Education System The educational system has achieved 97% literacy, and the mean amount of schooling for both men and women is 11 years. However, due to budget constraints and other transitional problems following the collapse of the Soviet Union, texts and other school supplies, teaching methods, curricula, and educational institutions are outdated, inappropriate, and poorly kept. Additionally, the proportion of school-aged persons enrolled has been dropping. Although the government is concerned about this, budgets remain tight.
Population Uzbekistan has an estimated population of 25 million. It is Central Asia"s most populous country. It The population are concentrated in the south and east of the country, are nearly half the region"s total population. Uzbekistan had been one of the poorest republics of the Soviet Union; much of its population was engaged in cotton farming in small rural communities. The population continues to be heavily rural and dependent on farming for its livelihood. Uzbek is the predominant ethnic group. Other ethnic groups include Russian 5.5%, Tajik 15%, Korean 4.7%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, and Tatar 1.5%.
Capital Tashkent (Toshkent)
Languages Uzbek is the official state language; however, Russian is the de facto language for interethnic communication, including day-to-day government and business use.
Religions The nation is of 88% Muslim and 9% Eastern Orthodox.
Economy Uzbekistan is now the world"s third largest cotton exporter, a major producer of gold and natural gas, and a regionally significant producer of chemicals and machinery. Following independence in December 1991, the government sought to prop up its Soviet-style command economy with subsidies and tight controls on production and prices. Faced with high rates of inflation, however, the government began to reform in mid-1994, by introducing tighter monetary policies, expanding privatization, slightly reducing the role of the state in the economy, and improving the environment for foreign investors. The state continues to be a dominating influence in the economy, and reforms have so far failed to bring about structural changes. The IMF suspended Uzbekistan"s US$185 million standby arrangement in late 1996 because of governmental steps that made fulfillment of Fund conditions impossible. Uzbekistan has responded to the negative external conditions generated by the Asian and Russian financial crises by tightening export and currency controls within its already largely closed economy. In 2003, the government accepted the obligations under the International Monetary Fund (IMF), providing for full currency convertibility. However, strict currency controls and tightening of borders have lessened the effects of convertibility and have also led to some shortages that have further stifled economic activity.