National Geographic : 2002 Feb
(L~" " oI ;,- ' ,,---,.., i; - ,-~~ ,,,, - - ,.. BRUN BBMANMPOO AOE;GERUPIKSSVMANMHTS :i ~:'r~"^~"I - ~ , r., I:I,'. -,;~~:" i, r11~i ~ ~ :;.. ~-- " r .--- s+ .. culture better than the Kazakhs, and they're proud that in the 10th to 15th centuries the cities of Sam arqand, Bukhara, and Khiva nour ished poets, mathematicians, and astronomers. The savage warrior Tamerlane, born near Samarqand, is a national hero, admired as a conqueror who ruled from Persia to India. Agriculture is Uzbekistan's big gest employer, and cotton is king, as it was in Soviet days, when irri gation canals were stitched across the arid landscape and ground water became polluted with agro chemicals. State farms, also Soviet relics, have not been abolished, and the government still tells farmers what to plant: cotton. The system enriches the state at the expense of the peasants, for the crop must be sold to the state at a fraction of its value. Nearly half of Uzbekistan's 25 million people, a population almost half that of the five former Soviet Stans, are under 18. Nearly all have a basic education (give the Soviet system credit for encour aging universal schooling). But jobs are scarce, and inevitably some of the jobless are attracted to militant Islam. As a U.S. official said: "They go off to Pakistan to study religion [where many Tali ban leaders studied], and they go from learning about the Koran to learning about Kalashnikovs." 0 UZBEKISTAN Omi 200 Okm 200 NG MAPS THE STANS Off -rf^'