Bukhara, Khanate and Emirate of

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Conventional terms for the political entities in Central Asia were ruled by the khans of the Shibani-Abulkhayrid (1500 to 1598), the Toqay-Timurid (1598 to the late 18th century) families, and the emirs of the Uzbek Manghit tribe (1785 to 1920). The core territories of the khanate and emirate were the string of oases along the course of the river Zarafshan with the cities Bukhara and Samarkand. During most of the sixteenth to mid-eighteenth centuries, Tashkent and Balkh also belonged to the Bukharan dominions.

In 1500, Muhammad Shibani drove the Timurids from Transoxania and conquered a territory reaching from Tashkent to Khwarazm and Khurasan. Shibani, a descendant of Genghis Khan through his grandson Shiban, had served Timurid and Chaghatay rulers during the last decades of the fifteenth century. The principal source of Muhammad Shibani's authority was his claim of descent from Genghis Khan. He derived additional authority from the fact that his grandfather, Abu 'l-Khayr, had ruled a large confederation of Turco-Mongol tribes in Western Siberia known as the Uzbeks. But Muhammad Shibani also propagated Islamic legitimacy by adopting the title of caliph.

Sovereignty in the extended Shibanid-Abulkhayrid family was corporate, embodied in the sultans (agnatic princes who traced their descent from Abu˒l-Khayr through their father's lineage) under the overall khanship of Muhammad Shibani. The khan distributed the conquered territories as appanages (land grants) among the eligible Abulkhayrid princes. The crisis following the unexpected death of Muhammad Shibani Khan in battle against Safavid Qizilbash troops (1510) led to a major reorganization of rule. A short power struggle between the leaders of the major Abulkhayrid clans was resolved in a general meeting (quriltai) convened in 1512 in Samarkand. Supreme sovereignty as khan was from then on nominally assigned to the senior Abulkhayrid agnate.

The appanages became hereditary dominions. The principal appanages, each dominated by one of the Abulkhayrid cousin clans, were Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, and Miyankal (the region between Samarkand and Bukhara). In 1526 Balkh and the lands between the Hindu Kush and the River Amu were regained and allotted to the Jani-Beg clan. This appanage system remained relatively stable until the mid-century, when unclear succession in Bukhara triggered open interclan conflict. Abdallah II, a member of the Jani-Beg clan, eventually established himself in Bukhara in 1557 and gradually expanded his domination over the other Abulkhayrid appanages. Abdallah took residence in Bukhara and initiated large-scale urban development projects.

The political process of electing a supreme khan on the basis of seniority and distributing the territory as appanages to the eligible junior members of the royal clan was continued by the Toqay Timurids, another clan that claimed descent from Genghis Khan and took over in the secession crisis that followed the death of Abdallah's son in 1598. The number of appanages was reduced to two: Bukhara, the residence of the supreme khan and capital of the northern and central territories of the khanate, and Balkh, the center of the areas south of the Amu.

The military backbone of Abulkhayrid and Toqay-Timurid rule were the Uzbek emirs, leaders of the Turco-Mongol nomadic tribal groups who had brought Muhammad Shibani to power. They gradually merged with the old ruling class of Timurid Central Asia. The hierarchy of the emirs symbolically followed a pattern of military-tribal organization that is thought to date back to the army of Genghis Khan. However, this does not mean that the Uzbek emirs were a closed group, nor that they were restricted to military duty. The borderline between military and civil administration was to some extent fluid. Service in the civil administration appears to have been an integral part of an emir's career.

On the other hand, high civil officials of nontribal background could enter the ranks of the emirs. Until the mid-eighteenth century, the highest offices were the ataliq, the divanbegi, and the hakim. The ataliq (princely tutor) seems to have served as military-administrative counselor and a liaison between the khan and the sultans. Hakims served as governors of territorial subunits of the appanages. The divanbegi was the head of the fiscal administration. However, to what extent this title (and others of lower rank) matched well-defined administrative duties or rather were nominal ranks is difficult to determine. The high ranks of religious offices were filled by members of a limited number of families of noble descent (sayyid, khwaja), the most noteworthy being the Juybari khwajas.

The emirs were compensated for their services by assignments of pastureland and the revenues from villages. Originally given to an individual and frequently redistributed, these grants tended to become hereditary, and as a result certain emirid clans and their tribal followings became closely linked to defined territories. The Manghit tribal group thus came to dominate the oasis of Bukhara and the pasturelands around Qarshi.

The growing imbalance between the authority of the khan and the tribal leaders resulted in a radical change in the crisis that followed the temporary surrender of the khan of Bukhara to Nadir Shah in 1740. The ataliq Muhammad Rahim, an emir of the Manghit clan, was able to assume power in Bukhara and even to adopt the title khan in 1756. His cousin Shah Murad (1785–1800) abolished the khanate and ruled with the caliphal title amir al-mu˒minin (Commander of the Faithful), thus lending his nonregal status additional Islamic legitimacy.

The transition from the neo-Chinggisid khanate to the Manghit emirate can be characterized by two major developments: The legitimation of rule was now Islamic rather than based on descent from Genghis Khan, and the power of the non-Manghit Uzbek emirs was systematically reduced. The Manghit emirs of Bukhara created a small standing army and so were able to become largely independent of tribal military support. The connection of military resources and access to regional revenues that had always made the Uzbek emirs a potential threat to the rulers's authority was gradually dissolved. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the emirate of Bukhara appears to have become a fairly centralized state. The emirate was governed through a complex military-civil bureaucracy headed by a chief minister called qoshbegi. The territory was divided into provinces (twenty-seven in 1915) which in turn consisted of fiscal-administrative units. The oasis of Bukhara was under direct administration, while the other provinces were governed by officials called beks.

Already during the reign of the emir Nasrallah (1826–1860) the emirate felt the incipient impact of the conflicting imperialistic interests of Russia and Britain. In 1868, the emir Muzaffar al-Din (1860–1885) had to accept the annexation of the eastern part of his dominions, including Samarkand, by tsarist Russia. The so-called friendship treaty between the governor general of Russian Turkestan and the emir of Bukhara in 1873 sealed the emirate's loss of independence. Though nominally still a sovereign state, the emirate was gradually integrated into the sphere of influence of the Russian Empire. In 1920, Russian revolutionary troops occupied Bukhara. The last emir, ˓Alim (r. 1910–1920), went into exile and the emirate was abolished.

A photo of the arched entryway to the Miri-Arab Madrasa appears in the volume one color plates.

See alsoCentral Asia, Islam in ; Central Asian Culture and Islam .


Becker, Seymour. Russia's Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara and Khiva, 1865–1924. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.

McChesney, Robert D. Central Asia: Foundations of Change. Princeton, N.J.: Darwin Press, 1996.

Florian Schwarz