The first settlements in the territory of what is now Tajikistan date from the lower Paleolithic period (8-900,000 years ago). Archaeological finds, written evidence of Herodotus and other historical sources provide information on the life, customs, traditions, occupation, culture, and trade relations of the people living at the dawn of this area's history. Present-day Tajiks trace their ancestry back to people of Indo-lranian origin from the East Iranian tribes who settled in ancient Bactria ("Country of a thousand towns") and Sogdiana (Sughdiy-on) in 7-6th centuries B.C.
By the 1st century B.C. the Bactria settlement occupied a large area in the basin of the upper Amu Darya (in present-day North Afghanistan), the Pamirs and the Trans-Amu Darya mountain area of Tajikistan. The capital of Bactria was a town that the Greeks called Bactra (later Balkh) and which was nicknamed the "Mother of towns". The origins of Zoroastrianism, one of the world's most ancient religions, can be traced back to Bactria. Farming was the main occupation of Bactria's population. Many of the gold and silver works of art found in the Qabodiyon "Amu Darya treasure" in 1877 testify to the high level of development of craft in Bactria.
Sogdiana was situated in the basins of the Zaraf-shon and Kashka Darya Rivers. It was known as Tran-soxania by the Greeks and Romans, and Maveraunnahr, meaning "On that side of the Oxus River" (named the Amu Darya river by Arabs). The religion of the Sogdian people of that time was predominantly Zoroastrianism, though there were also other cults including those of fire and water inherited from the ancestral system. The rural population lived in fortified settlements arranged in squares. Arable farming was based on man-made irrigation. Horticulture and cattle-breeding were widespread. There were also a large number of artisans such as blacksmiths, potters and weavers. The land in which Bactria and Sogdiana were situated now covers the territories of present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Eastern Iran and Northern Afghanistan. The cultures formed there existed during the Akhemenid era (6-4th centuries B.C., established by the King, Cyrus), the rule of Alexander the Great, the empire (founded in 312 B.C. by one of Alexander the Great's commanders, Seleucus, which included part of Alexander's Asian provinces), the Parthian and Kushan empires (2nd century B.C.- 3rd century A.D.), and the Sasanid Era (224-652 A.D.). From time to time the area lost its independence only to regain it later.
Alexander the Great invaded Central Asia in 329 - After conquering Kabul he rushed to the north, crossed the Amu Darya River and seized the town of Marakanda (Samarqand) - the capital of Sogdiana. Not continued satisfied with this, Alexander the Great quickly northeast towards the Syr Darya River. In this campaign he gained control over the ancient Sogdian town of Cyropol (present-day Istravshan and Shahriston village region), but with great difficulty and numerous losses. Cyropol was on the route to a river, and its people resisted Alexander's forces in a desperate manner. Upon reaching the Syr Darya River, he founded a town called Alexandria Eskhata (Outermost Alexandria), which was meant to serve as a stronghold for the north-eastern of Alexander's empire. The city standing there today is Khujand (formerly Leninabad), situated in northern Tajikistan.
During his military campaign in Sogdiana, Alexander the Great married into the local aristocracy. In particular, he married the daughter of Roxana of Oxiart, one of the Sogdian nobles, thus winning the rest of the local aristocracy over to his side.
After his death in 323 B.C., Alexander the Great's empire broke into 3 independent areas: Macedonia, Egypt and Syria (the Seleucids), which are now known as the Hellenistic states. In 250 B.C. Bactria proclaimed independence from the Seleucids and a Greco-Bactrian state was founded which included Bactria, Sogdiana, and the eastern part of Margiana and lasted for more than 100 years.
In approximately 140 B.C. the population of Bactria and Sogdiana united with nomadic Tokhar tribes and founded the Kushan Empire, which was made up of a signification portion of Central Asia, present-day Afghanistan and a part of India.
The Kushan Empire reached its peakduring the rule of King Kanishka (78 -123 A.D.). at his initiative, Buddhism started spreading throughout Bactria, later reaching China via Central Asia. Images of different gods - Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Greek Helios and Selene (Gods of the Sun and the Moon), Hindu (Shiva with a bull) appear on Kushan coins of that era. Earth-enware and various kinds of jewellery provide evidence of the high level of handicraft development.
In the 3rd century the Kushan Empire broke into three independent states: the first in Bactria and an area south of the Hissar range, the second in Afghanistan, and the third in northern India.
In the 5th century the Hepthalite Empire was formed in Central Asia, Afghanistan, a part of North India and some districts of East Turkestan. The capital was in Badiyan. The Hepthalites waged a fierce war with varied success against Sassanian Iran for a long time, but eventually they took several regions of Iran and forced them to pay tribute.
Despite the ongoing wars, crafts such as ironwork, pottery, and brassware were developing. Lapis lazuli was mined in Badakhshan, copper from mountains near Khu-jand, and in the town itself there was a quarter (guzar) especially for goldsmiths and jewellers. The Sughdian people taught the Chinese the art of glass making. The written Sughdian language was developing and letters were written in cursive.
In the 8th century A.D. Central Asia, including present-day Tajikistan, was conquered by the Arabs and became a part of the Arab caliphate. This was largely made possible by the political fragmentation of the area into numerous independent and semi-independent principalities that had occurred by the time of the Arab invasion. Thus, there were the Khujand principality, in present-day Khujand area; Ustrushana, in present-day Istravshan area; Mastchoh, in upstream Zarafshon River; Burgar (Falghar), in Panjakent area; Chaghaniyon, in Hissar-Denau area; Vashgird, between the Kofarnihon and Vakhsh Rivers (present-day Fayzobod); Kumed, in the upper Kofarnihon and Vakhsh Rivers; Vakhsh, including Khalavard (present-day Qurghonteppa); Levaqand, near the Sangtuda settlement; Qabodiyon; Khuttal, with a capital in Hulbuk, slightly to the south of present-day Kulob; Rasht, in present-day Gharm; Darvoz, in present-day Qalai Khum; Rushon; Shikanon (Shughnon); and Vakhon in the west Pamirs.
Before the Arab conquest Central Asia had no single religion. Alongside the Zoroastrianism widespread among the population, Christianity, Buddhism and local cults were also practiced.
In the 9th century, after a long period of Arab influence and the adoption of Islam as the dominant religion, the Tajik language of Farsi (Persian) gradually took the place of the ancient languages of the Sughdi people and Bactrians. Tajik nationality was formed and the Tajiks join the Samanids state with its capital in Bukhara. The Samanids ruled from 874 to 999 and were the first local dynasty to found a large state since the Arab conquest.
Selen sculpture, bronze. 2nd century B.C.
Saman-Khudat, the founder of this dynasty, divided the region between his four grandsons: Nuh was a ruler of Samarqand; Ahmad - of Ferghana; Yahyo - of Shash, llyos - of Herat. Nasr, the son of Ahmad, became ruler of Maveraunnahr in 875. In 892 Ismaili Somoni became head of the state, composed of Maveraunnahr, Khorasan, eastern regions of Iran and a part of Afghanistan, with its capital in Bukhara. During the Samanid dynasty, Maveraunnahr and Khorasan were in their prime, developing their industry and trade, and minting their own silver coins used in northern Asia. Paper made in Samarqand gained fame not only in Maveraunnahr but also throughout the Middle East, and replaced papyrus and parchment. In the Bukhara book market it was possible to purchase manuscripts from all over the world. The city also boasted a large palace library. Samarqand and Bukhara, the main towns during the era, became universally-recognized cultural centres. Various arts, literature, architecture, and crafts such as glazed-ware were developing throughout the Samanid territory. Several structures of the Samanid era and a mausoleum of the Bukhara Dynasty (a masterpiece of brick construction) still remain. It is interesting and charming, due to the originality of its architecture. The Mausoleum is completely built out of baked bricks with patterns also made from bricks. The complicated technique of figured brickwork is amazing.
Lower part of a rhyton (goblet) in the form of a lion, ivory. 5-6th centuries B.C.
During the Samanid era, Bukhara became one of the world centres of Muslim culture. It was also one of the largest cities, with a population of about 300,000, and science and culture developed greatly there. Many world-famous scholars came to study at the madrassa-hs, the new type of highereducation institutes; there were 113 madrassahs in the city at that time. Abu Ali Ibn Sino (Avicenna) was among them. Later to become a doctor and philosopher, Ibn Sino was born in Bukhara and by the age of 18, according to him, he "mastered all the sciences" available to him at that time. Ideas of renowned thinkers of the ancient and Muslim world were synthesized and developed in his philosophical works. His medical works were later translated into Latin and for many years formed the main textbook at universities in medieval Europe.
Also living at this time were the founder of Tajik classical poetry, Rudaki, and Firdausi, the greatest Tajik-Persian poet.
At the end of the 10th century, the Turkomans, united under the rule of the Karakhanid dynasty, crushed the Samanids. Until the end of the 15th century the Tajiks were under the rule of various dynasties, such as the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs, and Khorezmshahs.
Arabic became widespread during the Ghaznavid dynasty (late 10th - early 11th centuries). Official correspondence was conducted in Arabic, and people who spoke this language were recruited at various levels for civil service. A number of Arabic words and expressions began to appear in the Tajik language.
Biruni (973-1048) was a great scholar who left a number of works, including a calendar and a system of
Chronology, with Sughdi, Khorezmi, Persian, Greek, Jewish. Christian and Muslim holidays. He compiled Indian teachings of that era. and covered issues of astronomy, geometry and astrology. Moreover, one of his works, Mas'ud Canon on Astronomy and Stars, was the first in eastern countries on that area of science, and served as a guide for mapping.
At the beginning of the 13tfl century Central Asia was conquered by Genghis Khan. Bukhara, Samarqand, and khujand fell in early 1220. Out of the areas populated. By Tajiks only the Pamirs and some nearby mountainous principalities in eastern Tajikistan were not conquered.
The conquest of Central Asia by Genghis Khan was ''a terrible catastrophe and the greatest disaster, in which people could see neither day nor night" for the Tajik people as well as for other people of this region.
In the 14-15th centuries Maveraunnahr became part of the large empire of Timur (Tamerlane) and his heirs, which also included Khorezm, trans-Caspian regions, part of present-day Afghanistan, Iran, a part of India, Iraq , part of the South Caucasus, and several Vest Asia. Conquering numerous countries and bringing their people under his control, Timur at the same time pressed on to develop the Central Asian regions, which formed the basis of his power.
Samarqand, one of the most beautiful Middle Eastern cities of that time, prospered during his rule. Large road and irrigation works were carried out in Maveraunnahr.
At this time the trade route from Europe to Asia which earlier had passed through this territory was restored (passing through Maveraunnahr). The Tajiks, who had wide trade contacts, made best use of their central location on the ancient caravan path known as the Silk Road during this hard time.
This important trade route connected Chinese and Roman civilizations. Caravans of camels carried silk and porcelain from China to the west and wool, bronze, gold and silver back to the east. In the 13-14th centuries this Road was very active and Marco Polo, the famous Italian traveller, made his legendary journey to China.
The Silk Road was not simply a trade route; it also served as a channel for spreading ideas, technologies, art, and religions, promoting mutual enrichment of eastern and western civilizations and cultures, and forming a common heritage for humanity.
At the beginning of the 16th century the territories populated by the Tajiks were conquered by steppe tribes led by Sheibani-khan. By this time all the major nationalities of Central Asia had already been formed and local civilization was taking shape - the best features of which do not belong only to one particular nationality but are closely interrelated with each other. Despite the fact that until the 20tfl century the Tajiks were scattered around many territories administered by different Turkic dynasties, in day-to-day life the people continued to use Persian languages, which provided a feeling of unity in the surrounding diversity.
A basic cultural and linguistic similarity, impacted by various political and religious regimes, resulted in the situation observed nowadays; most notably, the division into Persians and Tajiks with their different concepts of Islam (Shi'ites and Sunnis). At the same time, the majority of the Pamiri population is a representative of another religious school - Isma'ili, whose contemporary spiritual leader is Aga Khan IV.
In the second half of the 19th century, the struggle for influence in Central Asia between tsarist Russia and Great Britain escalated. During 1864-1895 the greater part of Central Asia was annexed by Russia. Due to the American Civil War, cotton supply was limited, causing a crisis in Europe's textile industry. During this crisis, the stability of Central Asia's raw textile materials supply took on special significance for Russia.
Later, as a result of the Russian-British Agreements of 1885-1895, Central Asia was divided. In 1895 the joint British-Russian Commission decided on the new border with Afghanistan, thus creating a boundary line on the British and Russian empires' spheres of influence.
Some Central Asian territory went to Afghanistan, which was linked to Great Britain at that time, and some
to the Bukhara Emirate, which was under the protectorate of Russia. Qoqand Khanate and Samarqand were included in the Turkestan Governorship General, with a centre in Tashkent governed by General Kaufman. (The Turkestan Governorship General was formed in 1867, and was initially composed of Syr Darya, Ferghana and Samarqand regions, to which, in the late 19th century, were added Semirechye and the Trans-Caspian regions.) East Bukhara (approximately present-day Tajikistan, excluding the Sughd region) was part of the Bukhara Emirate.
Construction of a railway from the Caspian Sea to Tashkent, connecting Russia with Central Asia, played a tremendous role in the development of the whole region. In 1898 the railway reached Tashkent. During the first few years following Central Asia's annexation by Russia, reforms in education, agriculture and self-governance were carried out in the new territories. As a result of these reforms, the Bukhara Emirate had an economic upturn and general advancement. However, East Bukhara as a whole still remained a backward province bringing fewer revenues into the public purse than the blessed oases of the Zarafshon valley.
Hissar Bekstvo, which was subordinated to Bukhara, formed an important stronghold for the Emirate's rule over the East Bukhara territories. After the 1917 October revolution in Russia, the Tajik people joined the union of nations of Russia, and later present-day Tajikistan became a part of the USSR.
In October 1924 the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was established within Uzbekistan, including land from the former Turkestan territory, East Bukhara, and a part of the Pamirs. In 1929 the Tajik ASSR was reorganized into a Soviet republic and became the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic. However, the main historical political and cultural centres -the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand - remained within the borders of present-day Uzbekistan. These cities are a part of the history and culture of the Tajik nation and they preserve close ties with present-day Tajikistan.
Considering the modest economic capacity of the young republic and the need for rapid development, some industrially-developed regions - in particular, the city of Khujand and its surrounding areas in the Ferghana valley - were included within the borders of Tajikistan.
Tajikistan proclaimed its independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the former USSR. The Parliament approved the "Declaration of State Independence", by which Tajikistan became a legitimate democratic, secular, sovereign state.
With the collapse of the former USSR a military conflict and power struggle began. It ended on June 27, 1997 in Moscow, with assistance of international mediators as the "General Agreement on Peace and National Accord" was signed between the warring parties.
In November 1994 a referendum was held to adopt the new Tajik Constitution. The President of the country was elected. The referendum approved a new form of state rule with a President as Head of the Government, a Parliament of two chambers and an independent judiciary system.
Fa/ar with a picture of young Dionysus
(Bacchus), bronze, gold-plate. 1st century B.C. - 1st century A.D.