1902 Encyclopedia > Hissar (Central Asia)

Central Asia

HISSAR, a state in Central Asia, lying between the meridians of 66° 30' and 70° E. and the parallels of 39° 15' and 37° N., and dependent on the amir of Bokhara. It forms that part of the basin of the Oxus which lies on the north side of the river, opposite the Afghan province of Balkh. The western prolongation of the Tian Shan, which divides the basin of the Zarafshan from that of the upper Oxus, after rising in one peak to a height of 12,300 feet, bifurcates in 67° 45' E. long. Its two arms include be-tween them the province of Shahr-i-Sabz, with the towns of Shahr Sabz, Kitab, Yakobagh, and Karchi. The main chain and the southern arm of its bifurcation, sometimes called Koh-i-tan, form the N. and N.W. boundaries of Hissar. On the W. it is wholly bounded by the desert; the Oxus limits it on the S. and S.E.; and the states of Karategin and Darwaz complete the boundary on the E. Until 1875 it was one of the least known tracts of Central Asia, but in that year a Russian expedition from Tashkend traversed and surveyed a great portion of it, and since then successive expeditions have explored various other portions, so that it is now very fairly known. Hissar is traversed from north to south by four important j tributaries of the Oxus, viz., the Surkhab or Vakhsh, Kafir-nihan, Surkhan, and Shirabad-Daria, which descend from the snowy mountains to the north and form a series of fertile valleys, disposed in a fan-shape, within which lie embosomed the principal towns of Hissar. The two chief roads by which Hissar is approached from Bokhara and Russian Turkestan lie through Karchi and Shahr-i-sabz respectively. Both these routes unite at Ak-roba, on the crest of the range between Khuzar and Baisun. There is also a difficult route, running through fine forests from Yakobagh across the mountains to Sarijui. A little way down the other side of the mountain chain between Khuzar and Derbend is situated the famous defile formerly called Kohluga (Mong. " Barrier ") and the Iron Gate, but now styled Buzghol-khana or Goat's House. This pass is described by the Russians, who visited it and were vividly impressed with its solemnity, as a huge but narrow chasm in a transverse range, whose frowning rocks overhang aud threaten to choke the tortuous and gloomy corridor (in places but 5 paces wide) affording the only exit from the valley. In ancient times it was a vantage point of much importance, and commanded the chief route between Turkestan and India. Hwen-Tsang, who passed through it in the 7th century on his way south-ward, states that there were then two folding doors or gates, cased with iron and hung with bells, placed across the pass. Clavijo, the Spanish ambassador to the court of Timur, heard of this when he passed through the defile 800 years after, but the gates had then disappeared. Derbend, the first inhabited place met with, is a poor village in the valley of the Shirabad-Daria, along which runs the road to the Oxus and to Afghanistan. Shirabad town itself is a place _claiming great antiquity. It has a citadel and three rows of walls, and with its surrounding villages presents the aspect of a flourishing oasis. There are four ferries over the Oxus in the Shirabad chiefship or district, viz., Chush-ka-guzar (boar's ferry), Patta-kissar, Shur-ab, and Kara-kamir.

Baisun, a picturesque Uzbek town considered to be very healthy, lies on the road from Derbend to Hissar town. Emerging from the somewhat complex mountain mass which fills up this part of Hissar, the valley of the Surkhan is reached. This large river is formed by several affluents from the snowy range to the north, one of which, the Tupalan, formerly gave its name to the whole stream. The valley in its upper part is between 40 and 45 miles wide ; the banks of the river are flat and reed-grown, and are frequented by wild hogs and a few tigers. The Surkhan valley is highly cultivated, especially in its upper portion, where the villages are crowded. It supplies Bokhara with corn and sheep, but its chief products are rice and flax. When Hissar was independent the valley of the Surkhan was always its political centre, the town of Hissar being simply an outlying fortress. Passing by four fortified towns, Dehinau, Sarijui, Regar, and Karatagh, all in the basin of the Surkhan, Hissar ( = fort) claims notice. Its position at the entrance of the Pavi-dul-dul defile com-manded the entrance into the fertile valleys of the Surkhan and Kafirnihan, just as Kubadian at the southern end of the latter stream defended them from the south. The famous bridge of Pul-i-sanghin (stone bridge, Tash-kepri in Turkish) lies on the road from Hissar and Kafirnihan to Baljuan and Kulab. It spans the Surkhab, which is here hemmed in between lofty and precipitous cliffs barely 30 paces apart. The bridge itself abuts on projecting rocks, and is ten paces wide. The next place of importance is Kulab, in the valley of the Kichi Surkhab, so called from the lakes or inundations near which it stands. The dis-trict is part of that once famous as Khotl. The town (which, strictly speaking, is the capital of Kulab district as distinct from Hissar) contains about 500 houses and a poor citadel, and from it there are roads to Badakhshan and Kurgan-tepe and Kubadian. These two lie in the valleys of the Vaksh (or Surkhab) and Kafirnihan respect-ively. Kulab produces wheat in great profusion, and gold is brought thither from the surrounding districts. Kubadian is a large, silk-producing town, and is surrounded with rice-fields. Formerly the two last-named valleys were densely peopled, and a series of settlements extended south-war I from Dehinau, from which town an arik or canal pro-vi» i the city of Termez with water. Termez, or Termedh, was an ancient and important city on the Oxus. After being destroyed by Jenghiz Khan and lying for some time in ruins, it rose again into note in the following century, and when visited by Ibn Batuta, and later by Clavijo, it had grown again into a place of some importance. It is now a mass of ruins.

The population of the districts of Hissar and Kulab consists i principally of Uzbeks and Tajiks, the former predominating, and, I as in the valleys of the Sir and Zarafshan, gradually pushing the aboriginal Tajiks into the hills. East of Dushaniba the Tajiks I are the dominant race. On the banks of the Oxus there are some : tribes of Baigush Turkmans who work at the ferries, drive sheep, I and accompany caravans. Lyuli (gipsies), Jews, Hindus, and j Afghans are also to be found in Hissar. But the Uzbeks are the most numerous, and their influence is so great that at Bokhara Hissar is known as Uzbekistan. The climate of the valleys of Hissar and Kulab is pleasant, as they are shut in by moun-, tains to the north and open towards the Oxus to the south. Baisun (3410 feet) is the most elevated town. Hissar and Kulab produce in abundance all the cereals and garden plants indigenous to Central Asia. Cotton is grown in considerable quantities in the district of Shirabad, whence it is exported by way of Khuzar to Karshi. The difficulties of transport would prevent its being brought in any quantity from other places. Dehinau, Hissar, and Dushaniba export corn and flax to Bokhara. From the vicinity of Khuzar is exported rock-salt, and sheep are brought tc Bokhara and Karshi from all parts of Hissar district, as well as from Baljuan, Yurchi, and Afghanistan. A species of juniper, called archa, is used for timber. Salt is found at Bash-kurd, in the mountains of Hazret-Imam, and at other places. There are numerous brine springs in various quarters, indicating generally an inexhaustible supply of rock-salt. Auriferous sand has been discovered in the Vaksh, and the inhabitants wash the sands after the floods in spring. Merchandize is conveyed by means of camels, mules, and j horses from Hissar to Karshi and Bokhara. Not a single vaggon is to be found in the district, and the wooden arba is not even known there. Politically, Hissar now consists of seven sub-dis-tricts, governed by begs, Shirabad, Baisun, Dehinau, Yurchi, Hissar, Kurgan-tepe, and Kubadian ; and Kulab of two, Baljuan and Kulab. The fact of the chief route between the Russian and British possessions in Asia lying through Hissar has served of late years to bring it into prominence, and will always invest it with a certain importance.

History. —Our knowledge of the history of Hissar is most fragmentary. In early written history this country was part of the Persian empire of the Achiemenidae, and probably afterwards of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom, and then subject to the Eastern swarms who broke this up. In the time of the Sassanian kings of Persia it was under the Haiathalah, the Ephri.ilites or White Huns of the Greeks, subdued by the Turks in the early part of the 7th century, these soon to be displaced by the Mahometan power. Termedh, Kubadian, and Chagaman are named as places of importance by the Arab geographers of the 10th century; the last name was also applied territorially to a great p;irt of the Hissar province, but is now obsolete. The country was successively subject to the Mongol Chagatai dynasty and to Timur and his successors ; it afterwards became a cluster of Uzbek states of obscure history. Hissar was annexed by the amir of Bokhara in 1869-70, soon after the Russian occupation of Samarcand. (C. E. D. B.)

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