The Khiva Khanate and the Chodor
Turkmens - - Oghuz remnants -- have been in south-western Central
Asia for a long time. The Khivan power sphere has long contained
a significant Turkmen population, whose homeland until the 16th c.
was the Mangishlak 1 peninsula
(In those days the area was remote and rainfall adequate for pastoral
life.) from which they were displaced by Kalmuks in the 17th c.2 and
scattered up along the Amu Daria into Bukhara, and Khiva, and to
the southern rim of the steppes on the mountain fringe next to
figure# 1 AREA MAP
A good Turkmen ethnographic article is that by William Wood in
the exhibition catalogue, Vanishing Jewels.3 He
knows the Soviet sources and some European travel accounts.4 These
contain data concerning Turkmens (data which are typically organized
by main wings, subsidiary clans, and sometimes, families) in Khiva
have predominantly to do with Yomuds and Goken, the Chodor, so
to speak, bit players.
Particularly instructive is a review of Khiva immediately after
the Russian conquest which mentions that the Aleli moved out of
the Russian sphere south into the Akhal area, 600 kibitkas
(a Russian term for domicile utilized for tax purposes), which
would be on the order of 3000 individuals; 7,000 kibitkas of
Jemshidi moved from Khiva khanate and settled between “Kupya-Urgench
in Mankytom”. The Englishman Abbott in 1840 encountered
numerous Yomuds (and Jemshidi) in the Murgab valley of south central
Turkmen country.5 In
sum, confederation locations were fluid, changing over time, and
population estimates at all times and from all sources are never
reconcilable. It is the case, then, that various compilations
of peoples and places other than at the most general level are
a slippery plank. In addition, little is secure which connects
various groupings of carpet characteristics to particular times,
peoples, and places.
Khiva was an oasis town on the lower Amu Daria river (earlier,
Oxus, a corruption of Turkic for White Water).
#2 OASIS MAP
The sketch map (Russian text) shows the oasis in 1850; highlights
are (a) the finger lake-appearing dark areas which identify dams
and water impoundments for irrigation; (b) Khiva town’s location;
(c) that of Tashauz (downstream from Khiva); and, (d) the inset
map which shows Turkmen areas, the diagonal lines indicating sedentary
groups, the lighter lines the nomadic, and the grids of dots, those
on the steppes.
From the capture of Urgench (the then capital) in 1379 Khwarizm
(land of Khiva) Timurid rulers were in control until 1505 or thereabouts
when the mean Uzbeg Shaybani Khan drove nice Baber, last of the
Timurids, into northern India. Successor Uzbeg groups ruled
Khiva (Shaybanid, 1512 -- 1920) and Bukhara (Astrakhanids
and Mangits, 1599 -- 1920) amid mutual conflict, ups and downs
of power and territory, and buffeting by the outside: Kalmuks during
the first half of the 17th century, Nadir Shah of Persia
in the 1740’s, and (for Khiva) inconsequential Turkmen
occupations in the first half of the 18th century.6 The
Kalmuk incursions landed a large part of the Chodor confederation
nearer to Khiva.
The khanate power struggle ranged over most of Turkmen territory,
viz. Khiva’s expeditions against Merv in 1832 and 1851.7 Tribal
tribute was standard procedure; some of Khiva’s came from
the ‘Ikdir-Chodor’. All of this ended when Imperial
Russia expanded and imposed vassal status on Bukhara (1864) and
Khiva (1872). A likeness of the then Khiva khan Seid Muhammad
Rahim, complete with Russian medals, is:8
figure #3 KHIVA KHAN
Uzbeg khans celebrated their nomad ancestry. Jenkinson (c.1550)
noted the Khivan royal presence ensconced in “a little round
house” replete with felts and carpets and Muraviev’ not
quite 300 years later sketched the Khiva khan’s yurt serving
as the reception center within the palace compound.
Khiva Turkmens had been tangled up with ruling Uzbegs for centuries
-- sometimes as tributary vassals, sometimes as rebels, sometimes
(briefly) as victors, at others serving as agents of government,
and while on the steppes pretty much independent.9 Latter-day
summary reviews of source documents offer a good picture of the
mixing, movement, and migration of Turkmens in and around Khiva
in the 17th and mid-18th centuries, particularly those
caused by Nadir Shah.10
The Chodor were one of the 22 Oghuz groups. Tamgas, tribal
crests of the confederations served as signs of ownership; these
were known c. 1000;11 ongons,
all birds, were confederation totems.
figure #4 TAMGA CHART
Chodor clans lived along the Amu Daria on the Bukhara Khanate’s
southern border, and also were among the seven groups identified
c. 1818 as living around Urgench, the old Khiva capital.12 A population
estimate (c. 1840) placed the Khiva (territorially larger than
subsequently) Turkmen population at 458,500 – Yomud, Tekke,
Chodor, Goklan, Salor, Imrali, Aleli, Kara Daughli, Ersari, Saruk – while
noting 12,000 Chodor families scattered between Khiva and the Mangishlak
were present in substantial numbers (12,000 families) south of
Khiva town, at least since 1760; some lived in villages but the
larger part was nomadic. Although its population was predominantly
Uzbeg and Turkmen, Khiva contained small groups of Armenians, Indians,
Nogai, Arians, Uigurs, Kajars, Gypsies, and Negroes.14
Muraviev’ (1820) mentions the presence of 15,000 Khiva Turkmens,
the majority living in villages and agricultural. The “Tchovdour-Essen-Ili” comprised
8,000 households in the Mangishlak peninsula; the principal Khiva
Turkmens were Yomuds of the “Bairamcha” branch along
the Caspian. Also noted were Chodor of the Igdir tribe in
Khanate archives have information describing Khiva’s multi-confederacy
Turkmen population. The table below (in Russian) summarizes the
ranks in descending order of importance of leaders (left axis)
and lists the many clans (horizontal axis) as of the 2nd and
3rd quarter of the 19th c.16 The
comparatively high total of Chodor honorifics hints at but does
not necessarily reflect a large population.
figure #5 TRIBAL CHART
A travel account clan listing parallels that of the chart: Yomud,
Tekke, Goklan, Salor, Imrali, Karadaghli, Ersari, Saruk.17 In
the early 19th c. Khiva territory extended to the south
and east into what can loosely be regarded as Tekke country, including
observer c. 1830 noted that the Tekke were allied with Khiva.19
By the time of these reports most Khiva Turkmens were agricultural;
some were pastoral, some both. A Chodor element was located
in a minor bekate, Porsu, downriver from Khiva town and around
the center, Tashauz, and engaged in agriculture, giving the administration
no trouble; that came from the Yomuds.20 An
estimated 8000 Chodor were in Mangishlak and near Khiva c. 1810;21 a
considerably later Russian census report (1886) put four thousand
Yomuds there and did not mention the Chodor.22
The scholar, Bartold, writing of Khorezm when it was part of Transoxiana
(before the Turkic influx), using Maqdisi as a source, noted among
its exports “fabrics of striped cloth, carpets, blanket cloth”.23
A good rule of thumb is that irrespective of time periods and
population changes it is safe to conclude that textiles were always
a staple of intra-regional trade. In general, the small urban
centers, all in irrigated oases, made sophisticated products; the
rural hinterland exchanged raw materials -- sheep, camels, wool,
carpet and carpet-like textiles, felts, simple stuffs, and small
wares -- for items not procurable on the steppes, and always had
done so, thought an anonymous traveller at the beginning of the
19th c.24 Observations
about the trade of westernmost Turkmens appear regularly in the
European travel literature well before the Russian conquest.25
Khiva was a mart for Turkmens: distant Tekkes sold wares there;26 carpets
from “Turkomania” were imported in 1830;27 shaggy
black wool hats were a Turkmen specialty; the principal (“huge”)
bazaar in an outlying settlement, Kunya-Urgench, was the main Turkmen
wares sales site.28 One
observation concerning “Khivans” notes that “…they
make fabrics of silk, of cotton, and of silk and cotton mixed together. It
is the women who work these fabrics in their houses; there is no
manufacturing at all in the European manner.”29 Among
the goods sold to Kazaks by the oasis centers of Bukhara, Tashkent,
and Khiva were “…many fabrics of silk and cotton, ‘contre-point’ robes…’30 A
statement on the brink of the Russian take-over (1872) noted that
Turkmen products (“coarse objects…[for] elementary
needs”) from Khiva and the coastal Caspian area were exported
to both Bukhara and to Persia along with livestock, salt and oil,
carpets and felts.31
One summary along these lines was: “The sources, treating
the beginning and middle of the 19th c., point out the
following basic kinds of craft trade of the Khorezm Turkmens: carpet-making,
felt boots, fabric-making (particularly fabrics and clothing from
camel wool), manufacture of hats and shoes and of yurts. Crafts
were of a household character, not yet drifting away from animal
husbandry and farming. In my opinion, Turkmens had a small
number of craftsmen specialists: blacksmiths, carpenters, builders,
[although] Turkmen cattle breeders were masters at the laying out
of wells. Trade transactions took place primarily through
bartering for fabrics, clothing, weapons, etc. available only in
the cities, as well as textile products, for Kazak livestock.”32 Another
author’s list dealing with the same period identifies typical
goods from the steppes including, as one would expect: herd products
consisting of ewes, horses, horned beasts, camels, goats, goat
hide; wool of various animals and of diverse quality; pelts of
male goats, horses, sheep and cows, as well as wolves, fox, korsaks,
hares and marmots, felts, dakhis (a type of clothing), touloupes (sheep
pelts sewn into furs), antelope horns, and madder roots.33
According to Muraviev’ (1819) the Khiva Turkmens did not
wish to live in villages and preferred a nomadic life-style (together
with some steppes agriculture in patches of arable land albeit
inadequate water) but nevertheless were (1) users of irrigation
canals and tenders of fruit orchards, (2) owners of herds of cattle,
and (3) weavers for commerce of a “considerable number” of
saddle bags and of rugs and felts. Khiva town had a brisk
trade with nomadic Turkmens in “couvertures”, felt
and horses “remarkable for their beauty” brought up
from the Gurgan/Atrek area.34
It is dangerous to read between the lines, but Muraviev’s
word choice indicates that “Khivans” (likely for the
most part Uzbegs) made various fabrics and other materials (city
stuffs) via home industry (no workshops); and that Turkmens made
humbler objects (country stuffs) -- carpets, felts.35
figure #6 RUSSIAN DISTRICTS
History has drawn a veil around late 19th and early
20th c. carpet production in Khiva, in that the Empire
allowed it nominal autonomy, thereby eliminating the standard Imperial
provincial bureaucracy. No annual reports describe Khivan craft
activities. Data from abutting provinces, however, provide a clue
concerning its carpet-making. The chart below replicates
a typical provincial report.
figure #7 KUSTAR CHART
The carpet and related items production data across the years
1892 – 1911 are standard for these districts; other surveys
echo them.36 These
reports are economic in nature and do not get into appearances
descriptions but are useful in documenting matters such as the
introduction of aniline dyes (1892) and the deterioration of quality
workmanship (1900). One mention, however, has to do with
the Yomud women of “Karakalin” uezd (subdistrict)
who made “important” palas (kilims) with fine
designs on a dark ground, and prayer carpets in “beautiful
and fine designs” which used cotton for pattern white, and
were sold in Khiva.37 Pile
rug makers in Mangishlak with its Kazak majority were Turkmens;
population data compiled in 1888 states 36 thousand Kazak and 4
Khiva did, however, participate in the empire’s domestic
craft promotion activities, one of its mechanisms being expositions;
the photograph39 below
is of the Khiva pavilion in Tashkent in 1890. Chodor bags
form the valence along the front.
figure #8 TASHKENT EXPO
The Imperial and the Soviet Carpet Literature
Early 20th c. Russian publications are the principal
source material. Three authors, all of whom were in the region
after the turn of the century -- Dudin, Semenov, Felkersham --
form the base of knowledge about turn of the century Turkmen weaving,
although they have limitations. All were experienced (one
a Central Asia scholar, another an artist accompanying survey teams
in the new colonial realm, and a governor-general who collected
carpets) but nonetheless outsiders. A Russian taste for Turkmen
craft work had developed with the conquest. For example,
one of the last lootings was that of General Madritov, who when
arrested after the 1917 revolution was discovered to have 600 pounds
of silver jewelry taken from Turkmen women as well as over 60 fine
Here is the gist of what these authors wrote touching upon Khiva
and the Chodor.
Semenov (1911): “Turkmens weave carpets: Yomud, Chodor,
Goklen, Ersari, Abdal, Igdir, and parts of Khirgiz-Kazaks and Karakalpaks. Carpets
of Khiva Yomuds are the same as [those] of the Yomuds of Transcaspia ‘oblast’ [province],
the same can be said about the clans Abdal and Igdir. Chodor
carpets distinguish themselves in grandeur [size], a relative lack
of density of fabric (especially in new carpets; the old are flawless)
and an ornamentation of almost the same character as both the carpets
of the Akhal and Tejend Turkmens, with only this difference, that
in main designs they have bright red places…”41
Felkersham (1914): “In general the carpet production of
the Yomuds, Goklens, Chodor and others is distinguished by a high
quality, although they are less thin and less shortly clipped than
that of Salors and Tekkes. But … the colors in them are
splendid and old carpets possess silkiness to a high degree.”42
Dudin (191743 ,
The 1917 and the 1926 articles do not discuss Chodor carpets but
the excellent 1917 summary survey did illustrate a bag face.
figure #9 CHODOR BAG
Various Soviet authors have extended this literature, the most
extensive being a set of reports based on field surveys in the
1930’s and 1940’s produced under the leadership of
V.G. Moshkova and posthumously published in 1970. An English
translation has valuable commentary by George W. O’Bannon.45 In
addition, a 1968 Askhabad journal article offers many drawings
of motifs but is untranslated;46 another
(also not translated) contains many drawings of standard gols but
the text does not discuss Chodor output.47 A
later 20th c. review (in English) largely follows Felkersham.48
Moshkova, the best Soviet period source, noted in an earlier publication
Yomud influence caused the rugs of minor tribes to lose their original
features but went on to say that Chodor and Goklen weaving nevertheless
kept a distinctive quality distinguishing it from items conventionally
called Yomud.50 The “distinctive
quality” is not identified. An error of some consequence
appears in an English version of this article employing the phrase “the
original Chodor gol”; the Russian text reads “the
main Chodor gol.”51 A
Significant and overlooked is a 1963 tri-lingual text52 by
Turkmen academics in which, while there is no text concerning Chodor
carpets, some are illustrated. Most do not have the gol called ortmen. A
rug woven in 1978 in Tashauz with the gol commonly called ortmen appears;
its pattern, however, is termed shirbaz. This gol is
the motif in all illustrations, but only once is the pattern so
named. Tashauz, a Chodor town, and its rug production are
cited in the old literature.
The travel and the kustar’ literatures also shed
light on carpets of the Khiva Chodor. The authors were interested
in other things, but from time to time dropped a descriptive word.
(1892) “The Turcomans-Tchaoudors have colors more gawdy
[criardes],a weave less tight [serre] and a surface
(1900, on Mangishlak) “typical rug patterns are rare”,
plus an observation of a shift from tradition to new designs and
to synthetic dyes.54
Early 20th c. deterioration also is noted in an Asgabat
retrospective look of 1926: “Unfortunately over the last
1/1/2-2 decades carpet production noticeably started to weaken. A
propensity became evident, on the one hand -- to a decrease of
merit of its own work, and on the other hand to an uncalled for
imitation of Persian and European patterns. Undoubtedly it
is necessary to stop these ruinous currents … [and] loss
of truly artistic beauty and patterns of Turkmen historical traditional
ways.” This same review noted the continuing “…work
of the Chaudor tribe in the Tashauz okrug.”55
A useful survey of Chodor pile products is Munkacsy’s HALI
article. He as examined many, and grouped bags into a useful compendium
of characteristics: brown or brown-purple color, differences in
field pattern accent colors, Persian knot open right, ribbed back,
multi-colored chevrons in skirt, and, partly cotton weft alternating
with wool or plied together.
Cotton could indicate (a) proximity to the source, (b) possession
of enough wherewithal for its purchase, or (c) a more recent date,
given the Russian drive to introduce cotton culture in Central
Asia to compensate for its loss due to the American Civil War. Or
all of the above. New Urgench, 31 kilometers from Khiva town,
by the 1880’s was the site of the oasis’ first cotton
gin processing facilities56 and
this fact may tip the argument toward latter days plus some economic
means, ie., sedentary folks. Tashauz itself was a cotton
producing area,57 and
in Khiva cotton export was “so substantial” that everyone
had a “secondary” knowledge of its culture.58
Why do Chodor rugs look the way they do?
There are hints as to what may have been going on: “The
lovely muted red Bukhara rugs of recent times probably were the
result of Ozbek taste and nomadic Turkmen weaving techniques, although
we have little direct evidence of their origin.”59 This
taste was indeed in evidence. At the time of the Russian
conquest the Khiva khan’s hastily evacuated palace was left
strewn with Turkmen rugs. A traveller during a turn of the
century visit to Khiva observed in re Yomud carpets: excellent
in design and color, but sometimes undercut by use of bad aniline
dyes, and the best carpets were “always” bought by
the khan and only second class specimens were disposed of in the
Before the Uzbegs were the Timurids: “The Timurid and Uzbek
dynasties also patronized Persian art, literature, and historical
Uzbeg Shaybani Khan admired Timurid culture.62 Chinese
influence, as well, penetrated via the Timurids into Persia and
the Uzbeg states, remaining for a long time.63
Timurid textiles involved a royal manufactory, the use of a large
number of weaving techniques and materials along with frequent
replication of architectural forms.
Timurid fabrics (example above) have been studied via miniature
paintings. While it may not be certain that things on the
floor (vide the 1470 miniature above) are carpets, felts, kilims
or mosaics, the designs are clear enough. And there are
surviving Timurid textile fragments with a grid of rosettes, or
cartouches, which touch with blossoms at the point of contact,
evocation of the Sasanian style.64 The
Timurid underpinning of the successor Uzbegs’ taste is unexceptionable
in that conquest of central powers by less cultured outsiders frequently
entails adoption by them of the center’s culture, in part
for legitimization purposes and in the Uzbeg case in part because
Shaybani Khan admired Timurid art. In the time of Timur Turkmens
were referred to as heathen65 and
in the Uzbeg period thought of as country bumpkins.66
A Timurid/Turkmen pattern correspondence was noted long ago,67 but
subsequently in rug writings blithely dismissed as “superficial.”68 But
what is there to expect when country folk copy high style art other
than a “superficial” resemblance? And, all-over repeat
patterns were endemic to Western and Central Asian textile art. Part
of the Sasanian (old Persian) repertoire; part of the Sogdian (pre-Turk)
In brief, the design approach of a major category of Timurid textiles
and of Turkmen carpets is the same: a grid of geometric motifs
-- circles, octagons, hexagons -- interlaced with a second grid
of smaller similar motifs. This grid also frequently contained
in-filling decoration of endless knots, vines, vines with blossoms. So
does the vine be-draped Tashauz rug. Similar iconography
of course could have arisen from other sources or spontaneously
due to the inherent nature of woven materials; adaptive copying
isn’t the only possibility. In this regard, however,
it is useful to remember that Turkmens always to some extent wove
for a market which up until the last quarter of the 19th c.
was quite local.
An interesting convergence thus arises: Chodors in the small town
and minor district Tashauz, the ortmen motif, and proximity
to the seat of Khivan Uzbeg power. All of which is only circumstantial
but nevertheless leads to a plausible speculation concerning what
might be not only the principal but also the original Chodor gol. This
set of circumstances also suggests that this gol – and
by implication others in the Turkmen formulary -- may have been
created de novo at the beginning of the modern period
Voyages, “Accounts of Independent Tartary”,
Vol IX, p. 327 – 328.
Petr. I., History of the Mongols and the Tatars,
by Ebulgazi Baradin Khan, Khiva Khan, 1603 – 1664, from a
manuscript in the Arabic museum, St. Petersburg, Philo Press reprint,
Amsterdam, 1970, p. 337, p. 338.
William, Vanishing Jewels, Turkmen Ethnohistory, Rochester,
1990. p. 27 ff.
Percy, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia, 1902, London,
1902, pp. 15 – 18; Yate, C. E., Khorasan and Sistan,
Edinburg and London, 1900, p. 226. p. 280; Aucher-Eloy, Remi,
ed. Jaubert, Paris, 1843, pp. 347 – 48; and others.
James, Narrative of a Journey, (1840) 2nd ed.,
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Rene, trans. Naomi Walford, The Empire of the Steppes, a
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1970, p. 421, p.486– 87, p.521.
Quoly Khan, Relation de l’Ambassade au Kharezm, trans.
Chas. Schefer, Philo Press reprint, Amsterdam, 1975, p. 78, p.
Henry, Russian Central Asia, Vol. II, p.
Petr. I., Histoire des Mongols et des Tatars par Aboul-Ghazi
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G. E., Ocherk istorii formirovaniia severnykh Turkmen, Moscow,
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194 – 197.
al-Kashgari, ed. Dankoff and Kelly, “Compendium of the
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Abdul Kerim Boukhary, Histoire de l’Asie Centrale,
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James, op. cit., p. 176, Vol. II p. 312; Weil, Capt., La
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in Voienny Sbornik, sept/oct, 1879, p. 40..
Capt., trans. Carl Zimmerman, Memoire, London, 1840,
N. N., Voyage en Turkomanie et Khiva, trans. J. B. Eyries
and J. Klaproth, Paris, 1923, p. 105, p. 233, p. 261.
U., Khorezmskie Turkmeny v XIX veke, Moscow, 1961, p.
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I. V., Ocherki ekonomicheskoi i politichektoi istorii Khivinskogo
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Abdul Kerim Bukary, op. cit., p. 164.
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Arthur, op. cit., p. 165; Abbott, James, op. cit.,
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Guillaume, A Travers le Royaume de Tamerlan, Paris,
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Nikoai V., trans. de Bode, Bokhara, London, 1845, p.
28 Podgorelsky, op.
cit., p. 26.
des Voyages, ed/pub Malte-Brun, Vol 4, 1809, p. 381—82.
Alexis, Description…des Kirghiz-Kazaks, trans.
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soisedi v Srednei Azii, “Khiva i Turkmeniya”, St.
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U. E., Khorezmskie turkmeny v XIX beke, Moscow, 1961,
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N.N., op. cit., p. 7, p. 29, p. 59, p. 98.
35 Ibid., p.
89, 90, 98. English and the French translations contain
key words which are inaccurately rendered. The French
text is pretty much OK; the English (apparently based on a
German translation) has been considerably diddled with both
in words and organization and is not reliable.
Vedemost’ No. 16
Zakaspiiski krai na godu 1893, pp. 91/92.
geografich, topograficheskikh’ i statisticheskikh’ materialov’ po
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Baron, Staryie gody, Starinnye kovri Srednei Azii.
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S. M., Kovry Srednei Azii. Stolitsa i Usad’ba, No.
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S. M., Sbornik muzeya antropologii i etnografii, kovrovy
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Guillaume, A Travers le Royaume de Tamerlan, Paris,
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zakaspiiskoy oblasti za 1900 gode, pp. 100 – 117.
O., Materialu k izucheniu istorii i etnografii, Turkmenistan i
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56 Podgorelski, op.
cit., p. 26.
57 Tumanovich, op
cit, p. 66.
P. P., Vukhiv khivinskikh khanov XIV v., Leningrad,
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Richard W., Bukhara, The Medieval Achievement, 1965, p.
O., The Emir of Bokhara and his Country, London,
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F., ed., Central Asia in Historical Petrspective, Boulder,
1994, p. 40.
Edward. A., The Modern Uzbegs, Stanford, 1990, p. 61.
Lucien, “Essai sur la Civilization Timouride”, Journal
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