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Uzbekistan - The Turkification of Mawarannahr

This dramatic epoch, which corresponds to the climax of medieval culture in the West, can be divided into two periods: the 9th-10th centuries, when the Takhirid and then Samanid rulers hold power under the religious and to some extent political leadership of Abbasid caliphs; and the 11th-13th centuries, when the Persian dynasties were replaced by a succession of Turkic rulers (the Karakhanids, Seljukids, Gaznevids and Anushteginids), and the influence of the caliphs was confined to spiritual leadership. Restoration of the native Central Asian state systems occurred in the 9th-10th centuries, when the unity of the Arab caliphate was broken both in the West (in Morocco, North Africa and Andalusia) and East (in Khorasan and Maverannahr).

The beginning of this process can be attributed to the period of the Barmakids, whose ancestors were Buddhist high priests from Balkh. In the early 9th century the northeast provinces of the caliphate were united under the Takhirid dynasty (821-874) founded by Takhir ibn Hussein. In 821 he was made the governor of Khorasan, which at that time covered nearly all the northeast domains of the caliphate, including Maverannahr with Bukhara, Samarkand and Chach. Takhir ruled the area as an independent monarch and coined his own money. Eventually, in 822, he ordered not to mention caliph Mamun in khutba (Friday prayer), which indicated gaining full independence according to Muslim traditions.

In the ninth century, the continued influx of nomads from the northern steppes brought a new group of people into Central Asia. These people were the Turks who lived in the great grasslands stretching from Mongolia to the Caspian Sea. Introduced mainly as slave soldiers to the Samanid Dynasty, these Turks served in the armies of all the states of the region, including the Abbasid army.

The peak of the Takhirid’s power occurred under Abu-al Abbas Abdallakh ibn Takhir (830-844), who consolidated his domain as a true sovereignty. He strengthened the political and administrative power and enforced radical reforms in agriculture, water supply, crafts, mining, taxation and monetary system. The Takhirid period was also the time of the final victory of Islam in Maverannahr. The Takhirid rulers were succeeded in Maverannahr by the Samanids.

In 892 Ismail ibn Ahmad ascended the throne and embarked on an ambitious struggle to convert Maverannahr into a major power in the Muslim world. Under his rule, his state embraced the territory of present-day Uzbekistan, the northeast provinces of Iran, part of Afghanistan and South Kazakhstan; Bukhara was his capital. The last Samanid ruler, Abu Ibrahim Ismail the Muntasir (Arabic for "victorious"), was killed in 1005, and his state was divided between two khanates under the Turkic dynasties of the Karakhanids and Gaznevids.

In the late tenth century, as the Samanids began to lose control of Mawarannahr and northeastern Iran, some of these soldiers came to positions of power in the government of the region, and eventually they established their own states. With the emergence of a Turkic ruling group in the region, other Turkic tribes began to migrate to Mawarannahr. The first of the Turkic states in the region was the Ghaznavid Empire, established in the last years of the tenth century.

The Ghaznavid state, which ruled lands south of the Amu Darya, was able to conquer large areas of Iran, Afghanistan, and northern India during the reign of Sultan Mahmud. The dominance of Ghazna was curtailed, however, when large-scale Turkic migrations brought in two new groups of Turks who undermined the Ghaznavids. In the east, these Turks were led by the Qarakhanids, who conquered the Samanids. Then the Seljuk family led Turks into the western part of the region, conquering the Ghaznavid territory of Khorazm (also spelled Khorezm and Khwarazm).

The Karakhanid khanate was founded in the 10th century by Satuk, a Turkic convert. His son Musa made Islam the state religion in 960. The khanate in turn split into two parts: the eastern, with capital at Balasagun (in present-day Kyrgyzstan) and the western, with capital at Taraz, South Kazakhstan, and later at Kashgar. The ethnic composition of the khanate was dominated by the Turkic tribes of Karluks, Chigili and Yagma. In the late 10th century the Karakhanids began to attack Maverannahr, and in the beginning of the 10th century they defeated the Samanids and annexed their territory almost entirely. The only provinces which escaped subjugation were Khoresm, governed by Mamun from the house of the Iraqids, and Termez under the Gaznevid sultan Mahmud.

The latter dynasty was founded by Sebuk, a former priest, and attained its peak of power under sultan Mahmud (998-1030). Mahmud’s state, with capital at Gazna, included vast territories from the Caspian Sea to North India and part of present-day Uzbekistan. After Mahmud’s death his possessions gradually shrank, with Khorasan and Maverannahr coming under the control of the Seljukids and Karakhanids.

Attracted by the wealth of Central Asia as were earlier groups, the Seljuks dominated a wide area from Asia Minor to the western sections of Mawarannahr, in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq in the eleventh century. The Seljuk Empire then split into states ruled by various local Turkic and Iranian rulers. The culture and intellectual life of the region continued unaffected by such political changes, however. Turkic tribes from the north continued to migrate into the region during this period.

In the late twelfth century, a Turkic leader of Khorazm, which is the region south of the Aral Sea, united Khorazm, Mawarannahr, and Iran under his rule. Under the rule of the Khorazm shah Kutbeddin Muhammad and his son, Muhammad II, Mawarannahr continued to be prosperous and rich. However, a new incursion of nomads from the north soon changed this situation. This time the invader was Chinggis (Genghis) Khan with his Mongol armies.

In the 1240s khan Ibrahim the Tamgach put an end to dependence on the eastern Karakhanid khanate and established an independent state in Maverannahr, making Samarkand his capital. During his reign the territory of his khanate was extended to include all of Maverannahr, Chach, Ilak and Fergana. The Karakhanids’ state consisted of a number of dependencies whose rulers were essentially independent monarchs and even coined their own money; this was the principal weakness of the dynasty. The khanate was exposed to permanent pressure from external foes, the Seljukids and later, in the 12th century, the Kara-Kitai. The Seljukids built a vast empire which extended from Byzantium in the west to Tokharistan in the east, and flourished under Ali-Arslan (1063-1078) and Malik- Shah (1078-1093). Its capital was at Merv.

In the late 1330s a new formidable power, Kara-Kitai, emerged on the eastern border of the khanate; by this name Muslim writers meant a nomadic Manchu people originating from the Tarim basin (East Turkistan). In 1141 the Kara-Kitai destroyed the allied armies of the Seljukids and Karakhanids in a battle in the Katvan steppe. The population of Maverannahr was imposed a heavy tribute – a dinar from each household – to be delivered to the military capital of the Kara-Kitai at Balasagun. However, the Karakhanids retained administrative control of the state, although it shrank in size dramatically. In Bukhara, the power was usurped by the sadrs (Arabic for "column"), a religious dynasty who claimed descent from caliph Omar.

Later in the 12th century the Karluks, traditional enemies of the Karakhanids, began to settle in Maverannahr. At the same time the southern part of Uzbekistan was invaded by the Gurids, an Afghan dynasty from the mountainous region of Gur. The Karakhanid state was no longer a whole: in Samarkand, Chach, Fergana, Chaganian and Termez the descendants of the Karakhanids established their own royal houses.

In the 12th century the Anushteginids, a dynasty of Turkic shahs from Khoresm, rose to power. Sultan Tekesh (1172-1200) took Khorasan and West Iran from the Seljukids. His son Muhammad (1200-1220) repulsed the Kara-Kitai and Gurid armies, and quelled a popular uprising in Khorasan and a revolt staged by Malik Sanjar in Bukhara. In 1210 Muhammad executed Usman, the last Karakhanid ruler of Samarkand, and in two years unseated the rulers of other former Karakhanid provinces. Having disposed of internal rivalry, Muhammad conquered Iran and Afghanistan. His military success eventually led to the rise of the powerful state of Khoresm shahs with capital at Gurganj (Kunya-Urgench).

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Page last modified: 14-03-2013 16:54:31 ZULU