Fergana Valley

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A triangular basin with rich soil and abundant water resources from the Syr Darya River, modern canals, and the Kayrakkum Reservoir; the Ferghana Valley (Russian: Ferganskaia dolina ; Uzbek: Fargona ravnina ) is situated primarily in Uzbekistan and partly in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and is formed below the Tien Shan Mountains to the north and the Gissar Alay Mountains to the south. This has been the agricultural center of Central Asia for the last several thousand years. The basin is a major producer of cotton, fruits, and raw silk. It is one of the most densely populated regions of Central Asia, including the cities of Khujand, Kokand, Ferghana, Margilan, Namangan, Andijan, Osh, and Jalalabad.

Throughout its history, material and cultural wealth have made the valley a frequent target of conquest. Khujand, at the western edge of the valley, was once called "Alexandria the Far" as an outpost of Alexander the Great's army. From the third century the valley emerged as a PersianSogdian nexus and major stop along the Silk Road under the suzerainty of the Sassanids. The Chinese Tang Dynasty briefly exerted influence in the valley during the seventh and eighth centuries, followed by Arab conquest and Islamic conversions during the eighth and ninth centuries and Persian Samanid dominion during the tenth century. The rise of the Karakhanids brought lasting Turkicization of the Ferghana Valley during the eleventh century. The Chaghatay Ulus of the Mongol Empire during the thirteenth century and the Turkic Timur (Tamerlane) and his grandson Ulugh Bek during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries introduced a period of burgeoning literature and Islamic erudition, followed by centuries of shifting local powers and instability under the various Turkic groups. Kokand khans ruled from the late eighteenth century until the Russian Empire annexed the valley as the Ferghana oblast to the Turkestan governorgeneralship in 1876.

During the establishment of Soviet power in Central Asia (1920s and 1930s), the valley provided a fertile area for the Basmachi movement. In 1924, it was divided between the Uzbek SSR, the Tajik ASSR, and the Kirgiz ASSR. As a result, the valley inherited several cross border enclaves in a traditionally interwoven ethnic region. Despite a tradition of multiethnic cooperation, lateSoviet unrest and ethnic clashes erupted there in 1989 between Uzbeks and Meshkhetian Turks, and in 1990 between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh. The famous Ferghana Canal was an early Soviet engineering project celebrated in prose, poetry, and film.

See also: basmachis; central asia; uzbekistan and uzbeks


Manz, Beatrice Forbes. (1987). "Central Asian Uprisings in the Nineteenth Century: Ferghana Under the Russians." Russian Review 46 (3):267281.

Tabyshalieva, Anara. (1999). The Challenge of Regional Cooperation in Central Asia: Preventing Ethnic Conflict in the Ferghana Valley. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace.

Michael Rouland

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Fergana Valley or Ferghana Valley, region, 8,494 sq mi (22,000 sq km), Central Asia, divided among Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The Fergana Range (part of the Tian Shan system) rises in the northeast and the Pamir in the south. The narrow Khudjand Pass in the west has historically served as an invasion route into the valley. Broadly speaking, the west end of the valley lies in Tajikistan, the main portion of the valley floor in Uzbekistan, and the highlands in the north, east, and south in Kyrgyzstan. The Xinjiang region of China borders the valley in the southeast.

The Fergana Valley, consisting partly of the very fertile Karakalpak steppe and partly of desert land, is drained by the Syr Darya River and by numerous mountain streams, which are fed by snowfields and glaciers in the mountains. A dense irrigation network is linked by the Great Fergana and South Fergana canals. The population of the valley is largely Uzbek; major cities in the valley include Fergana, Kokand, Andijan, and Namangan, in Uzbekistan; Khudjand, in Tajikistan; and Osh, in Kyrgyzstan. Many of the region's cities are connected by a circular rail line, which also has spurs serving the mining settlements on the valley's periphery.

The Fergana Valley is one of Central Asia's most densely populated agricultural and industrial areas. Wheat and cotton fields, orchards, vineyards, walnut groves, and mulberry tree plantations (for silk) cover the region, which is one of the world's oldest cultivated areas. Along the fringes of the valley are deposits of oil, natural gas, and iron ore. The region's natural resources contributed to the industrialization of all Soviet Central Asia. Cotton and silk milling and the manufacture of chemicals and cement are among the valley's important industries.

According to ancient Chinese sources, the Fergana Valley was a major center of Central Asia as early as the 4th cent. BC The introduction of silk raising from China, the development of cotton cultivation, and its favorable location astride the silk route between China and the Mediterranean stimulated the valley's growth. The Arabs, following the path of earlier invaders, occupied the valley in the 8th cent. and introduced Islam. The region was held in the 9th and 10th cent. by the Persian Samanid dynasty, in the 12th cent. by the Seljuk Turks of Khwarazm, and in the 14th cent. by the Mongols under Jenghiz Khan. The valley later belonged to the empire of Timur and his successors, the Timurids.

Early in the 16th cent., it was overrun by the Uzbeks, who established the khanate of Kokand. The opening of the sea route to East Asia around that time led to the decline of the prosperous caravan trade through the valley. Russian conquest of the Fergana Valley was completed in 1876; the region was then made part of a much larger unit called Fergana, which was a province of Russian Turkistan. During the Russian civil war, the valley was the center of the anti-Bolshevik Autonomous Turkistan Government, with Kokand as its capital. The crowded conditions in the valley contributed to ethnic violence in 1989–90, and Fergana has been one of the hot spots of post-USSR Central Asia. An number of enclaves established under Soviet rule, especially those of Uzbekistan that are surrounded by Kyrgyzstan, have at times led to border conflicts.

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Ferghana Valley, region, Central Asia: see Fergana Valley.