« PreviousContinue »
seizing the Bokhara throne on the fall of the Ashtarkhanides, does not seem likely to stave off the inevitable very long:*
Karategin-a mountainous district on the western slope of the Pamir Steppe—was, with the valley of the Sarkhan River and its tributaries, an independent principality up to the period of Russia's annexing the Khanate of Khokan, or Ferghana, when it passed under the rule or “protection” of Bokhara. Gharm, or Karategin, the capital, contains about 800 houses. Little ground is cultivated, but cattle are bred, and rough woollens woven of the fleece of their sheep, or of the hair of goats. Gold is found in the sands of the streams, and excellent weapons are made of the iron brought from Hissar and Wantch. The preparation of salt, and the hunting of wild beasts, also give employment to many of the population. But altogether Karategin, which does not contain more than 100,000 people, chiefly of a very moderate Mohammedan faith, with its thickly wooded mountains, and secluded pastoral valleys, has not much concern with the world which formerly so little troubled it.t
THE TURKOMAN COUNTRY.
Between the Oxus and the northern frontier of Persia, and as far west as the Russian provinces on the other side of the Caspian, stretches the Kara-Kum, or Black Sands, a desert almost unrelieved by a single fertile spot. But by the wild Turkomans, or nomadic robber tribes, it is regarded as the most effectual of barriers between them and the civilisation which is foreign to their ways of life. These Turkomans are for the most part predatory. They cultivate a few spots on the borders of the desert, where the streams which flow down from the Persian and Afghan highlands moisten the dry soil before being lost in the sand of the Kara-Kum. But the main resource of these untamed Tartars is bighway robbery. The trader and the traveller in the vicinity of their country dread, with reason, the onslaughts of these Asiatic Bedouins, and the frontier farms and villages of Persia have for many years been harassed by the Turkoman robbers in search of plunder and slaves. Persian captives are numerous among them, and more recently they have not spared even the Russian settlements, an imprudence which has now brought on them the vengeance of the Czar. They own no regular chiefs, nor do they possess what can be designated a form of government. However, for mutual protection and convenience they have gathered into little tribes, the most powerful of which are the Tekkes, whose strongholds are to be found all along the borders of Persia, from Kyzyl-arvat to the southwest of Merv, generally considered the Turkoman capital. The Tekkes are, indeed, one of the few Turkoman tribes which can be considered non-namadic. Dr. Schuyler describes them as half sedentary, living in large villages, and submitting in some degree to the authority of their elders, thus constituting a society with a primitive form of organisation.
* Vambéry: “History of Bokhara” (1873), and Grigorief's critique on it translated in Appendix II. of Schuyler's “Turkestan," Vol. I., pp. 360-389, strictures which . must, however, be read with many allowances; Wolff: “Travels in Bokhara" (1844). Khanikoff : "Bokhara ” (1845). Fedchenko: Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XL. (1870), p. 448. Hellwald; “ The Russians in Central Asia” (1875); Deyendorff : “ Bokhara” (1877).
† Abramof: Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XLI. (1871), p. 338.
Hence they are the strongest of the race, and their alaman, or raids, will sometimes extend as far as Meshad and even Herat. Colonels Markozof and Stoletof describe a Tekke “aul” as having the “ kibitkas,” or dwellings, arranged on two sides of the fort, which is usually the centre of their encampment. Bags of wheat, rice, and sorghum, carpets, felts, and household articles, are the contents of the huts, and occasionally an apparatus for smelting copper, agricultural tools of a primitive kind, looms for weaving carpets, and some of the apparatus used for breeders of silkworms may be seen. Horses, cattle, pigs, and fowls wander about, and near the fort are small gardens planted with poplars and cotton. Small water-mills are
also usually established each fort. The inhabitants of the Tekke oasis, as far as the fortress of Anev,
call themselves Akhal, to distinguish themselves from the Tekkes. The latter are nominally under the Khan of Khiva, to whom they formerly paid the tribute, one camel for each fortress, but that has now been replaced by about twelve roubles a year for each irrigating canal. Above twelve years ago, the Akbal Tekkes were governed by an independent Khan who enjoyed absolute authority. But at last, tired of the constant quarrels of his tribesmen, he retired to Merv, and left the people to the anarchy which has ever since been their doom. The Akbal Tekkes are divided into two families—the Tokhtamish and the Utamish—who are always rivals, in spite of efforts at union inspired by dread of the menaces of Russia on one side, of the Persian Kurds on another, and of the Khivan Yomuds in a third direction.
The Russians have recently undertaken to subdue the Tekkes, who least of all the Turkoman tribes have established friendly relations with the rulers of the Trans-Caspian district. This will entail the capture, and probably the occupation, of Merv, a place about
which public opinion has of late years greatly occupied itself. In reality, this town, like so many others on which the traveller in Central Asia continually comes amid the drifting sands, or in the oases which the neglect of the irrigating canals are allowing to lapse into desert, half-ruined, is much more imposing in a “leading article” than in its poor reality. Placed, however, in the oasis of the Murghab, one of the few habitable spots in an arid land, Merv has always maintained a certain celebrity. Sir Henry Rawlinson
considers it one of the oldest capitals in the world, and historically so important as to require a special monograph for its adequate illustration.* It, however, lost all political significance in 1795, when the Amir Murad of Bokhara, not content with the submission of the town, carried off 40,000 of its inhabitants to his capital, where their descendants live to the present day in a separate quarter, and have taught the Bokharans the silk industry, which they did not understand before their arrival. In 1815 the Khivans occupied Merv. The Bokharans soon regained possession of it, but were before long
* Proceedings of the Royal Geogrephical Sociсty, March, 1879, p. 188.
compelled to surrender it into the hands of the Turkomans, who now used it mainly as a base for their operations against the Persians. There are not more than 2,000 settled inhabitants in the town, which is surrounded by nomad encampments of Sariks and Salors in continuous succession along the banks of the Murgbab. The place, though old, is one of the least known in Central Asia. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that no educated travellers have visited it, for in the course of the last half century Burnes, Abbot, Shakespeare, Taylour Thomson, Wolff, and Blocqueville, the latter å French gentleman who was kept in captivity for fourteen months by the Tekkes, have, among others, all passed through the town, or resided in it, and most of them have published accounts of it.*
The number of the Turkomans can only be known approximately, but from rough estimates they are considered to approach 200,000. Their breed of horsemen are fine, their courage unimpeachable, and their ferocity, if it were possible to keep it in check, would make them the terror of any barbarous race against whom they might be employed as irregulars in the pay of a civilised power. To this they must in time descend, for the area of “independent” Turkestan-Khiva, Bokhara, and the Turkoman country—is little by little, and now and then very rapidly, getting so curtailed, that before long it will only exist in the pages of history.
RUSSIAN CENTRAL ASIA.
Up to the year 1864, the Russian possessions in Central Asia were small. But shortly prior to that date anarchy reigued in the country, owing to the almost continual wars which the Khans of Bokhara, Khokan, and Khiva had waged with each other. The arrival of the Czar upon the scene resulted in the invasion of Khokan, the occupation of the city of Tashkend, now the capital of the Russian Central Asiatic territories, and finally, in 1867, the absorption of the entire Khanate. By 1868 Samarcand —the famous capital of the mighty empire of Timour Leng, and the place wherein did “Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree”—fell, and with it that part of Bokhara of which it was the immediate centre, which was forthwith erected into the Province of Zarafshan. The circumstances which led Kuldja to be temporarily occupied in 1871 we have already related (p. 95), whilst the third campaign against Kbiva, as we have seen, terminated in 1873 by the capital of that Kbanate and the Kbivan territory along the right bank of the Oxus, or Amu Darya, being ceded to the invaders. The Russian conquests now extended as far as the Attrek on the frontiers of Persia, and when in 1875 the Khanate of Khokan was finally incorporated into the empire of the “Central Asia," pp. 21-22 ; Morgan : Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol Czar, the summit of the range of the Western Thian Shan mountains became the eastern limits which perforce had to own the rule of Alexander II. In brief, Russia has in sixteen years added a million and a half of square miles to her Asiatic possessions. But, with scarcely an exception, this territory is practically worthless to her. It does not pay its expenses; and the 4,000,000 inhabitants, though almost compelled to buy Russian goods, are rapidly beginning to find English wares in their bazaars, and to discover that in spite of duties considered almost prohibitory these articles can be purchased cheaper than those brought direct from Russia by way of the Caspian. This, at least, is the complaint of the Russians themselves.
. XLVIII. (1878), p. 312; Tour du Monde, 1866, &c.
THE KIRGHIZ STEPPE, ETC.
The Kirghiz Steppe, as the northern part of the region is called, is a dry, stony tract, inhabited by few Russians, and used in common by various Kirghiz tribes as a pasture-ground for their droves of horses and cattle. The southern portion, from the salt-water lake, or inland sea, of Balkash (p. 98), to the Thian Shan and the sea of Aral, is better, though a great part of the western region is covered by the Kizil Kum, or Red Sands, stretching between the Syr Darya and Amu Darya-or, as the ancients called them, the Jaxartes and Oxus rivers. The east division is, on the other hand, for the most part mountainous, and comprises the high ranges north of the Thian Shan. The low-lying “Seven Streamland ” south of the Balkash yields crops and pasturage, , and in the mountain valleys watered by the feeders of the Syr Darya, and of Lake Balkash, are some fine valleys, while, as we have seen, the mountain slopes yield excellent timber. The shores of the Issik-Kul (p. 99)—a lake which occasionally overflows to the River Chui, and helps to swell the waters lost in the desert between Balkash and the Aral—seems in remote days to have been the home of many people. Indeed, all this region is now only a wreck of what it once was. Every valley bears the trace of having in former days supported a great population; and their tangled history is the tale of how successive conquerors reared and destroyed empires, until the ruined races either reverted into semi-barbarism, or lost the enterprise and spirit which once distinguished them. The Ili Valley* we have already described, with the Chinese and Russian settlements along the banks of the river which gives its name to the region (p. 97).
The Narin Valley, or Ferghana,t was for the most part the former Khanate of Khokan, Kokan, or Khokand, as the name is often written, which in 1875 lost its independence. The Usbegs, or Uzbeks, a Turkish people who three hundred years ago conquered the small
* For the most recent account of Kuldja, see Major Clarke in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, August, 1880, pp. 489-499.
+ Severtsoff: “ Journey in Ferghana and the Pamir, in 1877-8,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, August, 1880, p. 499.