Uzbekistan, a former Central Asian Soviet republic, borders Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. It declared independence from the USSR in 1991. Since then Uzbekistan has boasted of steady economic growth based on exports like cotton, gas and gold. It is a secular, unitary constitutional republic, comprising 12 provinces, one autonomous republic. Its capital is Tashkent, country’s population is close to 33 million (81.1% – Uzbek, 5.4% – Russian).