Introduction / History The 20 million Uzbeks are a Turkic people group located primarily in Central Asia. About 15 million of them live in their homeland, present-day Uzbekistan. There are also large Uzbek communities in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as small communities in many other nations, including a small number in Mongolia.
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, numerous warring kingdoms were formed. It was from several of these kingdoms that the Uzbeks descended.
By the mid-1800s, most of the Uzbeks had been conquered by the Russians. Others lived in Mongolia where they were only obliquely controlled by the Soviets after the USSR was established in 1917.
Where are they located? There are Northern Uzbeks in many Central Asian countries, Russia and China. Less than 1,000 live in Mongolia.
What are their lives like? Traditionally, most Uzbeks were semi-nomadic shepherds, including those who live in Mongolia where there is plenty of grasslands for their livestock. Their common staple food is rice and osh is the national dish cooked with rice. Pasta is also common food item. 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).
The Uzbek mountain 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 "ball" 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. 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. The Uzbeks are not generally devout Muslims. Many traditional beliefs have been mingled with their Islamic practices. Many of the younger generation are either atheists or non-religious.
What are their needs? The New Testament, Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, as well as the JESUS Film have already been made available to the Northern Uzbeks. Most Uzbeks who have access to the Gospel live in the cities. It is likely that the majority of the rural villages of Mongolia have these resources.
Prayer Points * Pray that Christian Uzbek leaders would be willing to take Christ to the Uzbeks in Mongolia.
* Pray that new Uzbek believers would understand God's Word quickly and commit themselves to a local church where they will find strength.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and unity to mission agencies focusing on Mongolia.
* Ask the Lord to send additional long-term laborers to live among the Uzbeks and share the love of Christ with them.
* Pray for God to raise up a strong church planting movement among Uzbeks in Mongolia as well as Uzbekistan.