Bukhara History - Part 10

Bukhara under Mongols and Temurids

From the very beginning of his conquest of Central Asia, Chinghiz-khan attached great importance to the strategic location of Bukhara, as it was situated on the main road linking the cities of Khorezm - housing the Khorez-mshah's military forces - and the blooming oases of Maverannakhr - which appeared to be the center of war operations.

The Khorezmshah had burdened the population of these regions with high levies and tax-collectors enforced the tyranny. The fortifications of urban centers were poorly built to stand wartime conditions, and provisions were slender. The central authority had nearly lost control over its uncoordinated troops due to insufficient communication between military units. To isolate main regions of Maverannakhr and prevent the Khorezmshah from sending reinforcements, Chingiz-khan made his way towards Bukhara.

Main force of the Mongolian army, including Tuluy, Chingiz-khan's younger son and a talented strategist, took part in the offensive against Bukhara. Breaking commonly-held maxims on the best time to begin a spring-summer campaign, Chingiz-khan came towards Bukhara from Otrar in January, directly through the steppe (Kyzyl-kum). The arrival of a large Mongolian army near Bukhara took Khorezmshah Mukhammad and his military commanders completely unaware early in February 1220 A.D.

According to modern sources, the garrison of Bukhara consisted of 12,000 riders. The defenders of the city knew the uselessness of defending such an enormous city with a comparatively small army. There was obviously no hope of the Khorezmshah's support. The local garrison had fought and broken through the ranks of the Mongols some days later, but the majority of the warriors were killed in action when the Mongols pursued them. Abandoned by the army, the citizens, under leadership of the clergy and nobility, decided to surrender. Nevertheless, about 400 defenders from the remainder of the Turkic garrison defended the citadel of Bukhara for two more days, displaying examples of great courage, until they were killed to the last man.

“The Congregational Mosque had been entered and sacked by Mongols, copies of the Koran were scattered all over the mosque yard, and chests where these copies were stored, had been utilized to feed Mongols' horses. Imams, sheikhs, seyids, ulems and mudjta-khids were forced to work as grooms in stables. Chingiz-khan ordered that lists be made of rich men, 280 men (190 citizens and some foreigners who were sheltered in Bukhara). They were obliged to give the conquerors all their riches. Some men from among the citizens were appointed to seek and collect riches throughout the city”.

Then, consistent with an established Mongolian tradition, all citizens were exiled and Bukhara underwent cruel plunder. An awful fire began, so that almost nothing survived. Plundering of mosques, cruel treatment of prisoners of war, and public violation of women led a number of clergymen and nobles to take up arms to protect their compatriots, but they were swiftly killed. Amongst the insurgents were famous people like Rukh ad-Din Imam-zade, a famous Sufi, along with his son, Kaziy Sadr ad-Din khan; Sadr Madj ad-Din Mas'ud; and many others. It is a fact that representatives of the Sufi orders encouraged the people to fierce resistance more zealously than anybody else.

The Mongols had taken a large number of young Bukharan's citizens to use them during sieges of Samarkand and other cities. Craftsmen, young women, and children were taken into slavery by the Mongolian princes and warriors. Bukhara had been razed to the ground «as though it did not exist yesterday», wrote Ibn al-Asir.

The consequences of this conquest were awful: decrease of population; thousands of cities and villages destroyed never to revive; return to slavery from a feudal society; total destruction of the economy. In terms of territory, Maverannakhr and Bukhara became part of the Chagatay ulus (Chagatay was the third of Chingiz-khan's son). The first ruler of the city was Buka, whom Chingiz-khan appointed to this position. However, under the High Khan Ugedey, tax-farmer Makhmud Yalavach Khorezmi gained absolute power. According to Djuveyni's saying, the country recovered from the Mongolian devastation thanks to the beneficial reign of Makhmud Yalavach and his son Masudbek. Bukhara rose to its heyday, such that none of the Muslim cities could compete with it in population, riches, or high level of scientific development.

There is no doubt that such large-scale development of Bukhara, recorded in a source dated 1260 (i.e. 40 years after the Mongolian invasion), was actually a slow, difficult process implemented through merciless exploitation of urban and rural populations. Bukhara remained a large trading and economic center and, from that time, the most important route from West to East through which a huge flow of looted valuables, trophies, and slaves were transported. The city's population increased on account of refugees, people from ravaged rural locations or destroyed urban centers, and families of clergy.

Makhmud Yalavach applied great efforts to safeguard new initiatives in trade and economic activities and to protect them from subsequent extortion by the Mongolian army through taxation. On the other hand, the surviving merchant class, representatives of big and small feudal aristocracy, and of the clergy vied to be in the Mongol's service to save their property and certain social privileges. This resulted in an extremely painful situation with the majority of the working people doubly burdened with taxes and requisitions.

Craftsmen in the cities and farmers who paid both land and poll taxes were in an utterly desperate state. The agricultural system, resting on extortion, burdened the people with taxes which were impossible to bear.

The above factors caused the uprising that broke out in 1238 in several locations of Bukhara, under leadership of Makhmud Tara-bi. The center of the insurgency was the village of Tarab, now identified with remains of Tarab-tepa, an old city situated 22 km west of Bukhara. (It is also the location of a tomb of a saint6, and the savana (tomb) of Khodja Tarab, a heroic insurgent, is in the eastern section of this old city.)

According to data from sources, Makhmud Tarabi was a craftsmen who manufactured sieves. At the same time, he was famous as a physician who cured patients through communication with spirits. Farmers and craftsmen held their secret meetings discussing their hard life under the yoke of the Mongols and the local landlords who served the invaders. In Bukhara, Makhmud Tarabi won the support of many people. One of these people was a Sufi theologian of noble origin, Shamsuddin Makh-bubi. This religious practitioner was famous throughout the city, particularly for his world-view which differed sharply from that of the elite clergy.

The uprising supported by all the working people of Bukhara and its localities, seemed at first to succeed. The Mongolian troops sent to suppress it were routed with losses up to 10,000 soldiers. The insurgents, however, lost two of their leaders in action so that they lost their next battle. The uprising was suppressed with cruelty, and it was only the arrival of Makhmud Yalavach that prevented the razing of Bukhara. Makhmud Yalavach realized the impossibility of raising any taxes from a plundered and destroyed city. This seemed to be the primary reason that Bukhara avoided revenge from the swords of Chagatay, the most zealous adherent of a Chingiz-khan's Yassa and the most cruel of his descendants. Soon, at an urgent request of the Mongolian High Khan Ugedey, Makhmud Yalavach was replaced with his son Masud who held this position until his death in 1289, except for a short interruption.

Makhmud Tarabi's uprising was the first and largest rebellion of working masses against the Mongolian conquerors and their vassals by local nobility. This uprising displayed the people's hatred for the regime's violence and extortion and served as an impetus to a number of edicts to guard local population from unlimited self-will of the Mongolian aristocracy.

Masudbek liked Bukhara very much and built it up gradually with beautiful buildings, of which one to be noted is Masudiyo Madrasah. During his rule, another madrasah, Khaniyo, had been erected in memory of Siyurkuk-teni-biki, a widow of Chingiz-khan's son Tuluy and mother of the great Khan Munka (1251-1259), who confessed Christianity. With about 2,000 students and great libraries , both madrasas were an adornment to the Registan square.

A mudarris (professor) and mutavilliy of the Khaniyo Madrasah, Sayf ad-Din Bakharzi, was a famous theologian and member of the Ku-braviya Sufi fellowship. During the succeeding decades, particularly in the 1260s and 1270s, Maverannakhr was to be a scene of claims of supremacy by different Chingizids. The visit of Berke-khan to Bukhara in the late fifties was also part of this progression. Berke-khan was an uncle of Batiy and inherited the throne after Batiy's death. He removed the Chaga-taids from ruling Maverannakhr under agreement with High Khan Munka. He professed Islam and considered it his duty to protect the Muslims' interests. He arrived in Bukhara to pay a tribute of respect to the city's eminent scholars.

According to the data of sources, by that time the country had nearly recovered from the Mongolian invasion, some regions had regained their previous status, others were close to doing so.
By the winter of 1262-1263, however, the first military conflicts between Khan Berke and Khulagu-khan took place because of opposing territorial interests in the Caucasus.9 A Chagatid prince Algu-khan, apparently having used the retreat of Berke-khan as an excuse, started the mass expulsion of tax-collectors and other members of the Djuchi Ulus from Maverannakhr. Five thousand craftsmen and other dependent people in the employment of Batiy had been killed, and all their property, even their wives and children, had been expropriated.

The city's able-bodied male population numbered 16,000 people, and their families added several times more. They witnessed the revival of the economic prosperity of Bukhara. In all probability, a significant portion of urban population were craftsmen who worked in the special workshops (korkhana), and citizens engaged in trades who paid certain taxes to their masters. The new masters settled scores with people who had served the Djuchids while the Chigataids were in exile, as well as with the Djuchids themselves. Representatives of the top clergy of Bukhara, including Burkhaniddin, son of the famous Sheikh Sayf ad-Din Bokharzi, suffered persecution because of their relationship with Berke-khan.

The chronological order of events happening during this period differs in various primary source. It seems most likely that the winter of 1262-63 is the date of Berke-khan's defeat and the expulsion of the Djuchids from Maverannakhr. The Djuchids' property, arms, and horses bound for Arik-Buge had been captured by Algui the Chagatid and distributed to his army. Algui, apparently, got back his hereditary ulus (Maverannakhr and Bukhara) in this way and started active military action on the territory of Semirechye to save his ulus.

In 1262-64 the Polo brothers visited Bukhara, describing it as a large and magnificent city. They had to spend three years here because: «It was impossible to travel either ahead or back». Probably, the Polo brothers could not leave Bukhara because of sedition and military actions going on in the adjacent regions. The city itself did not suffer from such massacres for it still flourished.

Finally the brothers Arik-Buka and Khubi-lay, the sons of Tuluy, arrived at an agreement of reconciliation, for they were rivals to win the Mongolian throne. Khubilay became a Great Khan. That is perhaps why Khulagu-khan sent a delegation to congratulate him. The Polo brothers left the city together with this delegation.

After Algu-khan had died (1264) the next Chagatid khan, Borak, following the tradition of his kinsmen, continued to struggle against the claimants to Maverannakhr, that is against Great Khan Khubilay, the Djuchids (Khaidu) and the Khulaguids' state with its ruler Abaka-khan, a son of Khulagu. Military actions resulted in numerous hardships that caused ravage and impoverishment of Bukhara along with its adjacent localities.

The Mongolian princes worried about their revenue as it diminished because of the impoverishment of Maverannakhr. In the kurultai of 1269 they adopted a resolution that henceforth they would live in the mountains and steppes; would not stick to the cities; neither let the cattle go around sown fields nor impose unnecessary penalties on their subjects.16 They also agreed about the territorial rights of princes to raise taxes in Maverannakhr, because the Khaidu-khan had arrayed his troops between Bukhara and Borak-khan's military camp in order not to allow the plundering of the city again.17 One more event of 1269, probably, preceded Borak's campaign to Kho-rasan,- grain and cattle were requisitioned from inhabitants of Maverannakhr, dooming them to starvation. Borak-khan failed in his campaign on Khorasan in 1270. Defeated and embittered, the army started to plunder again on its way back. Nor did Bukhara escape this looting.

In response to the attack on Khorasan, a son of Khulagu-khan sent an army to Bukhara in 1273 with an ultimatum to resettle all the people to Khorasan or be ravaged again.

Bukhara had been seized by the Khulaguids on 22 January 1273. The city had been submerged in chaos — the most dreadful massacre and plunder that had ever been seen - worse than what Chingiz-khan had wrought. Bloodshed lasted the whole week. The magnificent and well-arranged Masudbek Madrasa was set on fire and many manuscripts burnt in the madrasa's library. At last, 10,000 men of the Chagataids under command of Algu-khan's son came to Bukhara's aid. The Khul-aguid detachment left the city with an enormous amount of property. The Chagataids did not reacon on being involved in the military conflict, rather they arrived at an agreement with the Khulaguids about sharing booty and, coming back to Bukhara, completed the plunder and addded to the murders in the city. As a result about 50,000 people were killed. The Mongolian military detachment spread around Bukhara and continued raids and devastation. Thus, Bukhara and its surrounding localities were ravaged and devastated so that life faded away for the succeeding seven years.

In the 1280s, Masudbek made an energetic attempt to repopulate and renew the city. From 1282-1283 silver coins were minted here regularly.20 The Masudiyo Madrasa was reconstructed after the destruction of 1273. Masudbek himself was buried there in 1289. A vakf document (realty registration), which dates back to 1 299, registers the purchase of a village with properly irrigated lands near Bukhara (about 25 km north), the founding of one more village, two mosques, and a number of textile workshops. This is evidence of slow process in reviving the economic life in Bukhara and the reestablishing and reinhabiting the localities around it. The consequences of devastation had an influence upon the life of the city for several decades into the early fourteenth century. It had completely lost its significance as a center of trade, crafts, and culture.

In the first half of the fourteenth century Bukhara was still under the Chagatid Ulus. But the action now shifted to the battles between khans ruling this territory. Each wanted to establish solid relationships with traditional agricultural regions of Maverannakhr on the one hand, and with nomadic military aristocracy on the other, hoping to continue their nomadic traditions. Their struggle for power frequently expressed itself in raids and plun-derings within the multitude of Maverannakhr's small feudal domains, including Bukhara and its district — which were under nominal rule of the Sadrs, representatives of the aristocratic clergy families.

Mutinous Chagatid prince Yasavur won one of such military conflicts against Kebek, the Chagatid khan of Maverannakhr; this occured in 1316, with support of the Khorasan beks. Yasavur resettled peoples of all the vilayets (districts) and villages along the Amula River (Amu Darya) from Termez to the borderline of Samarkand, destroying cities and districts formally under Kebek and capturing their populations - over 50,000 people - and taking spoils. Bukhara was also invaded.22 Ibn Batu-ta, a traveller who visited Bukhara in 1333, wrote: «This city was the capital of the cities beyond the Djaykhun River, but damned Tatar Chingiz has destroyed it and turned to ruins all but a few of its mosques, madrasas, and bazaars».23 The author also noted: «They have a brand of fruits named ak-allu (al-alti). They are dried and peoples bring them to India and China. These fruits are put into water for drinking. They are sweet while fresh, whereas when dried, they turn sour with a lot of pulp; I have never seen anything similar in either Andalusia or Syria».24 These data are interesting as a report about the heavy devastation of Bukhara in that period, and as an evidence of international trade and a comparatively stable political situation under khan Tarmashirin. The very fact that Ibn Batuta visited Bukhara testifies to some stability.

In the fourteenth century vakf documents published by O.D. Chekhovich, mention is made of the following situation:

«In the localities of Bukhara in 1326 there» were many ruins of destroyed castles, mosques, and dwellings, weed-grown and desolated gardens and vineyards.... All this, apparently, is a trace of dreadful devastation because of the Mongolian invasion and internal wars between khans. Moreover, it was in 1316, that Mongols ruined Bukhara."

The author took note that the vakf document of 1326 reflected also the opposite process: planting gardens, vineyards, construction of houses, canals and so on.

In the 1320s the monetary reform of Kebekkhan also took place, with "the majority of production minted in the mints of Samarkand and Bukhara".