Religions in Uzbekistan
The Republic of Uzbekistan is a secular state, where representatives of different religions and professions live and co-exist peacefully. Up to date 2225 religious organizations of 16 confessions are registered in Uzbekistan. So various in structure ethnic picture of Uzbekistan shows that the country is tolerant to religious issues and different confessions peacefully get on with each other here. The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan guarantees freedom of conscience for everybody. According to the Constitution everyone has the right to profess any religion or profess none (Article 31 of the Constitution).
The prevalent religion of Uzbekistan is Islam of Sunni sect, professed by 93 per cent of the population, except for 1 per cent of Muslim- Shiah who live in the territory of Bukhara and Samarkand.
Islam in the territory of Central Asia was propagated by the Arab in the VII-VIII centuries A.D. The religion itself sprung up on Arabia in the beginning of the VII century. Islam is translated from Arab as obedience, submission. It is one of three world’s religions, the second in a number of believers after Christianity. The basic Holy Book of Islam is the Koran written in the classic Arab language. The basic provisions of the Koran were written by Prophet Mohammed’s disciples by his words. Within the VII-VIII centuries the Arabs advancing in their war campaigns were spreading Islam in the territory extended from the Mediterranean Sea to India.
Islam was thought to be a common religion of all Muslims, but in the VIII century among the Prophet’s brothers-in-arms and disciples a dissension into Sunnis and Shiah took place. Sunnis believed that the supreme authority was to be conferred to the caliphs elected from the community, whereas Shiahs, headed by Caliph Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law believed that the power was to be devolved to the Prophet’s relatives. After numerous wars Sunnis got the power and Shiah were left in minority In course of time different controversies arouse in the principles of legal decisions, holiday nature, relation to gentiles, details of prayers etc.
According to statistics about 85 % of Muslim of the world are Sunnis. Shiah represent a minority in the Muslim world with their major part living in Iran, where Islam of Shiite sect is a state religion.
Next dominant religion pursuant to the number of believers is the Christianity, and both of its schools: Orthodoxy (4 %), and Catholicism. (3 %), In 2011 Uzbekistan will celebrate 140th anniversary of Russian Orthodox Church in Middle Asia. It is easy to count that Orthodoxy came here in 1871 together with joining of these lands to Russian Empire and establishment of Tashkent and Turkistan eparches. The church under Tashkent hospital was established the same year. Today it turned into the most beautiful Cathedral of Holy Dormition – the main church of Tashkent eparch. The majority of believers come exactly here, although there are some more churches in Tashkent (for example, the church of Alexander Nevskiy at Botkin cemetery, church of patriarch Ermogen, the church of the great prince Vladimir). There are some beautiful and ancient churches in other cities of Uzbekistan – in Samarkand (Cathedral of Saint Aleksey), in Kokand (The Church of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God) and etc. Also the convent of Saint Nikola is opened in Tashkent (to the point it is the first opened convent in Middle Asia) and Tashkent theological seminary.
The Catholic confession is not so numerous in Uzbekistan. But the church (kostel) of Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ has been existing in Tashkent almost for a century, which is also the beautiful sightseeing of the city. The history of kostel begins in 1912, when its construction was started. The underlying reason of it was the necessity. As far back as in the end of XIX century, during the military campaign of the General Kaufman on joining Asian lands to Russia, our area was settled by big amount of military and exiled people, which included Germans, Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs and others. Having desire to have its own Catholic parish, they applied to the government on establishment of their confessional church and acquired the permission of its construction. Bur the fortune played a nasty trick on believers: the church was not built in short period, then the construction was stopped at the failure of assets. By that time the Soviet government established on the whole territory of the union, the church in the lack of need was turned into the storehouse, and later into dormitory. And only in 1992 the building of kostel was handed over to catholic parish of Tashkent. And present time Sunday Masses are conducted there.
Churches of other significant confessions in Uzbekistan include Armenian Apostolic church and Jewish synagogues. Speaking about synagogues, it should be noted the Judaism of Bukharian Jews – certain part of Jews, living on the territory of Middle Asia (especially in Bukhara, thence the origin of name). Jewish community in Bukhara is mentioned in sources of XIII century. Jews lived there in separate quarters and engaged in weaving and dyeing crafts, also they were petty traders. Afterwards Bukharian Jews began to settle with big Diasporas in Samarkand, Kokand, Andijan. For past centuries they could save their language, religion and traditions. Today the number of Bukharian Jews in cities of Uzbekistan is extremely decreased: they leave for Israel, America, Australia, Canada… Only two synagogues of Bukharian Jews remained in Bukhara, two – in Samarkand and one in Tashkent, which, by the way, became completely dilapidated and soon will be replaced by new one, the construction of which is under process.