History of Uzbekistan

The culture of the nations found in the territory of Uzbekistan has a very rich history. In the 8th century the armies of an Arab caliph invaded Mawarannahr ("The Land Beyond River"), the territory between the Amudarya river, the Syrdarya river and the land of Khorasan lying to the south of the Amudarya river. This conquest brought a new religion that had risen in Saudi Arabia called Islam. At the same time, there was fire-worship and other religions such as Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity. Since then Islam has dominated far beyond this region and became an extremely important part of its culture.

Mawarannahr was one of the most advanced caliphate regions playing a significant role in social and cultural life. The Great Silk Road linked the West with the Orient and people from southern and northern countries passed through this land. The Mawarannahr towns of Bukhara, Samarkand and Kunya-Urgench were the crossroads of caravan routes from India, China, Egypt, Byzantium, Slavic countries and Arabia.

The House of Wisdom called "Bite ul-Khikma" founded by an order of the caliphate ruler Makhmud engaged in the great task to translate the books of Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes and other ancient Greek scientists and philosophers from classical Greek into Arabic. The Mawarannahr's brilliant young scientists, Musa Al-Khorezmi, Akhmad Al-Fergani, Al-Marvazi, Javkhari, Marvarudi and others, performed with distinction. Baghdad became one of the world's scientific and cultural centers.

The struggle for independence and freedom from oppression by the caliphate of the Central Asian region increased during this time and by the end of 9th century the first Samanid government with Bukhara as the capital was established. This government lasted until the end of the 10th century. During the 10th-12th century period different Karakhanids, Gaz-navids, Seldjukids and Khoresm-shakhs independent states appeared in Mawarannahr and Kho-rasan. In spite of continual wars to expand spheres of influence, this period appeared to be extremely important for the cultural and scientific activity of the region. The establishment of politically independent and autonomous states gave a good start, opening up great opportunities for regional economic and cultural growth. This time in history is known as the Oriental Renaissance and is noted for the unprecedented rise of ethical regulations.

It was the right time to bring in the ripe harvest of such bright philosophers as Abu Nasr Farabi, Imam Al-Bukhari, Narshaki, Makhmud Kashghari, Marginani, Nadjimmiddin Kubro, Abu Raikhan Beruni, Abu Ali Ibn Sino, az-Zamakhshari, and outstanding poets like Rudaki, Yusuf khas Khadjib, Akhmad Yassavi and Abu Bakr al-Khorezmi.

At the same time new Islamic religious movements appeared known for their free thinking, known as Mutaziliya, Ismailiya and Sufism. The towns of Bukhara, Samarkand, Merv, Urgench and Khiva became widely popular in Muslim countries. Crafts, architecture and construction progressed rapidly. At the beginning of the 11th century under the direction of Mamun Khorezm-Shakh, a new research center was founded in Khorezm, where leading oriental scientists worked. It was later dedicated to Khorezm-Shakh and became the first academy in Central Asia.

It was the time for Mawarannahr culture and science to acquire its worldwide fame. However, this rapid growth was rudely halted at the beginning of the 13th century. The Mongols invasion of the country by Genghis Khan completely destroyed all the cities, irrigation infrastructure and sources of culture over a 2-3 period. The struggle for independence to get rid of foreign conquerors occurred during the second half of the 14th century. One of the decisive elements of the struggle was the tireless activity of Amir Timur. Step by step he cleared the area of Mawarannahr and Khorasan from Mongol rulers and at the end of 14th century and a powerful state covering a large territory was established. Timur mainly stressed the strengthening of political power and economic and cultural growth. His main principles of state management were described in the document known as "The Code of Timur". After Timur's death, the Timurids paid great attention to the promotion of art, science, and culture.

Especially during the reign of Ulugbek, Shakhrukh and Khusain Baikaro, the culture reached its peak for the period of history and the towns of Mawarannahr and Khorasan were acknowledged worldwide, not only in the Muslim Orient but also in Europe. This was at the end of the second half of Central Asian Renaissance. Those great philosophers such as Ulugbek, Kozizada Rumi, Ali Kushchi, Mirsharif Djurjani, Djami, Khoja Akhrar, Luhtfiy, Khondamihr, Bekzod, Babur and many others were recognized by the world. Alisher Navoi lived during the 15th century and created his immortal masterpieces. One of the Timurids, Ulugbek was responsible for the construction of a scientific center in Samarkand, known as The Ulugbek Academy in different literary sources.

This was a time for building monuments and cultural facilities, for rapid growth of Uzbek poetry, miniature painting, manuscript art, and the development of numerous scientific directions within astronomy, mathematics, history and medicine.

But the internecine wars became more frequent at the end of 15th century and caused the breakdown of Timurid's state by the beginning of 16th century. Conquering Turkic nomads come from the north. But at the beginning of 17th century, a great-great-great-grandson of Timur and the ruler of Fergana, Babur invaded India and established a new state known as "The Great Mogul Empire". The Timurids ruled it until the intrusion of Britain into India.

From the 17th century onwards Mawarannahr experienced deep social and economic decay. However, during this time people like Makhmudi Azim, Karabaghi, Abdulgizkhan, Turdi, Mashrab, Nodira, Uvaisiy, Gulkhani, Makhmudkuli, Berdakh and others acquired personal fame for their treatises and literary work.

During the first half of the 19th century Muhammad Rakhimkhan paid a great deal of attention to history and literature in Khorezm, this was the time of Munis, Komil Khorezmi, Agakhi, Bayani and others.

During the second half of the 19th century the life of Turkestan was filled with great social, economic and political events. In the 1860's tzarist Russia began its conquest of Turkestan.

During this period there were anti-colonial reform-minded enlightened movements that influenced the cultural and social life of Turkestan. Based on the culture of local people the enlightened movements were headed by the scientists and poets, Akhmad Donish, Furkhat, Avaz Otar and Mukimiy to name just a few. Great changes are a feature of Turkestan culture of this period.

At the end of the 19th century Djadidizm appeared based in the enlightenment movement and began to put forward new education and enlightenment, social and cultural policies. Step by step the activities and work of well-known djadids like Bekhbudi, Firtrat, Abdulla Avloni, Munnavhar Kari, Khamza and others spread widely among the people. Magazines and newspapers, books and textbooks began to appear stimulating interest in and growth of the national historical and cultural heritage. This ensured significant growth of national consciousness, political and cultural maturity and a striving for an independent way of development.

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