Uzbekistan is the geographic and population center of Central Asia. The country has a diverse economy and a relatively young population. Russia conquered and united the disparate territories of present-day Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after the Bolshevik Revolution was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic established in 1924. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to the overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, leaving the land degraded and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half-dry. Independent since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the country has diversified agricultural production while developing its mineral and petroleum export capacity and increasing its manufacturing base, although cotton remains a major part of its economy. Uzbekistan’s first president, Islam KARIMOV, led Uzbekistan for 25 years until his death in September 2016. His successor, former Prime Minister Shavkat MIRZIYOYEV, has improved relations with Uzbekistan’s neighbors and introduced wide-ranging economic, judicial, and social reforms.