MYTHOLOGIES OF UZBEKISTAN

What is now Uzbekistan was in ancient times part of the Iranian-speaking region of Transoxiana. The first recorded settlers were Eastern Iranian nomads, known as Scythians, who founded kingdoms in Khwarezm (8th–6th centuries BC), Bactria (8th–6th centuries BC), Sogdia (8th–6th centuries BC), Fergana (3rd century BC – 6th century AD), and Margiana (3rd century BC – 6th century AD). The area was incorporated into the Persian Empire and, after a period of Macedonian Greek rule, was ruled mostly by Persian dynasties until the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, turning the majority of the population towards Islam. During this period, cities such as Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara began to grow rich from the Silk Road. The local Khwarezmian dynasty, and Central Asia as a whole, were decimated by the Mongol invasion in the 13th century.

Stories, folk eposes, myths and legends as well as history are the cultural heritage of every nation. The world of myths and legends of Uzbekistan is very colorful and rich. It is the world, where the folk stories mix with history and the legends become the source of truth. In the history of Uzbekistan there were a lot of events, when people glorified their heroes and composed legends about them. For centuries, people kept stories about great deeds and legendary heroes, magnificent buildings and beautiful women; everything was embodied in myths and legends of Uzbekistan. Many people, living on the territory of modern Uzbekistan, composed legends about courage, bravery and valor of national heroes. Shirak, Tomiris, Jaloliddin Manguberdi were historical personalities, whose great feats became the legends. Life of such great people as Tamerlane also is covered with many myths, which both frighten and fascinate us ever since. Each historical monument in Uzbekistan cloaked in myths and legends of the past. They represent the world outlook of Uzbek ancestors. Often myths and legends are the only source that can tell us about the particular epoch. Legends and myths of Uzbekistan is a unique and mysterious world of folk tales and stories, which were carefully collected and passed on from generation to generation by the people of Uzbekistan. The ancient cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva are shrouded with mysteries and superstitions, which were eventually embodied in myths and legends. Ancient Samarkand and the secret of the tomb of Tamerlane, hidden in its heart, still fascinate people.

UZBEK LEGENDS AND MYTHES

Legend about Uzbekistan
Legend of Bibi-Khanym
Siyavush and Afrasiab

Mausoleum of Chashma Ayub
Legend of Leopard: The Samarkand Symbol

The Legend of Shahjuvara
Tamerlane’s Curse

Tamerlane’s Gravestone
The Legend of Kirk Kiz

Legends of Shahi-Zinda
40 steps to Shakhi Zinda

Legend of Kalyan Minaret
Samarkand bread

Mausoleum of St. Daniel in Samarkand
Legend of Khan-Atlas

Alpamysh

Alpamysh Story

Bakhshi of Khorasan

Epic Storytelling Kept Alive in Boysun District

Uzbek Folk Stories and Legends

Legend of Khan Atlas

Bukhara Legends and Folk Stories

How Samarkand Got its Name

Legends of Khiva

Legend of Kalta Minaret

Legend of Bibi Khanum; Tamerlane’s Wife

Issyk-Kul

Navoi and the Builder

Bukhara where even the air is saturated with the spirit of antiquity and narrow streets of the old city remember bygones seems like living in the world of folk tales and legends. Khiva is the center of Khorezm where remains of thousand ancient fortresses as myriad scattered stars maintain many ancient mysteries. Religions of Central Asia, both pre-Islamic teachings and Islam, had a great influence on myths and legends of Uzbekistan. The myth of Mashad of Kussama in Shakhi Zinda, the legend of Chashma Ayub Mausoleum in Bukhara, legend of the Khoja Danier in Samarkand are just few examples of religious myths and legends about saints. Legends of prophets are a part of Muslim traditions and myths, related with the worship of saints, who were able to resurrect from the dead, to assume various aspects, instantly transport from one place to remote one, to prevent dangers, to treat illnesses. Uzbekistan has very rich history full of folk stories and legends. Stories about wonderful cities, great rulers, immortal love were maintained and passed on from generation to generation by our ancestors.

Legends of Uzbekistan

The history of Uzbekistan Myths and Legends is never ending. The stories, eposes, myths, legends as well as history are the cultural heritage of every nation. Uzbekistan has a very rich and colourful legend, with folk stories mixing with the history and Uzbekistan Myths and Legends which has become the source of truth. People kept stories about great deeds and legendary heroes, magnificent buildings and beautiful women; everything was embodied in myths and legends of Uzbekistan. The legends were composed according to the courage, bravery and valor of the national heroes.

Uzbekistan is almost certainly not the country you think it is. It lures the traveller with its millenia of history and mythology, and it challenges our presumptions with its modernity and drive. Since 1991, the country has been redefining itself after a long Soviet rule. Uzbekistan was central to the trade routes of the ancient Silk Road, and now it’s central to a changing new world order. Uzbekistan is surrounded on all sides by other countries, land locked, but like the sun radiating its culture outwardly in all directions.  Travel along the trade routes and you can feel humanity merge with itself, south into Afghanistan, Pakistan, then India; north towards Kazakhstan and into Russia’s Ural Mountains and the gateway to Siberia; east and you walk through the Fergana valley into Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang China and Mongolia; and west to feel the European tide pull through the Caucasus. In the modern race to streamline supply chains Uzbekistan is a lodestone, just as it was in the Silk Road days, when Europe and China first met. Its cities have names that ring in the ears of children and travelers: Samarkand, Bukarha, Khiva, Tashkent… which grew up as veritable oases, stopping points along the trade route and refuges from the expanses of Central Asia. The modern reality of the place is so much more layered and interesting than images stuck in time and story books.  The country is a progressive project of politic mixing multi-national collaborations with tourism and development.

Uzbekistan is probably the country with the best preserved relics from the time of the Great Silk Road between Europe and China. Uzbekistan has been famous since ancient times for its special architecture, mysterious minarets and sky-blue mosaic. This land has always been so – smooth as a body, hot as a heart. Very often we face widespread and strong but erroneous opinions and judgments about a phenomenon, an event, and in some cases, even a whole country. Unfortunately, often we don’t realize the enslavement of our minds by these stereotypes, misinterpretations, myths, and dogmas. Sometimes it happens because of our limited knowledge about some perception; sometimes it is done deliberately. As a result, those “myths” and stereotypes become an influential part of our judgment and beliefs. Thanks to “Elena Plehanova” who collect the most common stereotypes and myths about Uzbekistan that question its good name and to destroy them with true facts and strong arguments.

According to the Uzbek shaman, there are spirits. The spirits of the dead always watch over their loved ones. Most of the mythological patrons of bakhshi, porikhan, fortune tellers and neighbors are the spirits of the dead. For example, in the sayings of Uzbek shamans, Anbar mother is mentioned as a mythological patron, and the shaman worships Anbar mother. It was stated in our research that Anbar was a native historical figure who lived in a specific historical period. It should be noted that the cults of fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers, who come as mythological patrons of Uzbek shamans, form a separate group. The notion of prophetic historical figures as myths after their deaths must be interpreted in relation to the common, traditional criteria of the shamanistic belief of all peoples. Shamanism has a special place in the system of different ethnicities and religious beliefs. It should be noted that shamans are not the founders of Uzbek mythology, but the bearers and popularizers of certain mythological ideas. “The main sign of shamanism is the belief that the chosen, trained people are in contact with spirits, as well as their divine power, through spirits”.

LITERATURE OF UZBEKISTAN

Legend of Leopard: The Samarkand Symbol

“By a legend, when Samarkand was built, a palyang-leopard came down from the Zerafshan mountains. The leopard roamed about the streets, approved buildings and came back to the mountains. Since that time Samarkand residents were called leopards. And all Samarkand’s flags and arms had an image of the leopard.” This legend is told by Abu-Sand Abdu-Rakhman Ibn Muhammad Idris. Indeed, in Samarkand there are a lot of monuments featuring images of leopard or lion as a symbol of the greatness and power of Samarkand people. The symbol of leopard can be found not only in the architecture, but also in the handicrafts and national currency. The most famous images of leopards are made on the portal of the Sherdor Madrassah. “Sher” in Persian means “a lion”. They say that the symbol of the lion was brought by Iranians, but during the Arab and Turkic periods it was changed to the leopard. Since that time it represents the power and strength of Great Samarkand.

Legend of Tomyris – Queen of Massagetae

The vast expanses of the Eurasian steppes in ancient times were under the control of the legendary warriors-nomads of Scythian range: the Saka, the Massagetae, the Sarmatians and the Scythians. For over the millennia, since the 8th century to 4th century, they had been terrifying the civilizations of East and Europe: Greece, Rome, Egypt and Persia. The Saka and Massagetae were eastern tribes who lived in Central Asia. The Achaemenid Empire often referred to as First Persian Empire emerged in the 6th century BC. The Persian king Cyrus II united the countries of Mesopotamia and started military expansion. He planned an extensive conquest of Egypt. However, Cyrus wisely foresaw that a war against such a large state strengthened by the pharaoh Amasis’ policy would be difficult. Cyrus decided to postpone the campaign to Egypt and to take measures to protect the eastern borders of the empire, where the expanse steppes were inhabited by nomadic Saka and Massagetae. The steppe tribes had an impressive military power, they were unpredictable in their movements and therefore could attack the Central Asian region conquered by the Persians any time of the year. In 530 BC Cyrus the Great headed his huge army and ventured to the East.

Curse of Tamerlane

Tamerlane’s curse or Timur’s curse is a legend that intrigued a lot of people throughout the whole world. The reason is most probably because it is a recent legend mixed with facts compared to the other Uzbek myths and legends. Tamerlane was a Turko-Mongol commander and the founder of the Timurid Empire. He is one of the most ruthless leaders in the history of humankind. Gur-e-Amir is his resting place since 1405 when his tomb was placed in the mausoleum. According to legends his tombstone had 2 inscriptions. ”Whoever disturbs my tomb will unleash an invader more terrible than I am” ”When I rise from the dead, the world should tremble”. In 1941 Russian anthropologists were allowed to do excavations in Gur-e-amir. The expedition was led by Mikhail Gerasimov and Tashmuhammed Kari-Niyazov. When the anthropologists were in Samarkand there was a panic among local Uzbeks. Some of them warned the team about the curse but the expedition continued despite everything. Tamerlane’s tomb was opened on June 20th of 1942. Immediately after the air was filled with choking odour of frankincense, rose, camphor and resin. At first, it was thought to be a smell of different curses, but later it was found out to be the smell of oils used for embalming. The local elderly people believed that the curse was real and warned them that the curse will affect within 3 days from the date of opening. Coincidentally (or not) Nazi Germany under the command of Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. It was exactly two days after Tamerlane’s tomb was opened and the remains were sent to Moscow. However, the supporters of Tamerlane’s curse mention another fact also. The turning point in the war came with the victory of the Battle of Stalingrad. A month earlier on December 20 of 1942, Tamerlane’s remains were returned to his tomb in Samarkand. So was this set of events coincidence or was the curse real? This question remains arguable, as everyone has their own belief.

Babur, Founder of the Mughal Empire

Uyghur-Uzbek Mythology

Uyghur or Uighur mythology describes the myths and legends of the Turkic people and the Sunni Muslim majority inhabiting the Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang (called East Turkestan by the Russians and the British at the end of the 19th century, placed in “Chinese Tartary”) in China and Central Asia. They are related to the Uzbeks. Their Turkish language is Uyghur. Originally from a region located between Selenga (in Mongolia) and Lake Baikal (present-day Buryatia, in Russia), they founded the Uyghur Khaganat, located in present-day Mongolia, of Turkish culture of Manichean religion which is the cradle of their civilization. Chinese allies against the Tibetan Empire, their khaganate was destroyed in the IXe century by the Kirghiz, forcing them to descend further south.

Scary Stories And Tall Tales From Uzbekistan

Short History of Indo-Uzbek Ties

Legends of Uzbekistan

Uzbek Government ‘Cancels’ Valentine’s Day

UZBEKISTAN: COMPARE THE MYTHS AND REALITY

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