"Uzbekistan, young country, old history." Top 5 Page for this destination Uzbekistan by kokoryko

Uzbekistan Travel Guide: 1,770 reviews and 5,922 photos

Introductory word

Since nothing else than the empty wind is left from everything which exists
Since everything, at the end is lost and disappears,
Think well about: everything which exists, is nothing in reality;
Meditate well: everything which is nothing, in reality, is everything

Omar Khayyam

I am not a poet and the translation (from French, not Persian!) was a difficult exercise!
I long was reluctant to write about, for some reason, but finally I take the plunge.. .. . and, well, it will be mainly impressions and thoughts (ooooh, religion and politics!), and this is of course, me, and subjective writing. So, information is right, feelings are feelings to be shared or not. . . .
Uzbekistan, a “Stan country”, is a Soviet creation (1920), a very young country as it is now (independence, 1991), but it hosts some of the oldest cities on this planet like between the Tigris and Euphrates here between Oxus and Iaxartes . Long before Alexander the Great crossed the Oxus, brilliant civilisations built cities, grew wheat, barley and other crops, cared herds of sheep and horses. . . . . Other civilisations came later, soldiers, bloodroot tyrants, also scholars, philosophers, architects. . . .soviets.
This is not a travel guide, only a travel account, and if it appears as “tips” it is just to put some order in the way I try to tell about and there will not be many “practical” information. The only “organisation” in this travel account is my souvenirs and how they came back when remembering the trip, looking at the pictures and putting in perspective with what I red about Uzbekistan and Central Asia when I came back.
About travel guides, or lets say, well organised, informed, well written pages, there arealready some here in VT, about practical information and experience(s) (paperstuffs, money exchange, OVIR, etc. etc.) for getting around in this country (valid 2006); I will not be rerdundant.
I visited Uzbekistan in July-August 2006, and this travel account is “amputated” from Ferghana Valley where a light-handed guy in a marchroutnoie (a minibus) managed to lighten me of my camera.
Uzbekistan, as it exists today as an independent country since 1991, is a totally artificial creation of the Tsars and later the red communist Tsars of Moscow. Ethnic Uzbek people represent 80% of the 24 million population and there are 2 important minorities: Tadjiks and Russians (including Ukrainians, Byelorussians. . . ).
The Soviet administration has carved the Socialist Republics in order to mainly control the populations, and their leaders which were generally good Party fellows. The big cities like Bukhara and Samarqand which had (and have) a big proportion of Persian (“Tajik”) speaking people, have been integrated into Uzbekistan and a close look at the boundaries between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan shows complicated lines.

Old history

Old cities of the Bronze Age existed in Transoxian (Beyond the Oxus, the area between the Oxus and Iaxartes rivers) and few tools artefacts, potteries from 3000-1500 BC are known from this area ((Margouch, Turkmenistan). The Persian Empire dominated the area from the 6th to the 3rd centuries BC which was administered as “satrapies” (regions) like Khorezm (Khiva), Bactrian, Sogdian (Marakanda, Penjikent), Margiane (Merv), etc. . Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, and arrived in the area around 329 B.C.; he invaded Marakanda (the future Samarqand) and the other cities of the area. Legends locate an Alexandria at the today’s Khojand (Tajikistan). Alexander’s heirs divided his empire into several states, then united by the Parthians in the first century B.C.. A strong Greek influence remained in the kingdoms, states of Central Asia until the 7th century A.D. The most brilliant civilisation were the Sogdian, located south of Samarqand during the 5-7th centuries A.D. having left the ruins of Penjikent. During all this time, several religions developed among the nomads or in the cities; Buddhism was very important; Manicheism and Zoroastrism came from Persia and spread out mainly in the cities; Nestorianism, a Christian religion spread out in the eastern areas of Central Asia.
Then, the Arabs invaded Central Asiain the beginning of the 8th century and imported their religion: Islam. The Uzbekistan we visit today is a strongly Muslim influenced country, the architectural wonders are mainly of Islamic inspiration, Islam is in every day’s life.
After their conquests the Arabs left the administration to local rulers who paid tribute to the Caliphs of Baghdad (the Abbassids) and took care to spread out their religion. It was the first “brilliant period” of Bukhara, with Ibn Sina (Arabic name of Avicenne, who wrote his medical treatise, used till the 17th century in Europe) and Rudaki, who made this city the cradle of the Persian literature (Followed later by Omar Khayyam in Samarqand). With time the local rulers were more and more independent and four brothers of them, of Tajik-Afghan origin created the Samanid dynasty who ruled the area till the 10th century.They were followed (with wars and battles. . . ) by the Turkish Karakhanids and Seljoukids dynasties who re-developed Bukhara reconstructed Samarqand, and replaced Baghdad with Merv, as the centre of the world.
But, it was too nice. . . soon, (beginning 13th century) the Mongols and Genghis Khan showed up, with their huge destructive potential and their tendency to kill almost the whole population of the cities they destroyed (Geoffrey Moorhouse (in: “The Samarqand pilgrimage”) writes that in Merv, there were more dead than after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. . . . !) . Central Asia was then quiet for some 150 years in the big Mongol empire, until another “great” warlord decided to build his empire: Timur, also called Timur Leng, Tamerlan, “Timur the lame”.
Tribe chief, married with a descendent of Genghis Khan, he began as a highwayman (writes Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, in “La route de Samarcande au temps de Tamerlan”) but rapidly conquered Transoxian and made Samarqand his capital city. He then built an empire - no, building is not exactly appropriate- he then spread war, death, and destruction on a territory spanning from Moscow to Delhi.
While destroying and killing (by hundred of thousands) he developed his beloved city of Samarqand; the best architects, masons, scientists, workmen of the time were deported from the submitted countries to his city. What we see today in Samarqand is mostly his and his sons and grandsons heritage . After his death in 1405, within fifty years his empire collapsed, and soon, the khanates developed in the actual Uzbekistan.

The Khanates and the arrival of the Russian

The three Khanates were Khiva, Bukhara and later, Kokand, but they were more and more isolated in Central Asia, as the Portuguese sailors discovered the maritime routes to the Far East; the continental trade routes (the famous silk roads) were less and less used and the big caravans going their way from X’ian to Istambul became a rare sight in the plains and mountains of Central Asia, and the few ones which made the travel were very often ransomed by the Turkmen looters in the Kara Kum desert.
During 200 years Transoxian, and Central Asia in general were isolated from the rest of the world. When the British Empire in the south and the Russian empire in the north tried to expand in Central Asia, the Khanates became an issue of what historian call the “Great Game”, the game of influence and colonisation of Central Asia.
The Russian appeared in Central Asia in the middle of the 19th century, “called” by local Kazakh rulers to help them against possible Mongol invaders. After Kazakhstan, the Russian decided to go south. First, Kokand was invaded in 1863, then Tashkent, part of the Bukhara Khanate, was conquered in 1865. By 1868, the Khans of Bukhara and Kokand signed submission to the Russian Empire, and in 1873, the last Khanate (Khiva) was defeated by the Russian Empire whose pretext for invasion was the slave-trade practised by the Khiva rulers.
The Russians “developed” very quickly central Asia, with the construction of roads and railways, in order to facilitate the colonisation. After the red revolution in 1917, the Khanates tried to regain independence, or at least autonomy, but they were forced to become parts of the workers paradise. Later, Soviet Socialist Republics were created and the central Asia countries are the heritage of these creations with their boundaries.
If you look in these pages you will see lots of Islamic Art; it is something special, I do not have the pretension to know, I will just give my feeling about; to understand a bit from that art, you have to know that Islam is a revealed religion and this makes the Muslim’s vision of the world simple, unconcerned about historical, racial, cultural specificities of people. The objective of the believer is to spread out God’s message; art is just something unavailing, but , done “honestly”, with faith, it “reveals”, makes visible what is not visible, and where is beauty and order, there is God. Of course reading Arabic (which I do not) is essential to get a bit more from Islamic art.
Oh, I see I used at least ten times the personal pronoun I; now, I will try to leave this I, the egocentric, egoistic and centre of the world I,. . . . . . I did this and that, I have seen this and that, I recommend. . . I was. . , I find . . . you should. . . etc. . .
Place for the beauties, the marvels, or just simple facts, they speak for themselves, pictures and comments will be enough. But not only beauties, not all is rosy (aaah marvellous!! oooo, the world’s most. . ., the most wonderful. . . etc. . . ) in this country, and it is also part of the travel. Hope you enjoy, as I did, re-travelling there and writing my impressions.

I recently found one of my pictures somewhere on the web where it has nothing to do.
It arrived there without permission.
My pictures are far from being works of art, but be kind and ask if you want to use.
Unless otherwise marked, I am the author of the pictures.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Wonderful people.
  • Cons:Quite hot in summer, but part of the pleasure of travels!!
  • In a nutshell:Just let your feelings guide you
  • Last visit to Uzbekistan: Jul 2006
  • Intro Updated Aug 16, 2008
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Reviews (41)

Comments (15)

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Apr 10, 2012 at 3:59 AM

    Hermann, fascinating page with outstanding photos and comprehensive descriptions. Uzbekistan is still on my must-visit list.

  • xaver's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    great page about a country I hope to visit soon.

  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo
    Apr 1, 2009 at 3:12 PM

    Hi Hermann! Read some of your pages on Uzbekistan and you share very nice observations...I like the picture of the couple getting married...Have a nice day and Greetings from Arizona, Norman :)

  • Arkeolog's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    Excellent page. Congrats. I liked your opening photo most. other photos and tips are great too. Greetings from turkey.

  • Tuna_ank's Profile Photo
    Dec 23, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    I am lucky that I could read many Ömer Hayyam poet. Thanks for beautiful pages and explanations.

  • Luchonda's Profile Photo
    Oct 30, 2008 at 12:18 PM

    I love the durieux words The dream of our youth Great page

  • lotharlerch's Profile Photo
    Jul 15, 2008 at 2:55 PM

    Great page! Calls nice memories back,

  • BillNJ's Profile Photo
    Apr 20, 2008 at 9:16 AM

    Good observation. Yes, people are not free in every land -- and, even in Western places, rulers often try to take basic rights and freedom away. Best from New Jersey, Bill

  • omidamini's Profile Photo
    Dec 30, 2007 at 11:43 PM

    Thanks alot for good VT Uzbekistan page , this is like my country

  • Tijavi's Profile Photo
    Dec 17, 2007 at 6:45 AM

    Travel guide or not, I love your Uzbekistan pages. And this is perhaps the most serious VT pages you've written, asking some thought-provoking questions. Appreciate also the detailed labels on pictures.


“Il me plait de courir sans but et sans raison . . . .”

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