Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cultural Heritage of Samarkand

Introduction
Samarkand is unrivalled in terms of its architectural heritage, not only in Uzbekistan, but the whole of Central Asia. Once the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (between 1925 and 1930), nowadays it is an important centre for tourism and the second city of Uzbekistan (only behind the capital Tashkent in importance).

Sher-Dor (Tiger) Madrassa is almost unique in Islamic architecture as it has depictions of living images on its façade.

Samarkand - Crossroads of Cultures
Ancient Arab manuscripts refer to Samarkand as the “Gem of the East”. In Medieval Europe it was known as “The City of Scientists”. A majestic and beautiful city, Samarkand is truly a city of legends. In 2001, UNESCO inscribed the 2,750-year-old city on the World Heritage List. Founded c.700 BC by the Sogdians, Samarkand was one of the major centers of their civilization, and by the time of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia it was the capital of the Sogdian satrapy and was already a well established trading town when Alexander the Great captured it in 329 BC and was known as Maracanda by the Greeks. 
As Samarkand grew it became a major centre on the caravan routes of Central Asia and over the next thousand years it became noted for embracing customs and ideas from all over Asia. Arab armies heading eastwards in the early 700s conquered the city and introduced Islam. Chinese armies heading westwards lost a battle near the city in the following century and Samarkand acquired paper-making techniques from captured soldiers, becoming the first place outside China to master this precious art.
By 1200, Samarkand was part of the great empire of Khwarizm and had become the most important  Centre for Islamic learning in all of central Asia. It was renowned for its scholarship, religious schools, and elegant Islamic architecture.
Sogdians
In 1220, the Khwarizm Shah provoked Genghis Khan by killing a large number of merchants under his protection. The Khans hordes of cavalry and thousands of siege engineers attacked and pillaged Samarkand, destroying the city and routing the population to such an extent that when Marco Polo visited 50 years later, the city had degenerated into a backwater. In 1370 another great conqueror Tamerlane decided to make Samarkand the capital of his empire, which in a short period he extended from India to Turkey. From 1370 to 1405, he built a new city, collecting skilled artisans from the countries he conquered and putting them to work as painters, bookbinders, and metalworkers. His grandson Ulugh Beg the famous astronomer (whose works were known in Europe during his lifetime) constructed in the 1420s a three storey tall sextant, one of the largest ever built. The ruins were rediscovered in 1908 and can be visited today. The city has an astonishing collection of ancient monuments.                                                                                                             Ulugh Beg
The city has an astonishing collection of ancient monuments.
The turquoise domes of Samarkand are among some of the Islamic world’s most evocative architecture. The most magnificent landmark in Samarkand is the Registan Ensemble and Square which are considered the traditional centre of the city. Registan Square is considered an architectural wonder representing some of the finest examples of Islamic Art in the world. The square is lined on the three sides by three sparkling and turquoise tiled madrasahs : Ulugbek Madrasah (1417-1420), the Sher-Dor (Having Tigers) Madrasah (1619-1636) and the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646-1660).On the western side is the oldest, the Ulughbek Madrasah, finished in 1420 and decorated with amazing mosaics depicting astronomical themes. Opposite is the Sher-dor Madrasah finished in 1636 and decorated with tigers. This is extremely unusual in Islamic Architecture as depiction of living creatures is normally considered idolatrous. In between is the beautiful Tilya-Kori Madrasah, which was only finally completed in 1660.                                                                                Registan Square at Night

Extensive restoration works have been undertaken to all three buildings. Inferior and exterior facades of the madrasah’s are decorated with an ornament of glazed brick, mosaic and carved marble.
After the square the next most known site in Samarkand is that of the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum (the burial place of Timur).It’s majesty of architectural forms and lines and colourful mosaic designs make it a unique monument of medieval architecture. It's famous blue ribbed cantaloupe dome rises over the tin roof-tops of central Samarkand.
 Ceramic Detail, Tilla Kori Madrassa,
Registan Square
 A massive slab of green jade, under which Tamerlane was laid, is said to be the largest such piece of Jade in the world. Another masterpiece the beautiful mosque of Bibi-Khanym is also the stuff of legend. One story says this gigantic ruined mosque was started by Tamerlane’s Chinese wife, Bibi-Khanym, while he was away campaigning in India. It is said that the architect fell for her and refused to complete the building until she gave him a single kiss. The kiss (and maybe more beside) ensured that upon returning Tamerlane ordered them both killed.
Magnificent interior of the dome of the  Gur e Emir Mosque (above Timurs Tomb)
The cupola of the main chamber rises up to 40 m. The mosque was still under construction in 1399 after Tamerlane's return from his conquest of India, according to the writing's of the then Spanish Ambassador Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, who reported that 90 captured elephants were employed merely to carry precious stones, to erect the mosque. Its construction was completed in 1404 and for a number of years the Mosque was the most prominent in Samarkand, however it slowly fell into disuse, and crumbled to ruins over the
centuries. Its demise was hastened due to the fact that its builders had constructed it too quickly and had pushed the building techniques of the time to the very limit. Another fascinating site is that of the Shah-i-Zinda, a huge burial complex on a hill opposite the heart of the old town. It is referred to as “the street of the dead”, and comprises many mausoleums and tombs, all covered Shah-i-Zinda
with spectacular turquoise tiles. The name Shah-i-Zinda (meaning "The living king") is connected with the legend that Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of the prophet Muhammad was buried there. Coming to Samarkand with the Arab invasion the 7th century to preach Islam.

Later History  In 1500 the Uzbek nomadic warriors took control of Samarkand. The Shaybanids emerged as the Uzbek leaders about this time and in the second quarter of 16th century moved their capital to Bukhara and Samarkand went into decline. After an assault by the Persian king, Nadir Shah in 1720 the old city once again fell into ruin. In 1868 Samarkand came under Russian rule after the citadel had been taken by a  force under Colonel Kaufman. In the following years the Russian section of the city started to emerge largely to the west of the old city.  In 1886, the city was made the capital of the newly formed Samarkand Oblast and grew in importance still further when the Trans Caspian railway reached the city in 1888. After the revolution it became the capital of the new Uzbek SSR before being replaced by Tashkent in 1930. Today it is the second city of the Republic of Uzbekistan and is a magnet for tourists from all over the world who come to see its magnificent Islamic architecture.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photograps of the Aral - A salute to Pavel Kosenko - A Really Brilliant Photographer!

KUNGRAD Soda Ash plant



KUNGRAD Soda Ash plant

After 4 year construction period starting in 2002 the Kungrad Soda Ash plant was commissioned in August 2006.

The plant, a joint venture between Chinese group China International Trust & Investment Company International Cooperation Company and Uzbekistan's UzKimyoSanoat (a major Uzbek chemical industry conglomerate) cost US$100 million to build and occupies 60 hectares, The plant has a projected production capacity of 100,000 tonnes of soda ash yearly.

Citic Pacific Ltd carried out the design and turn-key construction of the technological side of the plant (cost US$32.3 million) funded by a loan of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (90% of the contract cost) with the insurance provided by the Chinese Export and Credit Insurance Corporation, and a loan of the UzPromStroyBank (Uzbek Industrial Construction Bank, 10% of the contract cost) guaranteed by the Uzbek government.

General construction works were performed by local construction companies for UzKimyoSanoat.

The production of Kungrad Soda Plant covers domestic demand and export sales of soda ash, hydrate of sodium, and table salt.

Uzbekistan's current domestic demand for soda ash is 60,000-70,000 tonnes yearly.

The main consumers being the household chemical industry and the producers of construction materials and glass makers.

The resource base for Kungrad Soda Plant is the Barsakelmes salt deposit (explored reserves estimated at 131 million tonnes of common salt containing 97% of NaCl) and the Jamansay limestone deposit (explored reserves estimated at 70 million tonnes) both located in the north of Karakalpakstan near the industrial city of Kungrad.

They are currently producing 240-250 tons a day of high-quality product (equivalent to 85,000 tons of soda a year). The plant employs 1,300 people (making it the largest industrial employer in the Republic). Among the main buyers of the plant's products are the companies Quartz, PharmGlass, Gazalkent Oyna, Uzqurulishmateriallari, Uzkimyosanoat and Uzbekneftegaz.

It is on target this year (2009) to export over 36,000 tons of soda to overseas buyers in Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Clients to date have included the Bryansk Chemical Company (Russia), Maylisuu Electric Lamp Plant (Kyrgyzstan), Power Global Engineering (Kazakhstan) and Letreh Invest (Turkmenistan).


Source:http://www.south.citic.com

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Origins of Algebra - al khorezmi


Al khorezmi

The first treatise on algebra was written by Diophantus of Alexandria in the third century AD. The term derives from the Arabic al-jabr or literally "the reunion of broken parts.'' As well as its mathematical meaning, the word also means the surgical treatment of fractures. 'the setting of broken bones'.  Algebra gained widespread use through the title of a book " ilm al-jabr wa'l-mukabala - the science of restoring what is missing and equating like with like".

Written by the mathematician Abu Ja'far Muhammad (active c.800-847), who subsequently has become know as al-Khwarazmi, the man of Khwārazm. The words Algorism (the Arabic or decimal system of writing numbers) and algorithm also both derive from his name.

Abu Jofar Mohammed ben Musa al Khorezmiy al Majusi al-Katrabbuli (Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi) was born in 783 in Kath located on the outskirts of Beruni in Southern Karakalpakstan.

In 809, he left for Merv to become a scholar at the court of Al-Mamun, the ruler of the Eastern province of the Caliphate and a famous patron of the arts and sciences. On Al-Mamum assuption of the Caliphate in 819 he followed his patron to Bagdad where he was nominated him head of the House of Wisdom, the first and largest scientific center of the Middle Ages, later called the "Academy of Al-Mamun".

Here from 829 Mohammed Al-Khorezmi wrote more than twenty research works, the most famous of which is the "Concise Book of Calculus in Algebra and Almukabula". It was translated into Latin in the twelfth century; its Arabic and Latin variants have been preserved. Al-Khorezmiy wrote "A Book of Indian Calculus", a work known in the Latin version translated by Adelard Bat in the 12th century; he also wrote the Zij - renowned astronomical tables. The tables were translated into Latin, and those Latin manuscripts remain preserved. Al-Khorezmiy also wrote "The Book of Survey of the Orient" represented by the one and only Arabic manuscript in Strasbourg, France. The manuscript was re-copied in 1037. Fragments of his "Book of history" in Arabic still exist.
 
Al Khawarizmi was the founder of several basic principles of mathematics. In his "Book of Indian Calculus" he for the first time in science, describes the arithmetical operations of decimal positioning, based on nine digits and zero. His publication spread the concept of zero across the world. He was also the first to describe the concept, written in Latin language of the "algorithm" which signifies "a constant calculating process". Algorithm is one of the basic concepts not only of mathematics, but also cybernetics.

In another book Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah (Book of Calculations, restoration and reduction) is where the word algebra (Al Jabr in Arabic) was first used. Al-Khorezmi was also the first scientist to define and represent algebra as a science. In his work he submitted six canonical types of linear and square equations and basic methods of solving them, methods which are still used.

The word "algebra" was latinised from the Arabic word "al-jabr", which is evident from the Arabic title of the treatise. The word stands for "filling in" - one of the fundamental operations in algebra at that time.

These works tremendously influenced the development of Science in both the Muslim World and in Europe making him one of the most important mathematician, astronomer and geographer of his age.

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu%E1%B8%A5ammad_ibn_M%C5%ABs%C4%81_al-Khw%C4%81rizm%C4%AB and  www.orexca.com/p_khorezmiy.shtml

Al Beruni - Great Scientist and Physicist



Al Beruni

Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Bīrūnī often known as Alberuni, Al Beruni or variants, was born on the 5th September 973 in Kath in what was then the state of Khwarezm (now the town of Beruni in Southern Karakalpakstan) and died on the 13th December 1048 in Ghazni, in today's Afghanistan.

He was a scientist and physicist, an anthropologist and comparative sociologist, an astronomer and chemist, a critic of alchemy and astrology, an encyclopedist and historian, a geographer and traveler, a geodesist and geologist, a mathematician, a pharmacist and psychologist, an Islamic philosopher and theologian, scholar and teacher.

Al Beruni was the first Muslim scholar to study India and the Brahminical tradition, and has been described as the founder of Indology, the father of geodesy, and "the first anthropologist".

He was also one of the earliest leading exponents of the experimental scientific method, and was responsible for introducing the experimental method into mechanics and mineralogy, a pioneer of comparative sociology and experimental psychology, and one of the first to conduct elaborate experiments related to astronomical phenomena.

Two important scientific chroniclers George Sarton, who described Biruni as "one of the very greatest scientists of Islam, and, all considered, one of the greatest of all times." and A. I. Sabra as "one of the great scientific minds in all history."

The crater Al-Biruni on the Moon is named after him. Tashkent Technical University (formerly Tashkent Polytechnic Institute) is also named after Abu Rayhan al-Biruni as is a technical university in Kapisa, Afghanistan.

Source: Wikipedia see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ab%C5%AB_Ray%E1%B8%A5%C4%81n_al-B%C4%ABr%C5%ABn%C4%AB for more information.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ibn Battuta in Khorezm and Bukhara

Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta was the greatest Arab traveller of the Medieval times. Leaving his native city Tangier in 1325, at the age of twenty-one, he travelled to East Africa, Byzantium, Iraq, Southern Russia, Central Asia, India, Ceylon, Sumatra and China for 29 years, covering 120 thousand kilometres, getting as far north as the Volga, as far East as China and as far South as Tanzania. Ibn Battuta travelling in an era the beginning of the fourteenth century when Muslim rule had been spread over a large part of India, the Middle East and North Africa and had established a footing in China.

KHOREZM

In the autumn of 1333 Ibn Battuta arrived in Khorezm. The city having recovered from the devastation left by the Genghis Khan hordes. "Life is thriving in the city thanks to a large number of residents, and it looks like a billowing sea" He had just spent 30 days crossing the desert after leaving Sultan Uzbek's brand new capital of Saray al-Jadid on the Volga.

He was clearly impressed: " ... we arrived at Khorezm [Urgench] which is the largest, greatest, most beautiful and most important city of the Turks. It has fine bazaars and broad streets, a great number of buildings and abundance of commodities; it shakes under the weight of its population, by reason of their multitude, and is agitated by them in a manner resembling the waves of the sea. I rode out one day on horseback and went into the bazaar, but when I got halfway through it and reached the densest pressure of the crowd at a point called al-Shawr [the crossroad], I could not advance any further because of the multitude of the press, and when I tried to go back I was unable to do that either, because of the crowd of people. So I remained as I was, in perplexity, and only with great exertions did I manage to return."

The city had a new college (medresseh), recently built by its governor Qutlugh Timur in which Ibn Battuta stayed, a cathedral mosque built by the Amir's pious wife – the Khatun (queen) Turabeg, a hospital with a Syrian doctor, and a nearby hospice built over the tomb of Najm al-Din Kubra.

The city's residents also impressed Ibn Battuta: "Never have I seen in all the lands of the world men more excellent in conduct than the Khorezmians, more generous in soul, or more friendly to strangers."

The local people were also extremely pious, possibly because the muezzins of each mosque would visit the neighbouring homes and remind them that the hour of prayer was approaching. The imam would fine those who failed to attend and beat them with a whip, which was prominently displayed in the mosque as a reminder!

The city was close to the Jaiyhun River [then the main channel of the Amu Darya, now the Darya Lyk], which was navigable by boat in the summer, the journey to Termez taking 10 days.

He also received hospitality from the Sufi Order of Ahi and stayed in zaviya (Sufi tenements) where pilgrims, were warmly welcomed.

Also mentioned were a surgery where a Syrian doctor worked, and he wrote in detail about a zaviya not far from Khorezm, near the tomb of Sheikh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra. In the house of the doctor Kadi Abu Hafs Umar he was amazed by the beautiful carpets the central hall was decorated with, and the cloth-upholstered walls with numerous recesses where gilded sliver vessels and Iranian jugs stood.

Ibn Battuta also visited the Emir whose house, along with the sumptuous feast, he described in detail. He also emphasized the piety of his new acquaintances and the extravagant gifts they lavished on him: a large sum of money, a sable overcoat and a beautiful stallion.

He also mentioned that he especially admired were Khorezmian melons: '… there are no melons like Khorezmian melons, may be with the exception of Bukharian ones, and the third best are Isfahan melons. They are the best of all dried fruit.'......' Their peels are green, and the flesh is red, very sweat and hard. Surprisingly, they cut melons into slices, dry them in the sun, put them into baskets as it is done with Malaga figs, and take them from Khorezm to the remote cities in India and China to sell'

(ED: The melons grown in Western Uzbekistan are also the best I've ever tasted....)

From Khoresm, Ibn Batuta made his way to Bukhara by camel. It took 18 days. Most of the way from Urgench to Vabkent (an old settlement near Bukhara). The trip was very difficult for Ibn Battuta party as a result of the scorching sun, lack of water and good forage for camels, which were extremely exhausted by the time they reached there destination.

BUKHARA

Medieval Bukhara was one of the most famous cities in the Islamic world, and many Arab geographers described its splendor.

However, Ibn Battuta saw Bukhara in a sorry state: 'This city had once been the capital of the cities lying across the Jaihun River, but the cursed Tatar Tinghiz (Genghiz Khan)… destroyed it so that all of its mosques, madrasahs and market-places lay in ruins, with a few exceptions. Its residents are humiliated, and their testimony is accepted neither in Khorezm nor in any other country ......'

Bukhara the once-great walled city that tried to resist the Mongols had been almost totally destroyed, by them in 1220 however it was starting to come back to life by the time Ibu Battuta visited the city.

He stayed in Fathabad, a suburb of Bukhara, where there was a large zaviya and a mausoleum, which struck him by its dimensions, near the tomb of a sacred hermit Saif at-Din al-Baharzi. The Sheikh of the Zaviya invited Ibn Battuta to his place, as well as all notables of the city, and here, '.... reciters read the holy Koran in their pleasant voices, while the preacher made a sermon. They sang wonderful songs in Turkic and Persian. That was the most wonderful night of all nights'

And there are a lot of such excerpts in the manuscript, that is why the book is considered a masterpiece of "rihla" - geographic description of a country a traveller saw with his own eyes. Biographies of historical personalities often contain data that cannot be found in other sources.

When Ibn Battuta visited the city in 1333, he reported that all but a few of its buildings still laid in ruins, and had a poor view of the people of Bukhara saying that ,"there is not one of its inhabitants today who possesses any theological learning or makes any attempt to acquire it."

But before its destruction by Genghis Khan in 1220, Bukhara deserved its reputation as a city of pious scholars. In the tenth century, under the rule of the Samanids, it became known as a centre of Islamic learning, and established a reputation that survived succeeding centuries of scholarly darkness. Bukhara had wide paved streets and a population of 300,000. Its 250 madrasahs attracted students from as far away as Arabia and Spain. One such scholar Ismail al-Bukhary who was born in 810 in Bukhara, has been renowned in Muslim world for 1000 years as the author of the hadithses "AI-Djami as-salih", or literally in English Book "Trustworthy", which is the second most important Muslim text after the Koran

Its most famous son of Samanid Bukhara was Hussain ibn Abdullah ibn-Sina, known to the West as Avicenna (whose name became the basis of the word medicine), who wrote his famous medical encyclopaedia there, making the city renowned in the Islamic world. But all that was lost when the city was overrun in 999 by the Qarkhanids (Uighurs).  Avicenna himself fled, and wandered the Islamic world for most of the rest of his life. No buildings of the Samanids remain, except, appropriately, a mausoleum.

During the next century of turmoil, however, there must have been some continued respect for learning, or at least for architecture, because it was during that time that the tall and exquisitely beautiful Kalon minaret was built, to call the faithful to prayer five times a day, to serve as a signal tower at night, and to give notice to travellers that this was a city of pious Moslems. And certainly there was a fine city there when the Khorezmshah, ruler of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva/Urgench, gave grave and deliberate offense to Genghis Khan. First, he executed as spies some 450 Mongol merchants. Then, when Mongol ambassadors were sent to seek reparation, he had one of them killed and shaved the beards of the rest. (ED: Ambassadors didn't always have protection).

In retribution, as the Khorezmshah might have expected if he'd known the Khan just a little bit better, Genghis pounded Samarkand into dust and reduced Bukhara to a level plain. "I am the scourge of God," he proclaimed in Bukhara. "If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me."

He spared only the intricately worked Kalon Minaret, the Tower of Death, from which prisoners were thrown to their deaths. Much of the rest of the once-great walled city that tried to resist the Genghiz Khan's Mongol army however was all but totally destroyed.

Kalon Minaret

On taking Bukhara Genghiz Khan had conquered the largest empire in recorded history, two-thirds of the population of Central Asia lay dead, and other cities like Farah, Urgench, Ghazni, Bamian, and Balkh were in ruins.

So much was destroyed by the Mongols in 1219 and by other Tatar armies in 1273, and 1316. It was said that in the aftermath of the conquest, civilization did for a time simply vanish.

Ibn Battuta reported that 'the mosques, colleges, and bazaars are in ruins ...' . Bukhara only started to come back to its former life some fifty years after Ibu Battuta visited the city when the great Tamerlane started to rebuilt the city, from about 1390. In time he and his decedents in the succeeding centuries were once again to turn the city into one of the most magnificent in all of Central Asia.

TRAVELS

A few years after Ibn Battuta's return to Tangiers, the Sultan of Morocco commissioned a young writer, Ibn Juzayy, who had enjoyed Ibn Battuta's tales, to record the traveller's memoirs.

The result was the book 'A Gift To Those Who Contemplate The Wonders of Cities and The Marvels of Traveling,' or 'Travels' (Rihalah) for short.

The manuscript presents a realistic picture of political, public and cultural life of the many places he visited in the first half of the 14th century and is considered to be one of the most descriptive geographic pieces of literature to come out of the Middle Ages.

Ibn Battuta's book had a steady readership over the centuries in the Muslim world. European orientalists had heard of the' Travels' by about 1800.

An abridged Arabic version done in 17th century was translated into English by Reverend Samuel Lee and published in 1829. Several full texts of Rihalah were found and between 1893-1922 it was edited and published in Arabic/French in four volumes by Defremery and Sangunetti in Paris (Imprimerie Nationale). Further translation into English was commenced by H A R Gibbs in 1929, who completed the first three volumes. The translation of volume 4 was completed by H A R Gibbs and C F Beckingham in 1994.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Battuta
             

Konya Urgench (Old Urgench)


Gutluk-Temir Minaret

FROM WIKIPEDIA

Konya-Urgench, Old Urgench or Urganj (Turkmen: Köneürgenç, Russian: Куня Ургенч, Persian Kuhna Gurgānj) lies some 43km west southwest of No'kis, just across the border in Turkmenistan. The city contains the largely unexcavated ruins of the once famed 12th century AD capital of Khwarezm. Today it is the capital of a district of the same name with some 30,000 inhabitants. Since 2005, the ruins of Old Urgench have been protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Formerly situated on the Amu-Darya River, Konya-Urgench (the Urgench) was one of the greatest cities on the Silk Road. Its foundation date is uncertain, but the extant ruins of the Kyrkmolla fortress have been dated to the Achaemenid period. The 12th and early 13th centuries were the golden age of Urgench with it surpassed in population and fame all other Central Asian cities barring Holy Bukhara.

In 1221, Genghis Khans armies razed it to the ground in one of the bloodiest massacres in human history, killing almost the entire population. Urgench however recovered in time and once again became a thriving commercial centre and a staging post on the important trading route between Europe and the Black Sea ports in the west and Mongolia and China in the east.

In 1388 the whole city was again destroyed by Timur, as were most other parts of Khorezm. Timur's campaign was not only aimed at eliminating the military threat posed by Khorezm and the remnants of the Khanate of Qipchaq, but also at destroying an important commercial and cultural competitor. As such, most of the city was deliberately demolished. The historian Ibn Arabshah reported that after ten days of destruction, only the mosque and its minarets were left standing. Timur is reported to have ordered that the ground on which the city stood should be ploughed and sewn with barley.

The city was partly rebuilt in the 16th century, but it was largely abandoned when the Amu-Darya changed its course. Timur's armies destruction of the dams controlling the flow of the Amu Darya meant the river was now free to revert to its natural direction of flow – towards the Sarykamysh Lake. The level of the Aral Sea began to fall and the Amu Darya delta began to dry out forcing its nomadic population to migrate. It was the beginning of an environmental crisis that would last for over 200 years.

The modern city of Konye-Urgench dates from the construction of a new canal by Tsarist Russia in the 19th century. Today, most of the city of Old Urgench lies underground, but there is enough signs to get an idea of its former glories. Its uniqueness was acknowledged in 2005 when Unesco named it as a World Heritage site.

The most striking monument of old Urgench is the early 11th-century Gutluk-Temir Minaret, which, at 60 meters and prior to the construction of the Minaret of Jam (located in Ghor Province in Afghanistan) was the tallest brick minaret in the world. Notably the one structure that both the Mongols and Timur spared destruction.

Also of note is the Il-Arslan Mausoleum - the city's oldest standing monument: a conical dome (with 12 facets) housing the tomb of Mohammed II (the ruler of the Khwarezmid Empire from 1200 to 1220) and three other smaller mausoleums dating from the 12th century including the elaborate 14th-century Törebeg Hanym Mausoleum, which was restored in the 1990s. Somewhat to the north of the old city sprawls a vast medieval necropolis that is also well worth visiting.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konye-Urgench

FROM LONLEY PLANET

The modern town of Konye-Urgench (from Persian ‘Old Urgench’) is a rural backwater with empty plazas, wandering livestock and back roads that end in agricultural fields. Yet centuries ago, this was the centre of the Islamic world, not the end of it.

The ancient state of Khorezm, located on a northerly Silk Road branch that leads to the Caspian Sea and Russia, was an important oasis of civilisation in the Central Asian deserts for thousands of years.

Khorezm fell to the all-conquering Seljuq Turks, but rose in the 12th century, under a Seljuq dynasty known as the Khorezmshahs, to shape its own far-reaching empire. With its mosques, medressa, libraries and flourishing bazaars, Gurganj became a centre of the Muslim world, until Khorezmshah Mohammed II moved his capital to Samarkand after capturing that city in 1210.

Jenghiz Khan arrived in 1221, seeking revenge for the murder of his envoys in Otrar as ordered by Mohammed II. Old Urgench withstood the siege for six months, and even after the Mongols broke through the city walls the residents fought them in the streets. The Mongols, unused to cities, burnt the houses but the residents still fought from the ruins. In the end, the Mongols diverted the waters of the Amu-Darya and flooded the city, drowning its defenders.

The Mongol generals went in pursuit of Mohammed II who eluded them for months until he finally died of exhaustion in 1221 on an island in the Caspian Sea. The tombs of his father, Tekesh, and grandfather, Il-Arslan, survive and are two of Old Urgench’s monuments.

In the following period of peace, Khorezm was ruled as part of the Golden Horde, the huge, wealthy, westernmost of the khanates into which Jenghiz Khan’s empire was divided after his death. Rebuilt, Urgench was again Khorezm’s capital, and grew into what was probably one of Central Asia’s most important trading cities – big, beautiful, crowded and with a new generation of monumental buildings.

Then came Timur. Considering Khorezm to be a rival to Samarkand, he comprehensively finished off old Urgench in 1388. The city was partly rebuilt in the 16th century, but it was abandoned when the Amu-Darya changed its course (modern Konye-Urgench dates from the construction of a new canal in the 19th century).

Today, most of Old Urgench lies underground, but there is enough urban tissue to get an idea of its former glories. Its uniqueness was acknowledged in 2005 when Unesco named it a World Heritage site. The modern town is somewhat short on tourist facilities and most travellers overnight in Dashogus.


Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/turkmenistan/northern-turkmenistan/konye-urgench#ixzz2zZqFrsji




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Banknotes Of Uzbekistan

A selection of banknotes from Uzbekistan

The som (Uzbek: so‘m in Latin script, сўм in Cyrillic script) is the currency of Uzbekistan in Central Asia. The ISO 4217 currency code is UZS.



Obverse: Coat of Arms and Islamic pattern
Reverse: Mausoleum of Kazi Zade Rumi in Shah-i-Zinda


Obverse: Coat of Arms
Reverse: Statue of Timur








Obverse: Coat of Arms
Reverse: Amir Timur Museum in Tashkent


Obverse: Coat of Arms
Reverse: Mythological tiger mosaiс on Sher-Dor Madrasah at Registan Square in Samarkand

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Amazing History of the lands covered by today's Karakalpakstan



Map of the greatest extent of the Mongol Empire (Shaded area that of the Timurid empire) early 14th Century

This is a brief history of the rulers of the region today known as the Republic of Karakalpakstan. Encompassing the lands south of the Aral Sea, the lower delta of the Amu Darya River, the Ursturt Plateau to the west and the Kyzylkum Desert to the east.

The first inhabitants of the region were the cattle-breeding Apasiak marsh dwellers, part of the Saka-Massagetae, which populated the delta and the adjoining desert lands of Aral-Caspian in the early 1st millenium.

Irrigated agriculture started to develop in the lower flow of the Amu-Darya river by sometime in the mid 2nd millenium and by the 10-8th cc. BCE the beginnings of the Chorasmian civilization started to emerge.

During the 7-5th cc. BCE as more advanced irrigated agriculture developed with the construction of the large diversion canals, fortified settlements and multiple villages this becomes more formalised and a specific Khorezm state developed known as CHORASMIA. Some 300 fortresses and temples are still from this epoch are still to be found in Karakalpakstan and adjoining Khorezm.

CHORASMIA which was established perhaps as early as c. 1300 BCE, next to nothing is remembered about it's early history.

Sijav..............................................fl. 1300's BCE ?
Vishtaspa.......................................fl. c. 1000 BCE ? is recorded in Zoroastrian scripture as the first patron of the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster).
Aurvat-Aspa....................................... fl. late 600's
Arsames (Arshama)................................early-mid 500's

To PERSIA..........................................530-350 BCE

Hypastes (Vishtaspa)..................................mid 500's-495 with...
Darius (Darayavahush; Persia 522-486).............530's-522 BCE

To the PHARASMANID.........................c.330 BCE-300BCE

Chorasmia however maintained its independence from the Hellenistic kings of both Bactria and the Seleucid Empire, and was probably only loosely associated with the Parthian Empire.

Pharasmanes (Pharashmanaya)..................fl. 330's-320's

The silk road trade route starts up in this era. The Pathians and Kushans both derived much of their revenue from the caravans crossing their territory carrying silk, gold, silver, and nickel from China to the Persians.

Vassal of PARTHIA................................c.200 BCE-27 CE

Chorasmia maintained its independence from the Hellenistic kings of Bactria and the Seleucid Empire, and was only loosely associated with the Parthian Empire.

Vassal to the KUSHANS...............................27-305 CE

The Kushans replaced the Greeks in Bactria in about 130 BC. They were mainly Yüeh-Chih a Buddhists people probably of Iranian stock with a strong admixture of Hephthalites (white huns), Saka, and Tocharian.

To the AFRIGID ...............................305-410 CE

In Khoresm in the early part of the 4th Century the Afrigid kings rose to power; their dynastic symbol – a horseman.

Afrig..............................................305-320
Bagra..............................................320-340
Sakhkhasak............................................??
Askadjamuk I ..........................................??

To the WHITE HUNS .................................. 410-565 CE

In AD 400 a new wave of nomads under the Hephthalites (believed to be eastern Iranian stock) emerged as rulers of much of Central Asia.

Hephthalites.......................................410-415
Askadjavar I.......................................415-445
Sakhr I ............................................... ??
Shaush .................................................??

To WESTERN TURKIC KHAGANATE, mid 6th- early 8th cent.

In alliance with the Sasanians, the Turks attacked and destroyed the Hephthalite empire (in AD 560), thereby gaining control over an important portion of the Silk Road leading from China to Byzantium and ruled the area right up until the Muslim conquest.

Gök...................................................565-652
Khamgari ..................................................??
Buzgar ....................................................??
Arsamukh...........................................fl. c. 600
Sakhr II ..................................................??
Sabri .....................................................??
Askadjavar II..............................710-712 opposed by...
Hurrazad...........................................fl. 710-712
Askadjamuk II...........................................712- ?

To the CALIPHATE.......................................c. 710-867

Under Abd al-Malik the Umayyad caliphate (661-750) conquered Khwarezm, Samarkand, Bukara, Fergana, and Tashkent and began an extensive program of Arabisation and conversion of the population to Islam. It was followed by the Abbasid caliphate (750-861) after which it collapsed as anarchy and rebellion shook the empire and local muslim rulers emerged.

To LOCAL PERSIAN RULERS.................................................867-900

In 875, the Samanid emir, Nasr I, receive a license from the Caliphate to govern all of Transoxania.

To SAMANIDS ...........................................900-c-1010

An Iranian dynasty who emerged after the Muslim Arab conquest and ruled from Bukhara until overthrown by the Mongol (Khitans).

In 892 Ismail ibn Ahmad ascended the throne and embarked on an ambitious struggle to convert Maverannahr (Transoxania) into a major power in the Muslim world. Under his rule, his state embraced the territory of all of present-day Uzbekistan, the northeast provinces of Iran, part of Afghanistan and South Kazakhstan.

Ismail I.............................................900-907
Ahmed II.............................................907-914
Nasr II..............................................914-943
Nuh I................................................943-954
Abd al-Malik I.......................................954-961
Nasr III...................................for 1 day, in 961
Mansur I...........................................961-976/7
Nuh II.............................................976/7-997
Mansur II............................................997-999
Abd al-Malik II..........................................999
Ismail II............................................999-1005

In 1005 the last Samanid ruler, Abu Ibrahim Ismail the Muntasir (Arabic for "victorious"), was killed and his state was divided between two khanates under the Turkic dynasties of the Karakhanids and Ghaznevids.

To the GHAZNAVID EMPIRE....................c. 1010-1074

Samanid Turkic rulers who spoke Persian (whose leaders originated from Heart in modern day Afghanistan) and ruled from Samakand.

Mahmud............................................. 998-1030
Mas'ud I ..............................................1031-41

To the SELJUG EMPIRE..........................1074-1141

Seljug Turkish empire built a vast empire which extended from Byzantium in the west to Tokharistan in the east, led by the ruling military families of the Oguz (Ghuzz) Turkmen tribes who ruled from Merv.

Nasr I Abu'l Hasan Shams al-Mulk..................1068-1080
al-Khidr Abu Shuja................................1080-1081
Ahmad I...........................................1081-1089
Ya'qub............................................1089-1095
Mas'ud I..........................................1095-1097
Sulaiman Qadir Tamghach................................1097
Mahmud I..........................................1097-1099
Harun Tigin.........................................c. 1099
Jibra'il Qadir Khan...............................1099-1102
Muhammad II Arslan Khan...................1102-1130 opposed by...
Nasr II......................................1128-1129 and...
Ahmad II..........................................1128-1130
al-Hasan..........................................1130-1132
Ibrahim II.............................................1132
Mahmud II.................................1132-1141 d. 1163

To the QARA KHITAL............................1141-1212

In the late 1130s a new formidable power, Qara (Black) Khitai, emerged on the eastern border of the khanate; a nomadic Manchu people originating from the Tarim basin (East Turkistan. In 1141 the Kara-Kitai destroyed the allied armies of the Seljukids and Karakhanids in a battle on the Katvan steppe. They established a ramshackle empire which merged with the Golden Horde in the 13th century. They lent their name to Chitay (Cathay) from which China is named.

Ibrahim III.......................................1141-1156
'Ali II Chaghri Khan..............................1156-1160
Mas'ud II......................................1160-1178 with...
Nasr III........................................1163-1173 and...
Muhammad III.......................................1171-1174
Ibrahim IV.........................................1178-1203
'Uthman Bughra.....................................1203-1212

Briefly to the neighbouring ANUSHTIGINIDS in Khiva ....................1212-1221

Muhammad Al ad-Din military success led once again to the rise of a powerful state of Khoresm shahs with his capital at Gurganj (Kunya-Urgench) today in northern Turkmenistan. His brief rule however came to an end in 1220/21, when Mongol armies under Genghis Khan swept through the region.

Muhammad Al ad-Din... ............................1200-1221

To the MONGOLS (GOLDEN & CHATATAI HORDES) ............1227-1395

Central Asia was invaded by the Mongol horde in 1220/21 led by Gengiz Khan. His forces destroyed all of Khorezms cities and towns and absorbed its lands.

Before his death in 1227 he assigned Turkistan to his second son, Chagatai, in the following century the horde gradually Turkified and Islamized especially under their greatest Khan, Öz Beg (1313-40).

Temujin Genghis (Chengiz) Khan.....................................1206-1227
Batu...............................................................1227-1255
Mangu..............................................................1266-1280
Ozbeg..............................................................1313-1340

KIPCHAK KHANATE.....................................1350s-1395

Encompassing most of the western part of the Mongol Empire the Golden Horde flourished from the mid 13th century. The people of the Golden Horde were a mixture of Turks and Mongols, with the latter generally constituting the aristocracy.

Timur's defeat of the Golden Horde in 1395 left a mêlée of different tribes and confederations between the Black Sea and the middle Syr Darya, including the Nogay Horde to the west and the Shaybani (Uzbek) Horde centred in south-western Siberia. Many of the surviving inhabitants of what is now Karakalpakstan being forced to seek refuge in the lower Syr Darya.

TIMURUD EMPIRE.................................1395 to around 1428

Timur Shah (Tamerlane the Great).....................1370-1405

Tamerlane was Emir in Transoxiana for the last Chagatai Khans. Whilst technically he was never the head of state - he was the leader and pursued his own agenda entirely and his putative overlords were purely puppets. On his death his decendents ruled in his name.

Whilst the Mongol invasion was traumatic, it was Timur’s invasion of Khoresm in 1395 that had the most profound effect on the oasis, it not only greatly reduced the population but the invaders totally destroyed (to their foundations) almost all the settlements and demolished the regions ancient irrigation system plunging the northern Amu Darya delta into a 200-year-long ecological crisis.

After Timurs death in 1405 the Timurud empire waned due to family splits and the north western areas of the empire came under the control of the Uzbeks in 1428.

BORJEGIN-Shaybanid ....................................1428 -1468.

During the 15th century many nomads from Siberia began migrating eastwards into the Syr Darya valley. At this time the Karakalpaks fell within the early Shaybanid hegemony under the early Uzbek Khan, Abu'l Khayr.

Abu'l Khayr (at Tyumen).....................1428-1468
Haidar...........................................1468

Devastating attacks by Jungars, Uighur tribes from the east, led to a tribal division along the Syr Darya in the 1460's and the emergence of separate Kazakh and Uzbek confederations. Not long after the breakup the Karakalpaks also started to form a seperate identity.

KARAKALPAK KHANATE ..............................late 1400s to 1759

It is not known exactly when but the Karakalpak Confederation emerged. It seems it started within the eastern part of the Nogay Horde during the 15th century, Karakalpaks moving eastwards in the mid-16th century following the Nogay civil war, first to the Syr Darya and later into the Amu Darya delta. The term Karakalpak it is believed derives from the term Chernye Klobuki (Black Hats) who served as frontier uards under the Kievan Rus.

By the early 17th century the Karakalpaks were stretched across a vast tract ranging from the lower reaches of the river Emba in the northern Caspian, to the Turgai river to the north of the Aral Sea, to the lower and middle Syr Darya in the east and to the Amu Darya delta in the south.

Sirdaq I...............................................fl. c. 1630's
Sirdaq II ...................................................??
Khusrau .....................................................??
Ka'ip Khan I..................................1717-1740
Batir Jani Beg................................1740-1745
Ka'ip Khan II (1745) in Khiva ..................1747-1757

The Amu Darya changed its direction again in the last quarter of the 16th century, flowing northwards back into the Aral Sea and creating an island of virgin marshlands known as Aral. Nomadic Qongrat and Mang'ıt tribes (now considered Aral Uzbeks) entered this empty region in 1620.

The majority of Karakalpaks at that time still remained settled along the upper Jana Darya and the Syr Darya, up until the 1720's when they and their Kazakh neighbours came under further attack from the Jungars. Some Karakalpaks fled east into the Ferghana Valley but the majority moved downstream into the lower Jana Darya.

In 1762 some 20,000 Kazakhs embarked on a massive raid on the remaining northern Karakalpak territories, forcing them even further south into the northern Amu Darya delta, especially along the banks of the Ko'k O'zek.

Here they found natural allies amongst the dissident Uzbeks who, having resisted rule by Khiva, had no desire to see an invasion by Kazakhs. Together the Karakalpaks and these Qongrat and Mang'ıt people were able to repulse further incursions by the Kazakhs and for a time keep Khiva at bay.

Ka'ip Khan I..................................1717-1740
Batir Jani Beg................................1740-1745
Ka'ip Khan II (1745)in Khiva ..................1747-1757

To KHIVA......................................1759-1873

Despite being nominally part of Khiva from 1759 it was not until 1869 that the Aral peoples were finally subjugated and settled by the ruthless Khan of Khiva, Muhammad Rakhim Khan.

The life of the Karakalpaks during the 19th century was a tough one - living in yurts in the mosquito and disease-ridden lands of the delta; subject to the whims of the Amu Darya; building irrigation ditches by hand to water their crops; unfairly taxed by Khiva; their lives and livestock vulnerable to raids by local Yomud tribesmen during the bitter winters. The majority lived in abject poverty, only their tribal and religious leaders being wealthy enough to maintain a semblance of their traditional culture.

This was a period of much instability and there were continuous rebellions against successor Khiva Khans up until Khiva itself was subjugated by Russia in 1873.

Sayyid Muhammad Rahim II.............................1864-1910

To RUSSIA..............................................1873- 1919

In the second half of the 19th century, the territory on the right bank of the Amu Darya was annexed from Khiva by Russia forming the Amu Darya Department of the Syr Darya Region of the Turkestan General Governance (1878).

At the conclusion of the Gendiamen’s agreement after which Khiva surrendered to Imperial Russia, the territory of the Karakalpaks, which lay on the right bank of the Amudarya river, was incorporated into Imperial Russia forming part of the Amu Darya section of the Turkistan General- Governorship, whilst that on the left bank it remained part of the protectorate of Khiva.

The plight of the Karakalpaks was not greatly alleviated by the Russian conquest in 1873, although the Russians did improve security and stimulated trade and the growth of agriculture.

Tsar Alexander II...................................1855(1873) - 1881
Tsar Alexander III .................................1881 - 1894
Tsar Nicolas II .......................................1894 - 1917

Part of Karakalpakstan (left bank) was under the KHIVA (PROTECTORATE)

Sayyid Isfandiyar....................................1910-1918
Sayyid Abd Allah.....................................1918-1920

With the collapse of Imperial Russia at the end of World War 1 real control in Khiva passed briefly to the warlord Djunaid Khan.

Turkistan was occupied by anti-Communist White Forces .....1917-1919

Djunaid Khan.........................................1918-1920

During the civil war most Karakalpaks as with other communities living in Karakalpakstan aligned with the Red Army to rid themselves of feudal Khiva and the murderous White Armies and in 1919 the region became incorporated into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

To the SOVIET UNION.....................................1919-1991

After the revolution in 1920 the Amu Darya Department was restructured into the Amu Darya Region of the Turkestan Autonomous SSR. The Kara-Kalpak Autonomous oblast was established in 1924 and became part of the Kazakhstan ASSR. In 1930, the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous oblast joined the RSFSR Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republics. In 1936 the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous oblast was restructured into the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Republic and was incorporated into the Uzbekistan SSR.

Autonomous Republic within Kazakhstan ASSR...1924-1930

Established as the Kara-Kalpakstan Autonomous oblast within the Kazakh ASSR (Russian SFSR) on the 16th of February 1925.

Autonomous Republic within Russian SSR........1930-1936

Transferred to the Russian SFSR on the 20th of July 1930 and transformed into the Kara-Kalpakian ASSR on the 20th of March 1932 being transferred to the Uzbek SSR on the 5th of December 1936.

The Soviet era saw a radically improvement in the standard of living of the population and the rapid growth of agricultural and industrial production within the republic. The construction of the model city Nukus and universal education and health care. Within a generation the modern Karakalpakstan that is seen today had started to emerge.

Autonomous Republic within Uzbekistan SSR.....1936-

However as a result of this growth, substantial environmental damage emerged during the later part of the Soviet Era.

REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN.............................1991

Since independence (within Uzbekistan) progress towards a modern developed state continues apace. Whilst its agricultural sector is still struggling with water shortages and problems associated with salination & desertification, Karakalpakstan has in the last decade emerged as one of the most important hydrocarbon producing regions in Uzbekistan and has a growing tourism and service sector.

Sources:

Khiva Guidebook 2001 Matyakub Madaminov et al and

http://web.raex.com/~obsidian/centasia.html