Eugene Schuyler.

Turkistan; notes of a journey in Russian Turkistan, Khokand, Bukhara, and Kuldja online

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called ak-sarai, or ' white palace.' The kok-sarai, Baber says,
' is remarkable on this account ; that every prince of the race
'^f Timur who is elevated to the throne, mounts it at this place,
and so one who loses his life for aspiring to the throne loses it
here. Insomuch that this has passed into a common expres-
sion, that such a prince has been condemned to the koh-sarai, a
hint which is perfectly well understood to mean that he has
been put to death.' The kok-tash, we are tol 1, served as the
foundation for the throne of Timur, and probably received its
name from being the famous stone which was in the kok-sarai.
The elevation of the sovereign on the kok-tash passed into a
custom, and a legend arose that the stone had fallen from
Heaven, and would not allow a false Khan, or one not of genuine
descent, to approach it; and as late as 1722, in the rebellion
against Abul Feiz Khan, the complaint was made that he had
never fulfilled the formality of sitting on the kok-tash, and the
rebels proclaimed in his place Rejen Khan, who was consecrated
in the usual manner. When the Russians took the city, there
was a decorated slab of hard plaster which formed a back to this
stone and made it appear like a throne. This, which has now
fallen ofiF, and rests against the wall of the building, is evidently
of very recent date. The Russians have erected a neat and
ornamental bronze railing about this stone to keep it from
injury. Behind the stone itself is a large arched niche, deco-
rated with alabaster in the prevailing style, and on one side of
this is affixed an oval piece of metal looking like half of a cocoa-
nut ; this bears an Arabic inscription, showing that it had once
marked the tomb of a saint. The inscription runs : • This is the
tomb of the Sheikh Imam, the Hermit Hodja Akhmet Rodoveri
Ishak El Khivi. May Heaven forgive him and his parents and all


Mussulmans who have died. Dated the 22nd day of the month
Moharrem in the year 550 (1155) of the hejra of Mohammed.'
There are other remains of the flourishing era of Samarkand
in the suburbs of the city. Among them is the Ishrat-Khana,
said to have been built by Timur's wife for her tomb, but which
was turned into a palace on account of a sudden embrace which
he gave her on seeing it, so impressed was he by its beauty. The
finest of these ruins is the mosque of Hodja Akhrar, a large
square building, with a lofty portal and arched doorway, still re-
taining its mosaic tiling in very good preservation. The Persian
lions appear again here over ttie archway. Inside of the court are
the rooms for students, and opposite the entrance a good sized
mosque, where, at the time of our visit, we found the pupils and
their teachers reciting the evening prayers. Beyond this is a
large garden, as well as a cemetery, where rest the remains of
Hodja Akhrar himself, once celebrated not only for his sanctity,
but for his immense wealth. According to tradition, Hodja
Akhrar lived about 400 years ago in Tashkent, and was
originally named Ubeidullah, but was called Akhrar (conse-
crated to God) from his piety. He devoted himself to religion
from early youth, and became a member of the religious order
of Nakshbendi, and, after the death of the Pir, its head. It is
said that when several of the younger brethren were making
their pilgrimage to Mecca, one found himself in Eum, and
cured the Khalif of a great disease by prayer and by reading a
benediction which his master had given him. In gratitude the
khalif offered him anything he liked to choose, and he asked
for the Koran of Othman, the third Khalif, which was preserved
in the Khalif s treasury. This Koran was said to have been
written by Othman himself; and he was engaged in reading it
in his house when he was murdered, and his blood spurted over
the book, where traces of it still remain. The Khalif was
obliged to fulfil his promise, and the celebrated Koran was
taken to Tashkent, where it added still more to the celebrity
of the saint. Subsequently Hodja Akhrar removed to Samarkand,
taking the Koran with him, and after his death it was preserved
in this mosque, lying on a large stone reading-table. It is a
most beautiful manuscript, written entirely in Cufic characters
upon parchment ; and when the Eussians occupied Samarkand
there was not a single learned native who was able to decipher it.


Seeing the value which the Eussians set on this relic, sonae of
the fanatical mullahs thought to remove it to Bukhara, but
this was forbidden by General Abramoff ; and the Imams of the
mosque of their own accord offered to sell it for 125 rubles,
saying that before it had brought them in money, because
people came and paid for the privilege of kissing and touching
it, but as this would no longer be done they might as well
dispose of it. The money was accordingly given, and the
Koran is now in the Imperial Public Library at St. Petersburg.
The bazaar of Samarkand is comparatively insignificant,
much smaller than those at Tashkent and Hodjent, although
large enough for the 30,000 inhabitants that Samarkand now
contains. The chief portions of the old bazaar are the Timi,
a large octagonal covered building, where the smaller things
are sold, and one or two wooden houses for silk and cotton
goods. Besides Hindoos and Jews, there were many Afghans
to be seen there, and it was not an uncommon thing to meet
Dervishes, or Kalendar, as they are there called. They are
permitted to frequent the city and to ask for alms, though
they are forbidden to preach or to recite prayers. I went one
morning with my Mullah to the Kalendar Khana, situated
just outside one of the gates. This, which belongs to one of
the few orders of Dervishes remaining at Samarkand, is a largi*
garden containing one or two mosques, and a number of smal<
cells. We found some seven or eight wretched-looking devotos,
and on paying our respects to their Pir or chief, and accepting
the toa which he offered us, they proposed to sing. It was,
however, some little time before a sufficient number for a
chorus could be collected, as many of them were in the town,
and the rest were lying asleep in different parts of the garden, or
were half stupid from smoking nasha, or hemp. Finally several
of them were induced to appear, and after taking a friendly
pipe of nasha together, to give them the necessary inspiration,
tliey donned their oldest robes of rags, slung their wallets ever
their shoulders, and put on the high conical caps, which are a
requisite to their religious toilette. They then stood in a row
and began to sing, now in Persian, and now in Turki. The
chant was not unmelodious. One or two lines were sung by
the leader, and then the whole band broke out into the refrain.
As they warmed up, they went faster and faster, and the leader
VOL. I. s


however much he might strain his voice, was almost inaudible
on account of the cries of the others, who, without waiting for
r,he response, sang, or rather shouted, continually. Their song,
in praise of the founder of their order, ran something like this :

A wild beast cries in the waste : Thou Mighty One !

(Sefrain) God, our friend !
Than Thee there is no other,

God, our friend !
We have no other protector than Thee,

God, our friend!
Our head is Nakshband Duvana,

God, our friend ! &c. &c.

When we were tired of one hymn, another was begun, and
finally they started one very wild and quick, with numerous
boundings, prostrations and whirlings, but the exercises, except
those of the voice, were by no means violent. Fanatics as they
were, they made no objection to exhibiting before me, as they felt
sure of a sillau, or present, at the end, and they made no scruple
about accepting the offered money. The whole affair, as they
themselves very well know, is a comedy played for lucre. There
are few of them that trouble themselves about piety or religion,
except so far as it can be made profitable. When I was about to
go, the chief addressed me a petition, saying that this estab-
lishment of Dervishes had been founded long ago for pious uses;
mat it was devoted to the reception of the poor, the sick, and
the blind, and of persons who had no other refuge, and tliat
the only means they had to support it was, by taking con-
tributions from the faithful throughout the city. They begged
me therefore to represent to the authorities the religious and
charitable objects they had in view, and to request that they
might be allowed as before to recite their prayers and to preach
their sernions in public. I replied that I had heard that this
'^as prohibited because many of them had been in the habit
f inveighing against the Russians, and of preaching hatred and
Hostility to the infidel. This they denied vigorously, saying
that they had no ill feeling whatever to the Eussians, who
treated them well. I told the Prefect afterwards of the request
which they had preferred, and which he was not at all astonished
to hear ; but he said, that, however they might deny it, instances
of their treasonable language were only too well proved, because


officers frequently, in passing by unobserved, had heard parts of
their sermons, which usually consist of the narration of some
old legend where the people were enslaved by the infidel on
account of their irreligious life and practices, and end with an
appeal to repentance, saying that thus the infidel may be
(iriven away. Islam is frequently depicted under the form of
a white she-camel which is oppressed by a heathen tribe.

Not the least interesting of the inhabitants of Samarkand
are the Jews, who, under the rule of the Kussians, have here
at least equal rights with the rest of the population. In old
limes they were obliged to live in a separate quarter, to which
indeed they now chiefly keep, and were forbidden to ride within
the city walls, or to wear any other girdle than a rope. Such
is the contempt of Mussulmans for the Jews that they do not
think them even good enough for slaves. Having expressed a
wish to buy some antiquities, a Jew one day presented himself
to me with some Greek coins and engraved gems. He was in
his way a curiosity. He was the son of Mamun, anoted Hebrew
dealer in lapis lazuli at Bukhara, who befriended Dr. Wolfif
when he was there to inquire into the murder of Stoddart and
Connolly. He and his father went to India on a trading ex-
pedition, and then resolved to go to Europe ; but in order to do
so they were obliged at Bombay to make themselves British
.subjects, and to take out British passports. After staying for
more than a year in London, the father returned to Bukhara,
where he now is, while the son went to Paris, where he remained
three or four years, and then found his way to Samarkand. He
speaks English fairly, and French very well. It was amusing
to see him in his little Paris coat a thorough European
among his countryman in their caps and long gowns. The
Jews shave their heads, as do the Mussulmans, leaving two long
locks on the temples, curled if possible, and in other respects
adopt the native dress. Mamun offered to take me into the
Hebrew quarter, and one morning we started off together. "We
went first to the new synagogue, which was built by a rich Jew
named Mushti Kalanter. On each side of a broad portico was
a large room with a desk for the Eabbi, simply but prettily deco-
rated. In the back were a number of pigeon-holes, where were
placed the rolls of the law, none of them of great antiquity.
The Eabbi and his assistant were engaged in teaching two

s 2


classes of bright and merry children in smaller adjoining
rooms. The Eabbi, a very intelligent man, had come there
from Morocco in the old Bukharan times, for even then a
synagogue existed, although concealed with the greatest care
from the eyes of the authorities. From the synagogue we went
to the house of Kalantar, and we sat for a long time in the
garden under the trees, while a pretty girl with unveiled face
picked and brought us bunches of fresh roses. It was only
after some time that Kalantar himself, a venerable man with a
grey beard, came in and took tea with us. The Jewesses,
though unveiled at home, have their faces covered in the
street like the Mussulman women, to avoid disagreeable and
insidting remarks.

1 made the acquaintance at Samarkand of Abdur Eahman
Khan, the former ruler of Afghanistan and the nephew of Shir
Ali, the present Amir. Dost Mohammed Khan left sixteen
sons, and on his death there was much contention for the
succession, until finally Shir Ali succeeded in establishing
himself at Kabul, and was recognised as the lawful Amir by
the Indian authorities. Several of the brothers, however, were
unwilling to submit to him, and raised rebellions ; among these
was Afzul Khan, or rather, his son Abdur Eahman Khan, for
Afzul himself played but a passive part in the struggle. On
being ordered to come to Kabul, Abdur Eahman Khan fled for
refuge to Bukhara, while his father was immediately imprisoned
by the angry Shir Ali. This was in the end of November
1864. The next spring there was another rebellion. Azim
Khan rose in insurrection, but was defeated by Shir Ali, and
driven to Kandahar. Abdur Eahman Khan then collected
some Bukharan troops and appeared in Afghanistan with great
success. He gained possession of Balkh, and moved directly
on Kabul, which was given up to him ; and on March 1, 1866,
he entered into the city and freed his father from imprisonment.
Shir Ali was beaten twice more, and at the end of 1867 fled to
Herat. The conflict continued for two years more. Afzul
Khan died, and Abdur Eahman Khan was proclaimed Amir.
Finally ICabul was taken in 1868 ; Abdur Eahman Khan and
Azim Khan were thoroughly defeated, and fled to Mashad.
In July 1869, Abdur Eahman Khan sent messengers to
Samarkand to ask if he could be allowed to seek a refuge


in the Eussian territory, and was answered that if he could go
nowhere else he would be permitted to come. He accordingly
arrived in Tashkent in March 1870, and was well received.
The Eussian Grovernment allows him about 25,000 rubles a
year, and insists on his remaining in Samarkand. He has
several times asked for permission to go to St. Petersburg, but
it has always been refused. About four years ago he asked
General Kaufmann to give him 100,000 rubles, saying that
with that he would be able to raise an insurrection against
Afghanistan, which he hoped would turn out to his^ profit.
This sum General Kaufmann refused to grant him, saying that
the Eussians did not wish to be mixed up with the affairs of
Afghanistan. As, however, he lives very quietly in the Amir's
garden in Samarkand, and can hardly spend, even with all his
messengers and secret correspondents, more than 5,000 rubles
a year, he must now have nearly enough to prepare the pro-
posed expedition.

I was very desirous of seeing him, and accordingly sent him
word asking whei\ I could call. He replied that he would do
luuitielf the honour of coining to me first, and appointed the
next day. About one o'clock a messenger came in, and said that
the Afghan Prince was on his way. With the respect due, even
to fallen royalty, we of course went to the door to receive him.
Abdur Eahman Khan is a tall well-built man, with a large
head, and a, marked Afghan, almost Jewish, face. He. wears
long locks of hair at the side, and a full, curly black beard.
He carries himself with much dignity, and every movement
denotes a strong character, and one accustomed to command.

He was dressed in a gemi-military dress— a long dark caftan
ornamented with wide silver galloon, and frogs of silver braid,
with a highly-wrought silver belt, and silver mounted sabre.
On his head he had a white turban striped with blue. Our
conversation was naturally chiefly about Afghanistan, and the
Prince had much to say about the reports which were then rife,
that an army had been sent by Shir Ali to Seistan. He was
unwilling to believe the story that Iskender Khan, now living
in England, had made peace with Shir Ali, and had been put
in command of the expedition. Another report had just then
reached us that the English were making an attack upon Herat,
and we were even told the numbers of troops which had been


despatched from Shikarpur and other points on the Indus.
Abdur Eahman explained that this would be impossible without
previous operations on the Persian Gulf, of which we would
inevitably have heard, and asking for a pencil and sheet of
paper, drew a rough outline map of Afghanistan and the roads
leading from India to Kabul, Herat, and Kandahar. His con-
yersation was interrupted from time to time, according to
Eastern custom, with enquiries after the health of the persons
to whom he was talking, and good wishes for them. Although
usually reserved, he was very ready to talk with me, and while
saying nothing especially ill of Shir Ali, plainly showed his
enmity to him. He spoke of the story that Shir Ali had
forbidden liis name to be mentioned in Kabul under pain of
death, laughingly saying that it woidd not touch matter,
because people would only think twice as much of him. He
fplt sure that he need only declare himself to have the popula-
tion entirely on his side, because Shir Ali was detested by all
the Afghans for his complaisance towards England. I asked
him if the subsidy given to Shir Ali by the English had any
effect upon the feelings of the Afghans. He said to make them
well-disposed to England it had no effect at all, though it
possibly might have an effect upon Shir Ali personally. If the
English were to give Afghanistan the whole revenues of India,
the people would not love the English the better. I then asked
him whether, in case of a war between any other country and
England, an attack were made on India, the Afghans would be
willing to join in it. He said that if word were given to the
Afghans that an attack was to be made against the English in
India, and they were convinced the war was not against India,
but against the English domination there, they would willingly
join in it without any subsidy, or the necessity of much urging.
During his stay in Samarkand he had learned consider-
able Eussian, so that he occasionally answered questions
without waiting to have them put into Persian for him ;
once notably to the confusion of the friend who was interpret-
ing for me, as my question was one which did not exactly
please him, and he was unwilling to translate it literally.
The Prince stayed with me for over an liour, and on taking
leave said that he would send to me when he would be able to
receive me, but I never heard any more from him, and on my


subsequent visits to Samarkand I did not see him, I was told
tliat he was living so quietly and economically that, he did not
wish to show his household arrangements to strangers. He
does not seem to be quite contented with his treatment by the
Eussian authorities, who certainly do not use him as a tool for
intrigue. He said once, rather bitterly, that the iirst time he
came to Tashkent a carriage of the Grovernor-Greneral was
placed at his disposition, that on his second visit he had an
ordinary carriage, but that when he came the third time he was
left to go a-foot.

The Eussian occupation of Central Asia has brought to
light many adventurers, chiefly Eussians, who had fled from
Siberia, or from Orenburg, and had played various parts in the
native States. Some such men are still in Bukhara and Kho-
kand, while others made their peace with the Eussian authori-
ties and remained in the districts occupied.

Of one of these men I had heard much, but unfortunately
he died of the cholera before my arrival at Samarkand. He
was a Pole of the name of Grerburt von Fulstein, who, when
quite a young man, had for some political offence been sent
to Orsk.

At this time there was great commotion among the Kirghiz,
and there was much talk about the son of the Sultan Sanjar,
who, it was said, had been carried off by the Eussians and
educated by them. Grerburt was surrounded on the road by
a party of Kirghiz, who immediately professed to recognise
him as the missing man, and took him with them into the
Steppe and finally to Turkistan. The Khan of Khokand had
married a daughter of Sultan Sanjar, and for greater surety she
was admitted to see him, and immediately declared him to be
her brother. He was then received in a manner befitting the
Khan's relative, and was appointed Bek of Namangan. Here he
led such a debauched and dissipated life, being constantly
drunk, that the Khan found it necessary to remove him and
keep him with him. When the Amir of Bukhara took Khokand
he carried Grerburt with him, and appointed him to a consider-
able post at Court. He was in Samarkand when the Eussians
took it, and, on account of his acquaintance with the natives
and their languages, was given a small position, where he made
himself useful. In relating his story, he said that he was him-


self at times confused to know whether he was really a Pole or
a Kirghiz.

An adventurer of a different kind was twice in Samarkand
during my stay there. He gave himself out as the Khan Zadeh
Arash Kul, a Persian prince, who was desirous of proceeding to
Bukhara for some business relating to his property. .,,

For some reason or other his conduct aroused suspicion both
in Tashkent and Samarkand, and it was thought that he might
possibly be a dealer in counterfeit money. He was not allowed
to proceed to Katta Kurgan, on the ground that his road pass
was only to Samarkand, and was turned back. He went back
therefore as far as .Tizakh, procured another road-pass to Katta
Kurgan, and went directly there. The frontier at Katta Kurgan
is very closely watched, and the Prefect is very particular about
all suspicious characters. As this man had no letters from the
authorities, orders were given that he should not be allowed to
go to Bukhara, and all his efforts to run away at night were
unsuccessful. After complaint was made against him that he
had been living in the post-house for a long time to the dis-
comfort of other travellers, he was ordered to leave the place.
On returning, he abandoned his post-carriage at one station from
Tashkent, and proceeding on foot, took another at- one station on
the other side, in order better to escape observation. When
this was discovered suspicions against him were even stronger,
but all traces of him had disappeared. A year after it turned
out that he was a criminal naade of some tall elm and plane trees a carpet
was spread for us at the side of the pond and a bright looking
boy in a silk robe was quickly handing us bowls of green tea.

We soon entered into conversation with some friends of the
Aksakal who joined us, and we then found that the boy was
a dancer as well as a tea-seller, and on hinting that we should
have no objection to a little amusement, another boy was pro-
duced, and soon three or four musicians appeared with their
cluiiisy tambourines, at the first sound of which the garden
began to fill, for every Asiatic is only too glad to find an
excuse for pleasure. Shops were shut up, the bazaar became
empty, and in a short time om: garden was tilled with eager


spectators, who seated themselves in long rows all about the
pond and covered even the tops of the walls and the roofs of
the surrounding buildings. The sight was certainly very
picturesque. One dance succeeded another ; occasionally beggars
came for alms; and the crowd, perhaps to show their gratitude
to us for the unwonted spectacle in the day time in such a
crowded place, pelted us with roses. The hated heat of the
sunny street, combined with the attractions of the spectacle,
made us the more willing to linger, and two or three hours
elapsed before we were inclined to rise from our cushions
under the elm trees, remount our horses, and go back to our

When at last we started, we were respectfully accompanied
half way up the mountain side by fully half the population,
but no one was admitted to our garden save our immediate
attendants and Madamin, the son of the chief Aksakal, a boy
of about sisteen, with an immense pair of boots on his feet,
which his father had probably lent him in honour of the
occasion, who lolled about wonderingly all day, and shyly began
to make acquaintance with us just as we were about to leave.
Later on we followed up the course of the brook imder vines
and creepers, and at last climbed the steep bare peak that stood

Online LibraryEugene SchuylerTurkistan; notes of a journey in Russian Turkistan, Khokand, Bukhara, and Kuldja → online text (page 26 of 41)