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

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up early in the year. Two-thirds of the stock perished. The
prices of grain rose to such an extent that the inhabitants of
the Zarafshan district petitioned for a prohibition of the
export of grain to Bukhara, on the ground that by spring
there would be none left for seed, and that therefore the next
year the famine would be still worse. Nevertheless the con-
traband export of grain continued. About January Khiva also
stopped the exportation of grain, fo that there was no refuge
for the hungry except the upper districts of the Amu Darya
or the Kussian provinces. By May 1871 it became evident
that there would be a plentiful harvest, and the prices
of grain accordingly fell. F'ortunately there were no military
operations, and the deaths from stai-vation were therefore not
so numerous as might easily have been the case.

As to tlie amovmt of grain raised in the other parts of
Central Asia, I have been unable to obtain any detailed in-
formation. The reader has probably noticed that my statistics
are apt to fail me at the very point where they begin to be
useful and interesting. My best explanation will be perhaps
to quote from a report of an oflQcial, who at one time held a
high position in Turkistan.

' All that we know of the country consists of detached
descriptions of different localities, and the accounts of recon-
naissances made by our troops. As to the statistical informa-
tion which is communicated to us from time to time by the
district chiefs, it is so vague and superficial, and sometimes
even so contradictory, that it would be useless to speak of it.
The so-called statistical committees, instituted in the different
localities of Central Asia, exist only on paper. A general
Statistical Committee for Centra? Asia was formed in 1868, but


it has not been able to fulfil its task, thanks to the perfect
ignorance of the members of the local administration, who have
not communicated to it the required information. In 1869,
by decree of the Commander-in-Chief, statistical committees
were formed in different districts. In that of the Syr Darya
the committee was formed for the first time in 1870, and it
addressed to the functionaries of the local administration a
circular with questions on the statistics of the localities governed
by them ; but these questions related to details which only
provoked general hilarity. The statistical information which
has been presented by the district chiefs of the province of
Semiretch contains, among other things, the following :
" Climate, none ; productive forces, unknown." Such is the
extent of our knowledge about the country which we have

Sesame, poppies, flax and hemp, are cultivated exclusively
for the oil made from the seeds, although the stalks of hemp
are sometimes used for the purpose of making rope. In the
district of Katta-Kurgan, and in some parts of Shahrisabs,
much madder is cultivated, it being found a productive and
lucrative crop. Tobacco is raised in small quantities in many
parts of Central Asia, but is nowhere of good quality, the best
coming from Karshi and from Namangan. In the Eussian
possessions it is but little cultivated, except in Semiretch by
the Eussians.

Although, as I have before remarked, the culture of cotton
has somewhat fallen off in late years on account of the rise in
the price of wheat, still, as it is indispensable for the native
clothing, and is in great demand for export, it continues to be
one of the most important productions in the country. At the
same time it is cultivated only among other things, and there
is probably no agriculturist who has all of his land under cotton,
few having more than thirteen or fourteen acres so planted.
A field is chosen if possible with a good southern exposure, and
is then manured and ploughed from six to ten times, efforts
being made to turn over the ground as much as possible, as it
is considered that the more the ground be worked, the better
will be the harvest. After being soaked in water for a day,
the seed is cast on the ground during the first two weeks of
April, and then carefully harrowed, from 30 lbs. to 38 lbs. being


used on an acre. If there be heavy rains after the sowing, it
is usual to plough the ground up again, and resow it, as other-
wise there will be no crop. When the plants are a few inclies
high, the ground is carefully hoed and made into hills about
the plants which are carefully thinned out ; and this hoeing is
repeated every week or two until the flowering, two months
after the sowing, when the land is watered for the first time ;
but then and afterwards, during the great heats, care is taken
to give no more water than is necessary, as too much would
injure the plants. The gathering of the bolls is done chiefly
by women and children. The natives estimate the cost of the
seed, of manuring, and of preparing and planting the ground,
at 6 to 10 rubles a taiutp, and of the hoeing and subsequent
work at 4 to 5 rubles. As a tanap will yield from 1^ to 2
batmans, at the average price of 9 rubles a batman, the profit
on a tanap will be from 5 to 8 rubles, or 18s. Sd. to 29s. 2d.
per acre. The seeds are separated from the cotton by running
them between two wooden rollers, moving in opposite directions.
This is a primitive and very imperfect method, as, if the rollers
be not very close together, many impmities and crushed seeds
will pass through. To clean the cotton of dust and dirt ad-
hering to it, it is then usually placed on mats and beaten with
light rods.

At present there are about twenty-five million pounds of
cotton sent every year from Central Asia to Russia, from one-fiftli
to one-sixth of the whole amount imported for the use of Eussian
manufactures.' It is considered in every respect to be inferior
to Surat cotton, which is iu still greater quantity imported into
Russia. The chief reasons of the bad quality of the Central
Asian cotton are the shortness (rarely two inches stretching to
three), the thinness, and the weakness of the fibre, the bad way
in which it is cleaned, and its admixture with so many foreign
matters. No cotton-presses are used. The cotton is stuffed
loosely into a large sack, and on arriving in Russia it is foimd
that several inches of the exterior of the bale are so full of
sand and dirt as to be utterly useless. The loss in this v.'ay is





144,083,000 lbs.

122,148,000 lbs.

122,182.000 lbs.


9,472,000 „


11,426,000 „


never less than 25 per cent., often 50 per cent., and on an average
35 per cent., while the loss from the worst East Indian cotton
is only 18 per cent. To cure these evils it has been proposed
to introduce the use of gins and presses, and the ciilture of
better varieties of cotton. For this purpose the Government
of Tuikistan has proposed to establish a model cotton planta-
tion, but the Ministry of Finance has objected to sending the
necessary money until the results of the silk-school shall be
known. A commission, however, has been sent by General
Kauffmann to America to investigate the methods of cotton
culture there employed, and to see what improvements might
be introduced into Tashkent. Many efforts have already been
made to ameliorate the varieties of cotton planted, and experi-
ments have been made with American seed. The variety chosen
for this purpose was ' sea-island,' but it never seemed to occur
to the reformers that sea-island cotton owed its merit entirely
to the fact that it was grown on islands off the sea coast, and
that when sown on uplands or in the interior it lost its good
qualities. The cotton planted in Tashkent and near Samarkand
came up and grew beautifully, in fact it kept on growing until
it reached the height of eight or nine feet, but the winter came
on before any bolls had a chance to ripen.

The gardens constitute the beauty of all this land. The
long rows of poplar and elm trees, the vineyards, the dark
foliage of the pomegranate over the walls, transport one at
once to the plains of Lombardy or of Southern Fiance. In the
early spring the outskirts of the city, and indeed the whole
\alley, are one mass of white and pink, with the bloom of
almond and peach, of cherry and apple, of apricot and plum,
which perfume the air for miles around. These gardens are
the favourite dwellinjij-places in the summer, and well may they
be. Nowhere are fruits more abundant, and of some varieties
it can be said that nowhere are they better. The apricots and
nectarines I think it would be impossible to surpass anywhere.
These ripen in June, and from that time until winter fruit and
melons are never lacking. Peaches, though smaller in size,
are better in flavour than the best of England, but they are far
surpassed by those of Delaware. The big blue plums of Bukhara
are celebrated through the whole of Asia. The cherries are
mostly small and sour. The best apples come either from

FRUIT. 297

Khiva,, or from Suzak, to the north of Turkislan, but the small
white pears of Tashkent are excellent in their way. The quince,
3s with us, is cultivated only for jams or marmalades, or for
flavouring soup. Besides water-melons (tarbuz, whence the
Eussian arbuz) there are in common cultivation ten varieties
of early melons, and six varieties which ripen later, any
one of which would be a good addition to our gardens. In
that hot climate they are considered particularly wholesome,
and form one of the principal articles of food during summer.
When a man is warm or thirsty, he thinks nothing of sitting
down and iinishing a couple of them. An acre of land, if
properly prepared, would produce in ordinary years from two
to three thousand, and in very good years twice as many.
Of grapes I noticed thirteen varieties, the most of them
remarkably good. The Jews distil a kind of brandy from the
grapes, and the Eussians have begun to make wine, but all the
brands which I have seen, both red and white, were harsh
and strong, and far inferior even to the wines of the Crimea or
of the Caucasus. Large quantities of friut are dried, and are
known in Eussian commerce by the name of izium, or Jdshmisk,
althougli the latter is only properly applied to a certain variety
of grape. If the fruit were dried properly and carefully, it
might become a very important article of ti-ade, as it is
naturally so sweet that it can be made into compotes and
preserves without the addition of sugar.

The price of an acre of land of medium quality in the best
parts of Zarafshan valley would be, when reduced into English
currency, for gardens 71. 4s., for vineyards lOL 16s., for lucerne
5l. 8s., and for tillage Si. 12s. According to the tabulated
prices of 1871, such garden-lands would produce per acre a
crop worth 4L 6s., vineyards 7 1. 12s., lucerne meadows 2l. 4s.,
and fields, if planted with wheat, 3^., and if with cotton, 3^. 12s.
In the immediate suburbs of Samarkand, land is much dearer,
an acre of garden-land selling for 141. 8s., and producing
a crop worth 71. As. ; an acre of vineyard-land for 18L, pro-
ducing a crop worth 121. ; an acre of meadow or tillage-land
lOl. 16s., producing, if so^vn with lucerne or wheat, 4?. 6s., and
if with cotton, 31.

The question of land tenure in Central Asia is one of prime


iraportaaee ; firstly, because Russians are not allowed to buy
land, nor is Eussian colonisation permitted until there shall
be some kind of a land settlement ; and secondly, because in
all of the projects of a land settlement which have been pre-
pared by the Russian officials, it is openly or tacitly assumed
that the fee of all the lands is vested in the State, and that
tiierefore the government has the right to dispossess the pro-
prietors, or to alter the tenure at its pleasure. In all this part
of Central Asia there has not yet been found any trace of
communal ownership, but the land tenures are governed theo-
retically by the same rules that prevail in all Mussulman
countries, although in practice perhaps changed by certain local

By the general principles of Mussulman law, lands are of
five kinds ; milk, the property in the most absolute manner of
private persons ; mirvie, public domain, or the property of the
State ; mevqufe, lands in mortmain ; inetruke, ' abandoned '
land, i.e. land given to public uses, such as roads, streets, &c.,
or pastures belonging to a village or canton ; and tnevat, dead,
or waste lands. Milk, or private property, is either milk-
ushri, or tithe lands, lands divided among the conquerors
when an infidel country has been overcome by force of arms,
and paying a tax of one- tenth part of the harvest ; or milk-
haradji, lands which at such conquest were left in the possession
of the non-Mussulman inhabitants, subject to the payment of
an impost always more than the ushri, and varying from a
seventh to a half of the harvest. Milk lands are at the entire
disposition of the owner, and can be sold, given away, be-
queathed, or turned into vaqf, or mortmain ; but if the owner
die without heirs, the land reverts to the government. Miriie
lands, or the public domain, if kept by private persons, are
held by them as tenants at will, the tenure passing on their
death to their male descendants, to the exclusion of the female
line.' Mevqufe lands, or vaqf, as they are more usually called
in Central Asia, are such as have been given or devised to some
mosque or college, or for some religious or charitable purpose
either by private persons or by the State. Lands may be made

' By recent reforms the holders of miriie lands in Turkey are allowed to sell
them with the permission of the authorities, and such lands can be inherited in the
female line.


vaqf either purely for a religious or charitable purpose, or uuder
the pretext of such purpose for the benefit of one's children or
other descendants, thus forming a sort of entail. For instance,
a small mosque will be built, of which the descendants of the
donor shall always be the trustees, and the land will be dedi-
cated to their support as such. Mevat, or waste lands, can be
turned into milk or private property by any person who, with
the consent of the government (although some schools of law
think this unnecessary) reclaims, or in the phrase of the shariat,
' vivifies the land,' that is, irrigates, or plants it. This reclama-
tion of waste lands, however, must take place within three
years from the time of occupation, otherwise no right of pro-
perty passes. Strictly speaking, the land owned by private
persons in Central Asia is all milk-haradji, there being no
m.ilk-ushri, except such as under a mistaken idea was made by
the Russians, because the land was not originally divided up
among the conquerors, and because, as the older lawyers put it,
there was no milk-ushri in the lands watered by the Saihun
(Amu Darya) the Jaihun (Syr Darya) the Nile, Tigris and
Euphrates. Hur-halis, another species of milk land, has been
created in these regions, which is freed from all taxes, they
having been commuted at the time of its creation, either
actually, or by a legal fiction. They are also called zar-hariti,
" changed for gold.'

In the countries of Central Asia under native rule, the
Khanate was divided into several provinces governed by Beks,
who held with regard to the Amir or Khan a sort of loose
feudal position. They were obliged to support part of his
army, and made him large presents, and in certain matters had
recourse to his superior authority, taut the taxes which they
collected went into their own separate treasuries, and not into that
of the Khan. In every taekship, however, the Khan had lands,
the revenue of which went into his own treasury, and such
lands were called amlak lands, as distinguished from the Bek
lands, and the tax-collectors subject to liim, and not to the
Bek, bore the name of amlakdars.^ "With respect to these
amlak lands, some hold the theory that they belong to the
State, and that the holders of them are only tenants of the

' The amIaJc and the zelcat (see page 205) constituted the privy purse of the


State, and are unable without the State's permission to sell
their lands. Others say that these lands are all Tnilk, or the
absolute property of the persons who live on them, and that
they are only the property of the State in the sense that the
taxes from them go to the treasury of the Khan, and not to
that of the Bek ; in a word, that the percentage of the harvest
paid by the Holder of the land is a tax, and not a rent. What-
ever may be the theory, in practice these lands are the pro-
perty of the persons cultivating them, for they are sold, given
away, bequeathed, and turned into vaqf as freely as other lands,
without any recourse to the government. It seems, however,
unquestionable that here, as in England, the legal fiction exists
that everyone in the last resort holds of the crown ; but this is
merely a fiction, and has no efifect in practice.

The Eussian officials, however, who have prepared the
projects for a land settlement, advocate the view that all these
lands actually belong to the State, and that the holders are all
under one form and another tenants. To support this view
they bring up the theory of the origin of landed property in
conquest or reclamation, as laid down in the shariat, and the
fact that when there are no heirs, the lands are claimed by the
State, as well as the fact that in certain cases the enjoyment of
the land is restricted. In tliis, however, they make an error ;
for they hold that the right of property is restricted or limited
by certain regidations, especially those regarding irrigation.
For instance, as an irrigating canal is made for the benefit of
all the lands bordering it, the use of the water is subject to
certain restrictions. Proprietors living near the beginning of
the canal have no right to use more than their proper share of
water to the detriment ol' those farther on. This applies par-
ticularly to rice-lands, but as it would be an expensive matter
to have guards at the entrance of every man's field to prevent
him from using too much water, it is found simpler to forbid
the culture of rice in certain localities. This, however, is not
a limitation of the right of property, it is only a limitation of
the right of enjoyment, in the same way as under our laws no
person has a right to maintain on his land a public nuisance,
nor is he allowed to infringe the rights of his neighbours as to
water privileges where there are mills, &c. ; but his right of


property remains intact, as he can still sell, give away, and
bequeath his land as he chooses.

It is therefore now proposed, after quite ten years of occu-
pation, during which the natives have been left in the full
possession and enjoyment of their lands, and after the govern-
ment has recognised this by the purchase of lands from them,
that the land tenures shall be settled by the government taking
possession of all of the lands, in contempt of the fact, which is
admitted by aU. the officials, that whatever may be the theories
of the law books, the customs of centuries have given to the
possessors of these lands the actual rights of property in them,
and by redistributing them to the inhabitants in limited quan-
tities on the payment of a yearly rent, the non-payment of
which will work the forfeiture of the lands. It is proposed
suddenly to deprive a whole population of their landed pro-
perty, and reduce them to the state of tenants, putting them
practically in the same position as the Christian rayahs are
under the Turkish government, with whose wrongs the Russian
government so deeply sympathises. Absolute property is to
be recognised in the land only where documents emanating
from the Russian authorities have already been given for it.
As to vaqf lands, disregarding the fact that many of them are
really nothing but entailed property, and those lands which the
authorities are willing to acknowledge as inilh lands, there are
two propositions. One is to leave them in the possession of
the persons or institutions actually occupying them, while the
]ands which are underlet to other persons shall be rented to
these other persons, the owners of the vaqfs being properly
indemnified. The other proposition is that the government
take all the vaqf lands into its actual possession, applying the
revenues to religious, benevolent, and educational purposes in
the districts in which the lands lie, but not necessarily to those
purposes for which the vaqfs were created. It is claimed that
the existence of so much land in mortmain is a burden on the
inhabitants, and maintains a large and fanatical clerical class,
which is dangerous to the peace and well-being of the State^
It is also gravely proposed to found communes similar to, but
not identical with, the village communes of Russia ; and this
in a country where communal institutions are unknown, and
where they would not be consonant to the customs, feelings, or


usages 3f the inhabitants. A forced plant like this could take
no root, while its decay would poison the atmosphere. The
arguments in support of these most extreme, and, as they seem
to me, most unjust measures, are various and contradictory.
One is tliat the natives would have no respect for the Russians
if tlie government were thus io abdicate its rights, and by an
uncalled-for act of beneficence grant to the natives the full
rio-ht to the property which they call their own. Another is,
that if the natives were confirmed in the possession of their
property, they would not be willing to sell their lands to the
Russians, and thus this would impede and prevent Russian
colonisation ; while with the same breath the supporters of the
measure declare that the inhabitants will surrender all their
lands for a song, and thus leave the country utterly unpopulated.
Were there contests between different classes as to the ovmership
of lands, or were there large proprietors who had claims con-
flicting with those of their tenants, we might understand the
proposed resettlement of the lands ; but as we know that there
are no large proprietors in this part of Asia, and that disputes
between landlord and tenant are almost unknown, nothing as
yet from the side of the inhabitants has called for any legisla^
tion on this subject, other than that which is usual in all
conquered countries, of confirming to the inhabitants their
rights to the property which they possess, in accordance with
the laws of the preceding government. I do not know whether
to ascribe these propositions to a mania for change and reform,
or to an innate incapacity to understand the bases of personal
liberty and of the rights of property. It is proper to say that
these measures were not drawn up by statesmen, for Russian
statesmen as yet have given but slight attention to the situation
of affkirs in the remote province of Turkistan, and all the pro-
jects for the government of that region have so far been rejected
by the Council of the Empire, or have been withdrawn. They
are the work of soldiers, of minor clerks who have reached re-
sponsible official positions, and of a few young men who, because
they may have graduated at the Alexander Lyceum, which was
founded to educate statesmen, and which is the alma mater of
Prince Grortchakoff, imagine that from that circumstance alone
they are necessarily as great statesmen as that distinguished
man. The officials of Turkistan would do well to take a lesson

TAXES. 303

from the land settlement of Lord Cornwallis in India, and its
now acknowledged injustice and evil results, before they take
such a decisive step as that proposed. Maine, in his ' Village
Communities,' speaking of the English land settlements, says :
' Their earliest experiments, tried in the belief that the soil
was theirs, and that any land law would be of their exclusive
creation, have now passed into proverbs of maladroit manage-
ment.' I am convinced that any attempt to induce the land-
holders of Turkistan to become tenants of the government,
woidd be productive of the greatest discontent, and would cause
the Eussians such difficulties, that a far larger garrison than
they have at present would be insufficient to maintain order.
It must be remembered too that the appropriation of the title
to the lands by the government would necessitate the inter-
vention of another ministry, that of Crown Domains, which has
as yet had little to do with Central Asia, and that although this

Online LibraryEugene SchuylerTurkistan; notes of a journey in Russian Turkistan, Khokand, Bukhara, and Kuldja → online text (page 29 of 41)