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Uzbekistan - The Mongol Period

The rule of Khoresm shahs came to an end in 1220, when Mongol armies under Genghis Khan swept through the country. Genghis Khan’s invasion of Uzbekistan began in early 1220. The Mongols sacked Bukhara in February, Samarkand in March and Termez in autumn; Gurganj fell in April next year. All these cities were razed by the invaders, and some of them, including Samarkand and Termez, were later rebuilt in new locations. After the death of Genghis Khan in 1227 his vast empire split into several parts governed by his sons and grandsons.

The northwest part of Uzbekistan joined the Golden Horde, possession of Genghis Khan’s firstborn Juchi, and the remaining part of the country passed to his brother Jagatai (1227-1241). Khan Kepek (1318-1326), a Jagataid, moved his capital to Maverannehr. He built a palace near Nesef (Karshi in Mongol), which became the core of a large new city of Karshi (administrative centre of the present-day Kashkadarya oblast). During the reign of Tarmashirin (1326-1334) who was converted to Islam, friction developed between two fractions of Mongol nobles; one of them advocated adopting Islam and settled lifestyles, and the other strongly adhered to nomadic traditions and pagan beliefs. This strife culminated in the country’s division into Maverannahr proper and Mogulistan (the area of present-day Semirechye). As a result of collisions between the two movements and feudal faction, in the late 1350s Jagatai’s domain dissipated into more than a dozen petty states.

The Mongol invasion of Central Asia is one of the turning points in the history of the region. That event left imprints that were still discernible in the early twentieth century. The Mongols had such a lasting impact because they established the tradition that the legitimate ruler of any Central Asian state could only be a blood descendant of Chinggis Khan.

The Mongol conquest of Central Asia, which took place from 1219 to 1225, led to a wholesale change in the population of Mawarannahr. The conquest quickened the process of Turkification in the region because, although the armies of Chinggis Khan were led by Mongols, they were made up mostly of Turkic tribes that had been incorporated into the Mongol armies as the tribes were encountered in the Mongols' southward sweep. As these armies settled in Mawarannahr, they intermixed with the local populations, increasingly making the Iranians a minority. Another effect of the Mongol conquest was the large-scale damage the warriors inflicted on cities such as Bukhoro and on regions such as Khorazm. As the leading province of a wealthy state, Khorazm was treated especially severely. The irrigation networks in the region suffered extensive damage that was not repaired for several generations.

Following the death of Chinggis Khan in 1227, his empire was divided among his three sons. Despite the potential for serious fragmentation, Mongol law maintained orderly succession for several more generations, and control of most of Mawarannahr stayed in the hands of direct descendants of Chaghatai, the second son of Chinggis. Orderly succession, prosperity, and internal peace prevailed in the Chaghatai lands, and the Mongol Empire as a whole remained strong and united.

In the early fourteenth century, however, as the empire began to break up into its constituent parts, the Chaghatai territory also was disrupted as the princes of various tribal groups competed for influence. One tribal chieftain, Timur (Tamerlane), emerged from these struggles in the 1380s as the dominant force in Mawarannahr. Although he was not a descendant of Chinggis, Timur became the de facto ruler of Mawarannahr and proceeded to conquer all of western Central Asia, Iran, Asia Minor, and the southern steppe region north of the Aral Sea. He also invaded Russia before dying during an invasion of China in 1405.

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Page last modified: 14-03-2013 16:54:33 ZULU