Turkestanskie Vedomosti, 1910, May 13*
Those who appreciate Islamic antiquity such as exists in the region would do well to turn their eye to the Shahrizyabs, Yakkabag, Guzar and Karshi bekdoms of the Bukhara Khanate.
Samarqand, undoubtedly, is the centre of the entire region; in the city one can find many interesting things that survived from as long ago as the reign of the Macedonians. Naturally, the city, just as Bukhara, situated in the immediate vicinity to the railroad, is quite accessible to all sorts of amateurs and experts interested in the things of old. This easy access, however, helps gradual depletion of the historical riches of the cities, and obtaining “new” old things becomes increasingly difficult from year to year, despite the seemingly inexhaustible supply of archaeological wonders of all kind. Besides, many are curious to see all this antiquity [...] in its original, untouched shape.
In this respect, the old Bukhara will be much more satisfying to its visitor [...], but still, even this place cannot compare to the still “virgin” corners of the aforementioned bekdoms.
Samarqand has long produced a large number of “guides” of every age and sufficiency, selling and offering all sorts of “antiques”. These gentlemen [...], having exposed themselves some to the visiting connoisseurs or merely just having heard of them, pretty much contrive to ruin the fun for people willing to obtain something truly interesting and worthy, often hindering the entire quest. Their impudence grows in proportion to the demand for things. There have long appeared fake antiques, while the prices for truly interesting things grow excessively and often far beyond real value.
Nothing like this yet exists in the Karshi-Shahrizyabs area. In terms of finding antiquities and monuments of ancient Islamic architecture, this region is truly the unbroken territory. It should be the destination for those interested in the land, collectors of utensils, clothing, coins, majolica, ornaments, and the like…
Thanks to the Samarqand-Termez highway, this area is not difficult to access. One should definitely look into the mountain gorges of Yakkobag and Guzar, too. The road that goes there is by no means suitable for a carriage, but there is a mountain trail good enough for a horse.
Given the presence of pristine villages in the Yakkobag mountains, the land’s natural wealth, and freedom-loving people, predominantly Uzbeks, one may expect to come across some pleasant surprises, from the standpoint of ethnography, characters, customs, and the remains of antiquity.
Perhaps many a man chanced to travel along the Samarqand-Termez highway and read the signs at the stations; for example, “The Imlyakdar of Lyangar, Yakkobag Bekdom”. And none of the visitors who didn’t venture some 20 miles deep into the still-not-so-high mountains and hills would know that this Lyangar village has something to offer. Moreover, even those who happened to pass it in transit might not have a chance to look at a magnificent ancient mosque that could do honour to the best sights of Samarqand.
If you head from Yakkobag through the foothills to Karagach village, and from there turn due south, then after covering no more than 40 miles you will see the gardens of Lyangar village right in front of you, sitting among steep buttresses on the right bank of a mountain stream; above the gardens, on the high plateau there is an old cemetery with a beautiful mausoleum built in plain view.
The village itself has climbed the broad side valley, occupying it all, with orchards and vineyards even extending upward on the sides.
The first thing that strikes the traveller about Lyangar is its size. First, the settlement can not be called a village; it is rather a small town, or at least a rich country-house area. Lyangar is up to 5 verst long, and from 150 sazhen to half a versta wide, or wider. A closer look will get you positively convinced that this is a town that even could possibly be a city in the olden days. And it seems strange that such a significant settlement developed away from a wheel-road, on the doorstep of the wild Yakkobag gorges and amidst mountain ridges partly overgrown with juniper forests. However, it sits not on a remote trail, but on a good road well-trodden by beasts of burden that leads from Shahrizyabs Valley to the big village of Belibayli on the bank of a relatively large river Katta-uru-Darya, which is a rich food-producing district. It is also true that the horse trail from Lyangar to Shahrizyabs Valley can be easily converted into a good wheel-road – the way it might have been in the past.
Cemetery suggests that Lyangar is not just a wealthy village. Large in size, with many magnificent, wonderfully ornamented tombstones, it could only belong to rich and cultured urban population, perhaps the elite. Then, to this day, Lyangar boasts a major market-place that is kept exceptionally clean, just as the rest of the settlement; the market offers fine merchandise, money-changing shops of affably smiling Indians, as well as other attributes of an “urban” market. […] The town has nicely arranged baths still maintained somehow, but, apparently built long before our time.
Location is wonderful. The place is surrounded by steep hill-like mountains partly covered with fields or meadows interspersed with juniper groves that climb still higher, right up to the mountaintops.
The center of the village is a well-preserved mosque that generally resembles the Hazret-i-Hyzr mosque in Samarqand. Its front, that is, the terrace, is facing the entrance floor with a hauz water-pool on the side of the market. The terrace is supported by six pillars installed in two rows. The terrace ceiling and walls are painted literally artfully and can compete with the Urda painting in Kokand.
Two doors lead from the terrace into two separate halls of the mosque proper. The main hall is square. Its ceiling is supported by five pillars that appear as “five” in plane. The area of the hall is about 15 square arshins . The ceiling is painted perfectly – undoubtedly, by the best artists of that time.
The walls are covered with mosaic glaze akin to the Samarqand specimens. The base, for example, features completely identical ornamentation to the base in the tomb of Tamerlane.
The perfection of the ornament and the capitals’ workmanship of the five pillars is amazing. Without looking at the column designs of the Samarqand and Kokand monuments, it seems that the Lyangar pillars should place first.
Besides, the entire structure is exceptionally well-preserved; apparently, it never suffered from fire or unpleasant visits of conquerors. Hence the impression the mosque gives as a whole is the most complete, as if it has just been built.
The mosque also keeps a large Koran, artfully written and ornamented with vignettes and headpieces; according to mudarris, it was brought here from Bukhara a very long time ago.
Central mausoleum in the cemetery also looks very nice. It is a cubic structure crowned with a dome that rests on a drum. The entire building is about six sazhen tall. Its portal is ornamented with tiled design. The tombstone inside has remarkably fine workmanship, thickly covered with Arabic inscriptions; the letters are coated with a substance that produced yellow metal surface looking very similar to gold.
The whole structure produces wonderful impression. The mausoleum is surrounded by tombs that cannot belong to the village common folk. Precious marble tombstones artfully carved could only be afforded by rich people, of who Lyangar has probably no more but a few families now. Rose bushes and single pistachio trees grow among the graves.
Such is Lyangar. Let historians tell us its legend. Anyway, this is one point of interest among many curious places around Shahrizyabs and Karshi, where one can get a lot of information as well as old things. To this we shall only add that, according to the mudarris, since olden times Lyangar has not paid any duties to the Emir, and this privilege its inhabitants enjoy is not forgotten even today. This preferential arrangement may have survived from the time of the Shahrizyabs militant freemen who earned it in battle with the Emirs, or maybe the reason lies elsewhere. We should not forget that Shahrizyabs is the birthplace of the great Timur and the cradle of his first victories…
One more detail now remains to be mentioned: people from surrounding towns and villages make pilgrimages to Lyangar, and the place is revered as sacred by the faithful.
* Abridged for publication. The Russian text retains the original style and spelling rules of the early XX century.
The editors are grateful to the Administration of the Alisher Navoi National Library for providing access to its Rarities and Antiques Section.
Prepared by Ilona Ilyasova