February 5, 2010
Religious Life in Uzbekistan
The Republic of Uzbekistan is a country with the multiethnic and multi-faith population. These values have been cultivated for millennia. Since the ancient times representatives of different ethnic groups, nationalities, religious beliefs and cultures inhabited the Uzbek soil. Accord and peaceful coexistence of different religions turned into vital issues of overall progress of the Uzbek land, and the region as a whole in the world community. In the ancient times the mere fact of religious diversity impartially encouraged the best minds of this region to energetic search for the ways of establishing good relations with the representatives of different religions, enhancing mutual understanding among them for the sake of general prosperity of society.

Hence, the religious and socio-philosophical thinking of the Uzbek people has been refined over centuries, and laid a strong foundation for fostering and progressively developing the culture of tolerant inter-religious relations. Therefore, in reviving those spiritual values much work has been accomplished in modern Uzbekistan, as it was highlighted by President Islam Karimov \"if we want to build a just state, free society, we have to remember that the ways to accomplish these noble objectives go alongside with millennial religious beliefs\".

From the first days of its independence (September 1, 1991) as the strategic goal of new Uzbekistan was announced the creation of a democratic and secular state and civil society based on pluralism. Such a critical issue for the state did not endure a straightforward approach to religious questions. Establishing social relations and defining an actual place of religion as one of the potential social levers developed into the principal state policy.

It was clearly reflected in the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted on December 8, 1992. Article 31 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of conscience, prohibits propagation of religious ideas in a forceful manner. Article 57 forbids formation of associations and parties on the basis of national and religious differences. Finally, Article 61 of the Constitution declares the separation of religion from the state. As of this principal issue, all of the above-mentioned had a great effect on the general evolution of religious situation in the country, and especially on the state of interethnic and inter-religious relations. Today more than 130 nationalities of various beliefs live in Uzbekistan. There are 2225 religious organizations of 16 various confessions registered in Uzbekistan. Muslim organizations comprise 2050, which accounts for 92 % of the total number of religious organizations. Besides, 159 Christian organizations, 8 Jewish communes, 8 Baha’i communes, one society of Krishna and one Buddhist temple operate in the republic.

The state registration of religious organizations is carried out in accordance with a Resolution by the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan “On the Procedure of State Registration of Religious Organizations in the Republic of Uzbekistan” dated on June 20, 1998. The process of registration is to be continued.

In 2004 the Council for Religious Confessions was set up under the Religious Affairs Committee to closely interact with religious organizations, render assistance to various religious confessions in exercising their activities, and jointly elaborate proposals and measures to ensure interreligious and interethnic accord as well as to develop a culture of interconfessional dialogue. The board of the Council includes leaders of seven religious communities: the Muslim Board, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Baptist Union, the Full Gospel Church and the Jewish community. Believers in Uzbekistan freely celebrate all religious holidays: Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr among Muslims, Christmas and Easter among Christians and Passover, Purim and Chanukah among Jews.

Besides, every year with the assistance of the government of Uzbekistan believers go on a pilgrimage to sacred places – Muslims to Saudi Arabia make a Hajj and Umra, Christians – to Russia, Greece and Israel, Jews – to Israel. Pilgrims receive various assistance – arrangement of special flights, medical services, free exchange of foreign currencies, air ticket discounts, prompt and facilitated issuance of visas.

During the years of independence the following were translated into Uzbek language and published in the Republic - the Koran (three times), 16 books of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament.

Hundreds of mosques, churches and houses of worship, including the Orthodox Churches in Tashkent, Samarkand and Navoi, the Catholic Church in Tashkent, the Armenian Church in Samarkand were built and restored. According to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated August 22, 2003, 15 sites - religious complexes, places of pilgrimage and tombs were transferred under the jurisdiction of the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan.

In late 2004, the Office of the Muslims of Uzbekistan jointly with the National Society for the Blind held a presentation of the Holy Qur\'an, printed in Braille font. Uzbekistan became the third country in the world to carry out such a noble cause. At present, our country is home to about 24 thousand blind citizens. From now on, special schools - boarding schools, public libraries of the republic, as well as all interested persons will be provided with copies of the Holy Quran the in Braille. The participants of the event stressed that the publication of the Holy Quran for the blind, the organization of the gesture-translation for the deaf in the two Friday Mosques in Tashkent, the decision to bring this experience to other regions of the country, constitute an invaluable gift to our fellow citizens with disabilities.

June 8, 2007 saw the inauguration of the memorial complex “Hazrati Imam”, consisting of a mosque “Hazrati Imam”, madrassah “Barokkhon”, worshiping place “Muyi Muborak”, the new building of the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan and other unique constructions. The memorial complex in Tashkent was built on the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in record time - four months.

Announcement by the ISESCO of Tashkent, the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2007 is yet another international recognition of the extensive work undertaken in the country to ensure freedom of conscience, rehabilitation and development of Islamic values, studying the rich scientific and cultural heritage of ancestors, reconstruction and improvement of burial sites of great thinkers and saints. Over 100 foreign statesmen and public figures, religious leaders and academics from 31 countries participated in the international conference “The role of Uzbekistan in the development of Islamic civilization”held in the cities of Tashkent and Samarkand on August 14-15, 2007.

Much attention is also being paid to provision of religious education. In 1999 the Islamic University was established in Tashkent, which along with the Institute of Islam, 10 madrasahs as well as 1 Orthodox and 1 Protestant seminaries provide religious education to over thousand students annually.

Various events are organized in Uzbekistan to support mutual understanding among different confessions. For instance, in 1995 the Muslim-Christian conference entitled “Living Together in Harmony” was held in Tashkent. The representatives of the World Council of Churches and a number of foreign churches attended the forum.

In 1996 the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the 125th anniversary of its Eparchy in Tashkent and Central Asia. In the same year followers of the Evangelical-Lutheran confession celebrated the centenary of the Lutheran church in Uzbekistan. In 1999, the Catholic Church opened its Cathedral in Samarkand. In 2002 the Roman-Catholic Church marked the centenary of the revival of Catholicism in Central Asia. The festivities to mark the centenary of Armenian Apostle Church were held in Samarkand in 2003.

During the years of Independence of Uzbekistan various international symposiums on the occasion of memorable dates, jubilees of renowned Muslim scholars-theologians were held in the republic, including:

– 675th anniversary of Bakhouddin Naqshbandi in September 1993; – 850th anniversary of Makhmud az-Zamakhshari and 850th anniversary of Najmiddin Kubro in November 1995; – 1225th anniversary of Imam al –Bukhari in October 1998; – 1130th anniversary of Imam Abu Mansur and the 910th anniversary of Burhan-ud-din al-Marghinani in November 2000; – 900th anniversary of Abdulhalik Gijduvani in November 2003; – 600th anniversary of Khoja Ahrar Vali.

The Government of Uzbekistan makes considerable efforts to ensure the guaranteed rights of freedom of conscience for all its citizens. The freedom of conscience and religion is a fundamental right of a human being, which states-members of the OSCE confirmed in the Helsinki Final Act as well as Vienna and Copenhagen Concluding Documents.


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