Archeological evidence in Uzbekistan indicates that Iranian nomads built settlements at Bukhara and Samarqand in the first millennium B.C.
Over the centuries, the savage armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane conquered the lands, but by the early 16th century, fierce, indigenous Uzbek tribes controlled most of Central Asia; they subsequently built their cities and established regional commerce.
Then, due to growing ocean-based commerce, many cities in this part of Asia, once important stops along the Silk Road trade route, began to decline.
In addition to the economic pressures caused by their now increasing isolation, the Bukhara, Khiva and Quqon tribes (khanates) were hurt by wars with Iran and attacks from northern nomads.
In the late 19th century, Russia, envious of this valuable land to its south, invaded and conquered all of Uzbekistan, and by 1924, it was transformed into a socialist republic.
During the Soviet domination, aggressive production of cotton and grains led to an (almost criminal) overuse of agricultural chemicals and the depletion of local water supplies; the subsequent result is a vast area of unusable (or poisoned) land with many rivers and lakes almost dry.
Uzbekistan gained its independence in 1991, and after a decade of difficult recovery, now focuses on its extensive mineral and petroleum reserves, and the agricultural potential of the Fergana Valley.
Acts of violence flared up in the year 2000, when militant groups attempted to infiltrate Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan, followed by a series of attacks in 2004 and 2005 by terrorists opposed to the country's support of the United States after September 11, 2001.
Then, the Andijan massacre occurred in 2005 after Uzbek troops fired into a crowd of protesters killing several hundred demonstrators.
In recent years, the threat of terrorism continues to persist, and tourists are advised to exercise extreme caution when visiting Uzbekistan. Despite this, however, eco-tourism has steadily increased over the years.
Mountaineering and rock climbing, as well as the ski slopes of Chimgan and Beldersay near Tashkent, are popular activities and destinations for tourists seeking a more active visit to this country.
And, historic Tashkent, the largest city in Central Asia, has several surviving buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries, but due to earthquake damage, much of the city has been rebuilt.
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