chapter  2
8 Pages

Russia and the Central Asian Khanates

The three Muslim khanates, Kokand, Bokhara and Khiva, with a total population of some 5-6 million, were concentrated in highly populated oases along the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, in a vast area of desert and semi-desert. They had no settled boundaries and frequently went to war in efforts to establish political supremacy. Their rulers were in theory absolute, but in practice there was little internal cohesion and they exercised only limited authority over their multi-ethnic populations. The regimes were medieval in character – backward, obscurantist and brutal – and they had lost most of the culture and prosperity they had enjoyed in earlier times. Because their armies were undisciplined and their methods of fighting primitive, the Russians had little difficulty in routinely defeating them with far fewer numbers of troops.