Eighty-eight percent of Uzbekistan's 27 million citizens are Muslims, and the majority ethnic group is the Uzbek people, a Turkic group. That Uzbeks form substantial minorities in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, and smaller but politically significant groups in Afghanistan and China, add to the country's influence.
Uzbeks, in comparison with nomadic peoples such as the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz people, have the longest association with their land. Shaybani Uzbeks defeated the Timurids to form an empire in 1500 AD. The Russians eventually came to dominate the Shaybanis. 
Under the Russians, the capital, Tashkent, is the largest industrial and commercial center in the region. Uzbekistan is the world's third-largest cotton producer, although its intensive farming has caused great ecological damage.
After Uzbekistan refused to implement an agreement on currency reform, the International Monetary Fund closed its Tashkent office in 2000. U.S. involvement with the war, however, led to new attempts in 2002.