History of Uzbekistan
The history Uzbekistan has is a chronicle that looks somehow like a winding road. It’s long and exciting like an extraordinary adventure. When you read about the Asian history, you always find out something new and enlightening. But it's easy to get lost there because of the vast time period it covers. So let’s start, paying attention to the history of Asia on the whole and the history of Uzbekistan particularly.
The First Acquaintance with the Lands of Uzbekistan
Scientists have been debating for some time about when the first humans appeared where the modern-day Uzbekistan is now. Some of them claim that this time interval belongs to the Middle Paleolithic, while others assert that the start of life in Uzbekistan belongs to the Lower Paleolithic era, which was approximately one million years prior to our era. We don’t actually know much about that epoch of people’s lives. Artifacts that were found in modern Bukhara, Ferghana, Karakum, and Kyzylkum deserts are rare and poorly studied.
The first substantial archaeological findings belong to the Paleolithic period. In the recently fifty years, researchers have found several sites of Neanderthals, where the most widely known are Amankutan and Teshiktash. Basing on those findings, we now have the valuable knowledge about lifestyle, appearance, and line of work of early men.
Throughout the Neolithic period (the 6th-7th centuries BC), Central Asia beheld the development of 3 tremendous archaeological cultures: Hissar, Dzheytun, and Kelteminar.
Later after that, still within the Neolithic period, ancient people started developing a settled farming lifestyle. Such lifestyle strengthened with the forthcoming of the Bronze Age when men started widely using bronze household items and tools. During this exact period, the very first city-states were appearing, usually in the centers of oases, attracting immense settlements to them.
The Signs of Great Civilizations
A bit later (the 7th-6th centuries BC), the ancient historical areas, such as Sughd, Margiana, Bactria, and Khwarezm, began to form. They were distinguished by major settlements, which were spreading over hundreds of square miles and were hiding behind high walls.
Then followed the long and difficult years in the grip of the Achaemenid Empire. Bactria, Sughd and Khwarezm were conquered and had to pay an extremely unreasonable fee to the treasury of the Achaemenid kings.
The Great Commander and His Influence on Asia
The Achaemenid dominion stopped its existence with Alexander the Great starting to rule in Central Asia. He defeated the main troops of the dynasty and decided to end to their rule, killing the last claimant to the crown – Bess, the Satrap of Bactria.
The great commander spent three years on subjugation of Central Asia. People simply chose not to give up and rather put up frantic resistance. Especially difficult for Alexander was to deal with Sughd, where citizens didn’t show any will to lay down arms.
Over that time, Khwarezmid Empire, the first state on the terrain of Uzbekistan, appeared.
In the end of the 2nd century BC, thanks to the trade and reconnaissance mission by Zhang Qian, Imperial China paid its attention to Central Asia. It established trade relationships, which is now considered the starting point in the forming of the Great Silk Road – the transcontinental road that connected various civilizations.
The Era of Critical Changes
In the 7th and the 8th centuries, the state system and the society had to face serious changes. The major conglomerates turned into independent states:
They were based in the Central Asian Mesopotamia – on the plain territories between Amu Darya and Syr Darya. There also appeared a social class of farmers – dehkans. The religions of people who inhabited Mesopotamia during that period were unusually diverse. The main territories were dominated by Zoroastrianism. Christianity and Manichaeism were widely spread too, and the southern regions were the shelters of Buddhism.
Arabs began to play a militant role in the life of Mesopotamia. In the year 651, they captured the city of Marv and continued their regular raids on the Central Asian territories that were called Transoxiana. By the year 712, the cruel commander Qutayba and his troops completely conquered the region and brought a new religion to its people. And this is how Islam started spreading through the entire lands of Central Asia.
At the beginning of 1220, Mesopotamia was intruded by the forces of Genghis Khan. That year, the cities of Bukhara, Termez, and Samarkand fell. They were not only captured but also completely wiped out. Some of them, e.g. Samarkand and Termez, had to be reestablished in the new places.
In the 14th century, political arena of the Transoxiana faced the steady progress of Amir Temur – the emperor and great commander. In April 1370, Amir Temur was chosen to rule the Transoxiana and became the omnipotent leader of Mesopotamia. Temur stopped the infighting ruining the country by 1380 and managed to unify the lands into a sturdy state. Then he made great military campaigns in the Caucasus, Turkey, North India, Syria, and Egypt. During that period, he finally vanquished his foe – Tokhtamysh, the khan of the Golden Horde.
In 1403, Amir Temur became the emperor of the immensely great state. He died in 1405 during his campaign in China. After his death, his sons got all the lands. In 1449, the assassination of Amir’s beloved grandson Ulugh Beg happened, and the country began sinking in chaos.
In the 16th century, two major khanates formed in Mesopotamia. Some parts of modern-day Uzbekistan were held by a major emirate with the capital in Bukhara. The smaller Khanate of Khiva, with Khwarezm as its capital, occupied the lands near the Amu Darya River.
When the 18th century just began, Fergana set apart from Bukhara Emirate and established a new nation. It was named the Khanate of Kokand, which derived from its capital Kokand.
Russia has always had territorial interest in Asia. In the 60’s of the 19th century, Russia held military tours to Central Asia in disguise of protecting the lands from the invasion of the migrant tribes and fighting against servitude that was blooming in Mesopotamia. The Khanate of Kokand was destroyed and Turkestan Governorate-General was formed.
The process of Turkestan joining Russia was rather difficult and painful. Of course, Russia had a major influence on the Turkestan Governorate-General’s economic progress that was accompanied with building of railway systems, growth and expansion of cities, introduction of the population to the advantages of civilization, etc. But on the other hand, people who were deprived of self-sufficiency concurrently started losing their authentic roots and were stuck in economic bondage.
The purpose of the imperial rulers was to make the central part of Asia a cotton base for Russia, which would have a high strategical importance for the government. The military commanders of the Turkestan Governorate-General ordered to increase cotton crops so much that there was insufficient forage and grain crops, which made the region food dependent. An attempt to resettle Russian peasants to Turkestan was made in order to fortify the imperial regime.
Administration cared a lot about the education of local people and was organizing Russian-Uzbek schools, adopting foreign mentality. Even so, the Uzbek people tried to resist the enthrallment as hard as they could. The intellectual people, later known in Uzbekistan history as the Jadids, created schools where they tried to unite the attainments of both European and Eastern pedagogical studies, mixing secular and religious schooling together.
People rebelled constantly. It seemed that things could change with the October Revolution in 1917. In November, Muslim activists gathered at the urgent congress in Kokand and announced the self-government of the southern areas of Central Asia, which obviously wasn’t good for the Bolsheviks’ plans. So, the activists’ attempt turned out to be unsuccessful, being crushed by the outbalancing power of the Red Army.
Such circumstances led to the amplification of the "Basmachi" movement – the mass rebel anti-Soviet movement.
In 1920, both the Khiva and the Bukhara Khanates were ruined, and their territories became part of the Turkestan Governorate-General, which at that time tuned into The Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic – the Turkestan ASSR.
Moving to Independence
In 1924, a law on the demarcation of the state borders was passed. Uzbekistan became another republic in the Soviet Union. Later in the 20th century, it seemed to become quite a prosperous republic. Promoting agricultural production and effective methods of speeding-up technological and scientific headway led to the economy evolution and improving of people's lives.
However, in the 80’s of the previous century, the state went through a period of stagnancy. Declared by Mikhail Gorbachev, “Perestroika” was the hope for economic recovery, but it eventually failed too.
Trying to justify the fiasco and to impede the "separatist" movements, the Soviet leaders set off a tremendous promotion of the so-called "cotton case" in Uzbekistan. Guided by the data of the case, they arrested about twenty-five thousand people, denouncing them of corruption. Along the way, a battle with national traditions started in Uzbekistan, which included violent limitation of the Uzbek language.
The first move for Uzbekistan to its independence was the Islam Karimov’s victory in the presidential elections. It was back in 1990, at the first gathering of the republic’s Supreme Council.
The Declaration of Independence, approved by the president, was created to ensure economic independence, sovereignty, and national revival of the republic.
On the 31st of August, the urgent session of the Council declared the independence of the country. Since then, the 1st of September is a national holiday – the Independence Day.
These days Uzbekistan is recognized by every country of the world as a self-sufficient country. Just like rich history of Central Asia, Uzbekistan’s story is full of dark and bright days. Let’s hope that all the misfortunes are in the past, and only the brightest future is prepared for this wonderful country.