History of Uzbekistan  

History of Uzbekistan

Since ancient times, the geopolitical location of Uzbekistan has been where the main caravan roads traversed to link Asia and Europe, predicating the historical richness of the land. The country is situated in the middle of Central Asia between the Amu-Darya and Syr- Darya rivers and was named "maa-waraa-nahr" by Arabs, meaning "a place between two rivers".

Like most of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is one of the cradles of human civilization. Archaeological investigations show that the process of inhabiting the territory of Uzbekistan dates back to the Stone Age, and the most ancient information on the nationalities of Central Asia is documented in the Avesta-the code of holy hymns of the Zoroastrians. Many researchers consider Central Asia as the native land of this religion. According to original sources, these lands were inhabited by Soghdians, Bactrians and other nationalities. During the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries B.C., a greater part of the Central Asian lands was under the power of the Persian dynasty of Akhemenids. The above mentioned nationalities are described in Persian original sources. Greek writers mentioned the existence of Marakanda city (today's Samarkand) and Kiropol in Ferghana. Archaeologists have studied many other cities of that period situated in North Bactria, Khorezm, and Marghilan.

From ancient times, the wealth of the land attracted foreign conquerors. In the third and fourth centuries B.C., Central Asia was conquered by the Macedonians. Conquest by Alexander the Great had a great effect on the economic and cultural development of the peoples of the East, West and Central Asia.

In the middle of the third century B.C., the conquered regions became independent and local dynasties came to power. Bactria, which included the southern parts of Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan, became the hub of the Greek- Bactrian empire and later came under control of the Kushan empire. After the conquest of Central Asia by Alexander the Great, studies of the subsequent period depict development and the heyday of architecture, painting, handcrafts, and music.

During the seventh and eighth centuries, Central Asia was conquered by the Arab Khalifat. The Arabs took over these countries under the mission of spreading the new religion of Islam. As a result, their conquest entirely changed the region's way of life. Building construction, art and science declined under the pressures of war and continued only in the middle of the nineth century. This was connected with the creation of independent empires ruled by the dynasties of the local aristocracy: the Tahirids and Samanids. In the l0th century, the Arabs were forced to withdraw their troops and the Samanids rose to power.

Ismail Samani, the founder of the Samanid dynasty, chose Bukhara for his capital. Architects of the region created their own unique cultural structure - mosques covered by a dome. The nineth, tenth, and eleventh centuries (A.C.) were the heyday of life in the ancient city centers, such as Bukhara, Samarkand, and Termez. A most interesting example of 10th century architecture is the Mausoleum of lsmail Samani in Bukhara. This is believed to be one of the greatest monuments in the Islamic world, built in the nineth century. The K-alon minaret in Bukhara is another masterpiece of the period.

In 1220-1221 Central Asia could not withstand the invasion of Genghiz-Khan's army. Many cities, such as Bukhara, Khorezm, and Samarkand were destroyed. Thousands of people perished (in Samarkand, only 50,000 out of a population of one million survived).

In the middle of the 14th century with the help of the famous warlord Tamerlane the local people were freed from the Mongols. Tamerlane began his succsessful marches to Iraq, India, Turkey, and noth Africa that led to establishing one of the most powerful medival empires, with Samarkand as the capital. Restoration and development of the cities (Samarkand and Shakhrisabz, Tamerlane's native town in particular), revived commerce, handyerafts, sceince and the arts. Monuments belonging to that period and still stand today are the Bibi Khanum mosque, the Shahi Zinda complex of ancient mausoleums, Registan Square, the Gur Emir mausoleum which was built as the burial place for Tamerlane. After Tamerlane's death, the empire existed for another century, then collapsed and fell into a number of small states.

In the 14th century Uzbek nomadic tribes invaded from the north, conquering the small feudal states of Timurids and formed thier own state (later to be called Uzbekistan). The term " Uzbek" means "master" or "lord" of oneself.

Later on, two large khanates - Bukhara and Khiva - were formed. Isolation decreased, and trade and other relations with foreign countries and slowed down the economic development of the region. The economics of Central Asia in the past owed to stable relations with China, India and Europe. In the 2nd century B.C. caravan trade routes connected South-East Europe, Iraq, Caucasus, and Central Asia with Mongolia and China, and is now known as the great Silk Road. The Silk Road passed through the centers of Central Asia - Samarkand, Bukhara, Marghilan, Shakhrisabz, and Andijan.

Through the trade ties of the Central Asian states with foreign countries, world civilization grew enriched with the sceintific and spiritual works of such great thinkers as lbn Sino (Avicenna), Beruni (Albiron), AI- Termezi, Ferghani, Farabi, Ulugbek, Navoi, Babur, AI-Khorezmi and others.

Central Asian architects made a considerable contribution to the global field. A unique style of architecture is spread all over the region and its ancient capitals: Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, that concentrated the very best designing skills and arts of the age. One can feel the atmosphere of medieval Asian cities with squares, caravan-sarays, trade centers, and handicrafts created over many centuries.

In the second half of the 19th century the Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand khanates were joined to the Russian Empire. During this period agriculture was highly developed in Uzbekistan for one specific reason: it was more economical to grow cotton in Central Asia instead of importing it from the US. Cotton became the most important agricultural item. The construction of railroads made its impact on the development of trade and cultural relations between Asia and Europe. That was when the country began to overcome its earlier period of stagnation.

The Russia Revolution in 1917 changed the political situation in Turkestan and in 1922 Uzbekistan became one of the republics of the USSR. Uzbekistan announced its independence and September l, 1991 was proclaimed as its Independence Day. Upon gaining its statehood, Uzbekistan began to work out its own way of becoming a renewed, developing sovereign democratic republic. The country is a multinational state: more than 129 nationalities and national minorities live there as well as 15 different confessions that have coexisted peacefully for several centuries. People here are also known for their ancient ethic of working hard in order to achieve a better life.


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