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0404 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 404 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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[Chap. XXVI

Turkish occupation of Karategin.

3,000 between Kara-muk and Gharm seemed scarcely exaggerated. Yet there was evidence, especially along the upper portion of the valley, that agricultural effort was here far from being equal to the extent of arable land.

It was easy to trace the cause of this in what I observed with regard to the ethnic character

of the people. According to local tradition the whole of Kara-tegin down to Gharm was occupied until some two centuries ago by Kirghiz, while now their holdings stop at Kala-i-lab-i-ab and give place to settlements of Persian-speaking Tajiks. Kara-tegin, as its present designation and the prevailing local names attest, appears to have been long occupied by a Turki-speaking population, the Kirghiz probably representing the last wave of this Turkish invasion into what was originally

Iranian ground. It was hence of special interest to observe how the Kirghiz settlers were now being slowly ousted again from the land by the steady reflux of Tàjik immigrants from Darwaz, the Zarafshâ.n valley, and other tracts farther west.

The Kirghiz, who invariably still observe their customary semi-nomadic migration to summer

grazing grounds, are obviously unable to extract from their land as much produce as their industrious Tajik neighbours. The latter accordingly find opportunity to buy up more and more of the holdings, while the Kirghiz owners, with their stock of cattle increased by profit on land sales, are tempted to emigrate to the Alai and the steppes farther north, where full scope is offered for life in accordance with their traditional instincts. The process of peaceful reconquest here observed is not without its historical interest ; for it helps us to understand better how the original Iranian population of ancient Sogdiana has managed also in the plains and lower hills to regain a prevalent share in the land that had been wrested from it again and again by nomadic invaders.2 At the 'same time the practice of Kirghiz intermarriage with Tajik females, of which I learnt on my passage through Kara-tegin, served to illustrate another potent process, that by which the autochthonous Iranian population has gradually succeeded in so markedly transforming the racial character of its Turkish conquerors, when not altogether absorbing them.

Passing Langar-i-shah, once the chief place on the left bank of the river, and other large

villages ensconced in fine arbours and orchards (Fig. 437) I reached on October loth Gharm, the seat of the ` Mir ' then administering Kara-tegin for the Government of the Amir of Bokhâra. The kind welcome accorded to me there during a day's halt in the ` Dadkhwah's ' large garden afforded interesting glimpses of the quaint medieval style of official pomp and circumstance then still surviving in these quiet backwaters of Western Turkestan. It also allowed me to gather useful information about that regular trade, largely in horses, sheep, and wool, from Kulab, Baljuwan, Hissàr, and other tracts north of the Oxus towards Kôkand and Margilan, for which Kara-tegin still serves as the main line of passage. The route followed by this trade leads above Gharm up the right side of the valley, and it is at Gharm that the two lines of communication coming from Hissar in the south-west and the region between the terminal course of the Surkh-ab (Wakhsh-ab) in the south and the Oxus unite. It hence appears probable that Gharm has from early times always been a place of importance in Kara-tegin.

From below the junction of the Surkh-ab and Khingab the valley greatly contracts, and within

two marches from Gharm it ceases for a considerable distance to be practicable for trade traffic. The numerous villages that we passed on October 12-13th on our way to Ab-i-garm lay mostly in fertile side valleys or else on plateaus well above the right bank of the Surkh-ab. Before finally leaving the main valley towards the close of the second march we enjoyed a striking view from

Kirghiz ousted by Tajiks.

Trade passing through


2 In Kara-tegin this process appears to have been distinctly favoured by its old ` Shahs ' and the Darwâz rulers who succeeded them. Though themselves of non-Iranian

stock, they found it easier to practise their exactions on meek Tâjiks than on Kirghiz and Özbeg subjects not altogether wedded to their shares of the soil.

Along Surkh-äb to . b-igarm.