Sunday, August 30, 2020


Asia Minor–modern Turkey–was formerly inhabited by a variety of non-Turkic peoples. Most of these people spoke Indo-European languages and included the Hittites, Phrygians, and Luwians (Troy was probably a Luwian city). After the conquests of Alexander the Great, Asia Minor was mostly Hellenized and remained solidly Greek until the 11th century, with Armenians forming the majority in the eastern parts of the region, as they had since antiquity. In the second half of the first millennium CE, Turkic peoples were gradually streaming into most of Central Asia from their original homeland in the Altai mountains of western Mongolia. They gradually displaced or assimilated both the settled and nomadic Iranian-speaking people. But how did they get all the way to Turkey, which has the largest concentration of Turkic peoples today? In the 11th century, Turks began appearing at the edges of Asia Minor (Anatolia), which was then controlled by the Greeks. Many of the Turks were mercenaries in the employ of local Arab and Persian rulers to the east of the Byzantine Empire and Armenia, the dominant states in Asia Minor. In 1037, the Seljuk Empire, a Turkic state, was founded northeast of Iran in Central Asia and quickly overran much of Persia, Iraq, and the Levant. By the 1060s, the Seljuk Empire bordered Byzantine Asia Minor. It should be noted that the Turks were a minority, ruling a Persian, Arab, and Kurdish majority. The main strategic threat to the Turks was the Fatimid Caliphate based in Egypt. The Fatimids were Ismaili Shia and ruled over Jerusalem and Mecca at that time while the Turks upheld Sunni Islam. The Sunni Caliph in Baghdad was their puppet. By this time, the Caliph had ceased to exercise any political role while the Seljuk sultans held the reigns of power. As was the case of many empires, many problems arose due to the conflicts between nomadic rulers and a sedentary population. Thus, many of the Turkic tribes under Seljuk rule actually posed a problem for the Seljuks since they were restless and sometimes raided settled populations ruled by the Seljuks. As a result, many of the Turkic tribes and families were placed on the frontiers of the Seljuk Empire, including on the frontier of the Byzantine Empire. Turkish raids into Asia Minor commenced, greatly annoying the Byzantines. In 1045, the Byzantines conquered Armenia. Their frontier with the Seljuks was not particularly strong or pacified as a result of the intermittent warfare there. Additionally, many Armenians did not like the Byzantines and did not help them resist the Turkish raids. Eventually, by 1071, the Byzantines, exasperated at constant Turkish raiding, decided to move a large army to their borders to eliminate the Turkish threat once and for all. Unfortunately, this was not a particularly good idea, because their strength lay in manning border forts against lightly armed tribal warriors. By attempting to fight a pitched battle, they also risked total defeat. Furthermore, the Seljuk Turks did not want to antagonize the Byzantines. Their state apparatus was directed against Egypt; it was only tribes that were barely under central Seljuk control that were raiding the Byzantines. Romanus IV Diogenes, the Byzantine Emperor, created a previously non-existent threat for the Seljuks by moving some 40,000 troops to his eastern border, thus alerting the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan to the threat from Asia Minor. Thus, the Byzantines, by diverting the Turks’ attention from Egypt, brought a Turkic army to Asia Minor from Persia and Central Asia. The Seljuk and Byzantine armies met at Manzikert in eastern Turkey, where the Byzantines were crushed. This is arguably one of the most decisive battles in history, as it resulted in the eventual establishment of Turkish power in Asia Minor. It was likely that the battle was lost by the Byzantines due to treachery, because units commanded by generals belonging to alternative court factions in Constantinople simply never showed up for the battle, despite being in the vicinity, and returned home afterwards. Sultan Alp Arslan captured Emperor Diogenes and and offered him generous terms before sending him home. However shortly afterwards, the Byzantine empire suffered a civil war between Diogenes and other contenders for the throne and several generals broke his treaty with the Turks. This left Asia Minor devoid of soldiers and gave the Turks good reason to occupy it. By 1081, they were across the Bosphorus Straits from Constantinople. Although the Byzantines and Crusaders later recovered some territory in Asia Minor, from then on, the majority of the region remained under Turkish control. But groups of Turks ruled over many states in the Middle East and South Asia at this point in time. Why did they become the majority in Turkey? After the Seljuk victory, many Turks poured into Asia Minor, establishing little statelets, and ruling over the native population. Following the subsequent Mongol invasions, even more poured in, fleeing from their former lands in Persia and Central Asia. Unlike in many other cases, where a dominant minority eventually became assimilated into the majority population, because of the unstable, chaotic frontier situation, the Turks did not assimilate into the population. Indeed, many locals (ethnic Greeks and Armenians) attached themselves to Turkish warlords for protection as clients. This client-patron relationship spread out over many bands and tribes across Asia Minor and ensured that the majority of the population assimilated into the Turkish religion (Islam), language, and culture instead of vice versa. This is a cultural process known as elite dominance, wherein a minority imposes its culture on the majority. The Turkification of Asia Minor is evident in the fact that genetically, the majority of today’s Turks are most closely related to Greeks and Armenians rather than Central Asian Turkic peoples, like the Uzbeks and Kazakhs. Thus, while the Turkic culture dominated in Asia Minor, the Turks themselves quickly merged genetically into the native population. Genetic studies show that around 15 percent of the Turkish genetic mixture derives from Central Asia. Asia Minor was the most populous part of the Byzantine Empire, its heartland. Without it, the empire simply didn’t have enough resources to compete in the long run. Turkification was also helped by the fact that the Greeks were of a different religion than the Turks. Greeks converting to Islam would adopt Turkish language. Furthermore, in the later Ottoman Empire, the Turkish language prevailed at the official level, and not local languages. As a result of all these factors, densely populated Asia Minor became the region of the world with the largest concentration of Turkic-speaking peoples, far away from their original homeland in Central Asia. ED:

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


The Scythians (pronounced ‘SIH-thee-uns’) were a group of ancient tribes of nomadic warriors who originally lived in what is now southern Siberia. Their culture flourished from around 900 BC to around 200 BC (Iron age). The Ancient Greeks whose lands bordered Scythia gave the name Scythia (or Great Scythia) to all the lands north-east of Europe and the northern coast of the Black Sea. In the seventh century BC, the Scythian's controlled large swaths of territory throughout Eurasia, from the Black Sea across Siberia to the borders of China. Its location and extent varied over time, but it usually extended farther to the west and significantly farther to the east than is indicated on the map. The Scythian's were energetic but peaceful people, they preferred a free-riding way of life. No writing system that dates to the period has ever been attested, so majority of written information available today about the region and its inhabitants at the time stems from proto-historical writings of ancient civilizations which had connections to the region, primarily those of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Ancient Persia.  

 The most detailed western description is by the"Father of History”, Herodotus, who referred to the “Scythian's” as Sacae and said their own name for themselves was "Scoloti" they were nomads, wandering from place to place in search of the most convenient land for farming. They held horses with especially high esteem. They were most famous for galloping on a horse at full speed while shooting bows, a skill particularly useful in warfare. The Scythian warrior spirit led them to become an archetype for the Greek valiant half-man and half-horse centaur. Their invasions into distant nations resulted not only in spoils, but also in the accumulation of a wealth of knowledge regarding different cultures that they brought back with themselves. 

The Scythians were not only talented in warfare, especially cavalry, they were also developed an outstanding art called “beast (or animal) style”, which is characterized by the flowing movements of beasts of prey, some mythical like griffins, and herbivores like the horses they loved and the fierce struggle between them. Women were valued just as equally as men in Scythian society, and their civilization saw great women leaders in international affairs. For example, when the Persians invaded the territory of the Massagetae Scythian's in 530 BCE (now part of todays Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) Tomyris, the Scythian queen leading her army defeated the Persians. In one of the most famous stories of antiquity, Tomyris ordered the head of the captured Cyrus the Great, the Persian King, to be cut off and placed into a wine skin filled with his blood in revenge for the death of her son in a prior battle. The nearly continuous war between the Scythia's and the Persians eventually resulted in the partial alliance of two groups. In 518 BCE Persians set their troops against the Scythian's again, with Persian king Darius I leading his army. The Persian troops were intimidated by the valiant Scythian cavalry, which forced the panic-stricken Persians to flee. As a result of a prolonged battle with the Persians, a part of the Scythian's forces were defeated, and they were forced to provide cavalry for the Persian army. In the Battle of Marathon (490 BCE) the Scythian's fought on the side of the Persians, previously an enemy, now an ally, against the Greeks. The records of Herodotus survived to tell of the bravery of the Scythians and their alliance with the Persian King Xerxes I (the son of Darius I) against the Greeks in the Battle of Plataea (479 BCE). The land of the Scythian's also drew the attention of Alexander the Great. He led a war to crush the Scythian's in the Jaxartes River region, known today as Syr-Darya, in around 329 BCE. He founded his ninth city, Alexandria Eskhate (“Farthest Alexandria”), at the banks of the Syr-Darya River now in southern Kazakhstan,  

  Many of the customs, traditions, and language of the Karakalpaks are deeply rooted back to the Scythians.
According to historical sources, Saka people lived in Karakalpakstan back in the Neolithic Age. The gravestones tombs of Darius I, dating back to the 5th century BC show that the territory around the Aral Sea and Syrdarya were was occupied by the “Saka tigraxauda” (Scythians with pointy hats"). From the 2nd century BCE to the 6th centuries ACE Turkic tribes migrated from the territory of the Altay and Siberia. An assimilation of the indigenous and nomadic Turkic Saka population resulted in a new ethnic group known as Pechenegs. These tribes formed the basis of the formation of ethnic Karakalpaks and Kazakh hordes. The very word 'karakalpak "means " black hats "and refers to the fact that Karakalpaks wore hats from the black sheep's wool.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Road and Rail Map of Kazakhstan

Modern day Karakalpaks living in Kazakhstan

Karakalpaks’ unique culture worth celebrating and preserving in Kazakhstan, says community leader

Tazabike Saliyeva and community members
The Karakalpaks, an ethnic group native to Karakalpakstan in northwestern Uzbekistan, number approximately 620,000 worldwide, 56,000 of which reside in Kazakhstan. The group settled on the Amu Darya river in the 18th century and may also be found in significant numbers in Russia and Turkmenistan. Their name comes from the words kara (black) and kalpak (hat).
Kazakhstan’s Karakalpak community began to develop in its first years of independence. Twenty-six years ago, the Karakalpak association Alayar Zholy was established in the Mangyshlak region. Later, similar associations emerged in Almaty – Bes Kala and Amiyu Zhahasy, Atyrau – Yedil Zhaiyk and Shymkent – Amiyu Sheshekleri.
“The Karakalpak ethno-cultural association Zhaikhun was established in Astana Dec. 9, 2016. Since then, we have been actively participating in all events held by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan in the capital,” said Saliyeva.
Tazabike Saliyeva and community members
The Karakalpaks’ language, customs and material culture are similar to other Central Asian groups, particularly that of the Kazakhs. The group uniquely preserves its rich folklore through oral folk art, with many tales and epics set to music. Interestingly, it is dance that brought the community and its leader together in Astana.
“As a choreographer, I have worked with many national centres in the capacity of a dance director. I was sad to discover that, among these centres, there was not a single Karakalpak centre showcasing the group’s rich culture, history, customs and literary heritage. For instance, 156 volumes of Karakalpak oral folk art have been preserved. We thus decided to create our own centre, the Karakalpak ethno-cultural association Zhaikhun,” said Saliyeva.
“The centre actively participates in charity, dance, fashion and music events” and seeks to expand its activities, she noted.
Tazabike Saliyeva and community members
“We aim to find as many representatives of the Karakalpak nation as possible and help them preserve their language, customs and culture. In my opinion, this aim is pursued by every association in the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan,” she said.
The centre is located at 17 Zhanibek Tarkhan Street and more information can be found on Instagram  at @kk_centre_zhaihun and Times

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, the last Khwarazmian Shah .

His full name was Jalal ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Abul-Muzaffar Manguberdi ibn Muhammad. He was better known as Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu or Jalal ad-Din Khwarazmshah. The son of Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, the man responsible for causing the Mongol invasion of the Khwarazmian Empire.
The newly formed Mongol Empire wanted to trade with the wealthy Khwarazmians and Shah Muhammad II agreed. However the peace was not to last. Soon after a Mongol trading caravan was arrested by a Khwarazmian governor. Genghis Khan sent three messengers to Muhammad II himself, demanding the immediate release of the trading caravan. The Shah had the messengers beheaded.  He then ordered the execution of the trading caravan. This resulted in the Mongol invasion of Khwarazmian and the fall of this great empire.
The Khwarezmian Empire at it’s greatest extent 1n 1220 (800 years ago).
The Mongols began their invasion in 1219 and in just over a year the empire was now under Mongol control. Shah Muhammad II fled westwards to a barren island in the Caspian Sea where it is said he died of thirst in 1220.
The fate of the empire now rested in the hands of the young Sultan, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, who was only 20 years old at the time. Jalal ad-Din and members of the army (who had survived the onslaught) were forced to flee southwards towards the Hindu Kush. Here he made new alliances with the Afghans and swelled his army to 60,000 men. 
The two armies would meet in the Battle of Parwan in 1221 naer modern day Kabul. The Mongol general, Shigi Qutugu, was extremely overconfident as the Mongols had very easily defeated the Khwarezmians in every single battle. He did not initially realize that his army which numbered around 30,000–40,000 was outnumbered. The valley was ill-suited for cavalry. Still confident the Mongols chose to face Jalal ad-Din in direct battle. Over half of the Mongol army was killed in battle and the other was forced to retreat. The image of invincibility that the Mongols had created for themselves was shattered. It was the first time the Mongols had ever been beaten.
Genghis Khan began once again to gather the Mongol army and again  face off against the young Sultan. Unfortunately for Jalal ad-Din a disagreement with the Afghans (over a horse belonging to the Mongol General) resulted in tensions with his new allies. Soon he lost the Afghan support altogether. Jalal ad-Din decided to flee eastwards towards the Indus with his army of about 20,000 men and thousands of Khwarezmian refugees. Genghis Khan realising the young Sultan’s plans followed him with haste hoping to catch him before he crossed the Indus river. He brought with him some 200,000 men. The Mongol army caught up with Jalal ad-Din at the banks of the Indus river and forced the Khwarezmians to fight with their backs to the river. The initial Mongol charge was held off and the following counterattack almost broke the Mongol ranks but the Mongol army was far too great.  Jalal ad-Din and his surviving army however had time to cross the Indus river and escaped from wrath of Genghis Khan.
Battle of Indus River. Jalal ad-Din crosses the river to escape.
Jalal ud-Din sought asylum under the Delhi Sultanate but was denied. He then formed an alliance with the rulers of Lahore and captured much of Punjab. The Delhi Sultan and his forces then marched on Lahore forcing Jelal ud-Din to flee once more this time to Persia.
In Persia, he formed new alliances to re-establish the Khwarezmian Empire. He however to do so he had to go into  battle against the Ayyubids and the Seljuk princes. He managed to capture many regions such as Tbilisi, Fars, Kerman, Tabriz and Isfahan.  however the new Khan Ögedei Khan sent a large army to the region. The resurgent Khwarezmian armies were defeated and scattered. Jalal ad-Din was forced to flee once more. In 1231, the last Khwarezmian, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, was murdered by a Kurdish assasin..
A statue of Jalal ad-Din stands proud in Urgench, Uzbekistan
Jalal ad-Din bravery in facing the Mongols however became legendary, 
Prior to Mongol expansion
Footnote: The genocide of the Khwarezmians by the Mongols is considered one of the worst in human history. According to  historians the Mongols reduced the population of this region to 200,000 from  over  2 million prior to the invasion. leaving 1.8 million people dead at the very least. Only one out of every 10 people survived.
Some of the worst examples of the Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia included the destruction of Samarkand the capital of the empire. It took the Mongols five days to take this well fortified city. After a failed counter attack, its defenders lost hope and surrendered. This, however, would not save them. The Mongols would break the terms of surrender and kill the defenders anyway. The citizens were taken out of the city where most were killed. 
Likewise the city of Urgench the second capital of the empire was raised to the ground despite being well protected by the Amu river. The Mongols Khan tasking each soldier to bring back the heads of 24 Khwarezmians. The women and children were taken as slaves and all the men killed. This however was not enough for the Mongols. The nearby dam that irrigated the region was destroyed, flooding the City and surrounding lands in Khoresm.
But perhaps Merv was the city that suffered the most. The city of Merv was filled with refugees. People seeking to escape the from the incoming Mongol horde. It fell after just seven days. On the eighth, they surrendered to the Mongols on the promise that the citizens of the city would be spared. As soon as the city handed over control to the Mongols, the massacres began and except for 400 artisans, everyone else was killed. 
The city of Merv (now in Turkmenistan)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Folk Tales of Uzbekistan

Folk Tales are one of the most ancient and mass genres of Uzbek oral folk art. Oral stories, are called "tale"  "ertak" Narrators of tales are called "ertakchi" (tale-teller).

1995 Stamp  Folk Tales of Uzbekistan  - Designer: L. Sadykova


.1995 Stamp  Folk Tales of Uzbekistan  - Designer: L. Sadykova