BOKHARA, or Bukhara (the common central Asian pronunciation is Bukhara), a state of central Asia, under the protection of Russia. It lies on the right bank of the middle Oxus, between 37° and 41° N., and between 62° and 72° E., and is bounded by the Russian governments of Syr-darya, Samarkand and Ferghana on the N., the Pamirs on the E., Afghanistan on the S., and the Transcaspian territory and Khiva on the W. Its south-eastern frontier on the Pamirs is undetermined except where it touches the Russian dominions. Including the khanates of Karateghin and Darvaz the area is about 85,000 sq. m. The western portion of the state is a plain watered by the Zarafshan and by countless irrigation canals drawn from it. It has in the east the Karnap-chul steppe, covered with grass in early summer, and in the north an intrusion of the Kara-kum sand desert. Land suitable for cultivation is found only in oases, where it is watered by irrigation canals, but these oases are very fertile. The middle portion of the state is occupied by high plateaus, about 4000 ft. in altitude, sloping from the Tian-shan, and intersected by numerous rivers, flowing towards the Oxus. This region, very fertile in the valleys and enjoying a cooler and damper climate than the lower plains, is densely populated, and agriculture and cattle-breeding are carried on extensively. Here are the towns of Karshi, Kitab, Shaar, Chirakchi and Guzar or Huzar. The Hissar range, a westward continuation of the Alai Mountains, separates the Zarafshan from the tributaries of the Oxus - the Surkhan, Kafirnihan and Vakhsh. Its length is about 200 m., and its passes, 1000 to 3000 ft. below the surrounding peaks, reach altitudes of 12,000 to 14,000 ft. and are extremely difficult. Numbers of rivers pierce or flow in wild gorges between its spurs. Its southern foot-hills, covered with loess, make the fertile valleys of Hissar and the Vakhsh. The climate is so dry, and the rains are so scarce, that an absence of forests and Alpine meadows is characteristic of the ridge; but when heavy rain falls simultaneously with the melting of the snows in the mountains, the watercourses become filled with furious torrents, which create great havoc. The main glaciers (12) are on the north slope, but none creeps below 10,000 to 12,000 ft. The Peter the Great range, or Periokh-tau, in Karateghin, south of the valley of the Vakhsh, runs west-south-west to east-north-east for about 130 m., and is higher than the Hissar range. From the meridian of Garm or Harm it rises above the snowline, attaining at least 18,000 ft. in the Sary-kaudal peak, and 20,000 ft. farther east where it joins the snow-clad Darvaz range, and where the group Sandal, adorned with several glaciers, rises to 24,000 or 25,000 ft. Only three passes, very difficult, are known across it.
Darvaz, a small vassal state of Bokhara, is situated on the Panj, where it makes its sharp bend westwards, and is emphatically a mountainous region, agriculture being possible only in the lower parts of the valleys. The population, about 35,000, consists chiefly of Moslem Tajiks, and the closely-related Galchas, and its chief town is Kala-i-khumb on the Panj, at an altitude of 4370 ft.
The chief river of Bokhara is the Oxus or Amu-darya, which separates it from Afghanistan on the south, and then flows along its south-west border. It is navigated from the mouth of the Surkhan, and steamboats ply on it up to Karki near the Afghan frontier. The next largest river, the Zarafshan, 660 m. long, the water of which is largely utilized for irrigation, is lost in the sands 20 m. before reaching the Oxus. The Kashka-darya, which flows westwards out of the glaciers of Hazret-sultan (west of the Hissar range), supplies the Shahri-sabs (properly Shaar-sabiz) oasis with water, but is lost in the desert to the west of Karshi.
The climate of Bokhara is extreme. In the lowlands a very hot summer is followed by a short but cold winter, during which a frost of -20° Fahr. may set in, and the Oxus may freeze for a fortnight. In the highlands this hot and dry summer is followed by four months of winter; and, finally, in the regions above 8000 ft. there is a great development of snowfields and glaciers, the passes are buried under snow, and the short summer is rainy. The lowlands are sometimes visited by terrible sand-storms from the west, which exhaust men and kill the cotton trees. Malaria is widely prevalent, and in some years, after a wet spring, assumes a malignant character.
The population is estimated at 1,250,000. The dominant race is the Uzbegs, who are fanatical Moslem Sunnites, scorn work, despise their Iranian subjects, and maintain their old division into tribes or clans. The nomad Turkomans and the nomad Kirghiz are also of Turkish origin; while the Sarts, who constitute the bulk of the population in the towns, are a mixture of Turks with Iranians. The great bulk of the population in the country is composed of Iranian Tajiks, who differ but very little from Sarts. Besides these there are Afghans, Persians, Jews, Arabs and Armenians. Much of the trade is in the hands of a colony of Hindus from Shikarpur. Nearly 20% of the population are nomads and about 15% semi-nomads.
On the irrigated lowlands rice, wheat and other cereals are cultivated, and exported to the highlands. Cotton is widely grown and exported. Silk is largely produced, and tobacco, wine, flax, hemp and fruits are cultivated. Cattle-breeding is vigorously prosecuted in Hissar and the highlands generally. Cotton, silks, woollen cloth, and felt are manufactured, also boots, saddles, cutlery and weapons, pottery and various oils. Salt, as also some iron and copper, and small quantities of gold are extracted. Trade has been greatly promoted by the building of the Transcaspian railway across the country (from Charjui on the Oxus to Kati-kurgan) in 1886-1888. The exports to Russia consist of raw cotton and silk, lamb-skins, fruits and carpets, and the imports of manufactured goods and sugar. The imports from India are cottons, tea, shawls and indigo. There are very few roads; goods are transported on camels, or on horses and donkeys in the hilly tracts.
Bokhara has for ages been looked upon as the centre of Mussulman erudition in central Asia. About one-fourth of the population is said to be able to read and write. The primary schools are numerous in the capital, as well as in the other cities, and even exist in villages, and madrasas or theological seminaries for higher courses of study are comparatively plentiful. The mullahs or priests enjoy very great influence, but the people are very superstitious, believing in witchcraft, omens, spirits and the evil eye. Women occupy a low position in the social scale, though slavery has been abolished at the instance of Russia. The emir of Bokhara is an autocratic ruler, his power being limited only by the traditional custom (sheriat) of the Mussulmans. He maintains an army of some 11,000 men, but is subject to Russian control, being in fact a vassal of that empire.
History. - Bokhara was known to the ancients under the name of Sogdiana. It was too far removed to the east ever to be brought under the dominion of Rome, but it has shared deeply in all the various and bloody revolutions of Asia. The foundation of the capital is ascribed to Efrasiab, the great Persian hero. After the conquests of Alexander the Great Sogdiana formed part of the empire of the Seleucidae, and shared the fortunes of the rather better-known Bactria. Somewhat later the nomad Yue-chi began to move into the valley of the Oxus from the east, and gradually became a settled territorial power in Bactria and Sogdiana, and the dominions of their king, Kadphises I. (who is believed to have come to the throne about A.D. 45), extended from Bokhara to the Indus. The district, however, was reconquered by Persia under the Sassanian dynasty, and we hear of Nestorian Christians at Samarkand, at any rate in the 6th century. Islam was introduced shortly after the Arab conquest of Persia (640-642) and speedily became the dominant faith. In the early centuries of Mahommedan rule Sogdiana was one of the most celebrated and flourishing districts of central Asia. It was called Sughd, and contained the two great cities of Samarkand and Bokhara, of which the former was generally the seat of government, while the latter had a high reputation as a seat of religion and learning. During the early middle ages this legion was also known as Ma wara 'l Nahr or Ma-vera-un-nahr, the meaning of which is given in the alternative classical title of Transoxiana. Malik Shah, third of the Seljuk dynasty of Persia, passed the Oxus about the end of the 11th century, and subdued the whole country watered by that river and the Jaxartes. In 1216 Bokhara was again subdued by Mahommed Shah Khwarizm, but his conquest was wrested from him by Jenghiz Khan in 1220. The country was wasted by the fury of this savage conqueror, but recovered something of its former prosperity under Ogdai Khan, his son, whose disposition was humane and benevolent. His posterity kept possession till 1369, when Timur or Tamerlane bore down everything before him, and established his capital at Samarkand, which with Bokhara regained for a time its former splendour. Babar, the fifth in descent from Timur, was originally prince of Ferghana, but conquered Samarkand and northern India, where he founded the Mogul (Mughal) empire. His descendants ruled in the country until about 1500, when it was overrun by the Uzbeg Tatars, under Abulkhair or Ebulkheir Khan, the founder of the Shaibani dynasty, with which the history of Bokhara properly commences. The most remarkable representative of this family was Abdullah Khan (1556-1598), who greatly extended the limits of his kingdom by the conquest of Badakshan, Herat and Meshhed, and increased its prosperity by the public works which he authorized. Before the close of the century, however, the dynasty was extinct, and Bokhara was at once desolated by a Kirghiz invasion and distracted by a disputed succession. At length, in 1598, Baki Mehemet Khan, of the Astrakhan branch of the Timur family, mounted the throne, and thus introduced the dynasty of the Ashtarkhanides. The principal event of his reign was the defeat he inflicted on Shah Abbas of Persia in the neighbourhood of Balkh. His brother Vali Mehemet, who succeeded in 1605, soon alienated his subjects, and was supplanted by his nephew Imamkuli. After a highly prosperous reign this prince resigned in favour of his brother, Nazr Mehemet, under whom the country was greatly troubled by the rebellion of his sons, who continued to quarrel with each other after their father's death. Meanwhile the district of Khiva, previously subject to Bokhara, was made an independent khanate by Abdul-Gazi Bahadur Khan; and in the reign of Subhankuli, who ascended the throne in 1680, the political power of Bokhara was still further lessened, though it continued to enjoy the unbounded respect of the Sunnite Mahommedans. Subhankuli died in 1702, and a war of succession broke out between his two sons, who were supported by the rivalry of two Uzbeg tribes. After five years the contest terminated in favour of Obeidullah, who was little better than a puppet in the hands of Rehim Bi Atalik, his vizier. The invasion of Nadir Shah of Persia came to complete the degradation of the land; and in 1740 the feeble king, Abu 'l-Faiz, paid homage to the conqueror, and was soon after murdered and supplanted by his vizier. The time of the Ashtarkhanides had been for the most part a time of dissolution and decay; fanaticism and imbecility went hand in hand. On its fall (1785) the throne was seized by the Manghit family in the person of Mir Ma'sum, who pretended to the most extravagant sanctity, and proved by his military career that he had no small amount of ability. He turned his attention to the encroachments of the Afghans, and in 1781 reconquered the greater part of what had been lost to the south of the Oxus. Dying in 1802 he was succeeded by Saïd, who in bigotry and fanaticism was a true son of his father. In 1826 Nasrullah mounted the throne, and began with the murder of his brother a reign of continued oppression and cruelty. Meanwhile Bokhara became an object of rivalry to Russia and England, and envoys were sent by both nations to cultivate the favour of the emir, who treated the Russians with arrogance and the English with contempt. Two emissaries of the British government, Colonel C. Stoddart and Captain A. Conolly, were thrown by Nasrullah into prison, where they were put to death in 1842. In 1862-1864 Arminius Vambéry made in the disguise of a dervish a memorable journey through this fanatical state. At this time the Russian armies were gradually advancing, and at last they appeared in Khokand; but the new emir, Mozaffer-eddin, instead of attempting to expiate the insults of his predecessor, sent a letter to General M.G. Chernayev summoning him to evacuate the country, and threatening to raise all the faithful against him. In 1866 the Russians invaded the territory of Bokhara proper, and a decisive battle was fought on the 20th of May at Irdjar on the left bank of the Jaxartes. The Bokharians were defeated; but after a period of reluctant peace they forced the emir to renew the war. In 1868 the Russians entered Samarkand (May 14), and the emir was constrained to submit to the terms of the conqueror, becoming henceforward only a Russian puppet.
See Khanikov's Bokhara, translated by De Bode (1845); Vambéry, Travels in Central Asia (1864), Sketches of Central Asia (1868), and History of Bokhara (1873); Fedchenko's "Sketch of the Zarafshan Valley" in Journ. R. Geogr. Soc. (1870); Hellwald, Die Russen in Central Asien (1873); Lipsky, Upper Bukhara, in Russian (1902); Skrine and Ross, The Heart of Asia (1899); Lord Ronaldshay, Outskirts of Empire in Asia (1904); and Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate (1905).
(P. A. K.; C. El.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)