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date: 28 June 2017

The Bukharan Amirate

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History. Please check back later for the full article.

In the 19th century, the Amirate of Bukhara was one of three independent Uzbek principalities known as khanates. Ruled by the Manghit amīrs, Bukhara was the biggest and most important of the southern Central Asian states and one of the major power centers in the wider region. To the readers of 19th-century European travelogues, Bukhara was known for the despotism of its rulers, who stood out for their cruelty and strange tastes. From a geopolitical point of view, the Bukharan Amirate was part of an anarchic transition space, between Central and South Asia, made up of half a dozen petty principalities without centralized power structures. While the Bukharan amīrs were often at war with their neighbors, the khanates of Khiwa and Khoqand, they also faced challenges in the form of internal rebellions. In addition, the Manghit dominion was frequently shaken by succession struggles. Hence the scope of Bukharan authority was limited to the urban centers and important irrigated areas. In the second half of the 19th century, the Amirate of Bukhara and its neighbors north of the Amu Darya River came into the focus of Russia. After a series of military defeats in 1868, Bukhara was turned into a Russian protectorate. From the 1870s onward, it developed as a centralized state with a more sophisticated administration. This state was gradually drawn into the Russian orbit and penetrated by the colonial infrastructure. This tendency increased after the revolutions of 1917 in Russia. In 1920, Bolshevik troops conquered the capital and the residence of the last Manghit ruler, Amīr ʿĀlim Khān, who retreated and took refuge in Afghanistan. Afterward, the Amirate was turned into a People’s Republic, which was absorbed into the emerging Soviet Union in 1924.