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The twelve stars on the flag symbolize the twelve regions of the country.
The crescent moon, a symbol of Islam, is common, though its appearance on the national flag is meant not as a religious symbol but as a metaphor for rebirth.
Of the more than one million people who have left, essentially all were non-Uzbek.
Cities like Andijan and Ferghana, whose populations had been only half Uzbek, are now virtually entirely Uzbek.
The arid land of this autonomous republic supports a nomadic lifestyle.
Recently, the drying up of the Aral Sea has devastated the environment, causing more than 30 percent of the area's population to leave, from villages in the early 1980s and then from cities.
About 14 percent of the population—mostly non-Uzbek—speak Russian as their first language; 5 percent speak Tajik. Under the Soviet Union, Russian was taught as the Soviet lingua franca, but Uzbek was supported as the indigenous language of the republic, ironically resulting in the deterioration of other native languages and dialects.
This will continue; the area was hit by a devastating drought in the summer of 2000.
Population increases to the east, centered around fertile oases and the valleys of the Amu-Darya River, once known as the Oxus, and the Zeravshan River, which supports the ancient city-states of Bokhara and Samarkand.
The Karakalpaks, who live in the desert south of the Aral Sea, have a separate language and tradition more akin to Kazakh than Uzbek.
Under the Soviet Union, theirs was a separate republic, and it remains autonomous. Uzbekistan's 174,330 square miles (451,515 square kilometers), an area slightly larger than California, begin in the Karakum (Black Sand) and Kyzlkum (Red Sand) deserts of Karakalpakistan.
Many Tajiks consider themselves Uzbek, though they retain the Tajik language; this may be because they have long shared an urban lifestyle, which was more of a bond than ethnic labels. Many Qipchaqs eschew intermarriage, live a nomadic lifestyle, and identify more closely with the Kyrgyz who live across the border from them.