Introduction / History The Uzbeks are descended from a mixture of mostly Turkic tribes that include some Mongolian and Iranian traits. The name Uzbek may mean "master of himself." Their love of freedom and a general restlessness often caused conflict with the waves of invaders who conquered the country over the centuries.
The first conqueror of this region, was Alexander the Great, whose army swept through central Asia in the fourth century. Arabs and Turks, followed by Genghis Khan and the Mongols, overran all of central Asia from the seventh to the fourteenth centuries. Not long after Tamerlane's conquest came the last and perhaps finest period of culture and learning to the Uzbek. Tamerlane's influence was followed by a long period of decline in the 1500s. By the time the Russians subdued the country between 1860 and the 1880s, Tajikistan had disintegrated into several warring principalities.
What are their lives like? The majority of Uzbeks in Tajikistan live in the Laninabad region, the Gissar Valley, southern Tajikistan, around Shrtuz and Kolkhozabad, and the Kurgan Tube. Although most still follow traditional farming and nomadic shepherd lifestyles, many who migrated to the city have become merchants or skilled craftsmen. They are especially talented bazaar artisans, working with silver, gold, leather, and wood. They also make elaborate carpets.
Uzbek dwellers in urban areas generally prefer European style clothing, but traditional dress is still common. This includes a long turban cloth (sometimes as long as three meters or more); a slipover, long-tailed cotton shirt; baggy trousers with a wide waist and held with a drawstring; a colorful waistcoat or vest; and boots of various types. Village women wear a chadar (head shawl) made of white or colorful red and white cotton floral prints; baggy trousers with calf length shirts, or high yoked dresses with full skirts reaching almost to the ankles.
The traditional family unit is based on kinship ties. Marriage of children is most often a contractual arrangement that is sealed with a bride price and the bride then lives with the groom's family. Marriages are celebrated with feasting, competitions, and other rituals. Women continue to do much of the household work and handle many of the less skilled and manual jobs. They are often segregated from the men.
The most common houses are built of mud bricks and often have domed roofs. Another style is an oblong, rectangular hut with rooms leading off a long covered porch and located inside a walled compound. Most nomadic groups who follow the seasonal migration of their herds live in the distinctive central Asian yurt (a circular, portable tent). Today, crowded modern housing, especially in urban areas, prevents generations from living together and discourages large families. These factors, along with increased educational opportunities mean more Uzbek are finding work away from their home areas.
What are their beliefs? The majority of the Uzbeks are Sunni Muslims. The others are Shi'ite Muslims or belong to various Sufi Muslim orders. The numerous holy places of pilgrimage in Tajikistan play a less significant role in the revival of Islam than in other central Asia areas where tribal structures are still strong.
Pre-Islamic shamanism (belief that there is an unseen world of many gods, demons, and ancestral spirits) survives in an Islamic form. Today the shaman (priest or medicine man) is a practicing Muslim who combines shamanistic trances with reciting Islamic prayers, fasts, and other Islamic practices.
What are their needs? The Jesus film and Christian broadcasts are available in Uzbeki. The New Testament has been translated into their native language.
Prayer Points * Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Uzbeks.
* Pray that the Lord will raise up long term workers to join the few who have already responded.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film and Christian broadcasts among the Uzbeks.
* Ask the Lord to create a hunger in the hearts of the Uzbeks to know Jesus Christ.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Uzbek Muslims towards Christians.
* Pray for God to raise up strong local churches among the Uzbeks.