|Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most highly populated country. Its 24 million people, concentrated in the south and east of the country, are close to half the
region's total population. Uzbekistan had been one of the poorest republics of the Soviet Union; much of its population was engaged in cotton farming in
small rural communities. The population continues to be heavily rural and dependent on farming for its livelihood.
The predominant nationality is Uzbek. Other nationalities represented include Russians, 8% of the population, Tajiks 5%, Kazakhs 4%, Tatar 2%,
Karakalpak 2%, and others 8% (1989 census). In terms of religion, the nation is 88% Sunni Moslem, 9% Eastern Orthodox, and 3% other. Uzbek is the
official state language; however, Russian is the de facto language for interethnic communication, including day-to-day government and business use.