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Uzbekistan - The Rule of Timur

In the mid-14th century Amir Temur, founder of one of the greatest empires in the East, first rose to prominence in Maverannahr. He was born in 1336 in Kesh, which later was renamed Shakhrisyabz. In April 1370 a kurultai (congress) in Balkh elected Amir Temur the supreme ruler of Maverannahr. However, Amir Temur declined the title of khan on account of not being a Genghisid, taking instead the somewhat inferior title of emir. He enthroned a nominal khan, Suyurgatmysh (1370-1388), and later his son Sultan Mahmud (1388-1402), as dummy rulers. In 1380 Amir Temur finally settled internal faction and led military expeditions to Jet (Semirechye), Khoresm and the Syrdarya valley, with the ultimate goal of consolidating the former Jagataid possessions into a new state with capital at Samarkand.

The conquest of Iran and Iraq took Amir Temur more than a decade. His major advances were made during the campaigns of 1386-1389 and 1392-1397, although the first attacks on Khorasan were mounted by him in 1381. Next his armies overran Transcaucasia, and during the seven-year expedition (1399-1404) Amir Temur defeated the Ottoman Turks and took Egypt and Syria from the Mamelukes. In 1398 North India was subdued. The main foe of Amir Temur, khan Tokhtamysh of the Golden Horde, was utterly routed twice, in 1391 and 1395. By 1403 Amir Temur’s empire grew to an enormous size, embracing Central Asia and all of the Near and Middle East from the Mediterranean to North India. He distributed these vast possessions among his sons and grandsons (Timurids) as hereditary domains.

Timur initiated the last flowering of Mawarannahr by gathering in his capital, Samarqand, numerous artisans and scholars from the lands he had conquered. By supporting such people, Timur imbued his empire with a very rich culture. During Timur's reign and the reigns of his immediate descendants, a wide range of religious and palatial construction projects were undertaken in Samarqand and other population centers. Timur also patronized scientists and artists; his grandson Ulugh Beg was one of the world's first great astronomers. It was during the Timurid dynasty that Turkish, in the form of the Chaghatai dialect, became a literary language in its own right in Mawarannahr--although the Timurids also patronized writing in Persian. Until then only Persian had been used in the region. The greatest Chaghataid writer, Ali Shir Nava'i, was active in the city of Herat, now in northwestern Afghanistan, in the second half of the fifteenth century.

Amir Temur died on 9 February 1405 in Otrar, en route to China. The Timurid state quickly broke into two halves after the death of Timur. After his death his empire began to decline, remaining nearly as big only under Shahrukh (1409-1447). At that time Maverannahr was governed by the brilliant statesman Ulugbek (killed in 1449).

The chronic internal fighting of the Timurids attracted the attention of the Uzbek nomadic tribes living to the north of the Aral Sea. The Timurid empire eventually found itself defenceless in the face of external threats. The most formidable enemy for the rulers of Khorasan and Maverannahr was khan Shaibani.

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