Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Plans for Tigers to once again inhabit Central Asia.

The Caspian tiger, Panthera tirgris virgata  a subspecies of tiger that went extinct back in the 1970s, which at 140 kilograms were among the largest cats to have ever lived. The tigers roamed Central Asia, from the Caspian Sea to north-west China, before reclamation of lands in the 19th century and hunting led to a significant decrease in availability of prey - wild boar and deer - that the tigers fed on.  It's not clear exactly when the Caspian tiger died out. Some reports suggest it was last seen in the 1960 in the Caspian literal of NW Iran, while others date its extinction to the 1970s the last reported sighting being in Kegeli in Karakalpakstan.

Ever since Caspian tigers disappeared, biologists and conservationists have tried to come up with a strategy to bring tigers back to Central Asia.  A recent study published in the Journal Biological Conservation has suggested that the Tiger could be effectively resurrected by reintroducing the genetically similar subspecies the Amu tigers from the Russian far east back into Central Asia. Between 2010 and 2012, scientists conducted a series of tests showing that the Caspian and Amur tigers were almost identical in their genetic structure. Studies on the Siberian (Amur) variant found in found in the Sikhote Alin mountain region and the Primorye Province in the Russian Far East revealed that the two subspecies have diverged from a common ancestor relatively recently. Genetic mapping showing that the common ancestor of both subspecies colonized Central Asia via a path along the Silk Road from eastern China about 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age. Some stayed in Central Asia  and became the Caspian tiger, whereas the rest of the population moved to the Russian Far East and evolved into the Siberian tiger. They found that despite some very small physiological differences, the Caspian and Siberian tigers are essentially the same on a genetic level. Thus, the extant population in Russia is thought to be a perfect way to “breed back” the Caspian tiger to Central Asia by introducing Amur tigers into suitable habitats. The likely first location identified is on the habitable site on the South bank of Balkhash lake and the Ili river estuary in Kazakhstan. The reintroduction project has already had approval from regional wildlife authorities and government agencies. As a part of the project, it is planned to create a national park, revive riparian woodlands, and increase the diversity of flora and fauna in general. In particular the types of mammalian prey that the tigers normally hunt, such as deer and wild pigs. In addition they will need to carefully monitor and conserve the water supply. These measures are predicted to take at least 15 years. The project then plans to introduce up to 100 tigers and expect the population to grow to over 200 by mid century.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

World's Oldest Chess Pieces

Photo of the famous pieces found at
Afrasiab (near modern-day Samarkand)

Although there is scholarly disagreement about where chess originated - Central Asia, India, the Persian empire, and China are contenders - it is certain that the game spread along the Great Silk Road. Indeed, the earliest, recognisable chess pieces, dated to about 760 AD. (A coin, dated 761 was found with the chess pieces) were excavated at Afrosiabs north of present-day Samarkand in 1977 by a team led by Archaeologist Prof. Yuri Buryakov's from the Uzbek SSR
Academy of Archaeology and was sensational at the time. The Afrosiab finds include seven chess pieces. They are heavily worn, but they include: two foot soldiers with shields and short swords (= our pawns); a war elephant with chain armour and a rider in full battle-dress (= our bishop); a visier (= our queen) with two horses with armed rider; two mounted riders with sword and shield (= knights); and the Shah, on a three-horse chariot, holding a mace like symbol of power (= our king). The rukh (rook) is also known: it features a three-horse chariot with two men, one driving, and the other armed with sword and shield.

The set has five out of the six types of pieces, and is completely convincing as a chess set. They were made at the end of the Sassanid Empire just before the Arabic conquest. They are representational, meaning they are small carvings (though somewhat crude) of war men and equipment. Later Arabic sets became abstract shapes, in accordance with Islamic religious teaching.

Photo of the two ancient pieces (Dalversin-Tepe)

Some other older pieces, possibly Chess pieces, are the occasionally named as the oldest chess pieces. They also were found in Uzbekistan. They are figurines of an elephant and a zebu bull kept in Tashkent. They were excavated in 1972 at Dalverzin-Tepe an ancient citadel of the Kushan empire located in Southern Uzbekistan, and stem from the 2nd century. The Elephant is about 2.4 cm high and the Bull is about 1.8 cm. Some historians believe that they could also be toys or amulets which is quite possible. Also, it has been noticed that there is no Bull in the chessmen line-up. Most chess historians feel that they are probably not Chess pieces, but probably belonged to a forerunner of Chess.



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Silk Banknotes of Khiva and Khoresm (KPSR)

Silk banknotes of Khiva and the Khoresm People’s Soviet Republic (early 20th century). The notes were made of natural silk were covered with inscriptions and images by hand, with the use of special dyes (some examples below).
For more information read

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

SamAuto Bus and Truck Factory

SamAuto, originally Samarkand Automobile Factory (Uzbek:Samarqand avto zavodi) is a bus and truck venture located in Samarkand. It currently produces four (4) models of buses and five (5) truck models, some of which are exported.The SamAuto plant first started production of medium-capacity buses and small and medium-duty trucks in 1999.

The SamAuto lineup includes basic models in the small class SAZ NP 37 chassis Japanese Isuzu, low-floor bus of small class SAZ LE-60, Isuzu trucks and other special vehicles on the chassis of Isuzu. It has recently launched a production line for Ford cargo trucks.

On July 30, 2016 SAMAuto produced its 25,000th vehicle in the Samarkand Automobile Factory (SAF), the anniversary vehicle was a LE60 low-floor bus used for passenger transport on city routes.

The SamAuto LE 60 uses a Cummins 4ISBe4 185B engine with capacity of 4.5 litres, which meets "Euro-4" environmental standards . The length of the bus is 8 meters long and weighs 10.2 tons. It is a low-floor bus, with 56 seats. It was designed in conjunction with the Russian company "Ermis engineering".

SamAuto buses and trucks are commonly seen all over Uzbekistan including the streets of Nukus.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Suzani - Decorative Textiles

Painting with Suzani by Robert Falk, Savitzky Museum, Nukus

Suzani is a type of embroidered and decorative tribal textile made in  Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries. Suzan which means needle. Suzanis usually have a cotton (sometimes silk) fabric base, which is embroidered in silk or cotton thread. Chain, satin, and buttonhole stitches are the primary stitches used. There is also extensive use of couching, in which decorative thread laid on the fabric as a raised line is stitched in place with a second thread. Suzanis are often made in two or more pieces, that are then stitched together.  One of the things that make suzani fascinating is they are handmade and so no two are exactly alike. Every suzani has an intentional imperfection- an unfinished corner, a distorted shape, or the “wrong” colour this is “because the world is not perfect, so your suzani should not be perfect”.

Some patterns are abstracted and geometric, but most are legible: snakes, suns, knives to cut bad luck and hot peppers to ward it off, pomegranates for fertility, many forms of flowers Popular design motifs include sun and moon disks, flowers (especially tulips, carnations, and irises), leaves and vines, fruits and occasionally fish and birds.

The oldest surviving suzanis are from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it seems likely that they were in use long before that. In the early 15th century, Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, the Castilian ambassador to the court of Timur (Tamerlane), left detailed descriptions of embroideries that were probably forerunners of the suzani. In the nineteenth century, Uzbek women produced fabulous embroidered hangings,  bed covers, wrapping cloths, table covers, and prayer mats for their households and their daughters' wedding trove. Brides Suzani's were traditionally as part of their dowry, and were presented to the groom on their wedding day.

Suzanis were traditionally as part of their dowry, and were presented to the groom on their wedding day. These hand-embroidered vintage suzanis are infused with the character that only comes from everyday use. The story of each suzani is as rich as their colors, as intricate as the designs that cover their surfaces.


Uzbekistan Red Book Stamps - Saiga Antelope

The Post office of Uzbekistan (O’zbekistan Pochtasi) and the State Communications Committee released the stamps on May 30, 2014 titled Fauna - Rare animals of Uzbekistan.«O'ZBEKISTON FAUNASI». The series consists of two stamps and two postage block of two of the most endangered large mammals in Uzbekistan the Saiga antelope and the Turkestan lynx both in the Red Book of Uzbekistan. Number of stamps minted was 10,000. Number of copies of each postage block - 7000.
Saiga tatarica 3200 Som


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Imom Ismoil al-Buxoriy (810-870)

Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari al-Ju`fi (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد بن اسماعيل بن ابراهيم بن المغيرة بن بردزبه الجعفي البخاري‎‎‎); in Uzbek Imom Ismoil al-Buxoriy was an Islamic scholar and theologian who lived from 810 (born in Bukhara) to 870 (died near Samarkand). A follower of the Hanbali school of thought within Islamic jurisprudence he authored the influential Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Arabic: صحيح البخاري‎‎) one of the Kutub al-Sittah (six major hadith collections) of Sunni Islam. It is also used as an authentic hadith collection by Zaidi Shia Muslims. (sahih translates in Arabic as authentic or correct.

These prophetic traditions, or hadith, were collected by al-Bukhari, many after being transmitted orally for generations. The hadiths are  legend based on cases of life or sayings attributed to the Prophet. Out of them, al-Bukhari selected as “flawless” some 7400 hadith to include into “As-Sahih”. This book is considered the most authentic collection of hadith, even ahead of the 'Al - Muwatta' collected by Bukhari's student in Nishapur Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj.

The work is considered authentic because of the quality and soundness of the chain of narrators of the selected ahādīth. al-Bukhari followed two principle criteria for selecting sound narratives. First, the lifetime of a narrator had to overlap with the lifetime of the authority from whom he narrates. Second, it had to be verifiable that the narrators have met with the source. They also had to have expressly stated that they obtained the narrative from this authority. This is a stricter criterion than that set by his student Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj. In addition al-Bukhari accepted the narratives from only those who, according to his knowledge, not only believed in Islam but practiced its teachings. The way he arranged and ordered the chapters in the book underlines the profound knowledge and understanding by the author of his religion. His work has proved for centuries to be a guide in understanding the religions disciplines by both religious scholars and ordinary believers.

Bukhari also composed other books, including the al-Adab al-Mufrad, (which is an abridged collection of chains of narration going back all the way to the Prophet regarding matters pertaining to the Prophet, his practices and his times) which is a collection of hadiths on ethics and manners. Bukhari also wrote three works discussing narrators of hadith with respect to their ability in conveying their material: the "brief compendium of hadith narrators," "the medium compendium" and the "large compendium" (al-Tarikh al-Kabīr, al-Tarīkh al-Ṣaghīr, and al-Tarīkh al-Awsaţ).

His burial place is located in a complex located in the small village Hartang, 30 km from Samarkand. It occupies a vast site, there are mausoleums, mosques, hotel for pilgrims, souvenir shops and religious literature. It contains the mausoleum of Imam al-Bukhari being one of the main pilgrimage sites in the whole of Uzbekistan. Pilgrims who go to this and two other  shrines in Samarkand – the mausoleums of Shakhi-Zinda and Rukhabad – within one day, are called as going on the “small Hajj”.