Uzbekistan's new president has granted citizenship to nearly 200 people who were unable to obtain it in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse 25 years ago.
A decree signed by President Shavkat Mirziyaev on December 20 said that citizenship was granted to the 179 men and women in accordance with a decision by a special state commission in the Central Asian country.
It has raised the hopes of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks who were born in Uzbekistan or neighboring countries and have lived in Uzbekistan without citizenship for years.
Most of the 179 new citizens are ethnic Uzbeks who were born in and reside in Uzbekistan, but had not received citizenship because of bureaucratic hurdles.
The issue was never raised under the late President Islam Karimov, whose death was announced in early September after more than a quarter-century of iron-fisted rule.
Some Uzbeks see the citizenship decree as a sign that Mirziyaev is taking steps to open up the tightly controlled country in order to improve its economic prospects.
He has moved to improve relations with neighbors and eased visa requirements for tourists from several countries.
Critics say changes made since Mirziyaev became interim president in September fall far short or real reform.