DEVELOPED MEDIEVAL EPOCH (9th-12th centuries)

      The uprisings at the end of the 7th and the beginning of the 8th centuries failed to make a dent in Arab power. However, the growth of people’s movements forced the Arab Caliphs to seek expedient alliances with local rulers, and involve them in the rule of Central Asia. Thus, the Abbasid Caliphs were obliged to cede autonomy to the eastern provinces of the caliphate, which is well known of.

      Among the local nobilities were the representatives of several clans, one of which was the Samanid one. The forefather of Samanids, Samankhudat, was the founder and the leader of the village named Saman (different sources identify him with other villages called Saman: in Balkh oblast, on the outskirts of Samarkand and near Termez). He accepted Islam and assumed the title of deputy of Khorasan. His grandsons, Nuh, Ahmad, Yahya, and Ilyas were in the service of the caliphate. According to his own decree, the Khorasan deputy appointed them the rulers of four oblasts: Nuh to Samarkand; Ahmad to Ferghana; Yahya to Chach and Ustrushana and Il’yas to Herat. In 888 Ismail gained victory over Nasr’s army. A clever and astute politician, he kept his elder brother as the nominal head of the dynasty while he himself retained the real power. After Nasr’s death in 892 AD, Ismail became the head of state and Bukhara, the new capital.

      After the stand-off between intensive war and subdued mutiny Ismail provided the security of a stable state. The caliph sent the ruler of Khorasan, Amr the Safarid, to give battle, and Ismail was thereby able to establish rule in Khorasan when he won in 900 CE. The existence of strong leadership ensured the security of the independent country. It stopped the incursion of nomadic tribes, heralded a quieter phase in the agricultural oases and in Mavarannahr and Khorasan cities and also created the preconditions for the growth in the economy and the culture of the country. One of the most important was the completion of the process of the formation of the feudal city.

      Topographically, the city was built in different ways. Sometimes, though rarely, the centre was the inner part of the shahristan, old city, and gradually spread outwards. More often, it was the case that these shahristans ceased to exist and the city developed outside the boundary walls. Finally cities came to be built in altogether new locations.

The first decades of Samanids’ rule passed quietly enough. Internal unrest diminished due to decreases in taxation and the ruinous incursion of nomads was halted. Subsequent years, however, saw a steady increase in exploitation of the poor and taxation. There were conflicts among the local governors and nobility inhibiting centralisation of government and heralding a new era of nomadic invasions. A number of oblasts and regions joined the state, but in nominal only.

     The revolts of local feudal rulers of the court and governors to whom all new provinces were transferred increased. The state was too weak to resist the invasions from within. First came the Turkic nomadic tribes (the Yagma, Karluks etc) led by the Khan dynasty which, in historical literature goes by the name of the Karakhanids. Only the death of their leader, Bogra-khan, saved the Samanids state. This era was concluded with a big battle and the Karakhanid army retreated to the steppe. Seven years passed and, in 999, the Karakhanids tried again. Their monarch, Nasr-elek, captured the capital Bukhara. The last representatives of the Samanid dynasty tried to regain their lost power. In the fight with Burnamad (on the border with Sogd and Ustrushan), the Karakhanids were conquered but it was too late. By 1004, in a battle to the west of Istaravshan, the supporters of the Samanids had already suffered the final defeat. After this struggle, almost all Maverannahr came under the rule of nomadic Turks – Karakhanids.

     During the 11th to 12th centuries, more disputes emerged between the Karakhanids and Seljukids (the state in the countries of Middle and Near East). At the same time, opponents in the east, the Kidan (Karakhita) tribes, appeared. In 1141 A.D. the Kidans destroyed the united armies of the Karakahnids and Seldjukids. The larger part of Maverannahr fell to the new conquerors – the Kidans. To conclude this period, the remnants of the Karakhanids state were eliminated by Khorezmshah Muhammad and, in 1207, his army captured Bukhara. In 1213, coins bearing the name of Muhammad Khorezmshah were minted in Uzgen in the Ferghana valley, the capital of the biggest Karakhanid state, and in Samarkand.

    During the rule of the two states, the changes were mainly in the political sphere. The system of the government, having been built in the time of the Samanids, was not changed. Raises, Khakims, Mukhtasibs, who had served the Karakhanids, continued to serve the Kidans.

    Gradually, the nomads started to enter the economic life of Central Asia, trying to build good relations with the local nobilities and clergy. Progress in the development and formation of the feudal city, in spite of the wars, was not stopped.

    The period of the 9th to 12th centuries was marked by a boom in house building. Buildings were constructed with heating systems comprising canals under the floor. Ceramic water pipes (kuburs) were laid. Special attention was paid to the urban environment. People maintained sanitation standards in the houses. Basic sewerage facilities were provided inside the buildings which consisted of an absorber well covered with burnt bricks and a hole for pouring water. Special garbage pits (badrabs) were installed in palaces. The development of cities and city life was matched by a general growth in the economy, craft and trade. Many cities saw an increase in the number of artisans among the citizens. The artisans joined together establishing themselves in distinct district, often named according to the profession of the inhabitants. Occupations deemed “harmful”, for example leather curers/tanners, moved to the outskirts of the city.

     Pottery production reached a high level and many different vessels were made, from big khums for water storage to toy cups and small dishes for children. Ceramists made and used different glazes (at first alkaline, but gradually evolving to higher quality lead-based ones). The glassworkers were using glass-blowing techniques to produce finer glasswork. The art of weaving made great progress as did metalwork for the production of tools, weapons, jewellery etc.

The archaeological materials found at the time of the excavations of ruins all serve to illustrate the gains of that time within the territory of Tajikistan. 

     The traditions of Ustrushana and Sogd. The highly developed craft traditions in medieval Ustrushan were continued by the masters from the 10th to the beginning of the 13th centuries, though the coming of Islam left its imprint on both the type and design of products in the ceramists’ district of Bundjikat, in the Childukhtaron settlement, which has created a very good understanding about the art of handcraft production in the Samanids and Karakhanids periods.

    At the time of finding the ceramicist block in Bundjikat, other pieces recovered included a slip plate, the grey pottery with stamped decoration, very strong plates for storing and transforming mercury, spherocones (which were widespread at the time and very specific to the 10th to 12th centuries), fired-clay pottery and also hearth-altars with very richly decorated “small hearths”. A very special place is reserved in this collection for the glazed Aquarius, in the image of the fantastical thing. There is also a collection of metal craftwork from the 10th to 12th centuries from north Tajikistan. The accidental find by geologists of two cups from Ilak in the Kara-Mazar mountain can be dated to the 12th century. The so-called Kalaibaland hoard also relates to this period. A wonderful example of wood carving from the Samanid time was presented in the mihrab from Asht. It was assembled with great artistry without glue or nails and covered with carving with ribbons of kufic script and large geometrical decorations and an intricate web of stylized – vegetal ornament. A particular wind blew into early medieval Khujand city in the 9th to 10th centuries, under the Samanids, when it was created into a separate administrative district. Many changes were taking place in the city, in other early citadels, in the traders and artisans’ quarter of the city – namely slavery. The findings from the excavations show that, in the 10th to 13th centuries, crafts reached a high level of development. Many inhabitants lived in the city and wheat was imported from neighbouring provinces as the city administration was unable to feed them all.

     Khuttal. During the 9th to 12th centuries, southern Tajikistan was part of the Khuttal empire, an area which corresponds mainly to the modern Khatlon region but, at various times, included the lower reaches of the Vakhsh and Kafarnigan valleys, to Vakhsh, Qabodiyon and Rasht province (Karategin). The Khuttal and Rasht emirs preserved their independence and gravitated politically towards the provinces to the south of the Amu Darya and Mavarannahr. Even to the places of the powerful Samanids they sent, in the words of the medieval historian “only gifts and not taxes”. The capital was Khulbuk city. The complete break with the traditions of pre-Islamic culture never took place in Khuttal. It is known that even in the 12th century the emirs of Khuttal they traced their lineage back to the Sasanids king Varakhran V (420-438) – and therefore to Bahram Gur (hero of the Shohnoma) with pride. A direct reflection of its political orientation can be seen in the relationship of its art to the Ghaznavid art, for example in the decoration on the facades of buildings and temples.


     The site of Kurbanshaid , Khulbuk (Vose district) is the most famous site of Medieval period. The painting depicting musicians at Khulbuk relates to pre-Islamic art traditions. The metal art, the large collections of wonderful glass dishes, glazed and stamped ceramics, stonework, the set of ivory chess pieces and other findings from Khulbuk in 9th to beginning of the 13th centuries illuminates and provides a good understanding of the applied arts of that period.

    Say’ed town on the bank of the Panj river, dates from the same period and presents us with the same kind of art relics as found in the ruins of Khulbuk. Plaster carving in Say’ed (as in Khulbuk) displaying the high professionalism of its masters was distinctive by the flawless ornamental compositions, the decoration which tended towards an abundance of decorated plaster with animal motifs (lion, bird, fish etc.) and, finally, the artistic use of advanced technical effects in the painting of the carved panels. As in Khulbuk, remnants of a figurative wall painting were found here. Of course, not all the buildings in the site of Say’ed  were as elaborately decorated. In another separate standing building, the layout, still set around a central courtyard, and the artistic decoration were simpler. The excavations uncovered a number of works of art including ceramics, glass and bronze very similar to those of the Khulbuk findings. 

     The site of Lyagman (Uzun village, 12 km northwest of Kolkhozabad city, on the bank of the Vakhsh river in Vakhsh valley), was the remains of Khalaverd City, the capital of Vakhsh oblast in the 10th-12th centuries. Excavations showed that the town, which had appeared in the 2nd to 4th centuries A.D. continued to exist till the 6th to 7th centuries. But it was inhabited again and developed during the 10th to the beginning of the 13th centuries, after which the Khalaverd town (as many other settlements in Vakhsh valley) came to desolation.