History Files


Far East Kingdoms

Central Asia




Transoxiana / Sogdia / Sogdiana

An ancient and fairly amorphous region, this was the home to one of the oldest series of states in Central Asia and was situated in and around the river basin of the lower Amu Darya (the River Oxus) where it empties into the Aral Sea, and north-eastern Persia. Its territory varied greatly depending on who was ruling it, but at its height it stretched into most of Afghanistan, eastern Persia, central Turkmenistan and southern Kyrgyzstan, plus central and southern Uzbekistan and all of Tajikistan (which together made up the core of ancient Transoxiana). The name now belongs to a province in modern Iran and a region in north-western Uzbekistan.

Transoxiana, the crossroads between Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, was located around the southern coast of the Aral Sea, and in the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. The earliest known rulers in the region, when it was known as Sogdia or Sogdiana, to differentiate it from the neighbouring Bactria, are placed in the 600s BC, shortly before the warlike tribe of the Massagetae were recorded as bordering the area to the north in 530 BC. Then it was conquered by the Persians, and for the most part remained governed by them until the tenth century AD.

Sogdiana, or Sogdia, bordered ancient Scythia, separated from it by the River Tanais (otherwise known as the Iaxartes or Syr Darya).

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Zoroastrian Heritage, K E Eduljee, and Talessman's Atlas (World History Maps).)

c.2200 - 1700 BC

An indigenous Bronze Age culture emerges in Central Asia between modern Turkmenistan and down towards the Oxus, the somewhat nebulous region known as Transoxiana. It is known as the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, or Oxus Civilisation, and Indo-European tribes who have not taken part in the exodus to the west or south soon integrate themselves into it. In fact, these Indo-Europeans seem to remain in the old homeland to the north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea longer than other Indo-European groups, at least partially generating the Sintashta and Andronovo cultures to the east. It may be this Oxus culture, or a neighbouring Indo-European group which feeds off its progressive nature, that forms the 'spiral cities' of the Kazakhstan steppe.

Climate change from around 2000 BC onwards greatly affects this civilisation, denuding it of water as the rains decline. The people are forced to migrate southwards, with some groups penetrating into central Anatolia as the Hittites, who conquer already settled Indo-European peoples over the course of a century, and the Kaskans. Other groups cross the Afghan rivers and the Hindu Kush mountains and enter India between 1700-1500 BC.

The Karakum burial with a valuable horse sacrifice added
This king's tomb in the Indo-European settlement in the Karakum (modern Turkmenistan) contains a valuable horse to accompany him into the afterlife

Climate change from around 2000 BC onwards greatly affects this civilisation, denuding it of water as the rains decline. The people are forced to migrate southwards, with some groups penetrating into central Anatolia as the Hittites, who conquer the indigenous peoples over the course of a century, and the troublesome Kaskans of northern Anatolia. Other groups cross the Afghan rivers and the Hindu Kush mountains and enter India between 1700-1500 BC. They eventually form their own kingdoms there such as Magadha, plus Kalinga and Kauravas. The most easterly group are the Tocharians, who are later identified as the Yeuh Chi in Chinese writings. They eventually migrate into Afghanistan and India as the Kushans, and into China where they are absorbed by local populations.

7th cent BC

Sijavus / Siyavash

Son of Kai Kavoos of Persia, and son-in-law of Afrasiab.

Sijavus is a legendary Persian prince and the son-in-law of the mythical Afrasiab, the hero and king of Turan. Turan is the ancient Iranian name for Central Asia, 'land of the Tur', which is inhabited by Iranian peoples. Due to the treachery of his stepmother, Sudabeh, Sijavus exiles himself to Turan. There, he marries Farangis, the daughter of Afrasiab, but the king later orders Sijavus to be killed. His death is avenged by his son, who inherits the early Persian throne.

c.550 BC

The heartland of the region (known as Sogdiana or Sogdia) is drawn into Cyrus the Great's Persian empire. It is also named Huvarazmish in Persian inscriptions.

515 BC

One of the three Saka 'nations' is that of the Saka Paradraya. This name breaks down into 'para' and 'draya', the first part meaning 'across' and the latter almost certainly being 'darya' or 'river'. When Persian ruler Darius the Great boasts of the limits of his empire he gives as the north-eastern corner the 'Sakaibish tyaiy para Sugdam' - the Sakas across/beyond Sugdam (Sogdiana), on the other side of the River Tanais (otherwise known as the Jaxartes/Iaxartes or Syr Darya, which forms the boundary between Sogdiana and Scythia).

? - 329 BC


Satrap (also of Bactria). Murderer of Achaemenid Darius III.

330 - 320s BC

In 330 BC Sogdiana becomes part of the Greek empire. In the 320s BC, the Persians and the Greeks under Alexander place the Amyrgian Sakas beyond Sogdiana, across the River Tanais (otherwise known as the Iaxartes or Syr Darya, which forms the boundary between Sogdiana and Scythia) or the Jaxartes, thanks to their having encountered them after crossing Sogdiana and the Syr Darya in the approximate region of Alexandria Eschate ('the furthest', modern Khojend). It is generally accepted that they control all of Farghana (immediately to the east of Transoxiana) and the Alai valley. Indeed, they may have been relocated onto the plain following their conquest by the Persians.

323 - 321? BC

Philip / Philippus

Greek satrap of Khorasan / Bactria & Sogdiana.

321 - 312 BC

Stasanor the Solian

Greek satrap of Indo-Greek territory & Khorasan (316 BC).

316 - 312 BC

Sogdiana is governed by the Argead satrap, Stasanor the Solian, for the Greek empire.

312 - c.140 BC

During the break-up of the empire, it appears that parts of the area become independent, but much of it remains under the control of the Greek satrap of Bactria & Sogdiana and, after 256 BC, the kings of Bactria.

c.294 - 293 BC


Seleucid satrap (governor-general) of Bactria & Sogdiana.

A former general under Seleucid rulers Seleucus I Nicator and Antiochus I Soter, Demodamas later serves twice as satrap of Bactria and Sogdiana. During this time he undertakes military expeditions across the Syr Darya to explore the lands of the Indo-Scythians, repopulating Alexandria Eschate ('the furthest', modern Khojend) in the process following its earlier destruction by barbarians.

c.281 - 280 BC


Seleucid satrap for the second time.

140 - 130 BC

Indo-Scythians have long been pressing against Bactria's borders. Now, following a long migration from the borders of the Chinese kingdoms, the Tocharians/Yuezhi start to invade Bactria from Sogdiana to the north. Initially, Indo-Scythian elements who are already in Bactria become vassals to the Tocharians.

Map of Bactria and India 200 BC
The kingdom of Bactria (shown in white) was at the height of its power around 200-180 BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while around the northern and eastern borders dwelt various tribes that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Tocharians (click on map to show full sized)

At around the time of the death of Indo-Greek king Menander in 130 BC, the Tocharians overrun Bactria and end Greek rule. Heliocles may possibly invade the western part of the Indo-Greek kingdom, as there are strong suggestions that the Eucratids continue to rule there, especially in Heliocles' presumed son, Lysias.

After Bactria's destruction and occupation by the Tocharians, the region is later inhabited by Zoroastrian Indians who use Aramaic script. Sogdiana is for the most part independent.

115 - 100 BC

MapWith Parthian territory having been harried for years by the Indo-Scythians, King Mithridates II is finally able to take control of the situation. First he defeats the Yuezhi (Tocharians) in Sogdiana in 115 BC, and then he defeats the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria while the Indo-Scythians are diverted into Indo-Greek Gandhara.

c.AD 112 - 132

Kushan ruler Kanishka expands his empire even further. He annexes the various regions of India; Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Kashmir, Malwa, Rajputana, Saurashtra, and extends his rule as far as Khotan (southern India). He also captures Transoxiana (modern Tajikistan and southern Uzbekistan). He makes Purushpura (present day Peshawar in Pakistan) his capital and appoints kshatrapas to rule his vast territories, including in the former Indo-Scythian territory of the Sakas (Saka officials remain in office in Mathura). He may also use Greek script on his earlier coins, inherited from influences in former Bactria which may still be evident in his day.


The Western Kaghans expand their dominion towards Sogdiana and right up to the borders of the Islamic Emirate of Khorasan.

651 - 821

The region is absorbed into the Islamic empire as it takes Persia. Governors, or emirs, are appointed to control Islamic Emirate of Khorasan in the name of the caliph.

821 - 873

The Tahrid emirs are established in Khorasan, which includes northern and western Afghanistan up to the borders of the kingdom of Zabulistan, when the region is granted to them by the Abbasid caliph, al-Mamun.

873 - 900

The Tahrids are ousted as emirs of Khorasan by the Saffarids, but in 900 they are defeated by the Transoxianan Samanids and reduced in territory to Seistan in Persia, where they remain Samanid vassals. The Samanids install their own governors in Khorasan.


The Samanid ruler faces internal uprisings, and the Ghaznavid ruler goes to his assistance. The rebels are defeated at Balkh and then Nishapur, and Sebuktigin of Ghazni is granted the title 'Nasir ud-Din' ('Hero of the Faith'), while his son, Mahmud, is made governor of Khorasan.

994 - 998

Yamin-ud-Dawlah Mahmud

Governor. Son of Sebuktigin of Ghazni. King of Ghazni (998-1030).


The previous ruling Banu Iraq dynasty is overthrown in a coup. Areas of Khorasan are united under the emirs of North Khwarazm, who gain a level of autonomy from the weak Persian Buwayids.


Mahmud campaigns against the Qara-Khitai in Central Asia, but is ultimately defeated. The following year he lays successful claim to the Ghaznavid throne itself.

Emirs of North Khwarazm / Khorezm / Khorasan
AD 995 - 1390s?

Always under the influence of Persia, if not its direct control, Khwarazm (or Khwarezm) was initially centred on ancient Samarkand and Bukhara. At its height, it extended to encompass almost all of modern Iran (except the western border area), eastern Azerbaijan, western Afghanistan, all of Turkmenistan, most of Uzbekistan, western Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and the southern areas of Kazakhstan.

The Islamicised name originates in the ancient region of Chorasmia, which was occupied during the Achaemenid period by the Massagetae and Sakas. Chorasmia occupied both banks of the lower Amu Darya (the River Oxus).

The emirs (and later, shahs) had their capital at Urgench (pronounced oorgyench), now Kunya-Urgench, the capital of Uzbekistan's Khorezm region. The city became a major seat of Arabic learning and a centre of agriculture and trade, but it was destroyed by the Mongols in the early thirteenth century, partially rebuilt, and then abandoned in the sixteenth century, following the Uzbek conquest of the region. The largest number of Zoroastrian related ruins and artefacts, including a dakhma, a Zoroastrian burial tower known as a 'Tower of Silence', have been uncovered in Khwarezm.

(Additional information from External Link: Zoroastrian Heritage.)

1017 - 1040

Khwarazm is conquered by the Ghaznavids after the emir is killed in a rebellion, but it is unclear if the entire emirate is subjugated. In 1040 the Ghaznavids are defeated by Seljuq Turks at Dandanqan, and lose their western territories, including Khwarazm.

1098 - 1128

Qutb al-Din Muhammed

1128 - 1156

Ala al-Din Aziz / Shah Atsyz

Rebelled against the Seljuqs. Defeated & returned to vassal status.

1156 - 1172

Taj al-Dunya Arslan

1172 - 1193

Jalal al-Dunya Sultanshah

1193 - 1200

Ala al-Din Tekish / Tukush / Tekesh

Former Seljuq slave appointed governor of Khwarazm.


The emirate gains independence from the Persian Seljuq Turks by overthrowing them and occupying much of the rest of Khorasan.

1200 - 1220

Ala ad Deen Muhammed (ibn Tekesh)

Son. Died a fugitive following the fall of Samarkand.

1205 - 1212

Khwarazm rapidly expands its rule. In 1210 it takes Samarkand from the Qara-Khitai and this becomes the capital. By 1212 it rules from the Caspian Sea to Bukhara and Samarkand, eliminating the Qara Khitai and controlling all of modern Iran and, by 1213, Ghurid Afghanistan too.


Tiring of the Chinese campaign, Mongol Great Khan Chingiz sends his general, Chepe, westwards to overthrow the empire of the Qara-Khita and annexe its territory. This defeat also opens the way towards Mongol interaction with Khwarazm and Persia.

1220 - 1221

After the shah decapitates the Mongol ambassador from Chingiz Khan, the emirate is attacked twice by Chingiz Khan and the Golden Horde, along with Ghurid Afghanistan. Khwarazm is reduced to its western section covering northern Mesopotamia and western Persia. Bokhara and then Samarkand are captured by the Mongols and chaos results, with thousands being massacred or sold into slavery. Ala ad Deen flees west and dies a fugitive.

1220 - 1231

Jalal al-Din Mingburnu



The rise of Jalal al-Din Mingburnu poses a challenge for the Mongols. The two sides come together at the Battle of the Indus and Jalal ad-Din is defeated. Khwarazm is occupied between Samarkand and the Indus, and Persia also falls. Jalal al-Din Mingburnu is an exile for a time, but returns to reclaim a reduced Khwarazm which is based around northern Mesopotamia, western Persia, and the lower Caucuses, and is centred on modern Azerbaijan.


The reduced shahdom has been flourishing for a decade since losing its eastern territory, and has even conquered Georgia and Azerbaijan, but now it is completely overrun by a renewed Mongol invasion. Control of the shahdom is inherited by the Il-Khans in Persia while Transoxiana passes to the Chaghatayids. Elements of forces from Khwarazm migrate to Syria where they engage in the battles against the Crusaders in Jerusalem, but also in politics against the Ayyubids In Damascus and Egypt.

1244 - 1245

Chagatai's death leaves the Chaghatayids weakened, and dominated by the Mongol great khans. They appoint Chaghatayid khans as they please. Although Transoxiana is considered part of the khanate's territories, the governors of the cities there are appointed directly by the great khan. This subservience to Karakorum lasts until the accession of Alughu.

In the same year, 1244, the forces of Khwarazm sack Christian Jerusalem, and Sultan as Salih II Ayyub of Egypt allies himself with the former emirate against Ismail of Damascus. At the Battle of La Forbie, they defeat Ismail and Ayyub is able to reclaim the sultanate for himself. The following year, Ayyub defeats Khwarazm itself for failing to recognise him as its overlord.

1260 - 1264

The Mongol empire is engulfed in two simultaneous civil wars: Hulegu of the Il-Khanate and Berke of the Blue Horde in the west, and Kublai and Ariq-Boke in the east. Both Kublai and Ariq-Boke are elected great khan in 1260 at two separate 'khuriltai', with Kublai basing himself in China and Ariq-Boke at Karakorum. When Kublai is victorious in 1264, he retains China as his main base, implying (or perhaps establishing) it as the most important Mongol possession.


After several battles between Alughu of the Chaghatayids, who has sided with Kublai Khan, and Orqina and one Masud Beg, who are fighting on the side of Ariq-Boke, the latter arranges peace negotiations between the two sides. Alughu then takes advantage of the unstable situation by revolting against Ariq-Boke's rule of the west and gaining the allegiance of the governors of Transoxiana. He also ends up marrying Orqina, and Masud Beg is appointed viceroy of Central Asia, probably with a seat in Transoxiana as the very governor that Alughu needs to support him.

1262 - ?

Masud Beg

Viceroy of Central Asia for the Chaghatayids.

1267 - 1268/69

Khan Baraq repudiates the overlordship of Kublai Khan and ravages Khotan. The size of his standing army makes a military intervention by Kublai impossible, so in 1268 he secures a peaceful agreement with Baraq so that the problem presented by Kaidu can be faced. That problem advances on Baraq, but the Chaghatayid khan sets a trap that inflicts defeat on Kaidu's forces on the banks of the Jaxartes. A second battle near Khujand sees Kaidu the victor while he is allied with Mengu-Timur of the Blue Horde. He is then able to ravage Transoxiana, and Baraq flees first to Samarkand and then Bukhara, plundering cities along the way as he rebuilds his forces.

An alarmed Kaidu agrees a temporary truce between the two, in 1269 (although 1267 is proposed as an alternate date). Baraq retains control of two-thirds of Transoxiana while Kaidu and Mengu-Timur control the rest as the sometimes fragile peace continues. Baraq dies in 1271 following an ill-fated attack on the Il-Khanate, and Kaidu adopts a dominant position over the Chaghatayids, appointing his own puppet khans for the rest of his life.


Tarmashirin is deposed. Taking flight, he is killed by princes of the eastern Chaghatayids while near Samarkand. The khanate becomes increasingly unstable under his successors.


Qazan is killed by Qazaghan, a tribal chieftain. His death marks the end of effective Chaghatayid control of Transoxiana. Instead local Turko-Mongol tribes rise to prominence and establish a loose coalition of power under the dominance of Qazaghan. His control of the region is given a semblance of legitimacy when he raises Danishmendji, a member of the Mongol nobility, to the figurehead throne. Jani Beg of the Blue Horde takes the opportunity to achieve dominance over the Chaghatayids.

1346 - 1358


Ruler of the Qara'unas. Assassinated.

1357 - 1359

With the assassination of Jani Beg, the political cohesion of the Golden Horde begins to disintegrate. The khanate goes from being able to claim titular dominance over the three ulus (Blue Horde, White Horde, and Chaghatayids) and actual dominance over the Rus to internecine warfare and the possibility of complete dissolution. Under the dominance of the Qara'unas in Transoxiana the Chaghatayids throw out his administrators to reassert 'their' independence.

1358 - c.1359


Son. Deposed and forced to flee. Died soon after.


'Abdullah retains Samarkand as his capital, but the local Barlas and Suldus tribes are vehemently opposed to this Qara'unas presence. The leaders of these tribes, Hajji Beg and Buyan Suldus, revolt and drive out 'Abdullah. He dies in his own tribal lands soon afterwards. Buyan Suldus is installed as the amir of the ulus, giving him effective control over the Chaghatayids.

c.1359 - 1362

Buyan Suldus

Ruler of the Suldus. Executed by Tughlugh Temur.

1363 - 1370

Tughlugh Temur's attempts to quell the tribes of Transoxiana are eventually unsuccessful, despite two invasions of the region. His death ends Chaghatayid hopes of restoring control of western Mughulistan. Instead, two tribal leaders, Amir Husayn and Tmr-i Lang contest for control of Transoxiana. The latter is ultimately successful, taking Transoxiana and Khorasan in the name of the Chaghatayids, but effectively forming his own Timurid khanate. Samarkand falls in 1366, Balikh in 1369, and Timur is recognised as the region's ruler in 1370. He places a figurehead Mongol on the throne to legitimise his rule while he governs from behind the throne as amir.

Timurid Transoxiana (in Samarkand)
AD 1363 - 1505

From 1363, Timur began to conquer large areas of Transoxiana and Khorasan, supposedly in the name of the Chaghatayid khans of Mughulistan. Samarkand fell in 1366, and Herat (in the west of modern Afghanistan) by 1381. Timur was recognised as the region's ruler in 1370, by which time he had placed a puppet Mongol as the ruler of western Mughulistan. Notably, this puppet was a member of the gedeids (descendants of the former great khan), not the Chaghatayids. From 1380, Timur extended his new-found empire by taking southern and western Persia. He entered Persia proper in 1382 and an ambitious attack on the Chobanids and the disputed Caucuses region by the Golden Horde allowed Timur to fill the power vacuum and found the Timurid dynasty.

In 1405, the Timurid empire split in two, with the western, Persian, portion being ruled from Herat in southern Khorasan while the eastern portion was governed from Samarkand (technically also in what was known as Greater Khorasan, but the regional name of Transoxiana is usually used to distinguish the two Timurid divisions).

1364 - 1370

Khabul Shah

Chaghatayid puppet for the western khanate.

1370 - 1384

Soyurghatmsh Khan / Suurgatmish

Son of Danishmendji of the Chaghatayids. Puppet khan.

1384 - 1402

Sultan Mahmud

Son. Chaghatayid puppet khan.


Khwarazm and its vast irrigation system is destroyed by Timur.


The death of Sultan Mahmud in Transoxiana marks the end of the puppet Chaghatayid khans here. In Mughulistan, khans continue to be appointed, perhaps dominated by the Timurids. Many of them are entirely unknown, although one of them, Satuk Khan, attempts to establish the independence of Mughulistan, without success. The Chaghatayids survive as a minor state until they are annexed by the Chinese Ching dynasty in the eighteenth century.


After Timur's death, none of the Timurid royalty accepts his successor. Timur's viceroy in Farghana asserts his own independence and rules from Samarkand as if he is the new ruler of the empire. Technically, this half of the empire is also known as Greater Khorasan, but the regional name of Transoxiana is usually used to distinguish the two Timurid divisions.

1405 - 1409

Khalil Sultan

In Transoxiana. Former viceroy of Farghana. Died 1411.


Unpopular with the people and only supported by his father and brother in Azerbaijan, Khalil Sultan's reign ends when Shah Rukh enters the city on 13 May. Shah Rukh gives Transoxiana and Khorasan to his son as viceroy while he rules the reunited Timurid empire from Herat. Khalil Sultan is given governorship of Ray, where he dies in 1411.

1409 - 1449

Ulugh Beg

Son of Shah Rukh. Viceroy, and Timurid ruler (1447-1449).


Ulugh Beg's death at the hands of his son, Abd al Latf, leaves a power vacuum which is filled in central Persia by Sultan Muhammad, while Abd al Latf rules in Samarkand, now one of three Timurid claimants to overall control (the third being in Herat in southern Khorasan).

1449 - 1450

Abd al Latf

Son. In Transoxiana.

1450 - 1451

Abdallah / Abdullah

Son of Ibrahim of southern Khorasan. In Transoxiana. Executed.

1450 - 1451

Abu Sa'id, nephew of Ulugh Beg, is one of the claimants for the Timurid crown, along with Abdallah, who seizes Samarkand in 1450. After failures in Samarkand and Bukhara, Abu Sa'id conquers much of Shaibanid Turkestan in 1450, and in June 1451 takes Samarkand with the aid of the Shaibanid Uzbeks.

1451 - 1469

Sultan Abu Sa'id Gurgan

In Transoxiana & Khorasan (and later in Persia too). Executed.


Babur Ibn-Baysunkur invades Transoxiana from Khorasan in retaliation for Abu Sa'id's seizure of Balkh (now in northern Afghanistan). The two Timurid rulers agree a border on the River Oxus, which remains in force for the remainder of Babur's lifetime.


Abu Sa'id has Queen Goharshad, the power behind the Timurid throne, executed on 19 July.

1457 - 1459

While southern Khorasan is locked in a power struggle, Abu Sa'id invades. Balkh is occupied but he is unable to take Herat until a Black Sheep invasion defeats the ruler, Ibrahim and then withdraws. Khorasan is taken by Abu Sa'ad, reuniting the remaining Timurid provinces. An attempt by Ibrahim to unite with another Timurid prince, Sultan Sanjar is defeated at the Battle of Sarakhs in March 1459. Sanjar is executed. Ibrahim dies in 1460, and 'Ala' al-Daula dies in 1461, ending all opposition to a sole Timurid ruler in Transoxiana.


Abu Sa'id completes his conquest of much of Khorasan and eastern Iran, agreeing with the Black Sheep emir, Jahan Shah, to divide Iran between the two of them.

1467 - 1469

Following the death of the Black Sheep emir at the hands of the White Sheep emir, his son is supported by Abu Sa'id. However, in 1468, the Black Sheep emirate is conquered, and the following year Abu Sa'id is captured in the Azerbaijan mountains on campaign against the White Sheep emirate, and is subsequently executed. The Timurid rule of Transoxiana and Khorasan again fractures. A weakened Transoxiana is now watched over with interest by the Shaibanid Uzbeks who are migrating into the northern regions, especially as Transoxiana is now sub-divided into Samarkand, Badakshan, and Farghana by Abu Sa'id's sons.

1469 - 1494

Sultan Ahmad

In Transoxiana.

1494 - 1495

Sultan Mahmud

Brother. In Transoxiana.

1495 - 1500

Sultan Baysonqur / Baysunqr

In Transoxiana.

1495 - 1500


In Transoxiana.

1495 - 1500

Sultan Ali Murza / Mirza

In Farghana.


Far to the east of Khorasan, the Bengal sultan, Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah, is assassinated by his wazzir, Alauddin Husain Shah, the son of the Afghan Sharif of Makka in Khorasan. Husain is subsequently elected shah by the leading nobles.

1495 - 1504


Son. In Farghana (Uzbekistan). Expelled by Shaibanid conquest.

1500 - 1507

The Timurids are overthrown by the Shaibanids, who conquer Transoxiana and now threaten Khorasan. The remnants of Khwarazm become an independent Muslim Uzbek state, known as the khanate of Khiva. The Timurid prince, Babur of Farghana makes many attempts to recapture Samarkand from Khorasan, without success. The Shaibanids now hold much of former Khwarazm, effectively ending Timurid rule of Transoxiana.


Following the death of the Shaibanid ruler, Mohammed Shaibani, Babur is able to recapture Samarkand with Safavid Persian help from his base in Kabul. However, he is unable to retain it and the Persian governing class there is largely unpopular with the city's inhabitants. Urged on by the local population, the Shaibanids re-conquer the city just eight months later.

Khanate of Khiva (Khwarazm)
AD 1511 - 1922

An independent Uzbek state, the khanate effectively evolved from Khwarazm, via the intervening Timurid governance of Transoxiana of 1303-1505. Much of Khwarazm's former territory was conquered by the Shaibanid ruler, Mohammed Shaibani in 1505, although his death in 1510 meant that Babur of Farghana could reconquer Samarkand with Safavid Persian help. Babur was unable to retain his hold though, and his Persian supporters were not at all popular with the locals, so the Shaibanids were able to retake Samarkand just eight months later, shortly after they captured Old Urgench. Other clan members quickly joined them to capture the rest of former Khwarazm and dominate the other Turkic tribes in the region.

Brothers Ibars Sultan and the paralysed Balbars Sultan were responsible for this Shaibanid reconquest - members of the Arabxhida (Arabshahid) dynasty, a branch of the main Shaibanid family. They were also known as the Yadigarid Shabanid dynasty, after Yadegar Khan, grandson of Arabshahid. They could claim descent from Shiban, son of Jochi of the Golden Horde and nominal leader of his own Grey Horde khanate. The Shaibanid empire was later founded in his name, populated mainly by Uzbeks who ensured the Turkicisation of the formerly Mongol nobility. By the mid-sixteenth century the territory of Khwarazm was entirely Muslim Uzbek, although information in English on its rulers is hard to come by.

The capital was initially at Wazir (Vezir, more usually an Arabic title meaning 'minister') and then Old Urgench (Urganj, or the modern Konye-Urgench). Eventually it was moved to Khiva, which had been founded around the beginning of the first century AD. This city had also provided the same service (and name) to Khwarazm and to the region of Khorasan before that. The change was simply down to time, language changes, population changes, and various waves of conquerors. Its origin, however, has been lost time and only various stories survive to explain it. Possibly the most realistic option available is that the Iranian-Turkic name Khwarazm was introduced to replace an earlier, now unknown one, and was later shortened to Khiva. Today Khiva sits in the Xorazm region of Uzbekistan.

By around 1700 the khanate's borders encompassed all but the easternmost region of modern Turkmenistan, plus the western half of Uzbekistan, and the south-western corner of Kazakhstan between the Ustyurt Plateau and the Caspian Sea. The khanate flourished in the early nineteenth century until Russian ambitions ended its independence.

(Additional information from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from Variations on Uzbek Identity, Peter Finke, from Inner Asia: History, Civilization, Languages; A Syllabus, Denis Sinor (1969), from History of the Mongols: From the 9th to the 19th Century, Henry H Howarth (1880), from Kazakhstan, Pang Guek Cheng, and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and History of Khiva.)

1511 - 1518

Sultan lbars I

Related to former Shaibanid ruler Mohammed Shaibani.


The khanate's capital is moved from Wazir, presumably upon the death of Ibars. The city of Old Urgench becomes the new capital of the khanate, which is still known as Khwarazm. Now located in northern Turkmenistan, close to the Uzbekistan border, the town had probably been occupied from at least the fifth century BC, and had served as the capital of the old emirate of Khwarazm.

Map of the khanate of Khiva
The khanate of Khwarazm (Khiva) covered the western territory of three modern states, namely Turkmenistan at the bottom of the yellow highlighted area on the map, Uzbekistan in the middle, and Kazakhstan at the top and along a large slice of the Caspian coastline (click on map to show full sized)

Until the seventeenth century the khanate itself is more of a federation which contains a number of minor khanates. As the supreme regional khan, Ibars and his successors have theoretical power over the entire area but in fact they are largely limited to their own immediate domain and depend upon the solidarity of other clan members to support them, which usually only becomes manifest in cases of extreme emergency. That factionalism leads to several civil wars which steadily reduces the number of applicants for the throne so that, by the time of Haji Muhammad in 1558 descent is usually through the same immediate branch of the clan.

1518 - 1519

Sultan Haji

Son of Balbars, the brother of Ibars.

1518 - 1519

Sultan Haji is effectively a puppet ruler. His cousin, Sultan Prince Ghazi, son of Ibars, is the true power behind the throne. Described as rich and greedy, his fate is unknown (although he could be the khan of Bukhara, Abu'l-Ghazi Ubaidullah, who dies in 1539). Upon the death of Haji, tradition is followed so that the eldest of his uncles, Hasan Quli (son of Abulek, an uncle to Ibars), is selected as his successor.

1519 - 1524

Hasan Quli / Kuli

Son of Abulek, uncle to Sultan Haji. Killed in battle.

1523 - 1524

The death of Safavid Shah Ismail allows the Arabxhida of Old Urgench to occupy the oases of northern Khorasan around the Kopet Dagh mountains. However, Hasan Quli is killed during the process of capturing Old Urgench.

1524 - 1529

Sufyan / Sofian

Son of Avanek/Aminak Khan, the uncle of Sultan Ibars.

1529 - 1535




Ubayd Allah Sultan Khan of Bukhara is at war against Tahmasp I of Persia, and the Uzbeks of Khwarazm support Bukharan attacks by advancing to Pil Kupruki. The border cities of Khodjend (in Khorasan) and Asferain (near Astarabad) are also stormed. As Tahmasp also has to face the Ottomans, he negotiates with the Khwarizmi and effectively hands them Khorasan.

1535 - 1538

Avnik / Avanek / Khan Avanesh


1539 - 1549

Qal / Kal


1549 - 1556

Aqatay / Aghatai


1549 - 1556

During his reign, Aqatay Khan prefers to remain in his home town of Wazir, so the khanate's capital is temporarily shifted back here, but only during his lifetime. Sultan Yunus restores Old Urgench as the capital.

1556 - 1557

Sultan Yunus

Son of Sufyan.

1557 - 1558

Dust Muhammad / Dost Khan

Son of Bujugha. Died without issue.

1558 - 1602

Haji Muhammad I / Hadjdji / Hajim

Son of Avanik.


The Amu Darya has shifted its course far to the south of Old Urgench, rendering the city largely useless in terms of its capacity to act as a trading centre. Now the focus of the khanate moves southwards to remain close to the great river.

1588 - 1598

In the name of Abdullah II of Bukhara, his son, Abdul-Mu'min, leads his Uzbek forces in an attack on the important Persian city of Mashhad (Maixhad). After four months of being besieged, the city surrenders and the systematic looting that follows does not spare the sacred tombs. The Uzbek Shaibanids retain the city for almost a full decade, but Abbas II regains it for the Safavids upon Abdullah's death in Samarkand.

1593 - 1596

Abdullah II launches an attack on Khwarazm and captures the khanate in two swift campaigns. The second takes place in 1595 when the Bukharans have a much greater force at their disposal. However, the region is in a near-constant state of to-and-fro battles and victories, and Haji Muhammad recovers his domains by 1596.


The Shaibanid empire of Samarkand has effectively come to an end, but the khanate created by them at Bukhara continues under the Janid dynasty.

1602 - 1623

Arab Muhammad I

Son. Forced to abandon Old Urgench for Khiva. Blinded.

1617 - 1618

Towards the end of 1617 or early in 1618, two of the sons of Arab Muhammad - Habash Sultan and Ilbars Sultan, aged sixteen and fourteen respectively - are fairly low down the pecking order and can expect little in the way of territory to govern. They revolt and seize Old Urgench, and their warrior spirit persuades all of the Uzbeks between Dargan Ata and Bakugan Ata to join them. Their father is not strong enough to defeat them in combat so in 1619 he withdraws completely from Old Urgench.


Khan Arab Muhammad I selects Khiva as the khanate's new capital. The former capital of Old Urgench is heading towards general abandonment now that it no longer has river access for trade (and has been hijacked by the khan's sons). Some sources state that it is from this date that the khanate becomes known as Khiva. Before that it seems to be known as Khwarazm, retaining the name used since the tenth century. However, the truth seems to be that it is generally European sources, thanks to Russia's soon-to-be increasing influence in the region, that use 'Khiva' whilst the locals still seem to prefer 'Khwarazm'.

Old Urgench
Old Urgench had provided the former emirate of Khwarazm with a capital, and for the early years of its existence it did the same for the khanate before being abandoned - today its remnants lie within Uzbekistan's borders


Five years after capturing Old Urgench, Ilbars and Habesh cannot be shifted, despite repeated attempts by Arab Muhammad and his two elder sons, Isfandiyar and Abu al-Ghazi. Upon the latest failure, Arab Muhammad declares them to be rebels and marches openly against them with a sizable force. He is defeated, captured, and sent to Habash who has him blinded.

Having fought with the Persians in Kandahar in 1621, Isfandiyar is granted five hundred troops to help the cause against the rebels. Ilbars kills his captured father to remove this figurehead and divides the khanate between himself (Khiva and Hazarasp) and Habash (Old Urgench and Wazir).


Ilbars II

Youngest son. In Khiva & Hazarasp. Ruled for a few months only.


Sultan Habash

Elder brother. In Old Urgench & Wazir.


Isfandiyar's five hundred Persian troops makes all the difference. Now he is joined by several Turkmen tribes and Sultan Habash is beaten in battle only to be rescued by his brother. Despite a setback, Isfandiyar is able to gather more Turkmen support, enough to fight for twenty days to defeat and capture Ilbars. Ilbars is executed and Habash dies shortly afterwards.

1623 - 1643

Isfandiyar / Isfendiar

Senior brother.


The sons of Arab Muhammad again become locked in a power struggle for superiority. One of them, Abu al-Ghazi, flees for safety to Isfahan, home to the Safavid court. He remains there until 1639, receiving a Persian education. During his lifetime he writes two important works - Genealogy of the Turkmen (1651) and Genealogy of the Turks (1665) - which provide later historians with a vital window into Central Asian history.

1643 - 1644

Yushan Sultan

Son. Fate unknown.

1643 - 1644

With Isfandiyar dead, Abu al-Ghazi has seen his opportunity to take control. He attacks Yushan Sultan who holds out for more than a year, supported by the Turkmen. Yushan declares himself to be a vassal of Bukhara's Nadir Khan Muhammad ibn Muhammad Din in the hope of garnering more support (even though Bukhara is a traditional rival that is almost constantly at war with Khwarazm). Details are lacking, but in the end Abu al-Ghazi wins the support of the Uzbeks at the mouth of the more southerly Amu Darya (River Oxus), and is finally accepted by the khanate's Turkmen in 1645.

1644 - 1663

Abu al-Ghazi I Bahadur

Brother of Isfandiyar. Secured throne by force. Abdicated.

1663 - 1687

Abu l-Muzaffar Anusha / Anuxia Khan

Son. Deposed, blinded and killed by his son.

1685 - 1687


Rival claimant? No details available.

1687 - 1694

Muhammad Awrang I / Arnak Arang Khan

Son of Anusha.


Muhammad Awrang is generally considered to be the last of the khans to hold sole power in the khanate. The role of Uzbek nobility has been increasing, and the position of atalik (plural ataliq), the khan's guardian and adviser, becomes more prominent. So too does the position of inaki (plural inaqs) who now begin to occupy the main position of power. However, the rulers of Bukhara dominate Khiva during the first half of the eighteenth century, appointing many of its khans, starting with Niyaz Ishaq Agha Shah in Khiva itself from 1691. This is a period of uncertainty for the khanate, and internal records become hard to find.

1694 - 1697

Chuchaq / Djudjaj / Jodji

Rival to Niyaz Ishaq Agha Shah in Khiva?

1697 - 1698

Vali / Wali Shah Aga

Rival to Niyaz Ishaq Agha Shah in Khiva?

1698 - 1701

Niyaz Ishaq Agha Shah

Nephew of Subhan Kuli Khan of Bukhara. In Khiva (1691-1698).

c.1701 - 1702

Awrang / Arang II

From a collateral branch of the clan.

c.1702 - 1704

Arab Muhammad II

Gained throne thanks to the death of Bukhara's khan?

c.1704 - 1706

Musa / Musi Khan

In opposition from 1701? Khan from 1704? Killed.

c.1712 - 1713

Yadigar I

Brother of Musa? Could have ruled after Haji Muhammad II.

c.1713 - 1714

Awrang / Arang III / Erenk

Same as Awrang II?


Haji Muhammad II / Hadjdji Khan Bahadur

Could have ruled as early as 1704. Brother of Yadigar.

1715 - 1727

Shir Ghazi / Chir Ghazi

First certain ruler in two decades. His end is unknown.


The Kazakhs can be divided into three clans, or hordes, and each of these has its own territory. Now the Kazakh Lesser Horde begins acting independently of the others within its main base of operations in western Kazakhstan. Its leaders are descendants of Sultan Uziak, brother to Yadik Khan, and they are mentioned for the first time in 1717 when, together with Kaip Khan, they asked for help against the Russian Kalmuks. Having consolidated the Lesser Horde, Tiavka Khan is now dead. Abu l-Khayr (son of Adia, who is probably to be identified with Atiak, a contemporary of Tiavka Khan) fights for supremacy with Kaip Khan and wins. Abu l-Khayr becomes the first independent khan of the Lesser Horde.

Kazakh Lesser Horde
The Kazakh Lesser Horde originated in the Nogais Horde to the north of the Caspian Sea and in what is now western Kazakhstan, but Russian dominance by the eighteenth century was fracturing the Kazakhs

1717 - 1718

The discovery of gold along the banks of the Amu Darya has prompted a good deal of interest in the region by various great powers. Peter the Great of the Russias sends a 'trade' expedition under the command of Prince Alexander Bekovich-Cherkassky which comes complete with a considerable number of armed men. It fails to secure Russian ambitions in the region, however, because Shir Ghazi slaughters all but ten of the men. After his Swedish and Ottoman conflicts, Czar Peter is unable to raise any funds to mount a retaliatory strike.

1723 - 1726

Timur Khan

Son of Musa Khan and pretender to throne. 'Khan of the Arals'.


Sarigh Ayghir

Pretender, or confusion with an earlier ruler?

1727 - 1728


Pretender, or confusion with an earlier ruler?


The khanate emerges from another period of obscurity and uncertain rulers with the accession of Ilbars III. He is a Kazakh, with no known connections to the traditional ruling clan. He refuses to submit to Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah of Iran, setting the two states on a collision course.

1728 - 1740

Ilbars III

Succeeded Shir Ghazi. Captured and executed.

1740 - 1746

Khiva is occupied by Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah. The khanate is reduced to the status of a dependency during this period and Bukharan dominance is replaced by even greater Iranian dominance. Nadir Shah appoints his own ruler for the khanate but he is almost immediately sidelined by the Kazakh Lesser Horde which gains the support of Uzbeks and Aralians in the khanate. Tahir is killed by Nurali, son of Abu l-Khayr of the Lesser Horde.

1740 - 1742

Tahir / Tagir

Afsharid vassal. Cousin of Abu l-Faiz Muhammad of Bukhara.


Abu l-Khayr

Khan of the Kazakh Lesser Horde. In effective control.

1741 - 1742

Nurali / Nuraly I

Son. Proclaimed khan by rebel Uzbeks & Aralians. Fled.

1741 - 1743


Inaki (minister). Seized the throne but captured by Nurali.


Abu Muhammad

Son of Ilbars III. Afsharid vassal. Overthrown.

1742 - 1745

Abu al-Ghazi II Muhammad

Appointed by the rebels.


Khiva remains a troubled state. Now Persia's General Ali Kuli goes on the offensive, defeating the Turkmen yomuts in battle close to Old Urgench, these being the main supporters of the rebel khan. Abu al-Ghazi remains the figurehead of the rebels but Ali Kuli appoints Ghaib as the 'official' khan. He is the son Batir or Batyr Khan of the Kazakh Lesser Horde and, with the support of the Uzbek Karakalpak, he is also a rival to Nurali, son of Abu l-Khayr, for control of the horde.

1745 - 1771?

Ghaib / Ghaip / Kaip

Afsharid vassal. Son of Bator Khan of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.


The former territory of southern Khorasan is officially renamed Afghanistan by Ahmad Shah Abdali of the Durrani dynasty, during his state's greatest period of expansion and power. The name sticks, and is used to refer to the region from this point onwards.

The Third Battle of Panipat
Ahmad Shah Abdali renamed southern Khorasan and built himself an empire that could see off even the might of the Marathas at the Third Battle of Panipat

Khan Ghaib's reign in Khwarazm witnesses the start of a short period of domination of the throne by the Kazakh Lesser Horde. Ghaib himself withdraws from Khiva after appointing a vassal as his chief minister or inaki in 1758. Abdullah Qara Beg is another Kazakh, one of many who fill the role during this period. Very few of them are recorded in any detail at all, not even down to identifying their ancestry, and some lists omit most of them entirely. In these cases Khan Gaib is shown as returning to take direct control between 1774-1791 before handing over to his son in 1791.


Abdullah Qara Beg / Abd Allah Karabay

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1758 - 1764

Timur Sultan Ghazi

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1764 - 1766


Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1766 - 1768

Shah Ghazi

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1768 - 1769

Abu al-Ghazi III

Son of Ghaib? Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.


Nurali / Nuraly II

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1769 - 1770


Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.



Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1770 - 1771


Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.


Abd al-Aziz

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.


Artuq Ghazi

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.



Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

c.1772 - 1773


Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde for the second time.

c.1773 - 1775

Yadigar II

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1775 - 1779

Abu'l Fayz

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1779 - 1781

Yadigar II

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde for the second time.

1781 - 1783

Pulad Ghazi

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde.

1783 - 1791?

Yadigar II

Vassal inaki of the Kazakh Lesser Horde for the third time.


Khan Ghaib, leader of the Kazakh Lesser Horde, could have retained his position as ruler of Khiva until his death in this year. His age is somewhere between sixty and seventy. Married to a daughter of Abu l-Faiz Muhammad, khan of Bukhara, his son, Abu l-Ghazi III, is khan from around 1791 until 1804. The numbering for Abu l-Ghazi suggests that he has already served as inaki in 1768-1769, and that some lists that show an Abu l-Ghazi IV and V are wrong. All three instances should probably refer to one and the same man.

1791? - 1802

Abu al-Ghazi IV (III)

Son of Ghaib? Same as Abu al-Ghazi III & V?

1802 - 1804

Abu al-Ghazi V (III) ibn Gha'ib

Son of Ghaib. Deposed by the inaki during a coup.


The Arabshahid dynasty, otherwise known as the Yadigarid Shabanid dynasty, is overthrown by its former inaki or minister who begins the Uzbek Qungrat (or Kongrat) dynasty. The position of 'biy' which is held by Iltazar Inaq is the equivalent to an elected judge.

1804 - 1806

Iltazar Inaq ibn Iwaz Inaq Biy

First khan of the Qungrat dynasty. Self-proclaimed shah.

1804 - 1806

Iltazar dominates the mouth of the Syr Darya as far as Kala-i-Mawr and prevents Bukhara from dominating the oasis of Merv. This perhaps restores a touch of Khivan dominance to its own territory, something that has been lacking under the later Yadigarid Shabanid rulers.


Abu al-Ghazi V (III) ibn Gha'ib

Restored briefly following Iltazar's death, but without support.

1806 - 1825

Muhammad Rahim Bahadur

Younger brother of Iltazar. Proclaimed over Abu al-Ghazi.

1806 - 1825

During his reign, Muhammad Rahim Khan Bahadur carries out incursions into Kazak territory, striking at Khorasan and furthering Khivan claims of dominance.

1825 - 1842

Allah Quli Bahadur

Squandered the treasury in wars against Bukhara.

1839 - 1840

Russia under Czar Nicholas I pursues a renewed policy of pressuring the Ottoman empire and Britain for control of southern Central Asia. He sends an expedition to Khiva, purportedly to free slaves who had been captured from areas of the Russian frontier and sold by Turkmen raiders. Britain is already involved in the First Anglo-Afghan War in Afghanistan but, despite sending over five thousand infantry, the Russian force stumbles into one of harshest winters in living memory. It is driven back by the weather and by its losses in early 1840.

The ancient city of Khiva was extensively 'modernised' and expanded during the various stages of Khwarazm's existence, and it remains inhabited today by a population of about 50,000 people

Britain decides that Russian (and also Persian) intrigues pose a threat to its control of India. To counter that perceived threat, it is decided that Afghanistan will be used as a buffer state and the slave situation in Khiva will be solved without military intervention. The khan is convinced to free all Russian subjects under his control and to outlaw any further slavery of Russians.

1842 - 1846

Muhammad Rahim Quli / Kuli


1846 - 1855

Abu al-Ghazi Muhammad Amin Bahadur



Undeterred by previous setbacks, Russia builds Fort Aralsk at the mouth of the Syr Darya. From here the empire begins a steady process of encroachment upon the lands of Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand. Russia meets stiff resistance all the way but its resources far exceed those of its opponents.


Sayyid Abdullah

Distant relative, grand-nephew of Iltazar. Killed in battle.


The Tekke Turkmen tribal confederation defeats Sayyid Abdullah at Sarahks and proclaim independence. They form the khanates of Merv Tekke and Akhal Tekke, severely reducing Khiva in size.

1855 - 1856

Qutlugh Muhammad Murad Bahadur



Sayyid Mahmud

Son of Muhammad Rahim Quli. Abdicated after a few days.

1856 - 1864

Sayyid Muhammad


1864 - 1910

Muhammad Rahim Bahadur



Russia takes Bukhara, Tashkent, and Samarkand (all of which go into forming Uzbekistan in 1924). Tashkent is made the capital of a new state of the same name, incorporating vast areas of Central Asia into its territory.


Weakened by attacks from Kokend and Bukhara and losing control of the right bank of the Syr Darya, Khiva is finally conquered by Russia on the third attempt. Russian General von Kaufman leads 13,000 infantry and cavalry, taking the capital, Khiva, on 28 May 1873. The city's fall is recorded by artist Vasily Vereshchagin. A treaty of August of the same year establishes Khiva as a Russian protectorate which retains its own rulers but only with nominal independence.

1910 - 1918

Isfandiyar Jurji Bahadur

Killed by Turkmen leader named Junaid Khan.


Under the imposition of communism in Russia, the territory now comprises the Kwarazem / Khorezm Soviet People's Republic, otherwise known as the Tashkent Soviet.

1918 - 1920

Sayid Abdullah

Puppet khan of Junaid Khan until 1 Feb 1920. Deposed.

1918 - 1921

A reorganisation of Central Asian Soviet-controlled states along ethnic lines means the end of the khanate of Khiva, the Turkestan Krai, and the emirate of Bukhara (the latter being ousted by the Tashkent Soviet in 1920). Sayid Abdullah is deposed and his khanate is merged with the others into the newly-formed 'Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic', which is formed as a self-governing entity of the early Soviet Union. However, in the same year, the Islamic Council and the Council of Intelligentsia declare the rival 'Turkestan Autonomous Republic', and set about fighting against the Bolshevik forces who start closing down mosques and persecuting Muslim clergy as part of their secularisation campaign.

1921 - 1924

The Turkestan Autonomous Republic has gradually lost ground to the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks themselves have been divided into two groups over the region's future, but the idea of a pan-Turkic state is jettisoned in place of several smaller states. In 1924 the Turkestan ASSR is divided into the Uzbek SSR, the Turkmen SSR, the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast (Kyrgyzstan), and the Karakalpak Autonomous Oblast (modern Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan). Initially, the Tajik ASSR is also adjoined to the Uzbek state.

Modern Uzbekistan
AD 1924 - Present Day

Positioned on the ancient Silk Road between Europe and Asia, majestic cities such as Bukhara and Samarkand, famed for their architectural opulence, once flourished here as trade and cultural centres. The former emirs of Khwarazm had their capital at Urgench (pronounced oorgyench), and Uzbekistan inherited this city, now known as Kunya-Urgench, as the capital of its Khorezm region. The modern republic of Uzbekistan is the most populous Central Asian state with the largest armed forces. Kazakhstan lies to the north, Turkmenistan is to the south, and Tajikistan and Afghanistan lie to the east and south-east.

Southern Uzbekistan has a long and chequered history. It once formed part of the Persian satrapy of Bactria. This was invaded by Alexander the Great's Greek empire, and became independent in 256 BC. Following that, the region was occupied by Indo-Scythians and Tocharians, and was controlled by the Kushans and then the Persian Sassanids. With the collapse of the Samanids in the ninth century AD the region became a battleground for vying factions of Turkic tribes. From the end of the tenth century it was part of the emirate of Khwarazm, before being divided between the Mongol Il-Khanate and Mughulistan. Timurid Transoxiana claimed it next, and then it formed part of the region of Turkestan which was ruled by the Shaibanid empire in the sixteenth century.

Uzbekistan in the modern sense was formed in 1924, when its Soviet masters divided the former khanate of Khiva and its short-lived successor, the Tashkent ASSR, and joined the Uzbek part to the emirate of Bukhara. The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic survived in that form until the collapse of the Soviet empire. In 1991 Uzbekistan became fully independent, with its capital at Tashkent. Rather than follow its western peers down the road towards democracy, it instead maintained a highly authoritarian one-party state in which opposition was (and is) not at all welcome. Since independence, the country has faced sporadic bombings and shootings, which the authorities have been quick to blame on Islamic extremists.

(Additional information from History of the Civilisations of Central Asia - Towards the Contemporary Period: From the Mid-Nineteenth to the End of the Twentieth Century, Chahryar Adle (Ed), Chapter 9 Uzbekistan, D A Alimova & A A Golovanov, Unesco, and from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)

1929 - 1930

In 1929 the Tajik ASSR, attached to the Uzbek SSR since 1924, is now removed to form a separate Tajik SSR. In the following year the Soviet-controlled Uzbek SSR suffers from Stalin's purge of independent-minded Uzbek leaders. They are replaced by Moscow loyalists and the capital is moved from Samarkand to Tashkent.

Tashkent 1960s
This tinted photo may date from the 1960s, but it looks in part a good thirty years older and shows mid-twentieth century Tashkent with its Soviet-imposed monumental building style

1937 - 1938

Undaunted by his failures to date, Stalin directs a massive purge of the Bolshevik party, the armed forces (decimating the officer class), government and intelligentsia. Millions of people, labelled enemies of the state, are killed or imprisoned, with the notoriously harsh gulags in Siberia being used to deposit many thousands of  his victims. In the Uzbek SSR, many alleged nationalists are arrested, including the state's first prime minister, Faizullah Khojaev.

1940 - 1945

As part of the Second World War, the Soviets invade Poland from the east on 17 September 1940. About 1,433,230 Uzbek citizens are incorporated into the Red Army in the subsequent battles against Nazi Germany. A certain number also fight for the Germans against the Soviets. In 1944, around 160,000 Meskhetian Turks are deported from Georgia to Uzbekistan by Stalin. Other ethnic groups are also imported into the Uzbek SSR, especially Russians and Ukrainians as the empire's industrial war efforts are moved farther east to remove them from the threat of German attacks.


From this decade until the 1980s, Uzbek cotton production is greatly boosted thanks to Soviet irrigation projects that draw water from the Amu Darya and, ultimately, from the Aral Sea. Within three decades the sea is almost completely sucked dry, creating a semi-desert.


A devastating earthquake virtually destroys much of Tashkent. The subsequent Soviet rebuilding works pays little attention to the city's cultural heritage or its important position on the ancient Silk Road. Instead brutalist concrete structures fill the city.

1989 - 1991

Islam Karimov becomes the head of the Uzbek Communist Party. In the following year, 1990, the Party declares economic and political sovereignty and Karimov becomes president, a position he maintains for several decades. In 1991, Karimov initially supports the attempted anti-Gorbachev coup by conservatives in Moscow. The Uzbek SSR declares independence from the Soviet Union as the republic of Uzbekistan and, following the USSR's subsequent collapse, joins the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). During this period, violent attacks take place against the Meskhetian Turks and other minorities in the Fergana Valley. As a result a nationalist political movement called Birlik is founded (and is banned in 1992).

1989 - Present

Islam Karimov

President, but without observing any election rules.


Terrorist attacks take place in the USA on 11 September when four passenger planes are hijacked. In Afghanistan, the Taliban refuse to hand over terrorist leader and overall organiser of the attack, Osama bin Laden, who is taking refuge there. An invasion is launched, with some US forces being allowed the use of a base in Uzbekistan. By November 2001 the Taliban have been pushed out of Kabul and into the eastern fringes of the country by US and British air strikes and a resurgent native northern alliance.


In May 2005, troops in the eastern city of Andijan open fire on protesters who are demonstrating against the imprisonment of people charged with Islamic extremism. Witnesses report a bloodbath with several hundred civilian deaths. The Uzbek authorities state that fewer than 190 people have died. Opponents of President Karimov blame the authorities' brutal determination to crush all dissent while the president blames fundamentalists seeking to overthrow the government and establish a Muslim caliphate in Central Asia.

Uzbek army
With people protesting against President Karimov's policy of imprisoning people on charges of Islamic extremism, the army was called out, and with brutal effect

The government's reaction to the Andijan unrest prompts strong criticism from the West, and relations cool. In response, Uzbekistan expels US forces from their base and move closer to Russia, with Karimov at one point describing it as Tashkent's 'most reliable partner and ally'.

2008 - 2009

Ties with the West begin to improve again, spurred on by the search by European countries for alternative energy sources in Central Asia, and Uzbekistan's strategic importance for the anti-Taliban operation in Afghanistan. The EU eases sanctions that had been imposed after the Andijan killings, the World Bank reverses a decision to suspend loans to Uzbekistan, and the US is allowed limited use of the Temez air base. In 2009 the EU lifts its arms embargo. At the same time, relations with Moscow cool off, with Uzbekistan in 2009 criticising plans for a Russian base in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.