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Information about Uzbekistan:
Short review of Tashkent
Sights of Tashkent
Short review of Samarkand
Sights of Samarkand
Short review of Bukhara
Historical Background of Bukhara
Sights of Bukhara
Short review of Khiva
Sights of Khiva
Ferghana Valley
Short review
Historical Background
Outstanding people of Ferghana
Short review of Kokand
Short review of Margilan
Short review of Kuva
Short review of Kokand
Outstanding people of Kokand
Short review of Namangan
Architecture and monuments Namangan
Outstanding people of Namangan
Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Chust
Architecture and monuments of Andijan
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Ancient Khorezm
Fortress Toprak-Kala (2-3 cc.), (4-6 cc.)
Fortress Ayaz-Kala (4-2 cc. BC)
Koy-Kyrylgan Kala, fortress and temple
Fortress of Kyrk-Kyz Kala (1-2 cc., 12-13 cc. A.D.)
Ancient civilization of thousand fortresses
Lost Khorezm
Site of ancient settlement Mizdahkan
Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve
Natural environment
Ecological and ethnographic tourism
People and social environment
Rules of Ecotourism
Wedding traditions in Bukhara
Wedding traditions in Samarkand

Historical Background of Samarkand

Cities, like people, have their unique face, their heart, their character, their life. But there are the cities, centuries-old history of which embodies the history of whole nations and states, reflecting on their pages, as if in a huge magic mirror, the way, which has been passed by many and many generations. Samarkand is considered one of such cities.

Samarkand is one of the most ancient city of the world. As well as other first centres of a human civilisation - Babylon and Memphis, Athenes and Rome, Alexandria and Byzantium - Samarkand also was fated to go through rough events and upheavels.

The history of Samarkand goes deep into millenium. Archeological finds and annalistic works of eyewitnesses and ancient historians have allowed to establish with full reliability, that a human had lived in the territory of the modern city for many thousand years B.C..

Several years ago archeologists found out traces of sites of the upper paleolith in the centre of Samarkand - in the Ivanovo park, located on abrupt bank of deep river, which crossed the city. The considerable number of tools of quartz and flint, and of bones of animals are found here.

Now later monuments of a primitive society, found near to Samarkand, became known too. Especially a rich burial of the bronze epoch is very interesting. It was found out in district Muminabad by Mirza tashev, a worker of state farm. Digging in April of 1964 holes for planting grape shanks, he had unexpectedly come across human bones and the funeral utensils, consisted of a clay vessel and bronze ornaments.

Studying of the burial has given the chance to archeologists to come to conclusion, that a woman, who lived during the early period so-called Andronovo culture (the end of 1000 and the beginning of 2000 B.C.), was buried in Muminabad. The earrings in the form of bells, bracelets, the big bronze rings, a bronze mirror, about thousand unique beads and other subjects found here are evidence of it.

Extremely favourable geographic location, rather cool climate, the abundance of natural sources with wonderful water, which Samarkand people not without reason name «obi rahmat» - «water of favour»; nearness of mountains with the numerous game; flowing nearby Zaravshan River, which since olden days has served for floating wood from mountains - all these have always provided favorable conditions for human settlements in a region, where fortifications, fortresses, majestic buildings and temples of Samarkand have been erected for some centuries B.C..

In its territory it was possible to track all stages of evolution of a primitive-communal system. In historical works of antique time the earliest records of Samarkand - known under name Marakanda at that time - refer to 329 year BC. It was menitioned in descriptions of eyewitnesses and participants of aggressive campaigns of Alexander the Great.

Even at that time Samarkand was a big city with the populous population, developed crafts, trade, culture. It had an unapproachable citadel and an external defensive wall in length 70 stages - about ten and a half kilometres.

In the light of the newest archaeological researches of A.I.Terenozhkina , I. G.Guljamov, A.Shishkin and of some other scientists there were made conclusion, that Samarkand was established before a Greek-Macedonian conquest and had already been quite developed city during the epoch of ascent of Achaemenid's state (VI-IV centuries BC).

Therefore "age" of Samarkand from the date of its birth on loessial hills of Afrasiyab is calculated in chronological round date of two thousand five hundred years, though actually it is much older.

Violent, at times dramatic, and brilliant history was fated to Samarkand from first days of its existence. The city saw in the The streets and sqaures of the city witnessed half-civilised saka and massageteans, iron "phalanxes" of Greek-Macedonians, hordes of severe Kara-khitans, withstood destructive invasion of Arab commanders. With fire and a sword bloody hordes Genghis Khan pounced upon its peace houses.

Under Amir Timur Samarkand becomes capital of the world empire, which was stretched from Indus River to Bosporus. In the time of great scientist-astronomer Ulugbek the city achieved glory of one of the outstanding centres of culture and Middle Ages science. Poets, historians, medieval geographers of Iran, India, China, Byzantium, Egypt referred to Samarkand with splendid names as «Eden of Ancient East», «Preciouspearl of Islamic world», «Rome of the East», «Rui Zamin» - «Face of the Earth»

Samarkand has fairly been referred to as invaluable treasury of culture of the people of the East. Up to now in Samarkand there are preserved monuments of the medieval architecture, which are amazing in beauty and unique in architectural forms. They were erected by hands of the working people, the original makers of history.

Not khans, emirs, severe feudal lords, nor stupid obscurantists, but the most ordinary, simple people, skilled craftsmen, inspired masters-masons, carpenters, plasterers, ceramics masters, carvers on alabaster, on stone, on tree, wall-painting artists-experts worked here in far past days, having given their talent, the sweat and blood for creating immortal works, causing admiration of descendants.

The newest discoveries in the area of monumental art, sculpture and painting in Penjikent, Afrasiyab, Varakhsha testify that in XIV-XV centuries, during an epoch of the Central Asian Renaissance, in Mavaraunnahr and its capital Samarkand there were created products of the special synthetic style, which embodied higher achievements of domestic art cultures of the nations of Near and Middle East.

This art embodied interrelation and interference of cultures of the countries of Central Asia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan. The Samarkand masterpieces of ancient and medieval art is a synthesis of the creative genius of Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Iranians, Hindus, Azerbaijanians, the Uigur, Afghans, the Turkman and other people, which due to joint work made powerful contribution to the development of the world culture.

Architectural monuments of Samarkand, its sqaures, mahalla - quarters, streets are stone pages of history,and by looking through these pages you can go deep into the glorious past of the city. Though the ruthless hand of time has touched the majority of magnificent buildings, the works of architects of the Middle Ages cause fair admiration even today.

We cannot but admire ruins of once majestic Mosque of Bibi Khanim, a turquoise dome of the mausoleum Guri-emir, unique on grace ensemble of Shahi-Zinda, a triad of the madrasas Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillja-Kori, situated on Registan Sqaure. These and many other masterpieces take an outstanding place in history of world architecture and on their art advantages rank with the well-known monuments of architecture of Egypt, India, Iran, antique Greece and ancient Rome.

Samarkand is not less famous for its an applied art: wall painting, carving on ganch and tree, stamping on metal, jewels, art silk and gold embroideries, carpet and silk weaving.

The Samarkand gold and silver necklaces, earrings, bracelets, copper with the most thin stamping ornament kumgans (jugs used for ablution), clay painted dishes, satin sjuzane-gobelins, a silk Samarkand paper, lancet khan-atlas of amazing colouring, artly embroidered skull-caps, yurta footwear were widely known in the East and West countries.

The Samarkand art ceramics, whcich gladden eyes with intricate, but strict drawing, cleanliness of tones and perfection of the form, was famous far outside of Central Asia. Products of the Samarkand art crafts masters until now decorate halls of many museums not only of Uzbekistan, but also of London, Paris, New York.

Historians and geographers of the past inform, that streets and sqaures of Samarkand had been paved by a stone for many centuries before pavements in general appeared in Paris and London. These evidences are verified by the newest archaeological researches on site of ancient settlement Afrosiab, where shahristan of Samarkand is located.

The most delicate, original wall genre painting, found out during last excavations in Samarkand, and also pottery and a clay sculpture are evidence of that, already in an antiquity the city was rich with uncommon and even outstanding talents. In their works artists achieved amazing perfection of drawing, easeness and vividness of colouring, grace and reasonableness of ornamental patterns.

Their own pottery, walls of houses, panels of governors' palaces, ceilings of temples they painted subtly with colours, sprouts, leaves, sometimes with stylised images of wild animals, birds, fishes, often fantastic.

Untill the time when Islam, together with the Arabian conquerors, had affirmed in Samarkand, the Samarkand sculptors created amazing sculptures of people and animals. But after Islam's affirmation, which categorically prohibits to paint the image of live beings, they stopped to create such products.

The travellers of those far times, who visited Samarkand, tell, that its sqaures, and street crossroads were decorated with «… amazing images of horses, bulls, camels and wild goats, which are cut of tree. They stand against each other as if they look around, and are ready to rush in fight or to be got involved in fight». According to the same eyewitnesses, there were also statues of marble, bronze, plaster in Samarkand.

It is pity, that these sculptures have been destroyed for many centuries ago. However, judging by last discoveries of magnificent sculptures in southern Uzbekistan, archeologists do not lose hope, that the same products of the Samarkand sculptors will be found out under loessial hills of site of ancient settlement Afrasiyab too.

Even in the most ancient historical documents and hronicles Samarkand is glorified as centre of scientific thought and culture. The city history is connected with names of outstanding scientists and poets of the East - Rudaki, Alisher Navoi, Djami, Omar Hayyam, and, especially, with the name of outstanding scientist Ulugbek, whose name is ranked on equal level with Ptolemaeus, Galilei, Giordano Bruno, Kopernik in history of astronomy of the martyr of a science.

In the well-known observatory, erected on the hill, on the bank of canal Obirahmat on suburb of Samarkand, there had been gathered the galaxy of the largest representatives of progressive scientific thought of that time, and among them were scientists with world names Ghiyathaddin Djamshid Kashi, Muinaddin Qadizoda Rumi, Ali Kushchi. The East is proud of these names by right.

Throughout centuries the ancient city was constantly involved in whirlpool of rough events. The periods of brilliant bloom of science and culture, art and crafts were superseded by full decline under blows of half-civilised, greedy conquerors. There were decades when Samarkand lost almost all population and jackals howled at night on once populous Registan. But mighty vital forces made the way again on a surface, and the city, as phoenix, rose from ashes and ruins.

In second half of XIX century and in the beginning of XX century Samarkand became one of the large centres of revolutionary movement. After joining of Central Asia to Russia, the working mugs, later the social democratic organisations, appeared here, and national-liberation movement arises.

The Uzbek people carefully protect monuments of culture of the past, appreciate the treasures of culture, created by the people's genius and work throughout the past centuries. Among gardens of Samarkand there are palaces of culture, theatres, scientific research institutes, museums. All, who saw wonderful changes, which had taken place here for half a century, speak of new Samarkand with delight.

Let's begin the exciting travel on a city-museum, look through pages of its history, familiarise with architecture masterpieces, with memorable places of heroic events, with a new life of Samarkand saving and multiplying nice labour and revolutionary traditions.

Hoary antiquity

Uzbekistan is the most ancient cradle of human culture. Since hoary antiquity times here on extensive fields of fertile valleys of the greatest rivers of Amu Darya of Syr-Darya, in mountain gorges, on steppe pastures historical destinies of many people, who were very various on ethnic structure, life, religion, level of cultural development of the people. intertwined.

They came across, fighting with each other in severe struggle, mixed up, formed the breeding unions, were united in a conglomerate of powerful nomadic and settled empires, created treasures of art, architecture, literature, science, fell into decay, plunged into obscurity and again revived from ruins.

Ancient population of the country and their far descendants - Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Turkmans, Kazakhs, karakalpaks, Kirghiz have made appreciable impact on all world history.

Firstly, nations and tribes who occupied Central Asia in the past, are mentioned in "Avesto" - the sacred book of ancient Iranian religion - zoroastrism, written by gold ink on parchment from carefully manufactured skin. Regretfully the most part of texts of "Avesto" have not remained.

"Avesto" consists of a code of religious lectures, prays and hymns of zoroastrism, the basic dogma of which was the doctrine about immemorial struggle between good and evil, light and darkness. At the same time the sacred book of zoroasrians contains valuable informations about the period of disintegration of a primitive socioeconomic structure and occurrence of the first state formations in territory of Central Asia .

"Avesto" had been created throughout many centuries. But, what is interesting especially for us is that, its early parts had been written at the end of VII and the beginning of VI centuries B.C. between two rivers - Amu Darya and Syr-Darya, in the area, where Samarkand was the largest centre of the area. The further replenishments of "Avesto" were made in Media, Antropoten (nowadays Azerbaijan) and especially in the Farce (Iran).

But anyway, unknown authors of some chapters of the sacred book lived somewhere in Samarkand, or nearby from it. Due to this many concrete data and the facts, written in "Avesto", cause one's interest. Indeed, we find a colourful picture of Central Asia of period VIII-VII of centuries BC as the country "… where high mountains abound with pastures and the water, giving to cattle a plentiful forage, where deep lakes with an extensive water smooth surface and the navigable rivers with wide channels …" "Avesta" glorifies work of the farmers, who had already created already in Central Asia high culture of irrigated agriculture at that time.

Pages of "Avesta" contains many data about the society organisation, property inequality in communities, about cults, development of productive forces, crafts, cities. Such social groups of local population, as priests, soldiers, farmers and handicraftsmen are mentioned in it. the verse of "Avesta" says: "Who sows bread, that sows justice".

The most ancient state formations in Central Asia were Bactria, Khoresm and Sogdiana. Sogdiana occupied Zaravshan valley and pool of next Kashkadarya. The main city of Sogdiana was Marakanda - Samarkand.

The etymology of the name "Samarkand" scientifically is not established. East authors considered, that the first part of a word of "Samar" is a name of the founder or the conqueror of the city. The history, however, does not know such name. The second part of the name "kand" is a modification of a word "kent", that is "settlement", "city" (compare Tashkent, Parkent, Pskent, etc.). Scientists of XI century A.D. Beruni and Makhmud Kashgari tried to interpret the name of the city of Samarkand as word distortion of "semizkent", that is "Rich settlement".

Capital city

History of the most ancient state formations on the territories of Central Asia including Sogdiana, till VI century A.D. are little reflected in historical works and documents. Data, which historians have, have semilegendary character. It is authentically known, that from VI till IV century BC, the Central Asian people were under the rule of Persian kings of Achaemenid dynasty.

"The father of history" Herodotus informs, that Kir, a king of Persia "king of the kings", has turned his hordes to the east from Caspian sea and has subdued Bactria and Sogd. Tthe sources attributing to Kir the foundation of the city Kiropol in a valley of Syr-Darya, near northern borders of Sogd, indirectly testify about conquering Sogdiana.

Kir had made several campaigns to the lands of Central Asian. The last of them was tragical for the mighty conqueror. According to the story of Herodotus, this invasion of Achaemenids had been directed against the aggressive nomads-massageteans, whose leader was a woman by name Tomyris. Fellow tribesmen proclaimed her their queen after death of her husband. Kir had sent to the queen his ambassadors with «flattering words», suggesting to marry him. Tomyris, realizing the only aspiration of Kir for enslaving massagets, had not accepted the Persian ambassadors. Having seen, that his ruse did not succeeded, Kir ravaged the country and moved to Araks (obviously to Amu Darya River).

Tomyris urged Kir to stop bloodshed. Nevertheless, the Persian king had perfidiously attacked camp of the massageteans. Angered by such guile Tomyris gathered her cavalry and moved on the enemy, having sworn to give insatiable Achaemenid to drink blood to satiety. Herodotus described in detail the battle, that lasted many hours. The Persian hordes had been broken. Powerful Kir was lost in the battle. Tomyris ordered to dip his head into the leather bag, filled with still steaming blood, for "give the conqueror to drink".

Severe struggle of the Central Asian people against foreign aggressors had lasted for the space of centuries-old domination of Achaemenids. Defending their freedom and independence, the local population showed amazing examples of courage. Antique writer Polyenus with the big respect tells about a feat of sax shepherd Shirac.

When Persian king Dary I (521-486 BC) invaded at the head of huge army into the steppe of nomad's lands of sak's, brave Shirac covered himself with wounds, disfigured his face and with such appearance, being covered with blood, came to the Persian camp. He complained Dary, that his fellow tribesmen had treated with him very severely and that he burnt with the desire to revenge.

Shirac offered Persians to guide them on tracks, which only he knew, and so to grasp saks unawares. Overwhelmed with burning hatred against enemies, the courageous shepherd had got enemies into waterless desert, for as had paid with his life. Tormented with terrible tortures, Shirac, dying, said directly to conquerors: «Nevertheless I'm a winner.And still a victory for me. Dooming Persians on death from thirst and hunger, I take away a trouble from my fellow tribesmen».

Self-sacrificing struggle of the people of Central Asia, however, did not lead the Persian satraps to exile from the country. In the well-known multilingual inscription in the south of Iran on the rock Behistun the Persian ruler - «king of kings», «the lord of the world» Dary, listing the people under his control, mentions ancient inhabitants of Sogdiana, Bactria, Khoresm.

This inscription, framed with magnificent relief figures and among them by the image of the «king of kings», triumphing over the enemies, is dated 519 year BC. Having been a part of the Achaemenid's state, subdued by force of the weapon Sogdiana bore all weight of oppression of severe conquerors on its shoulders.

However even during this gloomy period of its history the people of Central Asia had managed to create amazing material and cultural values. In valley of Zaravshan the agriculture based on an artificial irrigation continued to develop and be improved. Gardening and wine growing reached high perfection. The increasing value was got by craft manufactures, especially ceramics, and also building art.

The gold, copper, iron, jewels, in particular turquoise mining was widely conducted on the mountain ranges of Karatau, Nurata, Gobduntau, Bukantau. In Sogdiana there were prospered settlements of city type, among which Samarkand was, undoubtedly, the largest and briskest trading and cultural centre. Anyway, during an epoch of akhamenids Samarkand already existed as quite generated and living a sanguineous economic and cultural life city.

Alexander the Great and Spitamen

In spring of 329 years BC armed from a head to feet the Greek-Macedonian army led by Alexander in fifteen days had made the most difficult transition from Northern India through a covered with eternal snow Hindu Kush andinvaded the territory of Central Asia.

Crossing Amu Darya, Greeks had moved to Marakanda and after persistent fight had grasped the city. Having left garrison here, Alexander the Great had undertaken a campaign to the east - to Fergana valley. But the way of the Greek conquerors turned out hard. Freedom-loving sogdians showedfierce resistance. Defending their independence, the people got up as one. Fierce struggle had lasted in Sogdiana for three years. Marakanda became the resistance centre. The glorified hero of the people of Central Asia - Spitamen - was the inspirer of revolt.

In spring of 327 year Alexander sieged "the Sogd's rock" fortress, which was apparently located somewhere on southern slopes of Hissar mountains. "Rock" was unapproachable, and its defenders had decided to struggle up to the end. When Macedonians offered them to surrender, they proudly answered: "Let Alexander first try to get for himself winged soldiers who can fly up on a rock. Mere mortal could not even think about it".

The challenge of mountaineers had wounded the commander's self-esteem. The siege was begun. The group of soldiers with great difficulty could get over the high steep upto the rock and appear at the rear of defenders. The fortress was compelled to surrender. Among captured there was a girl of amazing beauty Roksana, who was a daughter of Aksiart, the fellow-fighter of Spitamena. "Alexander fell in love when he saw her.

He did not want to offend her by captivating, so he cosidered that she was worthy of being his wife". By this way Alexander won over his side the local nobility and strengthened his domination over Sogdiana. Some of sogdians, who refused to obey, were ruthlessly finished off by the conquerors. The leader of insurgents Spitamen was foully killed too.

Spitamen passionately loved his wife and carried her everywhere with himself. She resentfully bore flight and new exile. Tired with misfortunes, she tried to convince her husband by her female flattery to leave flight and try to surrender at discretion to Alexander. But he said, that he prefered death to a captivity. On a feast, seeing her husband got drunk and fell asleep, she took out the sword hidden under her dress, cut his head, and gave it to her slave - her accessory. Accompanied by her slave, not putting off blood-stained clothes, she came to Macedonian camp … and delivered Alexander the head of Spitamen.

Another antique author Arrian connects  death of Spitamen with actions of nomads, who first plundered a transport of insurgent army, and then, having received news about successful advancement of the Greek armies in desert, killed the leader of sogdians and sent his head to Alexander. The noble image of the courageous fighter for freedom of his people, the great commander sogdian Spitamen, whose life was over so tragically, has become history fanned by glory.

An early death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) had caused civil strifes among the Greek commanders. Struggle for the power in which the Central Asian people had been involved too, led to disintegration of the empire, created by Alexander, and formation of several separate states.

About 306 B.C. the territories of Bactria, Sogdiana and Margiana formed part of Seleucid Empire, named so by name of their founder - Seleucus I (312-280 BC). Seleucus' son - half-sogdian Antioh (his mother Apana was a daughter of Spitamen) was co-governor of Seleucus in the East. The ancient country, ruined during war and revolts, began to recover under Seleucids.

The historical sources does not contain exact reports about position of Marokanda of that time. However it is known, that in economic life of Sogd, Bactria, Margiana there was observed well-known ascent. New cities were constructed, old one were strengthened, crafts and trade developed, the coin was minted, the irrigational network was extended.

Speaking about densely populated fertile oasis, irrigated with waters of Zarafshan, which the Greek authors named Polytimetus, we can assert, that during an antique epoch the artificial irrigation extended more and more. Samarkand archeologist G.V.Grigoriev, exploring the settlement of Talibarzu, located near to Samarkand, has established, that already in II-I centuries B.C. the artificial irrigation developed widely here.

Peasants of Marakanda and Zarafshan valley grew up wheat, rice, millet, a lucerne, a clap, planted gardens and vineyards at that time. According to sources, local people produced wine in Fergana and in "neighbouring countries" (i.e. in Sogd and Bactria). "They love the wine as their horses love a lucerne». Rich land owners had kept wine to age in cellars for some ten years.

Inhabitants of Sogdiana along with agriculture were engaged in cattle breeding too. Archeological finds of bones of pets, large horned livestock, sheep, goats, camels, pigs are evidence of it. Especially horse breeding developed widely here. Purebred horses from Sogdiana were known from Mediterranean sea to Pacific ocean.

During an antique epoch the country conducted brisk trade with the East and the West. Well-known "Great Silk Road" passed over Sogd cities crossing Asian continent. Marakand (Samarkand) was at the main crossroads of the major caravan ways from India, Byzantium; China, Tibet, Iran, Siberia, Scythia. The people of Sogdiana borrowed much from the West and East countries and at the same time made strong impact on neighbouring countries.

It is proved, that, for example, Chineses borrowed a lucerne, grapes, a garnet tree, a walnut, many garden plants from people of Central Asia. China adopted culture of a cotton-plant from valleys of Amu Darya, Zarafshan and Syr-Darya. From Fergana valley the same Chineses took out the horses, for beauty, indefatigability, playfulness named "heavenly" by them. Inhabitants of Sogdiana, in turn, borrowed from the East silkworm breeding, paper manufacture, art of manufacturing of gold and silver jewels, weapon making.

During last centuries B.C. because of Sogdians' continual struggles against foreigners the historical map of Central Asia had frequently been changed. Borders were changed, large state formations, such, as Greek-Bactria kingdom and others developed and broke up.

In I century A.D. Sogdiana and Bactria became parts of the powerful slaveholding state, known in history as Great Kushan Empire. The Kushan's period (III-V centuries A.D.) was time of considerable ascent for Central Asia. The city life became more alive, commercial relations of sogd cities, including Samarkand with China, India, intensified.

Silk, nephrite, iron, nickel, products from varnish and skin were brought from East Asia, and at that time glass, jewels, adornment goods were taken out from Central Asia. In exchange for glass products and other Central Asian goods spices, aromas, paper and woollen fabrics were brought from India.

Having suffered from deep decline in III and IV centuries Kushan empire declined under the impact of the aggressive nomad tribes, known under the general name Hephthalite. In its turn, in IV century Hephthalite were wiped out by tribes, which later formed Gokturks Empire.

Despite the upheavals caused by change of kingdoms and dynasties, Samarkand continued to play the important role in an economic, political and cultural life of Central Asia and all East. Sogdians were known as skilful farmers and handicraftsmen, enterprising merchants, talented musicians and dancers.

Historian V.V. Bartold, speaking about sogdians, underlined, that their cultural activity along the caravan roads of Central Asia concedes a little to cultural activity of phoenicians along roads of the Mediterranean trade. It is really difficult to overestimate the role of sogdians of those days. They actually held in the hands trade over all east site of "Great Silk Road», stretched from Merv to the river Huan He. They based the colonies over all extent of ancient trading road, established business and economic contacts with local merchants and people, widely traded with their goods.

Intrigues of Iranian governors could not shake enterprise and persistence of sogdian merchants. As Byzantian historian Menandr testifies, representatives of Sogd took advantage of the ancient steppe roads, making a detour of Iran on northern coast of Caspian sea, and got into contact with Byzantium. Sogd embassy arrived to Constantinople. It was headed by Maniakh. The Byzantian emperor in his turn dispatched his envoy to Central Asia in 568. In that way sogdians could establish strong trading, diplomatic and cultural contact with Byzantium, which had lasted for many years.

Criterion of high and original cultures of sogdians is their writing. They wrote usually from right to left, quite often lines were in vertical form. They wrote with black ink on a skin, sticks, plates, clay crocks, more rare on a paper.

The earliest sogdian texts, known to science, are so-called "Old letters", found by expedition of A.Steynav in 1906-1908 among the ruins of watchtower to the West from Dunhuang. These documents are dated the beginning of IV century A.D. As the researches of French iranist R.Goto show, they are written in sogdian language and represent private correspondence.

In two letters, dictated to the copyist by sogdian girl Mevancha ("Kitty" or "little tiger") and addressed to her mother living in Samarkand, she informed her about disturbed days, which at that time worried sogdians, who lived in trading colonies of East Turkistan; these disturbtions were connected with the impact of Huns; about trading affairs; about her private life.

So, for example, the girl complained of her sad destiny - her trustee Nanidat wished to marry her, but she did not agree: "I will be better the wife of a dog or a pig, than wife of Nanidat", Mevancha wrote to her mother to Samarkand. But after some years all had changed. From other letter we learn, that the girl became wife of Nanidat, that she was happy in marriage and gently cared of hotly favourite husband. "Old letters" had not reached addressees. Almost for 1600 years they had lain in tower ruins while at the beginning of our century they were not found out by archeologists.