Ferghana Valley

views updated May 18 2018


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