The successful self-assertion of Uzbekistan as an independent state is explained not only by the political acumen and statesmanship of its leaders. There are two more factors that are important inputs as well.
The first is the spirit of national consolidation, which has been prevalent in the consciousness of Uzbek society for more than a century. As far back as 1897, those who had been carrying out the First All-Russian Census recorded just 535,000 (five hundred thirty five thousand) of «real» Uzbeks, the rest of the population who at that time inhabited the territory of present-day Uzbekistan was recorded under the following (ethnic) names: «Sarts», Bukharians, Khivans, Turks, Kipchaks, and so on. Now there are no such ethnicities. Yet, Uzbeks number approximately 27 million. And that’s just in Uzbekistan. The total number of Uzbeks today is estimated at more than 32 million. The spirit of consolidation spawns the enabling conditions for the process of ethnic consolidation and supports that process. For many decades, the Uzbek elite have been manifesting themselves as a carrier and a conductor of the spirit of consolidation and a catalyst for the consolidation process.
The second is Uzbeks’ outstanding commitment to subordination. Diligence and due obedience to superior, based on the centuries-long experience and traditions of social relationship, have also served as the basis for the strong and effective performance by governing authorities of the country in situations of generalized social and political instability all over the territory of the former Soviet Union in the 1990’s.
Yet, the Uzbeks have been, and continue to be, a national community the language, customs and culture of whom are very close to those of the people in Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan is a brotherly country that shares common traditions and values with us, and not only in word, but in deed. First, Uzbekistan today is also home to the second largest Kazakh diaspora (community of Kazakhs living outside Kazakhstan), while the biggest one is in China. Even according to official Uzbek statistics, the proportion of ethnic Kazakh population in Uzbekistan constitutes 2.5 per cent of the total population (estimated at more than 32 million) in the country. In other words, this post-Soviet Central Asian republic is home to ethnic Kazakh population of over 800 thousand people. Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous country. Its 32.4 million people comprise nearly half of the region’s total population. Uzbeks are the backbone of Uzbekistan’s society. They constitute a majority (80 per cent) of the total population. Kazakhs represent the third largest ethnic group in the country. Other ethnic groups include Tajiks (4.8 per cent), Russians (2.3 per cent), Karakalpaks (2.2 per cent), Kyrgyz (0.9 per cent), Tatars (0.6 per cent), Turkmens (0.6 per cent), Koreans (0.6 per cent), and Ukrainians (0.2 per cent).
The demographic share of Kazakhstan’s ethnic Uzbek population, which constitutes almost 3.2 per cent of the total population (estimated at more than 18 million) in the country, is slightly higher than that of Uzbekistan’s ethnic Kazakh population. Yet in purely quantitative terms, the ethnic Kazakh minority (803.4 thousand) in Uzbekistan is more numerous than the ethnic Uzbek minority (576.8 thousand) in Kazakhstan. If the Kazakh have a bad living conditions in Uzbekistan, they would not still live there in such large numbers.
Second, Uzbekistan was and apparently remains a country where the Kazakhs had and still have good opportunities to assert themselves. In 1980s, there were two Kazakhs appointed to senior positions at the regional level: Kakimbek Salykov became first secretary of the Karakalpak regional committee of Uzbekistan’s Communist party (which, in turn, was subordinate to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union); Abdukhalyk Aydarkulov assumed the post of the chairman of the Navoi regional executive committee. After the attainment of independence in 1991, the latter has been for a number of years a hokim (head of the local executive authority) in the Navoi region.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the post-Soviet Central Asian region’s largest states. Uzbekistan has the population advantage, with more than 32 million to Kazakhstan’s more than 18 million; but, according to data provided by the International Monetary Fund, Kazakhstan has had the economic advantage with a GDP of $170.5 billion in 2018, to Uzbekistan’s $43.3 billion. The Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border is 2,330 km long and runs from the tripoint with Turkmenistan to the tripoint with Kyrgyzstan. It is Uzbekistan’s longest external boundary. The Uzbek capital Tashkent is situated just 13 km from this border. The peoples of these two countries have always lived side by side in peace and as good neighbors.