It is so close to modern Uyghur that speakers of each language can converse easily.
Prior to Russian colonization it would often have been hard to say where one Turkic language started and another ended.
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.
Modern Uzbeks hail not only from the Turkic-Mongol nomads who first claimed the name, but also from other Turkic and Persian peoples living inside the country's borders.
The Soviets, in an effort to divide the Turkic people into more easily governable subdivisions, labeled Turks, Tajiks, Sarts, Qipchaqs, Khojas, and others as Uzbek, doubling the size of the ethnicity to four million in 1924.
But through prescribed borders, shifts in dialect coalesced into distinct languages.
Here, where the country is squeezed between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the mountainous terrain supports a continuing nomadic lifestyle, and in recent years has provided a venue for fundamentalist guerrillas.Today the government is strengthening the Uzbek group identity, to prevent the splintering seen in other multiethnic states.Some people have assimilated with seemingly little concern.The architectures of Samara and Bukhara also symbolize past achievements.Amir Timur, who conquered a vast area of Asia from his seat in Samarkand in the fourteenth century, has become a major symbol of Uzbek pride and potential and of the firm but just and wise ruler—a useful image for the present government, which made 1996 the Year of Amir Timur.