The Muslim civilization of Bukhara and Samarkand

The Muslim civilization of medieval Bukhara and Samarkand prospered from camel-borne trade along the famous "Silk Road" that linked China with Europe. Its scholars researched and taught history, geography, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. Poetry, music, and architecture were also highly developed, while agriculture benefited from an extensive irrigation system.

Ghengis Khan

The Mongol conqueror Ghengis Khan captured and razed Bukhara and Samarkand about 1221, but his descendants rebuilt them.

13th century

In the 13th century, Turkic tribes first arrived in Transoxiana.

Timur: a "just Uzbek ruler"

The government of present-day Uzbekistan has established a nationalist myth around the figure of Timur, who ruled in Samarkand in the late 14th century. In the rest of the world, Timur (also known as Timurlane) is remembered as a bloodthirsty conqueror, but in Uzbekistan he is praised as a "just Uzbek ruler" and parallels are drawn between him and President Karimov.


A lesser myth surrounds Timur's grandson Ulug-Bek, who patronized scholarship and the arts and sciences and was a great astronomer. Ulug Bek's contribution to the science of astronomy is comparable with Copernicus and Kepler. His work did not become known in the West until 1648, when a copy of his Catalogue of Stars was discovered in Oxford's Bodleian Library. He calculated the position of the moon, planets and 1018 stars with amazing precision.