Stone Age

See my post Petroglyphs in Kyrgystan

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age of Central Asia is celebrated for major cultural and technological changes that laid the foundations for a social and material web that linked ancient societies across Eurasia.

Encompassing a large portion of the Eurasian landmass, Central Asia stretches from the vast Russian and Kazakh steppes and mountain foothills, southward to the intersecting mountain, foothill, and desert regions of northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. Across this ecological mosaic, various herding, farming, and foraging societies took shape during Bronze Age (third–second millennium BC).

There is evidence for a multiregional interaction, economy, and material culture assemblages of Bronze Age Central Asia,  The archaeological records of northern and southern Central Asia are quite different,

Despite its geographically dispersed archaeological landscape, multiregional interaction is a defining feature of the Central Asian Bronze Age. Dynamic transregional connections and exchange in the region is shown most clearly through its second millennium BC metallurgical invention, horse riding and chariot technology, and geographic transport of crops between China and Southwest Asia

Archaeological discoveries made over the past ten years, however, demonstrate that a regional web of interaction and technology transfer was in place earlier on, during the third millennium BC . (3000 – 2001 BCE)

These discoveries are the result of a growing number of archaeometric dates, settlement excavations with multi-period stratified cultural deposits, site survey and mapping, and scientific studies of diet and exchange. The emergence and nature of Eurasian pastoralism, the pastoral/agricultural and mobile/sedentary dichotomy, and local material traditions and exchange are being studied today an new discoveries are made every year.

Northern Central Asia Bronze Age

Northern Central Asia figures prominently in studies on the spread and development of regional pastoralism.  Conventionally understood as a “pastoral realm,” small villages and seasonal campsites, stone-lined burials called Kagan and rock art (see my post) have been principal areas of research investigations there for over a century.

The nucleated, fortified settlements of the Sintashta complex located in the southern Urals in Russia is an exception to the major architectural characteristics of village life the region’s built environment

Southern Central Asia Bronze Age

By contrast, southern Central Asia is home to large fortified centers, smaller sedentary villages, and pastoral campsites, making it a key zone for charting mobile and sedentary interactions through time. These two contrasting, yet intersecting, prehistories were integral to multiregional exchange, culture contact, and technology transfer, which irreversibly altered the social trajectories of societies from Europe to China in prehistory.

The Middle Bronze Age fortified centers of the Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex of southern Central Asia  is a stand out .


Iron Age

See my post Iron Age Kurgans

Scythians (900 BCE – 400 CE)

The Scythians  also known as ScythSakaSakaeSaiIskuzai, or Askuzai, were Eurasian nomads, probably mostly using Eastern Iranian languages, who were mentioned by the literate peoples surrounding them as inhabiting large areas in the central Eurasian steppes from about the 9th century BC up until the 4th century AD.

The relationships between the peoples living in these widely separated regions remains unclear, and the term is used in both a broad and narrow sense. The term “Scythian” is used by modern scholars in an archaeological context for finds perceived to display attributes of the wider “Scytho-Siberian” culture, usually without implying an ethnic or linguistic connotation.

The approximate extent of Eastern Iranian languages and people is in the 1st century BC is shown in orange

Central Eurasia has been known from ancient times for its horse riding and horse breeding communities, and the overland Steppe Route across the northern steppes of Central Eurasia was in use long before that of the Silk Road.  Archeological sites such as the Berel burial ground in Kazakhstan, confirmed that the nomadic Arimaspians were not only breeding horses for trade but also great craftsmen able to propagate exquisite art pieces along the Silk Road

From the 2nd millennium BCE, nephrite jade was being traded from mines in the region of Yarkand and Khotan to China. Significantly, these mines were not very far from the lapis lazuli and spinel (“Balas Ruby”) mines in Badakhshan, and, although separated by the formidable Pamir Mountains, routes across them were apparently in use from very early times

(See our blog post Scythians for more)

Achaemenid Empire (550 BCE–330 BCE)

xHistorically inhabited by the Indo-Iranians, the written history of  Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan begins with its annexation by the Achaemenid Empire of Ancient Iran.  The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an empire based in Western Asia,  founded by Cyrus the Great

Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire’s successes inspired similar systems in later empires.

Achaemenid Empire Map

The Achaemenid Empire expanded as far as the Oxus  today’s Amu Daryai River in Uzbekistan,   TajikistanTurkmenistan  and  Afghanistan,   in  and  the Jaxartes today’s  Syr Darya River  in Kyrgyzstan,  Uzbekistan,   Tajikistan and  Kazakhstan to the north and north-east.

(See our blog post Achaemenid Empire for more)

Greco -Bactrian Kingdom (250–125 BCE)

The next major step in the development of the Silk Road was the expansion of the Greek empire of Alexander the Great into Central Asia. In August 329 BC, at the mouth of the Fergana Valley in Tajikistan, he founded the city of Alexandria Eschate or “Alexandria The Furthest”.

The Greeks remained in Central Asia for the next three centuries, first through the administration of the Seleucid Empire, and then with the establishment of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom  in Bactria (modern AfghanistanTajikistan, and Pakistan) and the later Indo-Greek Kingdom (180 BCE – 10 CE) in modern Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. They continued to expand eastward, especially during the reign of Euthydemus (230–200 BCE), who extended his control beyond Alexandria Eschate to Sogdiana. There are indications that he may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan, leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around 200 BCE. The Greek historian Strabo writes, “they extended their empire even as far as the Seres (China) and the Phryni.

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom Map
Approximate maximum extent of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom circa 180 BC, including the regions of Tapuria and Traxiane to the West, Sogdiana and Fergana to the north, Bactria and Arachosia to the south

The Hellenistic world and Classical Greek philosophy mixed with Eastern philosophies, leading to syncretisms such as Greco-Buddhism.

(See my post Greco -Bactrian Kingdom)


Seleucid Empire (312 BCE – 63 BCE)

The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic state founded by Seleucus I Nicator founded it following the Partition of Triparadisus of the Macedonian Empire vastly expanded by Alexander the Great.  Seleucus received Babylonia (321 BC), and from there, expanded his dominions to include much of Alexander’s near-eastern territories. At the height of its power, the Empire included central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

The Seleucid Empire became a major center of Hellenistic culture – it maintained the preeminence of Greek customs where a Greek political elite dominated, mostly in the urban areas. The Greek population of the cities who formed the dominant elite were reinforced by immigration from Greece..  

Seleucid expansion into Anatolia and Greece halted abruptly in the early 2nd century BC after decisive defeats at the hands of the Roman army. Seleucid attempts to defeat their old enemy Ptolemaic Egypt were frustrated by Roman demands. Having come into conflict in the East (305 BC) with Chandragupta Maurya of the Maurya Empire, Seleucus I entered into an agreement with Chandragupta whereby he ceded vast territory west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern-day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan and offered his daughter in marriage to the Maurya Emperor to formalize the alliance.

Antiochus III the Great attempted to project Seleucid power and authority into Hellenistic Greece, but his attempts were thwarted by the Roman Republic and by Greek allies such as the Kingdom of Pergamon, culminating in a Seleucid defeat at the 190 BC Battle of Magnesia. In the subsequent Treaty of Apamea in 188 BC, the Seleucids were compelled to pay costly war reparations and relinquished claims to territories west of the Taurus Mountains.

The Parthians under Mithridates I of Parthia conquered much of the remaining eastern part of the Seleucid Empire in the mid-2nd century BC. However, the Seleucid kings continued to rule a rump state from Syria until the invasion by Armenian king Tigranes the Great in 83 BC and their ultimate overthrow by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC.


Yenisei / Ancient Kyrgyz 201 BCE

According to recent historical findings, Kyrgyz history dates back to 201 BCE.  The Yenisei Kyrgyz may perhaps be correlated to the Tashtyk culture.  They were known as Jiegu  or Xiajiasi in Chiinese historical texts, but first appeared as Gekun  or Jiankun n Han period records. By the fall of the Gokturk empire in the eighth century CE, the Yenisei Kirghiz had established their own thriving state based on the Gokturk model. They had adopted the Orkhon script of the Gokturks and established trading ties with China and the Abbasid Caliphate in Central Asia and Middle East

See my post Ancient Kyrgyz


Sasanian Empire (224 CE – 651 CE)

The Sasanian Empire also known as the SassanianSasanidSassanid or Neo-Persian Empire (known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr, or Iran, in Middle Persian), was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the rise of Islam, and was named after the House of Sasan; it ruled from 224 to 651 AD.   The Sasanian Empire succeeded the Parthian Empire and was recognised as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighbouring arch-rival the Roman-Byzantine Empire for a period of more than 400 years.


Rouran Khanate (330–555 CE)


Kyrgyz Khanate (550 to 1219 CE)

In 840, it took over the leadership of the Turkic Khaganate from the Uyghurs, expanding the state from the Yenisei territories into the Central Asia and Tarim basin. The Yenisei Kyrgyz mass migration to the Jeti-su resulted in the formation of the modern Kyrgyz Republic, land of the modern-day Kyrgyz.


Turkic  (Göktürks) Khaganate (552 CE –744 CE)

The Turkic Khaganate or Göktürk Khaganate was a khaganate established by the Ashina clan of the Göktürks in medieval Inner Asia. Under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan (d. 552) and his sons, the Ashina succeeded the Rouran Khaganate as the hegemonic power of the Mongolian Plateau and rapidly expanded their territories in Central Asia. Initially the Khaganate would use Sogdian in official and numismatic functions. It was the first Turkic state to use the name Türk politically and is known for the first written record of any Turkic language in history.

The first Turkic Khaganate collapsed in 581, after which followed a series of conflicts and civil wars which separated the polity into the Eastern Turkic Khaganate and Western Turkic Khaganate.

The Eastern Turkic Khaganate was subjugated by the Tang dynasty in 630 and the Western Turkic Khaganate disintegrated around the same time. The Second Turkic Khaganate emerged in 682 and lasted until 744 when it was overthrown by the Uyghurs, a different Turkic group.

Western Turkic (Göktürks) Khaganate

The Western kaghan Sheguy and Tong Yabghu Qaghan constructed an alliance with the Byzantine Empire against the Sasanian Empire and succeeded in restoring the southern borders along the Tarim River and Amu Darya River. Their capital was Suyab in the Chu River Valley, about 6 km south east of modern Tokmok. In 627 Tung Yabghu, assisted by the Khazars and Emperor Heraclius, launched a massive invasion of Transcaucasia which culminated in the taking of Derbent and Tbilisi (see the Third Perso-Turkic War for details). In April 630 Tung’s deputy Böri Shad sent the Göktürk cavalry to invade Armenia, where his general Chorpan Tarkhan succeeded in routing a large Persian force. Tung Yabghu’s murder in 630 forced the Göktürks to evacuate Transcaucasia.

The Western Turkic Khaganate was modernized through an administrative reform of Ashina Clan (reigned 634–639) and came to be known as the Onoq.   The name refers to the “ten arrows” that were granted by the khagan to five leaders (shads) of its two constituent tribal confederations, Dulo and Nushibi, whose lands were divided by the Chui River.  The division fostered the growth of separatist tendencies, and soon the Old Great Bulgaria under the Dulo chieftain Kubrat seceded from the khaganate. Tang campaigns against the Western Turks, against the khaganate and their vassals, the oasis states of the Tarim Basin. The Tang campaign against Karakhoja in 640 led to the retreat of the Western Turks, who were defeated during the Tang campaigns against Karasahr in 644 and the Tang campaign against Kucha in 648,   leading to the In 657 conquest of the Western Turks by the Tang general Su Dingfang. 

Emperor Taizong of Tang was proclaimed Khagan of the Göktürks.

In 657, the emperor of China could impose indirect rule in the entire Silk Road as far as Iran. They installed 2 khagans to rule the ten arrows (tribes) of Göktürks. Five arrows of Tulu were ruled by khagan bearing title of Xingxiwang (while five arrows of Nushipi ruled by Jiwangjue .  Five Tulu corresponded to area east of Lake Balkash while five arrows of Nushipi corresponded to the land east of Aral Sea.

Göktürks now carried Chinese titles and fought by their side in their wars. The era spanning from 657–699 in the steppes was characterized by numerous rulers – weak, divided, and engaged in constant petty wars under Anxi Protectorate until the rise of Turgesh.e Eastern Turkic

Eastern Turkic  (Göktürk) Khaganate

The eastern part, still ruled from Otukan, remained in the orbit of the Sui and retained the name Göktürk. The Shibi Khan (609–19) and Illig Qaghan (620–30) attacked China at its weakest moment during the transition between the Sui and Tang. Shibi Khan’s surprise attack against Yanmen Commandery during an imperial tour of the northern frontier almost captured Emperor Yang, but his Chinese wife Princess Yicheng—who had been well treated by Empress Xiao during an earlier visit—sent a warning ahead, allowing the emperor and empress time to flee to the commandery seat at present-day Daixian in Shanxi.  This was besieged by the Turkish army on September 11, 615, but Chinese reinforcements and a false report from Princess Yicheng to her husband about a northern attack on the khaganate caused him to lift the siege before its completion.


Uyghur Khaganate (744 CE –840 CE)

The Uyghur Khaganate was a Turkic empire that existed for about a century between the mid 8th and 9th centuries. They were a tribal confederation under the Orkhon Uyghur   nobility, referred to by the Chinese as the Jiu Xing (“Nine Clans”), a calque of the name Toquz Oghuz or Toquz Tughluq

In 657 the Western Turkic Khaganate was defeated by the Tang dynasty, after which the Uyghurs defected to the Tang. Prior to this the Uyghurs had already shown an inclination towards alliances with the Tang when they fought with them against the Tibetans and Turks in 627.

In 742, the Uyghurs, Karluks, and Basmyls rebelled against the Second Turkic Khaganate.

In 744 the Basmyls captured the Turk capital of Otukan and killed the reigning Özmiş Khagan. Later that year a Uyghur-Karluk alliance formed against the Basmyls and defeated them. Their khagan was killed and the Basmyls ceased to exist as a people. Hostilities between the Uyghurs and Karluks then forced the Karluks to migrate west into Zhetysu and conflict with the Turgesh, whom they defeated and conquered in 766.[

The Uyghur leader was from the Yaghlakar clan  one of the nine original Uyghur tribes that made up the Uyghur Khaganate: 1.  Huduoge, 2. Guluowu, 3. Mogexiqi, 4. A-Wudi, 5. Gesa, 6. Huwasu, 7.  Yaowuge, 8. Xiyawu.

Aside from the Uyghurs were six other Tiele tribes: Boke, Hun, Bayyrku, Tongren, Syge, and Kibir. The Uyghur khagan’s personal name was Qullığ Boyla or Guli Peiluo . He took the title Qutlugh Bilge Köl Kaghan “Glorious, wise, mighty kaghan”, claiming to be the supreme ruler of all the tribes. He built his capital at Ordu-Baliq. According to Chinese sources, the territory of the Uyghur Empire then reached “on its eastern extremity, the territory of Shiwei, on the west the Altai Mountains, on the south it controlled the Gobi Desert, so it covered the entire territory of the ancient Xiongnu“.

In 745 the Uyghurs killed the last khagan of the Göktürks, Baimei Kagan Cooloon bey, and sent his head to the Tang.

Golden Age

In 747, the Qutlugh Bilge Köl Kaghan died, leaving his youngest son, Bayanchur Khan to reign as Khagan El etmish bilge“State settled, wise”. After building a number of trading outposts with the Tang, Bayanchur Khan used the profits to construct the capital, Ordu-Baliq, and another city further up the Selenga River, Bai Baliq. The new khagan then embarked on a series of campaigns to bring all the steppe peoples under his banner. During this time the Empire expanded rapidly and brought the Sekiz Oghuz, Kyrgyz, Karluks, Turgesh, Toquz Tatars, Chiks and the remnants of the Basmyls under Uyghur rule.

In 755 An Lushan instigated a rebellion against the Tang dynasty and Emperor Suzong of Tang turned to Bayanchur Khan for assistance in 756. The khagan agreed and ordered his eldest son to provide military service to the Tang emperor. Approximately 4,000 Uyghur horsemen assisted Tang armies in retaking Chang’an and Luoyang in 757. After the battle at Luoyang the Uyghurs looted the city for three days and only stopped after large quantities of silk were extracted. For their aid, the Tang sent 20,000 rolls of silk and bestowed them with honorary titles. In addition the horse trade was fixed at 40 rolls of silk for every horse and Uyghurs were given “guest” status while staying in Tang China. The Tang and Uyghurs conducted an exchange marriage. Bayanchur Khan married Princess Ninguo while a Uyghur princess was married to a Tang prince.

In 758, the Uyghurs turned their attentions to the northern Yenisei Kyrgyz. Bayanchur Khan destroyed several of their trading outposts before slaughtering a Kyrgyz army and executing their Khan.

In 759 the Uyghurs attempted to assist the Tang in stamping out the rebels but failed. Bayanchur Khan died and his son Tengri Bögü succeeded him as Khagan Qutlugh Tarkhan sengün.[15]

In 762 Tengri Bögü planned to invade the Tang with 4,000 soldiers but after negotiations switched sides and assisted them in defeating the rebels at Luoyang. After the battle the Uyghurs looted the city. When the people fled to Buddhist temples for protection, the Uyghurs burnt them down, killing over 10,000. For their aid, the Tang was forced to pay 100,000 pieces of silk to get them to leave.[16] During the campaign the khagan encountered Manichaean priests who converted him to Manichaeism. From then on the official religion of the Uyghur Khaganate became Manichaeism.

Karluk Khanate (665–744 CE)

The Karluks  were a prominent nomadic Turkic tribal confederacy residing in the regions of Kara-Irtysh (Black Irtysh) and the Tarbagatai Mountains west of the Altay Mountains in Central Asia.  They were closely related to the Uyghurs. Karluks gave their name to the distinct Karluk group of the Turkic languages, which also includes the Uyghur, Uzbek, and Ili Turki languages.

Karluks were known as a coherent ethnic group with autonomous status within the Göktürk kaganate and the independent states of the Karluk Yabgu, Karakhanids, and Qarlughids before being absorbed in the Chagatai Khanate of the Mongol empire.

Kimek Khanate (743–1220 CE)


Oghuz  Khanate (750–1055 CE)


Samanid Empire (819 CE – 999 CE)

The Samanid Empire, also known as the Samanian Empire, Samanid dynasty, Samanid Emirate, or simply Samanids, was a Sunni Iranian empire,  centered in Khorasan and Transoxiana during its existence; at its greatest extent, the empire encompassed all of today’s Afghanistan, large parts of Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and parts of Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

The Samanid state was founded by four brothers; Nuh, Ahmad, Yahya, and Ilyas—each of them ruled their own territory under Abbasid suzerainty. In 892, Isma’il ibn Ahmad (892–907) united the Samanid state under one ruler, thus effectively putting an end to the feudal system used by the Samanids. It was also under him that the Samanids became independent of Abbasid authority.

The Samanid Empire is part of the Iranian Intermezzo, which saw the creation of a Persianate culture and identity that brought Iranian speech and traditions into the fold of the Islamic world. This would lead to the formation of the Turko-Persian culture.

The Samanids promoted the arts, giving rise to the advancement of science and literature, and thus attracted scholars such as Rudaki, Ferdowsi, and Avicenna. While under Samanid control, Bukhara was a rival to Baghdad in its glory.


Kara-Khanid Khanate (840 CE–1212 CE)

The Kara-Khanid Khanate was a Turkic dynasty that ruled in Transoxania in Central Asia, ruled by a dynasty known in literature as the Karakhanids  Both the dynastic names of Karakhanids and Ilek Khanids refer to royal titles with Kara Kağan being the most important Turkish title up till the end of the dynasty.

The Khanate conquered Transoxania in Central Asia and ruled it between 999–1211. Their arrival in Transoxania signaled a definitive shift from Iranian to Turkic predominance in Central Asia, yet the Kara-khanids gradually assimilated the Perso-Arab Muslim culture, while retaining some of their native Turkish culture.

Their capitals included Kashgar, Balasagun, Uzgen and Samarkand. The Khanate eventually split into two – the Eastern and Western Khanates. They then came under the suzerainty of the Seljuks, followed by the Kara-Khitans, before the dynasty was extinguished by the Khwarezmians. Their history is reconstructed from fragmentary and often contradictory written sources, as well as studies on their coinage.

Western Kara-Khanid

Eastern Kara-Khanid


Khwarazmian Empire (1077 CE – 1231 CE)

The Khwarezmid Empire  became a vassal of the Kara-Khitan Khanate after Yelü Dashi won the Battle of Qatwan (1141) against a Seljuk army commanded by Sanjar.  Kara-Khitan suzerainty weakened later. The Khwarezmid Empire ruled over all of Persia in the early 13th century under Shah ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Muhammad II (1200–1220).

From 1218 to 1220, Genghis Khan conquered Central Asia including the Kara-Khitan Khanate, thus ending the Khwarezmid Empire. Sultan Muhammad died after retreating from the Mongols near the Caspian Sea, while his son Jalal ad-Din, after being defeated by Genghis Khan at the Battle of Indus, sought refuge with the Delhi Sultanate, and was later assassinated after various attempts to defeat the Mongols and the Seljuks.

Khwarazmian Empire Map

The Khwarazmian dynasty also known as the Khwarezmid dynasty and the Anushtegin dynasty, was a Persianate  Sunni Muslim dynasty of Turkic mamluk origin.  The dynasty ruled large parts of Central Asia and Iran during the High Middle Ages, in the approximate period of 1077 to 1231, first as vassals of the Seljuqs and Qara-Khitan, and later as independent rulers, up until the Mongol invasion of Khwarezmia in the 13th century.

Khwarazm  is a large oasis region on the Amu Darya river delta in western Central Asia, bordered on the north by the (former) Aral Sea, on the east by the Kyzylkum desert, on the south by the Karakum desert, and on the west by the Ustyurt Plateau. It was the center of the Iranian Khwarazmian civilization, and a series of kingdoms such as the Persian Empire, whose capitals were (among others) Kath, Gurganj (the modern Köneürgenç) and – from the 16th century on – Khiva. Today Khwarazm belongs partly to Uzbekistan, partly to Kazakhstan and partly to Turkmenistan.

The dynasty was founded by commander Anush Tigin Gharchai, a former Turkish slave of the Seljuq sultans, who was appointed as governor of Khwarezm. His son, Qutb ad-Din Muhammad I, became the first hereditary Shah of Khwarezm.[12]

Qara Khitai (1124–1218 CE)


Mongol Empire (1206–1240’s CE) and its Division

Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes of the steppes and became Great Khan in 1206. Genghis Khan and his successors expanded the Mongol empire across Asia. Under the reign of Genghis’ third son, Ögedei Khan, the Mongols destroyed the weakened Jin dynasty in 1234, conquering most of northern China.[

Ögedei offered his nephew Kublai a position in Xingzhou, Hebei. Kublai was unable to read Chinese but had several Han teachers attached to him since his early years by his mother Sorghaghtani.

He sought the counsel of Chinese Buddhist and Confucian advisers. Möngke Khan succeeded Ögedei’s son, Güyük, as Great Khan in 1251. He granted his brother Kublai control over Mongol held territories in China.

Kublai built schools for Confucian scholars, issued paper money, revived Chinese rituals, and endorsed policies that stimulated agricultural and commercial growth.   He adopted as his capital city Kaiping in Inner Mongolia, later renamed Shangdu

Mongol Conquest of Khwaremia (1219  – 1221 CE)

The Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia  marked the beginning of the Mongol conquest of the Islamic states. The Mongol expansion would ultimately culminate in the conquest of virtually all of Asia (as well as parts of Eastern Europe) save for Japan, the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, Siberia, and most of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

It was not originally the intention of the Mongol Empire to invade the Khwarezmid Empire. According to the Persian historian Juzjani, Genghis Khan had originally sent the ruler of the Khwarezmid Empire, Ala ad-Din Muhammad, a message seeking trade and greeted him as his neighbor:

“I am master of the lands of the rising sun while you rule those of the setting sun. Let us conclude a firm treaty of friendship and peace.” or he said “I am Khan of the lands of the rising sun while you are sultan those of the setting sun: Let us conclude a firm agreement of friendship and peace.”

The Mongols’ original unification of all “people in felt tents“, unifying the nomadic tribes in Mongolia and then the Turcomens and other nomadic peoples, had come with relatively little bloodshed, and almost no material loss.

The Mongol wars with the Jurchens in Manchuria and northern China, however had shown how cruel the Mongols could be.  The war, which started in 1211, lasted over 23 years and ended with the complete conquest of the Jin dynasty by the Mongols.

When the Mongols arrived, the Shah was already busy with a dispute with the caliph in Baghdad, An-Nasir. The Shah had refused to make the obligatory homage to the caliph as titular leader of Islam, and demanded recognition as Shah of his empire, without any of the usual bribes or pretenses

Shah Muhammad reluctantly agreed to Gengis Khan’s peace treaty, but it was not to last. The war started less than a year later, when a Mongol caravan and its envoys were massacred in the Khwarezmian city of Otrar.

In the ensuing war, lasting less than two years, the Khwarezmid Empire was destroyed.

The Mongol Empire fractured into four khanates including the Yuan Dynasty, the Golden Horde, the Chagatai Khanate and the Ilkhanate.

Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 CE)

Genghis Khan’s third son Ögedei offered his nephew Kublai a position in Xingzhou, Hebei. Kublai was unable to read Chinese but had several Han teachers attached to him since his early years by his mother Sorghaghtani.

He sought the counsel of Chinese Buddhist and Confucian advisers. Möngke Khan succeeded Ögedei’s son, Güyük, as Great Khan in 1251. He granted his brother Kublai control over Mongol held territories in China.

Kublai built schools for Confucian scholars, issued paper money, revived Chinese rituals, and endorsed policies that stimulated agricultural and commercial growth.   He adopted as his capital city Kaiping in Inner Mongolia, later renamed Shangdu


The Yuan dynasty, was the empire or ruling dynasty of China established by Kublai Khan, leader of the Mongolian Borjigin clan. It followed the Song Dynasty and preceded the Ming Dynasty. of China. It’s capital was Khanbaliq, today’s Beijing.

Although the Mongols had ruled territories including modern-day North China for decades, it was not until 1271 that Kublai Khan officially proclaimed the dynasty in the traditional Chinese style, and the conquest was not complete until 1279.

His realm was, by this point, isolated from the other khanates and controlled most of modern-day China and its surrounding areas, including modern Mongolia.  It was the first foreign dynasty to rule all of China and lasted until 1368, after which the rebuked Genghisid rulers retreated to their Mongolian homeland and continued to rule the Northern Yuan dynasty.  Some of the Mongolian Emperors of the Yuan mastered the Chinese language, while others only used their native language (i.e. Mongolian) and the ‘Phags-pa script.

In addition to Emperor of China, Kublai Khan also claimed the title of Great Khan, supreme over the other successor khanates: the Chagatai, the Golden Horde, and the Ilkhanate. As such, the Yuan was also sometimes referred to as the Empire of the Great Khan. However, while the claim of supremacy by the Yuan emperors was at times recognized by the western khans, their subservience was nominal and each continued its own separate development

Golden Horde (1240s–1502 CE)

The Golden Horde  was originally a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate established in the 13th century and originating as the northwestern sector of the Mongol Empire.  With the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire after 1259 it became a functionally separate khanate. It is also known as the Kipchak Khanate or as the Ulus of Jochi.

After the death of Batu Khan (the founder of the Golden Horde) in 1255, his dynasty flourished for a full century, until 1359, though the intrigues of Nogai did instigate a partial civil war in the late 1290s.

The Horde’s military power peaked during the reign of Uzbeg (1312–1341), who adopted Islam. The territory of the Golden Horde at its peak included most of Eastern Europe from the Urals to the Danube River, and extended east deep into Siberia. In the south, the Golden Horde’s lands bordered on the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the territories of the Mongol dynasty known as the Ilkhanate.

The khanate experienced violent internal political disorder beginning in 1359, before it briefly reunited (1381–1395) under Tokhtamysh. However, soon after the 1396 invasion of Timur/Tamerlane, the founder of the Timurid Empire, the Golden Horde broke into smaller Tatar khanates which declined steadily in power.

At the start of the 15th century, the Horde began to fall apart. By 1466, it was being referred to simply as the “Great Horde”. Within its territories there emerged numerous predominantly Turkic-speaking khanates. These internal struggles allowed the northern vassal state of Muscovy to rid itself of the “Tatar Yoke” at the Great stand on the Ugra river in 1480. The Crimean Khanate and the Kazakh Khanate, the last remnants of the Golden Horde, survived until 1783 and 1847 respectively.

Chagatai Khanate (1225 CE – 1680’s)

1225 – 1340s (Whole)
1340s–1370 (Western)
1340s–1680s (Eastern)

The Chagatai Khanate  was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate  that comprised the lands ruled by Chagatai Khan, second son of Genghis Khan, and his descendants and successors. Initially it was a part of the Mongol Empire, but it became a functionally separate khanate with the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire after 1259.

The Chagatai Khanate recognized the nominal supremacy of the Yuan dynasty in 1304,but became split into two parts in the mid-14th century: the Western Chagatai Khanate and the Moghulistan Khanate.

At its height in the late 13th century, the Khanate extended from the Amu Darya River south of the Aral Sea to the Altai Mountains in the border of modern-day Mongolia and China.

The khanate lasted in one form or another from 1220s until the late 17th century, although the western half of the khanate was lost to Timur’s empire by 1370.

The eastern half remained under Chagatai khans, who were, at times, allied or at war with Timur’s successors, the Timurid dynasty. Finally, in the 17th century, the remaining Chagatai domains fell under the theocratic regime of Afaq Khoja and his descendants, the Khojas, who ruled Xinjiang under Dzungar and Manchu overlordships consecutively.

Ilkhanate (1256–1335/1353)

The Ilkhanate was established as a khanate that formed the southwestern sector of the Mongol Empire, ruled by the Mongol House of Hulagu. It was founded in the 13th century and was based primarily in Iran as well as neighboring territories, such as present-day Azerbaijan and the central and eastern parts of present-day Turkey.

The Ilkhanate was originally based on the campaigns of Genghis Khan in the Khwarazmian Empire in 1219–24 and was founded by Hulagu Khan, son of Tolui and grandson of Genghis Khan.

With the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire after 1259 it became a functionally separate khanate. At its greatest extent, the state expanded into territories that today comprise most of Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, western Afghanistan, and the Northwestern edge of the Indian sub-continent. Later Ilkhanate rulers, beginning with Ghazan in 1295, converted to Islam.


Uzbek Khanate (1428-1465 CE)



Kazakh Khanate  (1465–1847 CE)

The Kazakh Khanate was a successor of the Golden Horde existing from the 15th to 19th century, located roughly on the territory of the present-day Kazakhstan. At its height, the khanate ruled from eastern Cumania (modern-day West Kazakhstan) to most of UzbekistanKarakalpakstan and the Syr Darya River with military confrontation as far as Astrakhan and Khorasan Province, which are now in Russiaand Iran, respectively.

Astrakhan is a city on the Volga River in southern Russia. It’s known for the Astrakhan Kremlin, an expansive fortress built in the 1500s.

Khorasan was a province in north eastern Iran, but historically referred to a much larger area east and north-east of the Persian Empire. The name Khorasan is Persian and means “where the sun arrives from.” The name was given to the eastern province of Persia during the Sassanid Empire.

Slaves were also captured by frequent Kazakh raids into the lands of Russia,   Central Asia, and Western Siberia (Bashkortostan) during the Kazakh Khanate.  The Khanate was later weakened by a series of Oirat and Dzungar invasions, devastating raids and warfare.

Oirats are the westernmost group of the Mongols whose ancestral home is in the Altai region of western Mongolia.  Historically, the Oirats were composed of four major tribes: Dzungar (Choros or Olots), Torghut, Dörbet, and Khoshut.  The Kalmyks ( are the Oirats in Russia, whose ancestors migrated from Dzungaria in 1607. They created the Kalmyk Khanate in 1630–1771 in Russia’s North Caucasus territory. Today they form a majority in the Republic of Kalmykia located in the Kalmyk Steppe, on the western shore of the Caspian Sea.

Warfare with the Oirats and Dzungars  resulted in a decline and further disintegration of the Kazakh Khanate  into three Jüz-es, which gradually lost their sovereignty and were incorporated to the expanding Russian Empire.  (See my post – Russian Conquest of Central Asia)  Its establishment marked the beginning of Kazakh statehood whose 550th anniversary was celebrated in 2015.

Khanate and Emirate of Bukhara 

The Khanate of Bukhara was a Central Asian  state from 1506 to 1785, followed by the  Emirate of Bukhara  from 1785 to 1920 in what is now modern-day  Uzbekistan. It occupied the land between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, known formerly as Transoxiana.

Today the territory of the defunct emirate lies mostly in Uzbekistan, with parts in TajikistanTurkmenistan and Kazakhstan. It had also included present northern Afghanistan between 1793 and 1850.

Its core territory was the land along the lower Zarafshan River, and its urban centers were the ancient cities of Samarkand and the khanate’s and emirate’s capital, Bukhara. It was contemporaneous with the Khanate of Khiva to the west, in Khwarezm, and the Khanate of Kokand to the east, in the Fergana Valley.

Bukhara became the capital of the short-lived Shaybanid Empire during the reign of Ubaydallah Khan (1533–1540). The khanate reached its greatest extent and influence under its penultimate Shaybanid ruler, the scholarly Abdullah Khan II (r. 1577–1598).

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Khanate was ruled by the Janid Dynasty (Astrakhanids or Hashtarkhanids). They were the last Genghisid (descendants of Genghis Khan) to rule Bukhara.

In 1740, it was conquered by Nadir Shah, the Shah of Iran.

After his death in 1747, the khanate was controlled by the non-Genghisid descendants of the Uzbek emir Khudayar Bi, through the prime ministerial position of ataliq.

In 1785, his descendent, Shah Murad, formalized the family’s dynastic rule (Manghit dynasty), and the khanate became the Emirate of Bukhara.  The Manghits were non-Genghisid and took the Islamic title of Emir instead of Khan since their legitimacy was not based on descent from Genghis Khan.

Khanate of Kokand  (1709 – 1876)

The Khanate of Kokand  (sometimes spelled Khoqand) was a Central Asian state in Fergana Valley within the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan, eastern Uzbekistan  and  Tajikistan, and southeastern Kazakhstan.

Russian Conquest of Central Asia


Learn More

Bronze Age Central Asia  Paula Doumani Dupuy  Oxford Handbooks Subject: Archaeology, Archaeology of Central Asia Online Publication Date: Jun 2016

This article focuses on the principal characteristics and features of the Bronze Age of the steppes, deserts, mountain foothills, and oases of Central Asia. It outlines the history of research on the region’s mobile pastoral and settled agricultural societies during the third and second millennium BC.

2 thoughts on “Civilizations”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s