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Uzbekistan, History

The area of what is now Uzbekistan was incorporated into the eastern satrapies (Persian provinces ruled by a satrap) of Cyrus the Great’s Persian Empire in the 500s bc. These satrapies were known as Sogdiana, Bactria, and Khorezm. Macedonian leader Alexander the Great conquered the region in the early 300s bc, but Macedonian control lasted only until Alexander’s death in 323. In the 100s bc, part of present-day Uzbekistan was included in the vast empire of the Kushanas, descendants of a tribe from western China. At this time the region became an important part of the overland trade routes, known collectively as the Silk Road, that linked China with the Middle East and imperial Rome.

In the 3rd century ad the Sassanid dynasty of Persia gained control over the region of Central Asia. Nomadic tribes from the north invaded between the 4th and 6th centuries, and the Western Turks gained the most extensive control over the region. In the 7th and 8th centuries Arab invaders conquered present-day Uzbekistan and introduced Islam. Then in the 9th century a Persian dynasty, the Samanids, emerged as local rulers and developed Bukhoro as an important center of Muslim culture. The Samanid dynasty declined in the 10th century, however, and a number of Turkic hordes vied for control until the great conquest of Mongol emperor Genghis Khan in the 13th century. In the 14th century the area was incorporated into the empire of the Turkic conqueror Tamerlane (Timur Lang), who established the Timurid dynasty. Tamerlane made Samarqand the capital of his vast empire in 1369, fashioning it into a magnificent imperial capital. Tamerlane’s grandson Ulug Beg emerged as the ruler of Samarqand in the early 1400s.

During the 14th century, the nomadic Turkic-speaking tribal groups of Orda, Shiban, and Manghit, who inhabited the steppes of what is now Kazakhstan, formed what is often referred to as the “Uzbek” (also “Uzbeg” or “Ozbek”) confederation. From 1465 to 1466 a group under the Uzbek chieftains Janibek and Keray launched a rebellion against the khan of the confederation, Abul Khayr (1428-1468). The rebellion lasted until 1468, when the khan was killed. This group began to call themselves Qazaqs (or Kazakhs). In part because of the defeat of Abul Khayr, nomadic clans from the Uzbek confederation began to move south into what is now Uzbekistan (known then as Mawarannahr) in the late 15th century. These groups not only engaged in raids on sedentary areas but also conducted a substantial amount of trade and furnished military forces that local rulers could draw upon. The Kazakhs remained in the north.

In the first decade of the 16th century, Timurid authority collapsed when Mohammed Shaybani, grandson of Abul Khayr, seized Khorezm, Samarqand, Bukhoro, and Toshkent. The conquered lands became two separate khanates, one centered in Bukhoro, seat of the Shaybanid dynasty, and one in Khorezm, seat of the rival Yadigarid dynasty. The Shaybanid dynasty reached its zenith of power in the late 16th century under Abdullah Khan. After Abdullah Khan’s death, power in Bukhoro passed to the Janid dynasty.

During the 17th century Uzbeks continued to settle in present-day Uzbekistan, primarily in the oasis areas of the east that were already inhabited by Turkic and Persian-speaking people. In the west, a Turkic-speaking people called Qoraqalpoghs inhabited the Amu Darya delta by the 18th century; a new dynasty in Khiva (as Khorezm had come to be known) forcefully incorporated the Qoraqalpoghs’ homeland into its khanate in 1811.

Meanwhile, the Quqon (Kokand) khanate was formed in the Fergana Valley in the early 1700s. In 1740 Persian forces under Nadir Shah invaded Bukhoro and then Khiva, conquering both territories. Persian control was short-lived, effectively ending with Nadir Shah’s death in 1747, and the Janid dynasty never recovered. Uzbek clans succeeded in ousting the Janids by the late 18th century, creating three states ruled by rival Uzbek dynasties. The Kungrats were enthroned at Khiva, the Manghits at Bukhoro, and the Mins at Quqon. The Manghits ruled as emirs, making Bukhoro an emirate, while the other two dynasties established khanates. Although distinct borders were never drawn, these three states dominated the area roughly corresponding to present-day Uzbekistan, or the area between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Bukhoro was centrally located, and included the cities of Bukhoro and Samarqand; Khiva was farther to the west in the area of the Amu Darya delta; and Quqon was centered in the Fergana Valley in the east. In the early and mid-19th century, the khanate of Quqon expanded into the Tien Shan mountains in the east and the Syr Darya basin in the north.

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