Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bukhara is a city in a large oasis on the lower course of the Zarafshan River in southern Uzbekistan. It is one of the ancient cities of Central Asia. Bukhara is a city-museum, with about 140 architectural monuments. UNESCO has listed the historic center of Bukhara as a World Heritage Site.  Located on the Silk Road, Bukhara has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that more than two thousand years the city has been  located on the same spot. Bukhara was the capital of the Bukhar – Khudat dynasty (6th – 8th centuries), the Samanids State (9th-10th centuries), the Shaibanids State (16th century), the Ashtarkhanids State or Bukhara Khanate ( 17th – 18th centuries) and the Bukhara Emirate ruled by Mangit dynasty (18th up to the early 20th centuries). At the present time Bukhara is the centre of Bukhara region in Uzbekistan. Bukhara is still considered cultural and religious centre of Uzbekistan. Over many centuries Bukhara was a large commercial, manufacturing, cultural and administrative center of Maverannahr. International trade routes connecting the countries of the Far and Near East with Southeast Asia passed through Bukhara.

The first period of Bukhara’s life found its reflection in folk epos and in plenty of legends. According to the Iranian epic poem Shahnameh by Firdausi, the city was founded by King Siavush, son of Shah Kai Kavoos. The historian of the 10th  century Narshahi gave a legend that Siavush was buried in the citadel of Bukhara, near the Eastern gate. This place was worshiped by the Bukharian Zoroastrians and each man would sacrifice a rooster there on the New Year day (Navruz).

Mahaki Attari, Bukhara, UzbekistanWe have few references about Bukhara in pre-islamic times. The first reference about Bukhara in written documents seems to be the word “Buho” mentioned by the Chinese writer Suan- Tsiang. In the opinion of a number of scholars the name Bukhara is derived from the Sanskrit Vihara, or Buddist monastery. Another theory is that name comes from the Soghdian word Buharak, meaning “place of good fortune”. Numi, Naumi, or Numijkat, other names for the city are found from Soghdian word and means glorious or famous. Muhammad ibn Ja’far Narshakhi in his History of Bukhara (completed 943-44 CE) mentions: Bukhara has many names. One of its name was Numijkat. It has also been called “Bumiskat”. It has 2 names in Arabic. One is “Madinat al Sufriya” meaning—”the copper city” and another is “Madinat Al Tujjar” meaning—”The city of Merchants”. But, the name Bukhara is more known than all the other names. In Khorasan, there is no other city with so many names.

Written sources on the political history of the pre-Islamic Bukhara relate primarily to the 7th – 8th centuries. A historical outline of earlier periods made on the base of archaeological and numismatic data. Bukhara was an important city even at very early date and was most likely well-known to ancient historians and geographers.

Under Euthydemus (230-200 B.C.) Bukhara was included in the subsequent Greko-Baktrian State. During the second half of the 2nd century B.C. Bukhara became independent. Later Bukhara was included in the territory of Kangyui State. The accounts of the first Arab raids across the Oxus River are partly legendary. The first Arab army is said to have appeared in Bukhara in 674 A.D. The ruler of Bukhara at that time was the widow of the late ruler Bidun. In 710 Kutayba ibn Muslim conquered Bukhara and appointed Tughshada as prince of Bukhara.

Bukhara of the Samanid period (9th -10th  centuries) was described in detail by the Arab geographers and we also owe much to Narshakhi-the first Bukharian historian, 899-960 A.D., who wrote “History of Bukhara”.

The Arab geographers distinguish three main divisions of Bukhara: the citadel (Ark), town (shahristan or medina), and suburbs (rabat). The citadel from the earliest times has been on the same site as the present day, east of the citadel still known as the “Registan”. In the citadel there was the oldest Friday mosque, built by Kutayba, supposedly on the site of a pagan temple. Later this mosque was used as a revenue office.  The town had a wall around it with seven gates, the names of which are given by Narshakhi and the Arab geographers. In the 10th century another wall was built enclosing a greater area, it had eleven gates.

On the fall of Samanids (999) Bukhara lost much of its earlier political importance and was ruled by governors of the Ilek khans of Karakhanids. Even during the period of decline, Bukhara retained its reputation as a centre of Islamic learning.

Bukhara submitted to the army of Chingiz-Khan on 10 February, 1220. The citadel was not taken until 12 days later. The town was burned with the exception of the Minaret and a few palaces.

Bukhara seems otherwise to have been of no much importance in the political life of Transoxania (Greek name “land between two rivers) under the rule of the house of Chagatay or later under the Temurids. Mullazada in the 15th     century gives information about the town in this period. Baha ad-Din Nakshbandi (d. 1389) and his order of sufis flourished in Bukhara. Ulugh Bek (d. 1449) built a madrasa in Bukhara in the centre of the town.

Towards the end of the year 1500 Bukhara was taken by the army under Shaibani Khan. Two khans of the house of Shaibani Ubayd Allah b. Mahmud (1533-1539) and Abd Allah b. Iskandar (1557-1598) had their capital in Bukhara. Bukhara became again a centre of political and intellectual life. The khans of the next dynasty, the Djanids or Ashtarkhanids also ruled from Bukhara.

From the  16th  century there was trade relations between Russia and Bukhara. In the 16th  and  18th  centuries all merchants and emigrants from Central Asia whose settlements were found as far as Tobolsk were known to Russians as “Bukhartsi”. The same name was also spread to the inhabitants of Chinese Turkistan which was called “Little Bukharia”.

Bahauddin Naqshband Complex, Bukhara, UzbekistanThe reign of khan Abd al Aziz (1645-1680) was regarded by native historians as the last great period of their history. After him various khans proclaimed themselves independent and the Khan in Bukhara ruled only a small portion of his former kingdom, and even there the authority was rather in the hands of an Atalik (Advisor to the ruler) ruling in his name.

In 1740 Nadir Shah of Iran conquered Bukhara but after his death it regained its independence. Under a new dynasty for the Atalik Muhammad Rahim of the tribe of Mangit had himself proclaimed Amir. Amir Haydar  (r.1800-1826)  was the last ruler of Bukhara to mint coins in his own name. His successor Nasrullah (r. 1826-1860) succeeded in strengthening the power of the throne against the uppers classes and in extending his territory.

When Nasrullah’s successor Muzaffar Khan (r.1860-1885) ascended the throne the Russians had already secured a firm footing in Central Asia. After being repeatedly defeated the Emir had to submit to Russia and give up the valley of the Sir Darya River, which had been conquered by the Russians. He had to cede a part of his kingdom, with the towns of Djizak, Ura-tube, Samarkand to the Russians. In 1873 however, Bukharan territory was increased in the west at the expense of the Khiva Khanate. In the reign of Abd al-Ahad (1885-1910) the boundary between Bukhara and Afghanistan was defined, England and Russia agreed that the river Pandj should be the boundary.

The relationship between Bukhara and Russia was also defined during the same reign. Beginning in 1887 a railway was built through the Emir’s territory, closest station to Bukhara, ten miles away, is now a town called Kagan. In 1910 Mir Alim Khan succeeded his father after having been educated in St. Petersburg. He ruled until the Revolution drove him to Afghanistan, where he lived in Kabul till the end of World War II. After the revolution, the Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic existed from 1920 to 1924, when the city was integrated into the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Nowadays Bukhara is the centre of Bukhara Region in Uzbekistan. with around 300000 population. In 1997 Bukhara, Uzbekistan celebrated its 2500 years old anniversary.

Historical monuments of Bukhara:

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