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Far East Kingdoms

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Sogdiana

The ancient province of Sogdiana (or Suguda to the Persians) lay largely within the easternmost quarter of modern Uzbekistan, along with western Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The River Tanais (otherwise known as the Jaxartes/Iaxartes or Syr Darya), traditionally formed the boundary between Sogdiana and Scythia. In fact, Sogdiana and its western neighbour, Chorasmia, formed the northern edge of civilisation in the ancient world. Beyond them was the sweeping steppeland and marauding tribes of barbarians.

This ancient region also formed the northern border in Transoxiana to one of the oldest series of states in Central Asia, the indigenous Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, or Oxus Civilisation, and Indo-European tribes soon integrated into it. Forming an Indo-Iranian group of tribes in later centuries, it is probably these very same people who were very shortly to be found entering India. Those who remained behind appear to enter the historical record in around the sixth century BC, when they came up against the rapidly expanding Persian empire.

The earliest-known rulers for the region are placed in the 600s BC, with clear links being shown between them and the earliest rulers of Persia (possibly before the latter had fully settled in Persia). In fact, the resemblance between Old Persian and Sogdian languages is one of the supporting pillars for the theory of Persian migration into Iran from Central Asia. The Persians were of Indo-Iranian stock, an Indo-European grouping which formed in Central Asia, somewhere between modern Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, and it is probably the case that the Sogdian tribes shared that same origin.

The large and warlike tribe or confederation of the Massagetae were recorded as bordering the area to the north in 530 BC. Then it was conquered by the Persians, with a satrapy or governorship being created to command it from a capital at Marakanda (modern Samarkand). The Persian and Greek satrapy of Sogdiana or Sogdia was situated with the sweeping steppeland of Central Asia to its north which, in the Persian period, was peopled by various tribes and groups such as the aforementioned Massagetae, plus the Scythians, with Ferghana to the east, Bactria to the south, Margiana to the south-west, and Chorasmia to the west.

(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, from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Zoroastrian Heritage, K E Eduljee, and Talessman's Atlas (World History Maps).)

Kingdom of Turan (Indo-Iranian)

Later myth ascribed a dynasty of Indo-Iranian rulers to this period, as described in the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), a poetic opus which was written about AD 1000 but which accessed older works (such as the semi-official seventh century AD book called the Ḵwadāy-nāmag), and perhaps elements of an oral tradition. The Kayanian dynasty of kings of the Persians were also the heroes of the Avesta, which forms the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. This faith itself had been founded along the banks of the River Oxus, the great river which had probably also formed part of the migratory route used by the Indo-European Persians as they entered Iran.

The earliest of these mythical Indo-Iranian rulers was Fereydun, king of a 'world empire'. His subjects were the Indo-Iranian tribes of the region while his kingdom was apparently in the land of Tūr (or Turaj, sometimes also shown without the accented 'u' as Tur). This can be equated to territory in the heartland of Indo-Iranian southern Central Asia and South Asia, focused mainly on the later provinces of Bactria and Margiana, along with the Kopet Dag region (a mountain range which serves to separate modern Turkmenistan and Iran), the Atrek valley (which supplies an easy route into eastern Iran and is a weak point in the country's defensive line), and the eastern Alborz Mountains (stretching from modern Azerbaijan, along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, and into Khorasan and the edges of eastern Iran). Judging by those borders, the land of Tūr stretched from Samarkand to Tehran, although the kingdom of Turan was probably a good deal smaller and more eastern-based (note the similarly between 'Turan' and Tehran'). The Persians themselves may still have controlled a good deal of the western section as they began to settle in southern Iran. Curiously (and probably not coincidentally), these borders would have placed it on the northern border of another ancient region, that of Ariana.

Fereydun became the father of three sons; Tūr, Salm, and Iraj. Tūr murdered Iraj, thereby triggering an unending feud between the two lines of their descendants. One of Tūr's descendants (possibly a seven-times grandson) was Afrasaib, who ruled the kingdom of Turan during the lifetime of the Persian Kai Kavoos of the seventh century. The stories regarding Turan show it to be in competition with the Persians for mastery of the eastern lands, with many battles being fought. Ultimately it is the Persians who emerge victorious, although the Shahnameh may be showing some bias - history is written by the victorious, after all. Turan's kings are shown with a shaded pink background to denote their legendary status.

(Additional information from Central Asia: A Historical Overview, Edward A Allworth (Duke University Press, 1994), from The Paths of History, I M Diakonoff (Cambridge University Press, 1999), from Islamic Reference Desk, Emeri 'van' Donzel (Brill Academic Publishers, 1994), from Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle, Marjolijn van Zutphen, and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Iranians & Turanians in the Avesta.)

Fereydun / Faridun / Fareidun

Ruled a 'world empire'. Abdicated in favour of Manuchehr.

Tūr

Son of Fereydun. Gifted Central Asia. Killed Iraj of Persia.

Thanks to the murder of Iraj by Tūr and Salm, the Persians retaliate under the command of Iraj's grandson, Manuchehr. One of the leading warriors under his command may be Garshāsp (possibly also known as Karšāsp), a figure of the Shahnameh or Shahnama, the Book of Kings and a possible descendant of the mythical Indo-Iranian King Jamshid. Tūr and Salm cross the Oxus to face Manuchehr's army on the border between Iran and Turan. The ensuing battle results in heavy casualties for the Turanians, and afterwards Tūr is ambushed and beheaded. Salm is later captured and also beheaded.

Pashang

Grandson. Continued the war against the Persians.

7th cent BC

Afrasiab

Son. Defeated and died.

The story of Afrasiab's eventual defeat and death comes largely from the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). He is repeatedly defeated by Kai Khosrow (his own grandson via his daughter, Farangis). Forced out of his own lands he wanders wretchedly, taking refuge in a cave known as the Hang-e Afrasiab (meaning the 'dying place of Afrasiab'), on a mountain in Azerbaijan. Ultimately, he is killed by the divine plant of Zoroastrianism, Haoma, near the Čīčhast (location uncertain, but proposed as Lake Hamun in Sistan, which contradicts his location in Azerbaijan). He meets his death in the cave.

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. Due to the treachery of his stepmother, Sudabeh, Sijavus exiles himself to Turan (presumably well before the defeat and death of Afrasiab). There, he marries Farangis, Afrasiab's daughter, but the king later orders Sijavus to be killed. His death is avenged by his son, the very same Kai Khosrow mentioned above, who inherits the early Persian throne.

c.546 - 540 BC

The defeat of the Medes opens the floodgates for Cyrus the Great with a wave of conquests, beginning in the west from 549 BC but focussing towards the east of the Persians from about 546 BC. Eastern Iran falls during a more drawn-out campaign between about 546-540 BC, which may be when Maka is taken (presumed to be the southern coastal strip of the Arabian Sea). Further eastern regions now fall, namely Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, Carmania, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Gandhara, Gedrosia, Hyrcania, Margiana, Parthia, Saka (at least part of the broad tribal lands of the Sakas), and Thatagush - all added to the empire, although records for these campaigns are characteristically sparse. The inference is very clear - whatever control of Turan the Persians had enjoyed following the death of Afrasiab, it did not last and the lands now have to be conquered properly.

The heartland of Sogdiana (or Sogdia) is also drawn into the empire where it is also named Huvarazmish in some Persian inscriptions. The neighbouring region of Ferghana, which gains a defensive fort or city of its own is administered from the Sogdian capital, Marakand. These areas form the north-eastern corner of the Achaemenid empire, with nothing beyond but uncharted wastes full of barbarians.

Index of Persian SatrapiesPersian Satraps of Suguda (Sogdiana)
Incorporating the Satraps of the Dyrbaeans

Conquered in the mid-sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great, the region of Sogdiana was added to the Persian empire. Before that it was populated largely by Indo-Iranian tribal groups, the most numerous of which in this particular area were the Sogdians. Under the Persians, the region was formed into an official satrapy or province which, according to the Behistun inscription of Darius the Great, was called Suguda or Sugda (Sogdiana is a Greek mangling of the name).

These eastern regions of the new-found empire were ancestral homelands for the Persians. They formed the Indo-Iranian melting pot from which the Parsua had migrated west in the first place to reach Persis. There would have been no language barriers for Cyrus' forces and few cultural differences. Although details of his conquests are relatively poor, he seemingly experienced few problems in uniting the various tribes under his governance. He was the first to exert any form of imperial control here, although his campaign may have been driven partially by a desire to recreate the semi-mythical kingdom of Turan in the land of Tūr, but now under Persian control. Curiously the Persians had little knowledge of what lay to the north of their eastern empire, with the result that Alexander the Great was less well-informed about the region than earlier Ionian settlers on the Black Sea coast had been.

Suguda's capital was Maracanda, although little else about Persian-era Suguda is known for certain. The central minor satrapy of Suguda had its southern border along the River Oxus (Amu Darya). The River Polytimetus (the modern River Zeravshan, which feeds into the Oxus from the north of Samarkand) presumably supplied the western border, across which were the nomadic Massagetae. The rest of the western border is uncertain. To the north-east, Suguda was bordered by the territory of the Amyrgians, and part of the frontier was marked by the River Jaxartes (Syr Darya).

In the east of Suguda, a subordinate minor satrapy seems to have been that of the Dyrbaeans (Ptolemy's Drybactae). Cyrus the Great placed Spitaces, son of Spitamenes, in charge of the Dyrbaeans, although when writing about them Ctesias mistook them for the Derbicans to the east of the Caspian Sea who were not part of the Achaemenid empire under Cyrus. Stephanus Byzantinus recorded that the Drybaean territory (or Dyrbaioi, to use his phrase) bordered Bakhtrish and Hindush - a pretty broad and vague definition. The only suitable location for these 'eastern Derbicans', the Dyrbaeans, is the modern Afghan province of Badaḵšān in the far north-eastern corner of the country. Here, in the Monjan Valley, was the only source of lapis lazuli to be exploited at that date. In which case, the minor satrapy of the Dyrbaeans bordered Suguda to the north, Bakhtrish to the west, and Gadara to the south. The minor satrapy lay largely within the arc of the River Panj (or Pyandzh), which feeds into the headwaters of the Oxus to the east of Dushanbe (and today provides part of Afghanistan's border with Tajikistan).

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Campaigns of Alexander, Arrian of Nicomedia (Aubrey De Sélincourt, Ed, Penguin, 1971), from From Democrats to Kings: The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great, Michael Scott, from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: The Geography of Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1932), and Encyclopaedia Iranica.)

c.546 - 540 BC

During his campaigns in the east, Cyrus the Great initially takes the northern route from Persis towards Bakhtrish and Suguda to reassure or subdue the provinces. This route probably involves the 'militaris via' by Rhagai to Parthawa. At some point Cyrus builds a line of seven forts to defend his frontier in Suguda and the neighbouring region of Ferghana against the tribal Massagetae to the north, the strongest of these being Kyra or Kyreskhata (Cyropilis - the Greek form of its name). Then he takes the more difficult southern route, destroying Capisa along the way (possibly Kapisa on the Koh Daman plain to the north of Kabul - which is possibly also the Kapishakanish named at Behistun as a fortress in Harahuwatish).

fl c.540 BC

Spitaces

Son of Spitamenes. Satrap of the Dyrbaeans.

516 - 515 BC

Achaemenid ruler Darius embarks on a military campaign into the lands east of the empire. He marches through Haraiva and Bakhtrish, and then to Gadara and Taxila. By 515 BC he is conquering lands around the Indus Valley to incorporate into the new satrapy of Hindush before returning via Harahuwatish and Zranka. Along the way the Sakas are largely defeated and conquered.

River Oxus / Amu Darya
The River Oxus - also known over the course of many centuries as the Amu Darya - was used as a demarcation border throughout history and was also a hub of activity in prehistoric times - but during this period it flowed right through the heart of the region that was known as Bactria

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 Suguda and Scythia).

fl 500 BC

Artabanos

Brother of Darius I. Satrap of Bakhtrish (& Suguda?).

fl 480 BC

Masistes

Brother of Xerxes I. Satrap of Bakhtrish (& Suguda?).

? - 464 BC

Hystaspes

Son of Xerxes I. Satrap of Bakhtrish (& Suguda?). Killed?

465 - 464 BC

Artabanus the Hyrcanian kills Xerxes in collusion with the eunuch of the bedside and subsequently takes control of the empire, ostensibly as a regent for Xerxes' three sons. Artabanus has the murder pinned on the eldest of these, Darius, and has him killed by the youngest son, Artaxerxes. Artaxerxes accedes to the throne before Artabanus attempts to murder him too. In the end, it is Artabanus who dies, but Artaxerxes is forced to defeat the second of Xerxes' sons, Hystaspes, satrap of Bakhtrish (and presumably Suguda too) and his own brother. This brief civil war is ended when Artaxerxes defeats the forces of Hystaspes in battle during a sandstorm.

360s/350s BC

Artaxerxes II is occupied fighting the 'revolt of the satraps' in the western part of the empire. Nothing is known of events in the eastern half of the Persian empire at this time, but no word of unrest is mentioned by Greek writers, however briefly. Given the newsworthiness for Greeks of any rebellion against the Persian king, this should be enough to show that the east remains solidly behind the king. It seems that all of the empire's troubles hinge on the Greeks during this period.

? - 329 BC

Bessus / Artaxerxes V

Satrap of Bakhtrish & Suguda. Murdered Achaemenid Darius III.

330 - 328 BC

In 330-329 BC Suguda becomes part of the Greek empire despite the efforts of Bessus, self-styled 'king of Asia', to retain at least some of the Persian territories. His claim is legal, since Bakhtrish is traditionally commanded by the next-in-line to the throne, but Persia has already been lost and his loose collection of eastern allies provides nothing more than a sideshow to the main event - the fall of Achaemenid Persia. Still, it takes Alexander the Great two more years to fully conquer the region. One of Bessus' allies is Oxyartes, father to the Roxana whom Alexander marries in 327 BC.

During his conquest of Suguda, following the fall of Bakhtrish, Alexander focuses on the largest and best-defended of seven towns in the region, this being Cyropilis in the Ferghana region (the Kyreskhata of Cyrus the Great). While he takes the other towns, he sends Craterus to pin down the defenders of Cyropolis. Following the quick fall of the other towns, the storming of Cyropolis is led by Alexander in person. Both he and Craterus are wounded but the town and its central fortress are taken. Suguda and Ferghana now belong to the Greeks.

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesArgead Dynasty in Sogdiana

The Argead were the ruling family and founders of Macedonia who reached their greatest extent under Alexander the Great and his two successors before the kingdom broke up into several Hellenic sections. Following Alexander's conquest of central and eastern Persia in 331-328 BC, the Greek empire ruled the region until Alexander's death in 323 BC and the subsequent regency period which ended in 310 BC. Alexander's successors held no real power, being mere figureheads for the generals who really held control of Alexander's empire. Following that latter period and during the course of several wars, Sogdiana was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 305 BC.

(Additional information from Ancient Samarkand: Capital of Soghd, G V Shichkina (Bulletin of the Asia Institute, 1994, 8: 83).

330 - 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

323 - 317 BC

Philip III Arrhidaeus

Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander the Great.

317 - 310 BC

Alexander IV of Macedonia

Infant son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

329 - 328? BC

Orepius

Satrap of Sogdiana at the 'gift of Alexander'.

328 BC

Following the resignation of Artabazus, satrap of Bactria, Clitus is given the post along with command of 16,000 Greeks who had formerly fought under the Persians as mercenaries. He sees this posting as a reduction of his influence and position with Alexander and, at a banquet in the satrap's palace at Maracanda (the capital of the satrapy of Sogdiana, modern Samarkand), the two get into a drunken quarrel. Enduring gross insults from Clitus, in his rage Alexander runs him through with a spear. Almost immediately he deeply regrets the death of his former friend (the scene is well depicted in the feature film, Alexander (2004), although the location is transferred to India).

328 - 321 BC

Amyntas Nikolaos

Greek satrap of Chorasmia, Bactria, & Sogdiana.

328 - 321 BC

Scythaeus

Greek satrap of Chorasmia, Bactria, & Sogdiana.

327 BC

Against the vehemently strong opinions held by his generals, Alexander proceeds to marry Roxana. She is the daughter of Oxyartes, a Sogdian warlord who had supported Bessus in his attempt to resist Alexander in the east in 329 BC. Oxyartes himself had been one of the defeated defenders of the fortress known as the 'Sogdian Rock' in 328 BC, close to the Sogdian capital at Marakanda. Oxyartes himself is made satrap of Gandhara.

323 BC

Following the death of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Greek in-fighting, Sogdiana is part of the Seleucid empire until 256 BC, when an independent Bactrian kingdom is declared.

323 - 321? BC

Philip / Philippus

Greek satrap of Chorasmia, Bactria, & Sogdiana.

320s BC

Like the Persians before them, the Greeks under Alexander place the Amyrgian Sakas beyond Sogdiana, across the River Tanais (otherwise known as the Iaxartes, Jaxartes, or Syr Darya, which forms the boundary between Sogdiana and Scythia). This is thanks to their having encountered them after crossing Sogdiana and the Syr Darya in the approximate region of Alexandria Eschate in the Ferghana region ('Eschate' meaning 'the Furthest', possibly modern Khojend, but see the Ferghana introduction). It is generally accepted that they control all of Ferghana (immediately to the east of Sogdiana) and the Alai Valley. Indeed, they may have been relocated onto the plain following their conquest by the Persians.

312 - 306 BC

The Wars of the Diadochi decide how Alexander the Great's empire is carved up between his generals, but the period is very confused, especially in the east. Bactria is taken by the Seleucids in around 312 BC. In some sources, the assassination of Philippus is placed at 325 BC, during Chandragupta Maurya's conquest of northern India and his takeover of the Macedonian vassal states there. 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 and Sogdiana and, after 256 BC, the kings of Bactria.

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)

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesMacedonian Sogdiana

Once safely under Seleucid control after the conclusion of the Greek Wars of the Diadochi, Sogdiana was governed by Macedonian satraps. The capital was at Marakanda (later Samarkand). The descendants of many of these became independent kings, after Bactria had been cut off from the Seleucids by Parthian incursion into central Persia. The Bactrian kingdom consisted of the core provinces of Bactria and Sogdiana. Located in one of the richest and most urbanised of regions, it quickly blossomed into a large eastern Greek empire, but continual internal discord and usurpations saw it progressively fragmented and vulnerable to outside conquest. The eastern section was almost permanently separated from Bactria and came to be known as the Indo-Greek kingdom.

The chronology of the Indo-Bactrian rulers is based largely on numismatic evidence (coinage). There are few written accounts, and other records are relatively sparse, while frequent internecine conflicts makes the facts even harder to pin down, so dates are rarely reliable. Some possible kings are known only from a few coins, and the interpretation of these can sometimes be very uncertain.

(Where information conflicts regarding the Indo-Greek territories, Osmund Bopearachchi's Monnaies Gréco-Bactriennes et Indo-Grecques, Catalogue Raisonné (1991) has been followed. Additional information by David Kelleher, from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 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 Encyclopędia Britannica.)

c.294 - 293 BC

Demodamas

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

c.294 - 293 BC

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

Demodamas

Seleucid satrap for the second time.

? - 235 BC

Euthydemus I Theos

Satrap of Sogdiana? Overthrew Diodotus II of Bactria.

c.235/230 BC

Diodotus II of Bactria is overthrown by Euthydemus, possibly the satrap of Sogdiana. The date is uncertain and Strabo puts forward 223/221 BC as an alternative, placing it within a period of internal Seleucid discord.

235 - 200/195 BC

Euthydemus I Theos

Now ruler of all Bactria and founder of the Euthydemids.

c.220 BC

The realm of Euthydemus of Bactria is a large one, including Sogdiana and Ferghana to the north, and Margiana and Aria to the west. There are indications that from Alexandria Eschate in Ferghana the Greco-Bactrians may lead expeditions as far as Kashgar (a little under three hundred and twenty kilometres (two hundred miles) due east of Ferghana), and Urumqi in Chinese Turkestan. There they would be able to establish the first known contacts between China and the West around 220 BC.

Even more remarkably, recent examinations of the terracotta army have established a startling new concept - the terracotta army may be the product of western art forms and technology. An entire terracotta army plus imperial court are manufactured using five workshops and a form of human representation in sculpture that has never before been seen in China. Archaeologists today continue the process of discovering new pits and even a fan of roads leading out from the emperor's burial mound, one of which, heading west, may be a sort of proto-Silk Road along which Greek craftsmen may be travelling (Marakanda being a key location along the Silk Road from the moment of its establishment).

c.165 BC

Defeated by the Xiongnu, the Yeuh Chi/Yuezhi are forced to evacuate their lands on the borders of the Chinese kingdoms. They begin a migration westwards that triggers a slow domino effect of barbarian movement.

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 the 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 (in Drangiana) around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria while the Indo-Scythians are diverted into Indo-Greek Gandhara. Drangiana and Aria would appear to remain Parthian dependencies.

c.50 BC

Having settled in Sogdiana and Bactria, the Tocharians have rechristen these provinces as Tocharistan. Now, a century-or-so-later they have united under a single leadership, that of the Kushan tribe. Now they capture the territory of the Indo-Scythians in what will one day become Afghanistan, and have probably already caused the downfall of Indo-Greek King Hermaeus, conquering Paropamisadae in the process.

552

The Western khagans expand their dominion towards Chorasmia and Sogdiana, right up against the borders of Persia's eastern territories. The Hephthalites are defeated in Kushanshah territory in what will one day become Afghanistan by an alliance of Göktürks (under the leadership of İstemi) and the Sassanids, and a level of Indo-Sassanid authority is re-established in the region for the next century. The Western khagans set up rival states in Bamiyan, Kabul, and Kapisa, strengthening their hold on the Silk Road.

Map of Central Asia AD 550-600
As was often the case with Central Asian states that had been created by horse-borne warriors on the sweeping steppelands, the Göktürk khaganate swiftly incorporated a vast stretch of territory in its westwards expansion, whilst being hemmed in by the powerful Chinese dynasties to the south-east and Siberia's uninviting tundra to the north (click on map to show full sized)

581

Fragmentation into east and west divisions has already resulted from the internal succession conflict suffered by the Göktürks. The Western khagans are now following their own westwards expansionist policy. As part of that very policy, they lay siege to the former Greek colony city of Chersonesus on the south-western tip of the Crimea. Their cavalry continues to roam the steppes of the Crimea until 590, during which time (at least) they are overlords to the Alans, Bulgars, and Khazars, amongst others. Southwards, the Western Göktürks are able to cross the Amu Darya, where they come into conflict with their former allies, the Sassanids. Much of Tokharistan (former Bactria, including Balkh) remains a Göktürk dependency until the end of the century. By inference, Sogdiana to the north of Bactria is also theirs.

Samarkand

Samarkand was occupied (possibly) as early as the eighth century BC, probably as a consequence of a change in the course of the River Oxus and the abandonment of former settlements. The same circumstances, during a period of climate change, had ended the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex along the River Oxus between 2000-1700 BC and resulted in large-scale migrations. Following this, the region was occupied largely by Indo-Iranian tribes which remained independent until their sixth century BC conquest by fellow Indo-Iranians, the Achaemenid Persians. They formed the satrapy of Sogdiana, which was inherited by the Greeks.

The city of Samarkand gained its name from the Sogdian phrase, 'rock town', which refers directly to a stone fort. This was probably one of the earliest solid structures to be erected on the site, possibly by the Persians. The original form of the name was adopted or adapted by the Greeks of Macedonian Sogdiana as Marakanda. Subsequently, during the gradual infringement of Turkic tribes into the region, Marakanda became Samarkand. In Uzbek the name is shown as Samarqand, with Samarcand as another variation. Today the city sits in a large oasis in the valley of the River Zerafshan, within the borders of Uzbekistan.

The historical section of modern Samarkand consists of three main parts. To the north-east there is the site of the ancient city which was destroyed by the Mongol armies of Chingiz Khan in the thirteenth century AD. This is preserved as an archaeological reserve with excavations that have revealed the ancient citadel and fortifications, the ruler's palace, and residential and craft quarters. There are also remains of a large mosque built between the eighth to twelfth centuries. To the south are architectural ensembles and the medieval city of the Timurid era, at which time Samarkand was at the height of its achievement.

(Additional information from the Guidebook to the History of Samarkand, from Place Names of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for 6,600 Countries, Cities, Territories, Natural Features and Historic Sites, Adrian Room (Second Ed, London, 2006), and from External Link: Unesco World Heritage Convention.)

651 - 821

The region is gradually absorbed into the Islamic empire as it takes Persia. Governors, or emirs, are appointed to control the Islamic emirate of Khorasan in the name of the caliph. A seemingly partial occupation of Transoxiana by Tang dynasty China is effected in 659, but is ended in 665.

Samanid Emirate (Samarkand)
AD 820 - 1000

The Samanids took the Transoxiana region from the Tahirid governors of Khorasan in 820. From there they controlled the trade between Central Asia and the central Islamic caliphate, and these included the trade in Turkish slaves. The state grew to cover most of eastern Persia while the Buwayid amirs gained control of western Persia.

819 - 864

Saman Khoda

864 - 892

Nasr I

892 - 907

Ismail I

900

The Saffarid emirs in formerly Tahirid-controlled Khorasan are defeated by the Samanids and reduced in territory to Seistan in Persia, where they remain Samanid vassals. The Samanids install their own governors in the Khorasan region.

Samarkand coin
Two sides of a typical Abbasid-era coin, with this one being nineteen millimetres in diameter issued in Samarkand, which was soon taken by the Samanids

907 - 914

Ahmad II

914 - 943

as-Sa'id Nasr II

943 - 954

Hamid Nuh I

954 - 961

Abdül-Malik I

961 - 976

Mansur I

962

Zabulistan is seized by a rebellious Samanid governor and a semi-independent Afghan kingdom is formed with its capital at Ghazni. Although the rebel, Alptigin, establishes his independent rule of Ghazni, coins from the era show that he nominally acknowledges Samanid overlordship, always a useful ruse for avoiding an attack by former masters.

976 - 997

Nuh II

977

The Afghan city of Ghazni comes under the rule of the Yamanid dynasty, which becomes fully independent of Samanid control as it forms its own Ghaznavid sultanate, although it still pays lip service to its former masters.

994

Nuh II faces internal uprisings, as the emirate becomes more unstable, and the Ghaznavid ruler comes to his assistance. The rebels are defeated at Balkh and then Nishapur.

995

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

997 - 999

Mansur II

Deposed.

997

Mahmud of Khwarazm campaigns against the Qara-Khitaļ in Central Asia, but is ultimately defeated. His failure is a harbinger of problems to come where the Qara-Khitaļ are concerned.

999

The Turkic Karakhanids depose Mansur II, allied with the Buwayids who are supreme in south-western Persia and Mesopotamia. The Karakhanids take possession of areas of Southern Khorasan.

999 - 1000

Abdül Malik II

1000

Samanid power swiftly declines in the face of Buwayid supremacy, while the revolt of the Ghaznavids brings the emirate to an end.

1000 - 1005

Ismail II al-Muntasir

Assassinated.

1005

Ismail II, the last Samanid ruler, is assassinated after a five year struggle against the Karakhanids from the north. They, in turn, are immediately ousted by the Ghaznavids.

The Qara-Khitaļ Empire (Samarkand)
AD 1125 - 1211/1218

The Qara-Khitaļ are often shown as Qara-Khitai, without the accented 'i'.

In 997, Mahmud of Khwarazm campaigned against the Qara-Khitaļ in Central Asia, but was ultimately defeated.

The Tartars became a major force during the Mongol expansion, and the name still survives today in several major communities in far eastern Europe. They were originally the Ta-ta (Ta-tan, or Da-Dan of Chinese records) of the north-eastern Gobi desert in the fifth century, but were subjugated by the Khitans in the ninth century (who went on to form their own Qara-Khitaļ empire in the twelfth century).

In the 1120s China's Liao Dynasty was ousted by the Manchurian Jurchen, which became the Chin dynasty (Tartars) in China. The Liaos, or Khitans (known by the Chinese as Western Tartars), were driven west into Central Asia, where, after defeating the Seljuq Turks of Persia under the Sultan Sanjar in 1141, they founded the Qara-Khitaļ empire with Samarkand as its capital.

1125

The Qara-Khitaļ are ousted from China.

1124 - 1144

Te-Tsung

1144 - 1151

Kan'Tien Hou

1151 - 1163

Jen-Tsung

1163 - 1178

Ch'eng-T'ien Hou

1178 - 1211

Mo-Chu

1194

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

1205 - 1212

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

1210 - 1211

The Qara-Khitaļ empire loses Transoxiana to the Khwarazm shahs, who previously held the status of vassals. The following year Mo-Chu's control of the empire is usurped by the Naimans, under Kuchlug Khan. Arab writers consider this to be the end of the Qara-Khitaļ empire.

1211 - 1218

Kuchlug Khan Naiman

1217 - 1218

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

1220 - 1221

After the shah of Khwarazm decapitates the Mongol ambassador from Chingiz Khan, the emirate is attacked twice by the Golden Horde, along with Ghurid Southern Khorasan. Khwarazm is reduced to its western section covering northern Mesopotamia and western Persia. Bukhara 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.

The subsequent rise of Jalal al-Din Mingburnu in Khwarazm 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 'safe' side of the Caspian Sea. From this point onwards, the bulk of Khwarazm is ruled by the Il-Khans.

c.1359

'Abdullah of Il-Khan Khwarazm 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.

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 Tīmūr-i Lang contest for control of Transoxiana. The latter is ultimately successful, taking Transoxiana and Khwarazm in the name of the Chaghatayids, but effectively forming his own Timurid khanate. Samarkand falls in 1366, Balikh (Balkh) 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 & Greater Khorasan)
AD 1363 - 1505

Persia was the location for a long period of unrest between about 1336-1387, while the surviving Il-Khans were used as puppets by the Chobanids and the Jalayirids for the right to claim control of all of Persia. Chaghatayid khans attempted to quell the tribes of Transoxiana but were eventually unsuccessful, despite two invasions of the region in the 1360s. The death of the khan ended Chaghatayid hopes of restoring control of western Mughulistan which included Transoxiana. Instead, two tribal leaders, Amir Husayn and Tīmūr-i Lang, contested for control of Transoxiana. The latter was ultimately successful.

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 Khabul Shah had already been put in place by Amir Husayn, and Timur had executed him and defeated Amir Husayn. Notably, this puppet had been a member of the Ögedeids (descendants of the former great khan, Ogedei), not the Chaghatayids themselves. His two successors between 1370-1402 were of the same branch, and both were entirely puppets of Timur's making.

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 subsequent power vacuum and found the Timurid dynasty. In 1405, the Timurid empire split in two, with the western, Persian, half 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. Executed.

1370 - 1384

Soyurghatmļsh Khan / Suurgatmish

Son of Danishmendji of the Chaghatayids. Puppet khan.

1382 - 1383

Having secured his conquests around Transoxiana, Timur has begun the expansion of his territory into Southern Khorasan and Persia. He forces the Kartid dynasty of Herat into submission and demands a hostage from Seistan to symbolise the subservience of the Mihrabanids. Malik Qutbuddin sends a relative named Tajuddin.

However, in 1383, despite agreeing a hostage, Timur still turns up at Seistan with his army. The two sides fail to come to agreement so Timur defeats the Mihrabanids in open battle. Qutbuddin is soon captured, imprisoned, and deported to Samarkand. He is executed three years later. Timur appoints Shah-i Shahan as governor of Seistan and proceeds to ravage the province.

1384 - 1402

Sultan Mahmud

Son. Chaghatayid puppet khan.

1390s

Khwarazm and its vast irrigation system are destroyed by Timur. It seems to be hard to find any detail of this destruction but Timur's ongoing battle for supremacy against Toqtamish Khan of the Golden Horde is probably the reason.

Map of the Timurid empire AD 1400
Timur effectively recreated the ancient Persian empire through his various conquests over the course of almost forty years, subduing many competing clans and khanates that would begin competing again after his death (click on map to show full sized)

1402

The death of Sultan Mahmud in Transoxiana marks the end of the puppet (western) Chaghatayid khans here. In Mughulistan, (eastern) 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 Qin dynasty in the eighteenth century.

1402 - 1405

Tīmūr-i Lang / Tamerlane

Mongol conqueror of Persia from Mughulistan.

1405

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.

1409

Unpopular with the people and only supported by his father and brother in Azerbaijan (on the opposite shore of the Caspian Sea), 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).

1449

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

1449 - 1450

Abd al Latīf

Son. In Transoxiana. Murdered by the princes after 6 months.

1450 - 1451

Abdallah / Abdullah

Son of Ibrahim of Herat. 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. Abdallah is removed from power and executed.

1451 - 1469

Sultan Abu Sa'id Gurgan

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

1454

Babur Ibn-Baysunkur invades Transoxiana from Herat 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.

River Oxus / Amu Darya
The River Oxus - also known over the course of many centuries as the Amu Darya - had long been used as a demarcation border, and now was used again to mark the border between two opposing Timurid rulers, Babur Ibn-Baysunkur and Abu Sa'id

1457

Abu Sa'id has Queen Goharshad, the power behind the Timurid throne, executed on 19 July. By now she is well past the age of eighty, but had exercised control over her son, Ulugh Beg, and his successor until Timurid control of Persia had been swept away in 1451.

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.

1461

Abu Sa'id completes his conquest of much of Khorasan and eastern Iran from his centre of operations in Herat, 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, the son of the former emir is supported by Abu Sa'id. Despite this, in 1468, the Black Sheep emirate is conquered, and the following year Abu Sa'id is captured in the Azerbaijan mountains whilst on campaign against the White Sheep emirate. He is subsequently executed. 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 Ferghana by Abu Sa'id's sons.

1469 - 1494

Sultan Ahmad Mirza

Son. In Transoxiana (Samarkand & Bukhara).

1494

Sultan Ahmad is returning from an expedition to Ferghana where he has been attempting to defeat the twelve year-old Babur, son of Sultan Ali Murza. Ahmad dies on the journey and leaves no heir, so his brother takes command.

1494 - 1495

Sultan Mahmud Mirza

Brother. In Transoxiana. Died due to illness.

1494

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 - 1500

Sultan Baysonqur / Baysunqr

Son. In Transoxiana.

1495 - 1500

Masud

In Transoxiana.

1495 - 1500

Sultan Ali Murza / Mirza

In Farghana.

1495 - 1504

Babur

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

1500 - 1507

The Timurids are overthrown by the Shaibanids, who conquer Transoxiana and now threaten Southern Khorasan at Herat. 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.

Map of the Tartar Khanates AD 1500
The Mongol empire created by Chingiz Khan gradually broke up over the course of three hundred years until, by around AD 1500, it had fragmented into several more-or-less stable khanates that each vied with the others for power and influence, while having to fend off the growing power of the Ottoman empire to the south and Moscow Sate (Muscovy) to the north - in the end it was an unwinnable fight (click on map to show full sized)

1511

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 but political control of the region as a whole is fracturing. Towards the west, a new khanate is formed which eventually bears the name Khiva.

1588 - 1598

In the name of Shaibanid ruler, 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.

The Shaibanid empire of Samarkand has effectively come to an end by 1598, but the khanate which has been created by them at Bukhara continues under the command of the Janid dynasty.

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.

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.

1848

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.

1865

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.

1873

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.

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.

1950s

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.

1966

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 - 2016

Islam Karimov

President, but without observing any election rules. Died 08.16.

2001

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.

2005

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.