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 the United States.
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? Traditionally, most Uzbeks were semi-nomadic shepherds; however, today, most of those living in Central Asia either farm or live and work in larger towns and cities. Among those who farm, the principal crop is cotton. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are also grown.
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 traditional dress of the Uzbeks is very distinctive. But today, most wear Western style clothing, especially those who live in large, previously Soviet cities.
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 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 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 of the Hanafite branch. 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 Orthodox 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 great majority of the rural villages have had no Gospel witness.
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. The Uzbeks are the largest people group in Central Asia and are the most resistant to the Gospel. Who will tell them about God's love?
Prayer Points * Pray that Christian Uzbek leaders would unified in their evangelistic activities.
* Pray that new Uzbek Christians would understand God's Word quickly and commit themselves to a local church where they will find strength.
* Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking down the strongholds through worship and intercession.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of the Uzbek Muslims towards Christians.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Uzbeks.
* Ask the Lord to send additional long term laborers to live among the Uzbeks and share the love of Christ with them.
* Pray that Christians in other countries start reaching out to their Uzbek neighbors and they would be receptive for Christ's love.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film and Christian radio broadcasts that are being aired among the Uzbeks.
* Pray for God to raise up strong local churches in all these countries among the Uzbeks.