UZBEKS. Uzbeks form a prominent and growing part of Greater Cleveland’s larger community of immigrants from the former USSR and the largest Central Asian community in the metropolitan area. Before the 1990s, there was no Uzbek or Central Asian community in Cleveland. The dissolution of the Soviet Union rapidly changed this situation, with the influx of significant numbers of Uzbeks, alongside RUSSIANS (both JEWISH and Orthodox Christian), UKRAINIANS, ARMENIANS, BELARUSIANS, and GEORGIANS. There are approximately 500 Uzbeks in the Greater Cleveland area, primarily concentrated in the city’s East Side suburbs, such as SOLON, BEACHWOOD, and CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, but also increasingly in some West Side suburbs, such as LAKEWOOD. Additionally, the East Side communities spread into Summit County and the Akron area.
The majority of the Uzbeks in Greater Cleveland are Sunni MUSLIM. Most attend the major mosques in the Cleveland area, together with other Islamic nationalities, such as ARABS and TURKS. In addition, there is also a significant Bukharan Jewish community in Greater Cleveland, concentrated in East Side suburbs such as Beachwood. Although most immigrants from Uzbekistan in Greater Cleveland are ethnic Uzbek Muslims or Bukharan Jews, there are also Slavs and Armenians from Uzbekistan as well.
Unlike in other major U.S. cities with Uzbek populations, such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, no Uzbek restaurant has yet to be established in Cleveland, as of 2019. However, there is an Uzbek party center, Mirage on Mayfield Road in SOUTH EUCLID, which is popular among Cleveland’s post-Soviet community. Additionally, ethnic Uzbek dishes, such as plov, samsa, lagman, and manti, are regularly served at Russian restaurants such as Europa in PEPPER PIKE, and Uzbek foods can be purchased at Russian grocery stores such as the Yeleseyevsky Deli in MAYFIELD HEIGHTS.
As the community grew, the idea of creating an Uzbek Cultural Garden among the CLEVELAND CULTURAL GARDENS in ROCKEFELLER PARK, began to emerge among the city’s Uzbek community with increased frequency. However, the idea was first proposed in earnest by community representative Jakhongir Saidkarimov in 2017. The Uzbek initiative was strongly supported by the Russian community of Cleveland and the leaders of the Russian Cultural Garden, Boris Vinogradsky and Svetlana Stolyarova. The Uzbek Cultural Garden Group was officially established by the community in September 2018. The Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation allocated a plot of land for the Uzbek Garden adjacent to the Ethiopian Garden in 2019. The official garden groundbreaking is expected in 2020 and will mark the growing presence of this significant Central Asian community in Northeast Ohio.
Pietro A. Shakarian
The Ohio State University
With special thanks to Jakhongir Saidkarimov for his input and assistance.