A cluster of 11 Uzbek groups in 11 different countries.
The earliest ancestors of the Uzbeks, the Central Asian Turks, aided Genghis Khan in his conquest of Eastern Europe in the 1300's. 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-1800's, most of the Uzbeks had been conquered by the Russians. They lived under czarist rule until the Bolshevik Revolution brought the Communists to power in 1917. The new socialist government forced many of the Uzbek nomads and farmers to live on collective farms. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Uzbekistan became an independent nation.
What are their lives like?
Pasta is a common staple 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 traditional dress of the Uzbeks is very distinctive . Today, most wear Western style clothing, especially those who live in large previously Soviet cities.
In the former Soviet regions, most of the urban Uzbek live in small apartment complexes. The buildings, which are rather drab in appearance, are typical of those built during the Communist era.
The rural Uzbeks of Central Asia and China generally live in one of three major types of dwellings: ordinary mud brick houses; long, rectangular houses with individual rooms opening onto a front porch; or Central Asian yurts, which are circular, portable tents, often made out of animal hair. Many nomadic groups live in yurts when migrating with their herds to better pastures, or while moving to highland fields during harvest season.
The Uzbek mountain men love to play buzkashi, a wild polo-like game that is played by 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 pastime 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?
The Uzbeks are not generally orthodox Muslims. Many traditional beliefs have been mingled with their Islamic practices. Nevertheless, the Islamic religion is an integral part of their cultural identity.
The departure of Communist ideology has left a spiritual void in the former Soviet Union. Thus, the Uzbeks in the new nations of Central Asia enjoy a relatively high degree of religious freedom. Many of them are either atheists or non-religious.
What are their needs?
Today, Islamic fundamentalists living in the former Soviet regions have begun calling for the strict application of Islamic law, as is practiced in Afghanistan. Now is the time to preach the Gospel to the Uzbeks of this region. There is an unprecedented opportunity to reach their communities with the message of the Cross. However, much intercession is needed to prevent this door from closing. Additional laborers and Christian resources are also needed.
There are approximately 21,000 Uzbek in the U.S. who are open to receiving the Gospel. Efforts must be made to reach them before they return to their homeland.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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