Uzbekistan and Spain. Historical and Cultural Contacts

Issue #1 • 1214

In spite of far distance between Spain and Uzbekistan, in the history of these two countries were some periods of short term or lasting contacts. Strange as it may appear to the reader but the first evidences for the contacts between Spain and the peoples living on the territory of Uzbekistan are connected with the Alans, ancestors of the Ossetians who gave the name to the modern Republic of North Ossetia – Alania.

But at the ancient time, and it’s absolutely definite fact, the Alans inhabited the coastland of the Aral Sea where they established their state according the Chinese – Yantsai. In the 10th century a part of them continued to live in the ancient native regions and as Beruni wrote at that time “their language combined Khorezmian and Pechenegian languages.” In the first centuries A.D. the pressure of the Huns and other nomadic ethnos forced some part of the Alans to migrate to the coastland of the Black Sea and the North Caucasus.

In the 4th century a new wave of the Huns moved the Alans away from their lands along the Don river and the Black Sea coastland, and they along with the German tribes of the Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Vandals migrated to Europe and the Peninsula that is to Spain. Then the Alans and Vandals moved to Northern Africa from where their united troops headed by Alarich attacked Rome and without remorse plundered the city. This event gave the birth to the word “vandal” and derivative “vandalism” that means destruction of material and cultural values.

At the beginning of the 8th c. A.D. Spain and Uzbekistan were the parts of the same state, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, which practiced extremely aggressive policy in the conquest of new territories. In 712, when Quteiba ibn Muslim fiercely suppressed the resistance of citizens of Sogd, Khorezm and Fergana, another Arab commander Tariq ibn Ziyad, having crossed the strait between Africa and Europe, began the conquest of the Peninsula. Since that time the straight had got its own name – Gibraltar from the Arab “Djabr al – Tariq” – “the rock of Tariq”. Definite evidence for these contacts is given by the coins dated from the 8th century minted in al – Andalusia (that is Spain) and sometimes met on the territory of Central Asia. On their obverse there was an Arab inscription “in the name of Allah was minted this dinar in al – Andalus” and on the reverse – the Latin inscription “This solid was minted in Spain”.

Spain and Uzbekistan have been within the same state for a half of a century up to the middle of the 8th century when was founded another Arab – the Abbasid Caliphate. At that time a member of the Umayyad dynasty, Abd ar – Rakhman, escaping from the Abbasid persecutions, founded in Spain the Cordoba Caliphate named after its capital – Cordoba city.

Integration of these countries within the same state and in particularly, domination of the one religion – Islam promoted their cultural contingence. In these countries were being constructed similar types of the Muslim structures – mosques, minarets and mausoleums, which had local specific features in accordance with their architectural and construction traditions. The architectural decor had many similar features in ornamental art, decor of vegetative and geometric character.

Many analogous elements formed the art of decoration of ceramic in Spain and Uzbekistan including methods of so – called luster painting (painting in gold on a surface of the vessels) and choice of ornamental motifs on fabrics, among which leading was a motif of birds turned to the life tree going to the Sassanid tradition.

In this period Cordoba became a center, from where Oriental science and culture was diffusing over the other European countries. The Cordoba University was especially popular. At that time the names and works of great Uzbek scholars became known in Spain – Ibn Sino, al – Khorezmi, al – Fergani and Imam al – Bukhari. In Cordoba and later in Toledo were established strong centers for the translation and copying of Oriental scientific works, and there are all reasons to think that exactly these centers in many respects promoted reputation and glory of the great Uzbek scholars in Europe. The basic work on astronomy of al – Khorezmi “Zidj” – Astronomic Tables is known in the science in its Latin translation that was made in Spain in the 12th century by Adelardo from Bati and Pedro Alfonso in editing of the astronomer Malama al – Madjriti living in Cordoba in the 10th – beginning of the 11th cc.

The first translation in Latin of the work of the great astronomer al – Fergani known in Europe as al – Farganus, “Ilm al – Khaiya” – “Science of Astronomy” was made in 1145 by Iona from Seville. In his own turn the great Uzbek scientist Beruni knew Andalusia well and in his work “Asar al – Bakia” pointed out its geographic features. At that time the people of Uzbekistan and Spain due to different reasons could be in this or that country in spite of far distance between them.

Tashkent orientalist Sh. Kamaletdinov revealed a curious fact. At the end of the 10th century a great role in the political field belonged to amir Faiq al – Khassa, a big commander, landlord owning huge lands, constructer of many buildings in Bukhara and the other cities who, like another amir – Bektuzun, at the time of amir Mansur G.Nukh held actual power in this state. Earlier it was suggested that amir Faiq was from the Turkic gulyams, but Sh. Kamaletdinov revealed on the basis of the manuscript of al – Nasafi that one of his nisbas (agnomen after the place of birth) – al – Andalusi is the Arabic name of Spain, a region in its south. So, Faiq was Spaniard and came to Bukhara from Baghdad because of some circumstances.

Probably, when he was a child he was sold into Rum (Byzantium) as his second nisb, according to the same source, is ar – Rumi, and from there he moved to Baghdad, and later Baghdad Caliph gave him to Nukh b. Nasr the Samanid, who caused him to become Muslim and gave him as a personal servant to his son, future Samanid amir Mansur b. Nukh (961 – 976). At the time of his son, Nukh b. Mansur (976 – 997) Faiq and khadjib Tash were authorized to exercise the most important state affairs. But in the last years of Nukh b. Mansur Faiq became his opponent and once was an ally of the Karakhanids. Faiq died in 999. His full name is Amir Amid ad – Davla Abu – l Khasan Faiq ibn Abdallah al – Khasan al – Andalusi ar – Rumi.

At the beginning of the 15th c. Amir Temur established direct diplomatic relations with Spain. It happened after the important military and political events connected with expansion of the Turks to Europe. In a number of battles, especially at the Kosovo field in 1389 and nearby Nikopol in 1326 the Turkish army smashed the allied troops of the European countries. The Turks conquered the Balkan Peninsula. In this connection the rulers of many European countries addressed Amir Temur considering him a saver from the Turkish expansion.

Spain also was involved in this process looking with attention on the threatening events in Asia Minor and the Balkans. At that time among the three alliances on the Peninsula formed at the result of the re-conquest the most powerful was the alliance of Castalia and Leon headed by Henry III Trustamara (1390 – 1407). On the eve of the decisive battle between Amir Temur and Sultan Bayazid at Ankara in 1402 the Castalian ambassadors Paio de Sotomayer and Ernan Sanchos Palasuelos visited his camp having an order to get information on the actual force of Amir Temur. They were the first who complimented Amir Temur with his great victory over Bayazid. At the same time, in order “to fix friendship Amir Temur send his messenger Mukhammad al – Khadji with gifts and letter. Henry III sent return embassy to Samarkand to develop the allied relations with Amir Temur and establishment of commercial contacts. The embassy was headed by the chembellan Rui Gonsales de Clavijo. Master of Theology Fra Alfonso Paes de Santa Maria and king’s security guard Gomes de Salazar launched out on the voyage with him.

They started from the port of Santa Maria nearby Cadizia on May 22, 1403. Ruy Gonsales de Clavijo and his companions had passed a long distance and on August 22 of the following year crossed the Amudarya nearby Termez and arrived at Uzbekistan. Six days later, from Termez through the Iron Gate they reached Kesh (Shahrisabz). On this marsh, within the territory of modern Kashkadarya province died one of the servants of the Master of Theology Fra Alfonso Paes. In Kesh the Spaniards had spent two days and visited majestic palace of Amir Temur, Ak – Sarai and the Temurid tombs.

On September 8, 1404 Amir Temur received the ambassadors of the Spanish king in his place in Samarkand. Having asked about the health of the king, Amir Temur addressed all present people and said: “Look at these ambassadors who were sent by my son, the king of Spain, the first among all kings of the Franks living at the edge of the world. Actually, they are the great people and I bless my son, the king [of Spain]. It should have been enough if he sent you just with letter without gifts as I am very glad to know about his health and matters.” (1, p. 109)

The ambassadors had spent almost three months in Samarkand and left on November 21. In Spain Ruy Gonsales de Clavijo finished his “Notes on the Journey to Samarkand at the court of Temur (1403 – 1406)”, which he was writing during the journey, but there is an opinion that he wrote them in Spain after he returned. His notes are one of the most important sources on the history of Amir Temur’s epoch. They contain numerous facts, which are absent in the other written sources. First they were published by Argote de Molin in Seville under the title “History of Great Tamerlan” and then many times were published in Spain and in the other countries, for example in Argentine and Japan.

In our country the most popular is the edition of “Notes” of Clavijo published in Moscow in 1990; translation of I.S. Mirokova from the first Spanish edition. This version has comments, which were done in accordance with modern scientific standards and is one of the best editions of Clavijo’s “Notes” in the world. These facts give evidence for historical traditions of Spanish – Uzbekistan contacts, which obtained new bright features after the proclamation of independence of Uzbekistan.

Author: Edvard Rtveladze

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