school became the norm for Uzbek children.

Despite the changes, one thing that didn't change was that the Uzbeks remained very rural; today almost two thirds of the people live in rural areas. For many of these people life now and in the past is based on the land and agriculture. Farming has been the primary occupation for centuries and today a quarter of the people still work in agriculture to some degree. For these people life is based on long summer days and short winter days, making their daily lives very dependent on the weather and seasons. It also created a reliance on family, friends, and neighbors as small communities often needed each other.

The Soviets introduced a great amount of industrial jobs and also increased the number of positions in the services sectors. Today many Uzbeks still work in these fields as they have more regular working hours. The standard work day in Uzbekistan today runs from about 9:00 am to about 6:00 pm. This schedule dictates much of life in Uzbekistan today as does school, which generally runs from early September to June. For farm families this school schedule is ideal since during the summers off of school these children can help on the family farm.

Despite the changes to culture, work, and even the variety of occupations in Uzbekistan, in general the people's lives are centered on the lands and family. Free time is more common during the short winter days, but few people have the discretionary income to go out and enjoy the money they make. More commonly, life is focused in the home and free time is spent with family and friends.

Identity

The people of Uzbekistan are struggling to find a unified identity as the people argue how each person should be identified. Many of the ethnic Uzbeks identify as "Uzbeks," which they tend to define in political, cultural, and ethnic terms. This is usually defined by being a Muslim, having a settled lifestyle, speaking Uzbek, and being an ethnic Uzbek. Most ethnic Tajiks in the country identify as Tajiks, but citizens of Uzbekistan. Many other minority groups refuse to be identified as Uzbek, even under political terms; this is in part because the Uzbeks have tied the culture, language, and ethnicity to the Uzbek identity, implying the identity requires more than just citizenship, hence excluding these ethnic minorities. Because of this, most ethnic minorities generally identify by their ethnicity, which tends to be tied to a distinct language and culture.

This page was last updated: November, 2013