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Keeping the 'Stans Straight, part 5: Uzbekistan
Location: Telling you it's north of Turkmenistan is probably not very helpful. Check the map.
In a nutshell: The most populous country in Central Asia, Uzbekistan is perenially cited by international watchdog groups as having one of the world's worst human rights records. Long-time president Islom Karimov has been "victorious" in several dubious elections, in which he has garnered around 90% of the vote. According to Wikipedia, in 2000, "The sole opposition candidate, Abdulhasiz Jalalov, admitted that he entered the race only to make it seem democratic and he voted for Karimov." Hmm, I'll admit something about that does sound fishy... Cotton and natural gas are lucrative industries in Uzbekistan; still, most of the population remains poor.
How you know it: Led the league in human rights abuses two of the last three years.
Interesting factoid: It is one of two "double-landlocked" countries in the world, meaning every country bordering it is also landlocked. Liechtenstein is the other, trivia buffs.
Make sure to check out: Though getting a visa to Uzbekistan is no picnic, the country is worth a visit particularly for those ancient cities along the Silk Road. Take a look especially at the 2,750-year-old city of Samarkand, a UNESCO World Heritage site.