"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

143 countries--from a land of beauty, brutality, slavery

March was a dry month for blogging as I was flooded with administrative work at UCO, having only  myself to blame for taking on tasks I consider important. But the cost in time and stress and details harmed my teaching, and since this is only the fourth post of the month, my blogging.
The high point for me was when I discovered a reader from far away Uzbekistan clicked on the blog, making the 143 blog this country has reached. Literally too pooped to post, too drained when you get home to even want to write.
I sure wish I know who this reader was, and the joy of new readers is my journey into discovery of countries, people, history and my beloved maps.
The central Asian country is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world (surrounded by landlocked countries).
One of the ancient mosques
Becoming independent with the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Uzbekistand is a country with a violent history and invading armies. It's known for its mosques, mausoleums and other sites on the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. 
Samarkand, a major city on the route, contains a landmark of Islamic architecture--the Registan, a plaza bordered by three  ornate, majolica-covered madrassas dating to the 1400s.
It's officially a democratic republic with a diverse culture and its official language is Uzbek, a Turkic language written in our Latin alphabet. Russian is also widespread as a language. 
What's left of the huge Aral sea
In addition to being landlocked, none of its rivers lead to a sea and about 90 percent of the territory is mountains and desert. It is home to the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea, destroyed by damming and abuse, and now largely dry.
Uzbekistan also has  the world's second highest rate of  slavery with 3.97% of the country's men, women and children living in bondage to slave masters in both domestic and industrial labor,  being forced to pick cotton for the country's main export. There are currently 1.2 million slaves in the country.
Who's invaded? Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the USSR. Ever hear of Tamerlane? This is his home, and his real name was Timur. His man  name struck terror across the  Asian world, seeking to emulate Genghis Khan.
Timur's Empire
A brutal conqueror guilty of genocide and more, ruled over an empire that, in modern times, extends from southeastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, through Central Asia encompassing part of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and even approaches Kashgar in China. The conquests of Timur in the 1300s are estimated to have killed  up to 17 million people, about five percent of the world's population. His capital was Sarmarkand.
It's interesting to me that in America, we never studied any of this in history. Why?
The flag colors and symbols  carry cultural, political, and regional meanings. White stands for peace and purity, while blue represents water and the sky. It also alludes to the flag of Timur. Green  epitomizes nature and fertility – though it may also represent Islam – while the thin red stripes represent the "life force" within everyone. The crescent evokes "the rebirth of" Uzbekistan as an independent country, and the Islamic faith practiced by 88 percent of Uzbekistan's population The twelve stars, which signify the months of the Islamic calendar and the as  constellations featured in the zodiac.
Thank you Uzbek reader. I learned so much. And you got me back to blogging.



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