I has been only seventeen years since independence, and you can't find a single statue of Lenin in the whole country. They have been replaced by Uzbekistan's greatest hero, Timur (Tamerlane), who conquered all of Central Asia in the fourteenth century.





Restoration of many of the mosques and medressas (Muslim schools) that dated back the the Silk Road Era was started after the Second World War.





This is the same mosque after restoration.



The Ark (Fort) at Bukhara


By the nineteenth century, what is today Uzbekistan was divided into three Khanates, the most notorious of which was in Bukhara. In an effort to prevent Russia from encroaching on their colony in India, Britain wanted to move into Central Asia.



The Bug Pit


In 1839 the British sent a young Colonel, Charles Stoddart, to Bukhara to open trade and diplomatic relations. The Emir was quite insulted by Stoddart, who didn't even bother to bring a letter from Queen Victoria. Fearing that contact with Great Britain might lead to colonization, he immediately put the envoy in the 30 foot deep Bug Pit, a prison cell infested with vermin, snakes, scorpions, rats, and human waste. About two years later an even less diplomatic Christian minister, Arthur Conolly arrived in Bukhara to free Stoddart, and convert the Emir and his subjects to Christianity. He too was sent straight to the Bug Pit. When the Afghans chased the British out of their country in 1842, the Emir got the idea that Great Britain was just a paper tiger. He took the two out of the Bug Pit and had them publicly executed..





A tourist can now sit on the Emir's throne, dress up like a nineteenth century warlord, and have his picture taken. Behaving like this 150 years ago would have sent a European straight to the bug pit.



The Russians


In the latter part of the nineteenth century the Russians moved in and took over Central Asia. The official history of Uzbekistan as told by the National Museum in Tashkent says that the Bolshevik Revolution "virtually continued the period of colonization." Uzbekistan went on to unwillingly become one of the Soviet Socialist Republics.



Russian Tractor


Collectivization was carried out and cotton was made the principal crop. The irrigation needed caused the Aral Sea to dry up.





The Uzbeks are quite proud of their tradition of puppetry.





There is one thing that Russia, the United States, Uzbekistan and all of Central Asia can agree on, and that is that they have no love for Islamic fundamentalism. Uzbekistan shares a common border with Afghanistan. Ten years ago Al-Qaeda operatives were infiltrating the country and attempting to destabilize the government. When the United States attacked Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Uzbek government was quite happy to allow American bombers to take off from bases in their country. Everyone was happy. But once Afghanistan was under control, George Bush took a look around and started complaining about human rights in Uzbekistan. This made him about as popular as Santa Claus at a Jewish wedding. The American ambassador was lucky that he did not get thrown in the Bug Pit. For a time it was even difficult for an American to get a tourist visa to visit the country. Bill Clinton's diplomacy wasn't much better. While he was president he sent both Hillary and Madeline Albright to Uzbekistan. Haven't these people suffered enough?