Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bokhara, a country and Khanate of Independent Tartary, between lat. 37° and 41° N., and long. 62° and 69° E. Its original proportions have been much reduced by Russian conquests in the north, and Afghan encroachments on the south. Its area is about 90,000 square miles, and its population is considered to be somewhere about two millions. Except in the neighbourhood of the river very little cultivation is possible, and the soil is composed of stiff clay, with here and there low sand hills. The most important of the rivers are three, the Amu or Oxus, which flows from S.E. to N.W., and varies in width from 300 to 800 yards, and finally empties itself into the Sea of Aral. The Zarafshan, the neighbourhood of which is more populous and more fertile than that of the Amu, rises in the highlands cast of Samarcand, and used to form a large lake about 25 miles long in the province of Karakul. Irrigation works have, however, lessened the volume of the lower course to fertilise the valleys of the upper, and the river now loses itself in the sands, as does also its northern branch. The Karshi, too, loses itself in the desert after a course of about 60 miles. The climate of Bokhara varies from about 100° F. in summer to frosts in winter, which freeze over the Amu so as to allow of the passage of caravans over the ice. Earthquakes and violent storms and tornadoes are not infrequent. Though the sands of the Oxus yield gold, minerals are generally scarce. Alum, sal-ammoniac, salt, and sulphur are found. Rice, cotton, wheat, barley, beetroot, vegetables, hemp, silk, and tobacco are among the products; and fruits are abundant. Sugar is manufactured from the camel thorn. The horses of Bokhara are celebrated for strength and endurance, and the asses are large and sturdy; and a great number of sheep and goats are reared. The mulberry is abundant on the banks of the rivers, being planted for the use of the silkworms. Bokhara has the transit trade between Russia and S. Asia, and the Transcaspian railway will develop still more its commercial resources. Conquered in the 8th century by the Arabs, and passing through various hands in the succeeding centuries, Bokhara became a coveted object to England and Russia in 1826. But Russia has gained the ascendency, and the country seems likely before long to be absorbed in Russian Turkestan.

Bokhara, the capital, is in a fertile plain near the Zarafshan, and is surrounded by trees and gardens. Its circumference is about 9 miles, and it is girt by embattled earthworks about 24 ft. high, and having 11 gates. The town is the centre of the religious life of Central Asia, and is said to possess 365 mosques. The population is decreasing owing to the lessening of trade, which has followed upon the gradual drying up of the river. A canal passes through the town. There are manufactures of swords, silks, and woollens, and the bazaars are numerous. The Transcaspian railway connects Bokhara with Merv and the Caspian ports.

Inhabitants. Lying on the parting line between the Aryan and Tatar ethnical domains, Bokhara has for ages been occupied in varying proportions by representatives of both races. Although now inferior in numbers and position, the Aryans appear to be the primitive element; but for several centuries the Tatars have been the dominant class politically. The two elements present the sharpest contrasts in their physical appearance, speech, usages, pursuits, in fact in every respect except religion. all being Mohammedans, mainly of the Sunni sect. The Aryans, here called Tajiks, are sedentary, tillers of the soil, artisans and traders, of Persian speech; the Tatars, here called Uzbegs, are nomad pastors, residing in tents, devoted to stock-breeding and the military profession, and speak Tatar (Turki) almost exclusively. The Uzbegs with the kindred Turkomans number 1,700.000, the Tajiks with the kindred Persians and Afghans 700,000. Other minor groups are the Arabs (50,000), Kalmucks (20,000); Kirghiz and Kara-Kalpaks (6,000), Jews (4,000), Gypsies (2,000).