UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uzbekistan

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The area of what is now Uzbekistan was incorporated into the eastern satrapies (Persian provinces ruled by a satrap) of Cyrus the Great’s Persian Empire in the 500s BC. These satrapies were known as Sogdiana, Bactria, and Khorezm. The Macedonian leader Alexander the Great conquered the region in the early 300s BC, but Macedonian control lasted only until Alexander’s death in 323. In the 100s BC, part of present-day Uzbekistan was included in the vast empire of the Kushanas, descendants of a tribe from western China. At this time the region became an important part of the overland trade routes, known collectively as the Silk Road, that linked China with the Middle East and imperial Rome. 

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th anniversary of the Silk Road. Souvenir sheet #1.

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th anniversary of the Silk Road. Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Bukhara.

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th annivrsary of the Silk Road. Citadel Ark, Bukhara.

In the 3rd century AD the Sassanid dynasty of Persia gained control over the region of Central Asia. Nomadic tribes from the north invaded between the 4th and 6th centuries, and the Western Turks gained the most extensive control over the region. In the 7th and 8th centuries Arab invaders conquered present-day Uzbekistan and introduced Islam. Then, in the 9th century a Persian dynasty, the Samanids, emerged as local rulers and developed Bukhara as an important center of Muslim culture. (see the stamp of the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, above right). The Samanid dynasty declined in the 10th century, however, and a number of Turkic hordes vied for control until the great conquest of Mongol emperor Genghis Khan in the 13th century. In the 14th century the area was incorporated into the empire of the Turkic conqueror Tamerlane (Timur Lang), who established the Timurid dynasty. Tamerlane made Samarqand the capital of his vast empire in 1369, fashioning it into a magnificent imperial capital. Tamerlane’s grandson Ulugh Beg emerged as the ruler of Samarqand in the early 1400s. 

Uzbekistan 1996. Souvenir sheet. 660th anniversary of Tamerlane (Timur Lang). Uzbekistan 1994. 600th anniversary of Ulugh Beg (Tamerlane's grandsome).

During the 17th century Uzbeks continued to settle in present-day Uzbekistan, primarily in the oasis areas of the east that were already inhabited by Turkic and Persian-speaking people. In the west, a Turkic-speaking people called Qoraqalpoghs inhabited the Amu Darya delta by the 18th century; a new dynasty in Khiva (as Khorezm had come to be known) forcefully incorporated the Qoraqalpoghs’ homeland into its khanate in 1811. 

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th anniversary of the Silk Road. Islamkhodzha Minaret, Khiva.

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th anniversary of the Silk Road. Palvan-Darvasa Gateway, Khiva.

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th Anniversary of the Silk Road. Kultug-Murad-Inak madrasa, Khiva.

Meanwhile, the Quqon (Kokand) khanate was formed in the Fergana Valley in the early 1700s. In 1740 Persian forces under Nadir Shah invaded Bukhoro and then Khiva, conquering both territories. Persian control was short-lived, effectively ending with Nadir Shah’s death in 1747, and the Janid dynasty never recovered. Uzbek clans succeeded in ousting the Janids by the late 18th century, creating three states ruled by rival Uzbek dynasties. The Kungrats were enthroned at Khiva, the Manghits at Bukhara, and the Mins at Quqon. The Manghits ruled as emirs, making Bukhara an emirate, while the other two dynasties established khanates. Although distinct borders were never drawn, these three states dominated the area roughly corresponding to present-day Uzbekistan.  

Uzbekistan 1995. Kalta Minar Minaret, Khiva.

Uzbekistan 1992. Kultug-Murad-Inak Mosque, Khiva.

Uzbekistan 1995. Tchar-Minor Madrasa, Bukhara.

During Quqon’s expansion northward, imperial Russian forces were conquering Kazakh territory north of the Syr Darya and pushing farther south. Although the Uzbek khanates waged an armed resistance against the Russian incursion, Russian control was extended over present-day Uzbekistan in the latter half of the 19th century. Russian forces began advancing on Quqon’s frontier fortresses in the north in the 1850s, capturing Ak-Mechet (present-day Qyzylorda, Kazakhstan) in 1853. The Russian conquest was complete in 1876, when Quqon was formally annexed. Under Russian rule, Khiva and Bukhara maintained some measure of autonomy as semi-independent states, although they were ultimately subordinate to the Russian Empire. 

Uzbekistan 1993. State Arms on the background of the national flag.

When the Russian Empire collapsed in the Revolution of 1917, the Uzbek region was incorporated into USSR, now named Uzbek SSR. In August 1991, after a failed coup attempt by Communist hard-liners in Moscow the Soviet Union disintegrated, and that same month Uzbekistan declared its independence. 

After the official collapse of the USSR in December 1991, Uzbekistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an alliance of most of the former Soviet republics. 

  • Uzbekistan 1993. State Arms on the background of the National Flag. 

Source: Microsoft Encarta 2002. 

World Cultural Heritage Properties in Uzbekistan (on this web site). For more information about the individual properties, please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Uzbekistan-section.

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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