During the reign of Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible, 1533–1584), Russia conquered the Tatar khanates of Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1556) along the Volga River. Both of these khanates were Turko-Mongol successors to the Mongol Golden Horde. In 1581 Russian merchants and Cossacks crossed the Ural Mountains and destroyed another Golden Horde descendant, the Khanate of Sibir’. These conquests made Russia the only modern Christian state to have a large Muslim population within its borders. Over the next 230 years Russian governments struggled with how best to deal with these alien subjects. In 1788, after inconsistent attempts at forcible conversion to Russian Orthodoxy had failed, Catherine II (the Great, 1762–1796) incorporated Tatar Muslim clergy into her general religious bureaucracy. At the same time, her huge land conquests at the expense of the Ottoman Empire brought more Muslims, from the Crimean Peninsula and the Caucasus region, under Russian rule. One result of long-term Russian rule over the Volga region was the creation of a population of russified Tatars—people who had Russian educations but also understood Turkic Muslims—to ease Russian expansion into Central Asian territory.
Qongrat Dynasty of Khiva (1804–1920)
Iltuzar or Ilt Nazar (1804–1806)
Muhammad Rahim [I] (1806–1826)
Allah Quli (1825–1840)
Muhammad Amin (1846–1855)
1855–1867 period of war and multiple, short-lived rulers
Sayyid Muhammad Rahim [II] (1865–1910)
Sayyid Abdulla (1918–1920)
Manghit Dynasty of Bukhara (1756–1920)
Muhammad Hakim (ca. 1740–1743)
Muhammad Rahim (1743–1758)
Shah Murad (1785–1800)
Abdul Ahad (1885–1910)
Alim Khan (1910–1920) died in 1944 in Kabul.
Ming Dynasty of Kokand (1710–1876)
Shahrukh (ca. 1710–1721)
Narbuta (ca. 1774–1798)
Muhammad Ali (1822–1841)
Sultan Mahmud (1841–1842)
Shir Ali (1842–1845)
Khudoyar (1845–1858; 1862–1863; 1865–1875)
Mohlar oiim Nodira (1792–1842), wife of Umar and mother of Muhammad Ali, was the most prominent of a group of women poets at the Kokand court. They wrote poetry in both Türki and Persian on themes of religion, court life, love and other traditional topics. It was not unusual for elite women in Kokand to have extensive educations. Another poet, named Dilshod (1801–1905), had been brought to Kokand by Umar as a prisoner of war. There she revealed a sharp wit and talent for writing, and spent 50 years running a school for girls. Dilshod wrote a memoir, titled “History of a Refugee,” in both Türki and Persian versions. It is currently available only in an Uzbek translation [O’zbek shoirlari bayozi: Dilshod, Anbar Otin. Toshkent: O’zbek Fanlar Akademiasi, 1994.]
The Russian military began to encroach upon the northern steppe territories of the Little and Middle Kazakh hordes in the first quarter of the 18th century. They were able to do so because Zunghar invasions from Mogholistan in the 1720s had devastated Kazakh power. In the 1780s the rulers of Tashkent, at that point an independent city-state, forced the Great Horde Kazakhs to pay tribute to them, which weakened the Great Horde further and aided Russian encroachment into southeastern Kazakh lands by the 1840s. Russian officials integrated Kazakh tribes into Russian legal and political structures but also kept them administratively distinct. They encouraged Kazakh nomads to become settled farmers, incorporated tribal leaders into the empire’s administration, and sent in Tatar Muslim teachers to “civilize” groups they considered to be essentially pagan. In the nineteenth century Russian administrators allowed Tatars to open Muslim schools for Kazakhs, and then themselves created “Russian-native” schools (that taught a secular basic curriculum in both Kazakh and Russian). These actions certainly changed Kazakh culture, but the Russian Empire did not have the resources to impose profound changes in identity using these tools. Most Kazakhs did not become farmers—if the steppe ecology had been good for farming, they would already have taken up the practice. Russian sources suggest that Kazakhs welcomed the Tatar teachers, and indeed by the mid-19th century Russian officials worried that Islamic “fanaticism” was undermining Kazakh loyalty. The school systems, whether run by Tatars or Russians, created a small group of Western-educated people, but did not reach most ordinary Kazakhs. In 1897 there were slightly more than 2500 Kazakh children in Russian-native schools, including 52 girls. [Pierce, p. 208].
A Russian policy that did cause significant changes in what it meant to be a Kazakh was the colonization of the steppe by Slavic peasants, Cossacks, and political exiles; by 1914 just under two million Slavs had arrived and been given land by the Russian government [Demko, pp. 74–80]. To facilitate settlement, in 1868 Russian bureaucrats divided the steppe into administrative territories (provinces, oblasts and uezds), and placed Russian villages with no regard for criteria such as adequate water resources or soil quality [Martin, p. 69]. The influx of farmers disrupted Kazakh migratory routes and denied them grazing land for their herds. Large tribes that needed lots of land were forced to break up into smaller, more economically viable, sub-tribes. The new administrative borders prevented tribal units from helping their relatives on the other side of those borders in times of crisis (such as the devastating late spring zhut frosts that the Inner Eurasian steppe is prone to), and so weakened kinship ties. Since Kazakh communal and individual identity depended on kinship obligations, the inability to fulfill those obligations changed identity. Many tribes responded by herding within smaller territories and/or by stocking up on hay for winter fodder, a practice that Russian officials encouraged. Both of these practices fostered the adoption of settled or semi-settled lifeways, but again Kazakh tribes preferred herding to farming when given any choice. In general, increased Russian colonization meant increased impoverishment for the Kazakhs.
The introduction of Russian legal practice among Kazakh tribes could also change individual or tribal identities. Local biys (nomadic judges) mediated between state and customary law (adat), and a biy who was effective in protecting his tribe’s interests gained status and power for himself and his children. Bravery and fighting skills were useless in this new system. In order to become effective leaders, biys learned to manipulate Russian law and the officials who enforced that law, which meant acculturation to Russian customs and worldviews. Nonetheless, while Russian governance wrought important changes in Kazakh economics and culture, the contrasts and conflicts between governors and governed also served to reinforce Kazakh identity.
During the 18th century new dynasties took control over the oasis khanates of Bukhara and Khiva, and in the Ferghana Valley a powerful new khanate arose in Kokand. The new rulers broke from the Chingisid legacy in all but name, although this had very little effect on local identification systems. In fact, the big problem that the khanates had in common was that rulers could not create a political, ethnic or religious basis on which to unite their subjects, nor were they strong enough to gain reliable obedience either through economic prosperity or brute force. Chronic instability, coupled with relative poverty and technological backwardness, made the khanates easy prey once the Russians decided to push south of the Syr Darya River.
Khanate of Khiva
Khiva was less successful than Bukhara in imposing centralized administrative control, even though the khanate occupied a smaller geographic area. The ruling Qongrat Dynasty was Uzbek, but did not automatically command the support of other Uzbek tribes in the area like the Qipchaq or Manghit (who were not loyal to the Manghit emirs of Bukhara either). Most people outside the cities were Turkmen of the Yomut or Teke tribal confederacies, Kara-kalpaks, or Kazakhs. The khans of Khiva could not appoint their own officials to govern the tribes, but had to accept locally-elected leaders. Tribal warriors could be helpful allies, but they were not reliably obedient to the khans. In fact, the Qongrat tribe itself was established as a dynasty in the late 18th century because its leaders served as inoqlar (military commanders) and usurped power from Kazakh Chinigisd khans, who were left as puppets on the throne. Where strong Bukhran emirs like Nasrullah could impose their will by direct force, the Khivan rulers were most successful when they could exploit group rivalries.
In 1804 the Qongrat inoq Iltuzar (r. 1804–1806) claimed the title of khan, although he had no genealogical basis to do so. This action provoked strong resistance from other Uzbek tribes, and then in 1806 Iltuzar was killed while fighting against Bukhara. However, his brother Muhammad Rahim (r. 1806–1826) was able to subdue the rival Uzbeks, and Qongrat rulers were able to retain the title. Muhammad Amin Khan (r. 1846–1855) increased central control over Uzbek tribal leaders by appointing the chiefs of the four most important tribes as inoqs and incorporating them into his court council. This move helped the khan subjugate more Uzbeks as well as Sarts to his legal and taxation systems. Settled farmers and town-dwellers became the khan’s most reliable subjects, because he centralized the irrigation system upon which they depended, and provided their best protection against Turkmen and Kara-kalpak raiders. Muhammad Amin and his successors had much less luck in controlling the nomads. While all the nomadic tribes considered themselves Muslim, and the khans appointed qadis to judge disputes, neither the khans nor the clergy had the power to force nomads to submit to anything other than tribal customary law [Geiss, p. 145]. This severely limited rulers’ abilities to alter communal or personal identities.
The most effective tool available to the khans for controlling nomads was the military, and even military power was limited. Throughout the 19th century khans repeatedly defeated Turkmen, Kara-kalpak, and Kazakh nomads in battle and forced them to submit, only to see them physically leave Khivan territory and/or offer their loyalty to a better-paying patron like the Shah of Persia. An additional complication in this pattern was that Yomut and Teke Turkmen appear to have had an entirely different interpretation of the terms of defeat and submission than that of the khans. Based on their subsequent behavior, it looks like Turkmen tribes regarded military defeat as a temporary state that made them allies of the khan who beat them. This alliance created lucrative opportunities to carry out raids in the khan’s name, but did not create a permanent service obligation. When the khan tried to enforce the latter interpretation, some Turkmen tribes left the territory, while others did choose to stay in their homelands and genuinely submit to central authority. Continued political instability as well as relative military weakness left the Khanate of Khiva open to easy conquest by Russian forces in 1873. The Russians made Sayyid Muhammad Rahim Bahadur Khan II (1865–1910) a vassal ruler of a protectorate, just as they had reduced Bukhara to protectorate status.
Emirate of Bukhara
In Bukhara between 1747 and 1756 Muhammad Rahim Ataliq Manghit, an Uzbek of the Manghit tribe who had served as chief courtier for the last Ashtarkhanid khan, murdered his employer and took the throne. He was the first non-Chingisid to rule in Bukhara for 350 years. As such, he and his descendants could not call themselves khans, although they retained some Mongol legitimizing rituals, such as having tribal leaders lift up the new ruler on a white felt [Geiss, pp. 126–127]. Instead the Manghit rulers were known by the title of emir/amir, and established a new basis for legitimacy in religion. Emirs Shah Murad (r. 1785–1800) and especially the pious Haidar (r. 1800–1826) were active in the Naqshbandi Sufi order and gave prominent ceremonial and real power to the ulama (scholars) and qadi/qozi (judges of Islamic law). Islam was only partially effective in solidifying the political order, however. The Manghit emirs struggled to establish reliable, centralized control over provinces outside the city of Bukhara itself. They often appointed men from the administrative center as begs (provincial governors), although the more powerful tribes could arrange to be governed by one of their own members. Villages were still governed by locally-elected oqsoqollar (literally, “white beards”), who represented local interests against those of centrally-appointed officials. That villagers and townsmen resented tax collectors was nothing new, but resentment could be sharpened when the tax collector was a Sart or Iranian and thus doubly an outsider.
In sum, until the Russians made Bukhara their protectorate in 1868, the Manghit emirs faced frequent disobedience or outright rebellion by Uzbek or Iranian local communities. The death of an emir was a particularly dangerous time, when begs seized the chance to establish their own independence. When Haidar Amir died his successor, Nasrullah, had to fight for 25 years to regain control over all of the provinces. Even the Russian Army could not entirely eliminate rebellion. The emirate was a political entity bound by forced obedience, not by any sense of common community based on ethnic or even religious ties. In border regions where Uzbek clans still practiced a semi-nomadic way of life, tribal law was accorded as much respect as was Islamic law. Identity remained based on local family and customs. There was no “Bukharan,” much less “Uzbek” national identity.
Khanate of Kokand
A man named Shahrukh, of the Uzbek Ming tribe (not to be confused with the Chinese Ming Dynasty, which ruled 1368–1644), began to establish political authority in the Ferghana Valley around 1710. Over the next 50 years the Ming tribe both suffered and benefitted from the disruptions caused by Oirat/Zunghar invasions from the east, which devastated the Kazakh Great Horde and the Bukharan khanate. The Zunghar attacks pushed Kazakh tribes out of their ancestral territories. In turn the Kazakhs invaded Bukharan lands, which brought Bukhara close to collapse and significantly shook up relationship patterns among nomadic and settled communities. The Bukharan khanate could no longer assert its authority over the Ferghana Valley, which allowed Ming Uzbek leaders to build alliances with area bekliks (provinces) centered around the towns of Marghilan, Khujand, and Andijan. The Ming leader Abdalkarim (1734–1750) founded the town of Kokand (also spelled Khoqand or Qo'qon) around 1740. By 1760, when Ferghana Valley beks formally submitted to the Qing Qianlong Emperor in Beijing in gratitude for his extermination of the Zunghars, Kokand and its ruler Irdana (1751–1770) had become at least first among equals in the region. This kind of domino pattern, in which one invading group set off a cascade of secondary invasions that significantly changed where and how people lived and how they interacted with each other, was a common one throughout Central Asian history. Invader cascades were one of the most important causes of changes in communal identity across Inner Eurasia until modern empires established controlled borders.
Historians dispute when the rulers of Kokand took the title “khan” for themselves, and whether they were entitled to it. Most sources state that Alim (1799–1811) first proclaimed himself khan although he could not claim Chingisid lineage, hence the formal founding of the Khanate of Kokand is dated to this time [Geiss, p. 146, Bregel, p. 62]. However, Qing court records suggest that Irdana had called himself khan in 1762, when he wrote to Beijing to claim the mountains just west of Kashghar as the border between China and Kokand. Furthermore, one source says that the founder of Ming power, Shahrukh, did claim Chingisid lineage [Newby, pp. 31–32 and notes].
Mongol lineage traditions still played a role in distinguishing communal identities within the expanding Kokand khanate. Whether or not the Ming leaders were entitled to call themselves khans (remember that lineage claims were always fluid), as a tribe the Ming were Uzbeks on the basis of their descent from the 15th century horde whose leader claimed descent from Shiban, son of Jochi son of Chingis Khan. This genealogical tradition distinguished Ming Uzbeks from the older population of Turkic-speakers (usually called “Türks”) in the Ferghana Valley, whose ancestors had lived there since at least the time of the Chaghatid khans in the 13th century. The Ming also had to contend with another Uzbek confederation called the Qipchaqs, who identified themselves on the basis of a different ancestral lineage, and who did not voluntarily recognize the Ming Uzbeks as their superiors. To add to our confusion over names and identities, the term “Uzbek” could be used simply to indicate that someone was a townsman rather than a nomad. Arminius Vambery, a brilliant Hungarian who, in the early 1860s, successfully traveled throughout Central Asia in the guise of a Sufi mendicant, reported that Kyrgyz, Qipchaqs and others who moved from nomadic to settled lifeways routinely started calling themselves “Uzbeks” or “Sarts.” This change in name implied more of a political than an ethnic transition, as townsmen were under much closer administrative control than were the nomads [Vambery, pp. 431–432; Geiss, p. 157].
By 1810 Alim Khan seized the previously independent city of Tashkent, with its mixed population of Turkic- and Iranian-speakers, from Bukharan and Kazakh control. His rule marked the beginning of Kokand’s enormous territorial expansion. By the middle of the 19th century, the Kokand khanate encompassed Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Kara-kalpak nomadic tribes as far west as the Aral Sea. Under Muhammad Ali Khan (1822–1841) Kokand reached east across the mountains and briefly seized Kashghar from Qing control. This rapid growth brought wealth but also danger to the khans. Many nomadic groups either did not acknowledge the authority of khans no matter how impeccable their genealogical traditions (Kyrgyz and Kara-kalpaks) or only recognized their own Chingisid lineage (Kazakhs). In practical terms, “ruling authority” meant the power to collect taxes or tribute and command military service, but the khan had no mechanisms for uniting people on an ethnic or civic “national” basis in the Western sense. Umar Khan (1811–1822), who was a highly educated man, patronized Islamic scholars (ulama) as well as poets and artists, and extended the reach of Islamic law in order to centralize his administration. He distributed irrigated farming land under the Islamic property regulations called mulk, which allowed holders to buy, sell, or lease land under clerical legal supervision. Umar’s Ming tribesmen benefitted from this system, since the khan granted much land to them. At the height of their authority, Umar and his son Muhammad Ali could force Kyrgyz nomads to purchase mulk land to use for winter pastures, which enriched the state treasury and in theory brought the tribes under firmer Islamic legal control. Umar and Muhammad Ali may have been using sharia to try to unify their khanate on a basis of religion, or they may simply have been using the most convenient, available tools to increase tax revenues—we do not yet have sufficient evidence to really understand what they were trying to do.
One of the titles that Umar Khan gave himself was “amir al-muslimin,” Arabic for “emir of the Muslims,” [Levi, p. 230]. However, proclaiming themselves to be truly Muslim rulers backfired on the khans of Kokand. On the one hand, Islamic law without administrative power behind it could not create a unified polity. Giving ulama a prominent place at court did not enable the khans to force nomadic Kygyz or semi-nomadic Uzbeks to pay taxes on a regular basis. Local tribal law continued to supercede Islamic law according to tribal convenience. No central authority could tell anyone except town-dwellers—a small part of the total population—what they had to do to be accepted as part of the Muslim community. On the other hand, claiming legitimacy on an Islamic basis got Muhammad Ali Khan and his entire family in deep trouble with Nasrullah, the aggressive emir of Bukhara who also claimed to be amir al-muslimin. In 1840 Kyrgyz and Qipchaq tribes in Kokand were already angry over their increasing tax burdens. Then the khan lost support of the clergy when he married two sisters and his mother-in-law, in violation of sharia [Geiss, pp. 149–150]. Nasrullah was invited by internal rebels to invade Kokand, which he could easily justify based on Muhammad Ali’s bad behavior. Within two years Muhammad Ali and his family were dead, including his remarkable mother Nodira (see box). The Bukharan attack failed due to resistance from the Qipchaqs, who themselves ruled in Kokand for several years, but the Kokand khanate never recovered from the chaos. Ming rule was restored under Khudoyar, who ruled as khan three separate times, but Khudoyar stood no chance against Russian arms. The Russians took Tashkent from Kokand in 1865, setting off not only retaliation by Khudoyar but another attack against Kokand by Bukhara. Kokand could not hold together under such pressures. One historian even suggests that the anarchy of Kokand “virtually forced [the Russians] to impose their own solution” [Soucek, p. 193] when in 1876 they broke up the khanate and annexed its territory to their imperial Turkestan Province.