Role and Significance of Uzbekistan in the History of World Civilization

Edvard Rtveladze,

In the process of development and changes of civilizations there is a number of key, fateful events, which not only left the mark in historical memory, but also determined development of many major spheres of life and activities of mankind. A remarkable poet and scientist Valery Bryusov in the work “Teachers of teachers” showed that grandiose scientific and cultural achievements of Hellenic antiquity, which had a huge impact on development of many major aspects of human civilization, had even more ancient than Greek antiquity source – the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean civilizations, such as Cretan-Mycenaean culture or the ancient Egypt culture. They were inherently teachers of subsequent generations of teachers of future civilizations, showing a continuous chain of human evolution. This determination precisely conveys the essence of historical processes that occurred in the territory of the Central Asian Mesopotamia. So, Alexander the Grate contributed to creation of the Hellenistic civilization, thanks to which advanced for that time achievement of ancient thinkers – Aristotle, Archimedes, Plato, Socrates got to the East. These achievements had impact on scientific searches of medieval scientists of the East, as it was noted in their works.
The earliest evidence of dissemination of Hellenic philosophical doctrines in Central Asia is the finding of two Greek texts in Ay-Khanum. One of them says that a certain Klearchus – a junior pupil of Aristotle – carved here the texts, copied by him in Delphi in Apollo’s temple, and the other contains fragments of philosophical sayings. Hellenistic civilization in the Middle East in general and in Central Asia in particular due to loss of political domination of Greeks was replaced by more advanced civilization that covered the period from the I century BC to the III century AD, which is called the Central Asian antiquity. It was the time of the Asian Reconquista, when powerful states created here were headed by representatives of local tribes.
The entire civilized world – from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans was at that time divided between four mighty states – the Han Empire, Kushan and Parthian kingdoms, and the Roman Empire. Despite certain contradictions they exchanged goods, scientific, technical and cultural achievements. In the course of mutual enrichment of cultures of various countries and nations, Central Asia, due to its geographical location, played a leading role. Blossoming of civilizations here was connected with functioning of the major transcontinental roads of Eurasia– the Great silk and the Great Indian roads.
The Great Silk Road emerged at the end of the II century BC thanks to diplomatic activity of China, Parthia and Rome. A big role in its creation was played by the Sogdians, who adopted from Bactrians the role of main commercial agents. The Indian road was created during the Bronze Age (II-III millennium BC). By that time an extensive network of sea and continental roads had already connected the countries of the Mediterranean, Central Asia and India. Consolidation of these roads to a single land rout occurred in the time of Alexander the Grate and subsequent reign of the Seleucids. An active role in that process was played by the Indian and Bactrian merchants, who created trading stations in Phasis (Western Georgia) on the Black Sea and Alexandria in Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea. Two great transcontinental highways covered a distance of several thousand kilometers, crossing many states. By these roads since the end of the first century BC Buddhism penetrated into Central Asia and consolidated in Bactria -Tokharistan. Its major center became an ancient Tarmita – Termez, where the largest Buddhist monasteries – Karatepa, Fayaztepa, and Ayrtam were concentrated. With Buddhist religion the advanced achievements of ancient Indian science, medicine and philosophy also penetrated into Central Asia. In turn Bactria became a Buddhism repeater to China, Korea and Japan.
Being crossed in Central Asia in the territory of ancient Uzbekistan – in Bactria and Sogdiana, transcontinental roads diverged. The Indian road went to the Caspian Sea, further through the Caucasian Albania (Azerbaijan) and Georgia (Iberia and Colchis) it went to the countries of Northern and Southern Black Sea coasts, and from there – to the Hellenistic world and Egypt. The Silk Road passed through Bactria and Sogdiana to Iran, the countries of Levant and the Mediterranean, to Rome and Greece. A huge role in addition and development of these roads was played by natives of Bactria and Sogdiana. If initially Bactrians dominated, then from the first century AD, leading position passed to Sogdians. Sogdians moved both to the West (according to Epiphanius of Constantinople, Sogdians lived in Great Sevastopolis – Dioskuriada located near Sokhumi), and to the East – to Eastern Turkestan and China, where Sogdian colonies emerged. The Sogdian language became lingua franca on the Great Silk Road. Sogdians mastered also sea routes: going around India and Malay Peninsula, they penetrated into the southeast of China and Japan, which is confirmed by discovered Sogdian texts in Canton province and Horyuji temple in the ancient capital of Japan – Nara. It is amazing but true – in the X century, Buzurg ibn Shakhriyar stated in his book “Miracles of India”, that the Arabian Sea at the time was called “Samarkand Ocean”, reflecting the dominant role of natives of this city in development of sea routes. In the VI century Sogdians traveled also to Byzantium. So, the Sogdian governor Maniakh, on behalf of Khan Dizabul went via Lower Volga region, steppes and passes of the Northern Caucasus to Constantinople – to the Emperor Justine II, which caused response mission of Zimarkh to the Khan. The result of these relations was trade of the Sogdian silk – “zandanechi”, which samples were found in Alanian burials of the Northern Caucasus and Europe.
In antiquity and the early Middle Ages in the Central Asian Mesopotamia such autochthonic civilizations as Bactria, Sogdiana, Khorezm, and Fergana-Chach achieved the development and enriched by relations with civilizations of the East and West. Their agricultural industry, irrigation, crafts, and trade showed significant growth; big and small cities emerged there. Sculpture and wall painting (Halchayan, Dalvarzintepa, Old Termez, Afrasiab, Varakhsha, Balalyktepa, Toprak-kala, Akshikhan-kala), along with fine and applied art achieved the highest level of development.
Impressive blossoming of Central Asian civilizations, such as Hellenistic, Kushan and Sogdian, would be impossible without development of such exact and natural sciences as astronomy, mathematics, geometry, chemistry, and geology. Not accidentally Abu Raykhan Beruni in his work “Asar Al-Bakiya” wrote that in Khorezm astronomers were more than in all Arabia. The most important factor of development of scientific knowledge was availability in Central Asian countries of different types of writing, which were used by the local people early, apparently, since the IV-III centuries BC. On the basis of the Aramaic and Greek written languages, its own development also reached such languages as Bactrian, Sogdian, Parthian, Khorezmian, and a little later – Orkhonian. They were widespread not only in elite strata of society, but also among ordinary people, which is testified by, in particular, the Sogdian “Old letters”. By means of these writings in the languages of the local people – Bactrian, Sogdian, Khorezmian – art and scientific literature, documents of financial and diplomatic nature were created. Unfortunately, many of them were destroyed during conquests.
Thus, in Central Asia in general and in the Central Asian Mesopotamia, in particular, in the ancient and early medieval periods the fundamental base of various knowledge were created, which found its manifestation in the subsequent IX – early X centuries. It should be noted that the VIII century was crucial – it was the century of the Arab conquests, inclusion of some region to the structure of Umayyad, and then – Abbasid caliphates, as well as dissemination of Moslem religion. Islam became a unifying factor for the peoples inhabiting the territories conquered by the Arabs and, therefore, contributed to the general recovery of economy, sciences, material and art culture in the IX-X centuries. It was this that induced a Swiss scientist A. Metz to call that era the “Muslim Renaissance”, which is not entirely accurate, since the French word “renaissance” means “revival”, and the concept “Renaissance” itself is a return to ancient traditions and values. In this case it was not revival, but rather a birth of a new Muslim culture in the true sense, without return to pagan traditions. Therefore, it is more correct to call that period the “Eastern Renaissance”. In Central Asia the situation is different. Here along with innovations and entry into the mainstream of Muslim culture in many areas of culture, there was a certain return to the previous traditions. So, in the IX-XI centuries a new revival reached wall scene painting (Lashkargokh, Hul’buk, Budrach, later – Afrasiab), terracotta plastics with animal images, figurative painting of vessels, architectural types of constructions (in particular, Madras), dating back to pre-Islamic prototype, as well as their composite and planning schemes – a yard in the perimeter of rooms. A striking example of this return is the mausoleum of the Samanids in Bukhara, which architectural and composite type represents the ancient Chartak type, and the solid ornamented coverage represents the system of cosmological symbols, in which some researchers detect influence of Sabeizm. The process of culture recovery in Central Asia coincides with revival of local statehood – the Barmakids, Takhirids, Saffarids, Samanids, who recognized the Abbasidian Caliphs as religious heads, but not secular governors.
The cultural Renaissance of the IX-X centuries caused also appearance of great titans of science. Its brightest representatives are Muhammad Khorazmi (mathematics, algebra, astronomy), Ahmad Fergani (astronomy), Abu Ali ibn Sina (medicine), Abu Nasr Farabi (philosophy), Abu Raykhan Beruni (history, geodesy, geography), who in their researches based on the amount of knowledge, which had been accumulated by that time in the East, since the origins put in ancient Mesopotamia, and subsequently developed in the course of mutual enrichment of cultures and civilizations. Apparently, since the XI and especially XII centuries, researches by scientists of the East become known in Europe and started gaining the world importance. The leading role in their distribution belongs to scientists and translators of the Cordoba Caliphate, which occupied almost all Spain at that time. It was at the Cordoba University, which was one of leading (if not top leading) scientific and educational centers in the Europe, names and works of such outstanding scientists of medieval Uzbekistan as Avicenna, Muhammad Khorezmi, Ahmad Fergani, and Imam Bukhari became known. Here, and later also in Toledo, centers for translation and rewriting of their works were created. Among them there is a work on astronomy “Zidzh” (“Astronomical tables”) by Muhammad Khorezmi, which is known to science only on its Latin translation made in Spain in the XII century by Adalardo from Bath and Pedro Alfonso, edited by an astronomer Malama Madzhriti, who lived in the X – early XI centuries in Cordoba. Among them there is also the work by al-Fergani, known in Europe as al-Ferganus “Ilm al-Haya” (“Astronomy science”), which was translated into Latin for the first time in 1145 by Ioann from Seville.
Thus, great scientists and thinkers of the East introduced many innovative ideas in science and philosophy of medieval Europe, largely reviving their antique heritage. They really became “Teachers of teachers” and forerunners of the Renaissance in Italy and other countries of Europe.
The second period of development of East Renaissance is associated with the epoch of Amir Temur and the Temurids. It began in 1370, when Amir Temur started fighting for capture Maverannahr (Transoxiana) and creation of a powerful centralized state. Just as many centuries ago Alexander the Grate united the West and East, so Amir Temur strove for consolidation of the East and West. Not accidentally Samarkand became a center of attraction for the whole world – diplomatic embassies and trade caravans flocked here from diametrically opposite countries –Far East, Spain, etc. Kings of England, France, Castile and Aragon, aiming to get Amir Temur’s support established regular correspondence with him. A lot of scientists, master-handicraftsmen, and cultural figures began to move to Samarkand, where sciences reached their development, especially in historical and geographical spheres – works by Ali Yazdi, Nizam ad-Din Schami, Hafiz-i Abru, Ibn Arabshakh, etc. The outstanding thinker of that era Ibn Khaldun also strove for meeting with Amir Temur.
After considerable decline, which struck Transoxiana during the late Chagataids, new revival received the monumental architecture during Amir Temur’s era. The wall monumental painting, miniature, applied art forms and crafts gained new bright expression. Based on achievements of this era (political, economic and cultural) a pleiad of such brilliant scientists, thinkers, poets and educators as Alisher Navoi, Zahir ad-Din Babur, and Ulugbek had grown. For example, Ulugbek’s work “Zidzhi Gurgani” became a handbook for many generations of scientists-astronomers, and his school of sciences became famous all over the world. During Ulugbek’s reign mathematics, geometry, astronomy, natural sciences, literature, history, and art reached considerable heights, and his capital – Samarkand – turned into the largest center of science in the medieval world. Achievements of scientists of mathematics and geometry contributed to flourishing of artistic culture. It is known that in the period of the Muslim Middle Ages the science organically combined with art – for creation of the well-known ceramic facings of Samarkand monuments and other works of art they used verified schemes based on exact mathematical calculations. Speaking about achievements in the field of art, we should also remind such outstanding figure as artist-miniaturist as Kamoliddin Bekhzad, whose creativity had an enormous impact on development of art not only in Transoxiana, but also in the neighboring countries.
After gaining independence Uzbekistan carries out deep and comprehensive study of the historical past, recovers its historical memory, widely popularizes enormous historical and cultural heritage of great scientists and thinkers of the East. One of the most important objectives of the national policy of the Uzbek state is perpetuation of memory of outstanding figures of science, culture and arts of the past. So, 2016 was marked by a number of festive events dedicated to the 680th anniversary of the birth of the great statesman and commander Amir Temur. The same year festive events in connection with the 575th anniversary of the birth of the great poet and thinker, founder of classical Turkic poetry Nizomiddin Mir Alisher Navoi were also held. Independent Uzbekistan makes all necessary efforts in order to perpetuate the memory of outstanding ancestors.

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