FARḠĀNA, valley of the Syr Darya (Jaxartes) river extending ca. 300 km between the Farḡāna mountains in the east and the first sharp bend of the river’s course to the north. It is approximately 70 km wide, flanked on the north by the Čatkal range and on the south by the Alai mountains.

i. In the pre-Islamic period.

ii. In the Islamic period.


Under its present name, Farḡāna is first mentioned in written sources only in the 5th century C.E. However, several settlements of the chalcolithic period have been discovered there. There are also some chance finds of Early and Middle Bronze Age objects, even if no burials or settlements from that period have been discovered there.

In the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age, the waterless steppes of Farḡāna were inhabited by cattle-breeders and by agricultural tribes. Thus, two different cultural patterns emerged in Farḡāna—that of an agricultural population inhabiting the oases of Farḡāna and that of cattle-breeders (some of them gradually becoming nomads) who lived in the desert, in the central part of the valley, and in the mountains surrounding it. Agriculture was well developed in the valley by the Bronze Age as branches of the mountain streams flowing into the valley were turned into irrigation canals. The culture of the agrarian inhabitants appears to be related to the circle of the “Steppe Bronze” cultures of the second half of the second millennium B.C.E. to the first third of the first millennium B.C.E. (i.e., the Kairak Kum [Qayraq Qum] culture of western Farḡāna investigated by B. A. Litvinskiĭ). It finds close parallels in Chorasmia (q.v.) and in the Zarafšān valley. The main occupation of the people of the Chust culture, who lived in fortified settlements such as that at Dal’verzin Tepe (q.v.), was agriculture. Some of the Chust pottery was decorated with patterns characteristic of the settled cultures of Central Asia of the Chalcolythic and the Bronze Age periods. The material remains of Chust culture are very archaic in appearance: its pottery was handmade, and the people lived mainly in earthen huts though they were already familiar with mud brick structures.

In the second third of the first millennium the difference between the western part of Central Asia, which in the 6th century B.C.E. was adjoined to the Achaemenid empire (Parthia, Chorasmia, Sogdia, Bactria), and the independent territories of the East became more evident. By the 7th-6th century B.C.E. the western lands had developed a more or less uniform civilization, while the eastern lands (Čāč, the oasis of Tashkent, and Farḡāna) remained in their old traditional ways. The heritage of the Chust culture, even if subject to some changes, continued in Farḡāna until the 2nd century B.C.E. (the Ejlatan or Ejlatan-Aktam culture). At that time, mud brick structures with many rooms were built along with ground huts, and wheel-made pottery was produced along with handmade ware. The nomadic culture of Farḡāna at that time represented a variation of the Saka culture. It is noteworthy that the nomads used pottery manufactured by the settled population.

From the 2nd century B.C.E. we have detailed evidence on an area known as Ta-Yüan, which had a developed city-culture and was occupied by the Chinese in 104-101 (Hirth, 1917, p. 94-116). Like many modern scholars, the early medieval Chinese historians considered that the land known as Ta-Yüan under the Han dynasty had been Farḡāna. It is, however, also possible that this name referred to the dominion of the Tokharians (*Taxwar) in Sogdiana, before the Tokharian invasion into Bactria in the middle of the 2nd century B.C.E. or even at a later time (Pulleyblank, 1966, pp. 22-25).

Unlike Sogdia, ancient Farḡāna had no coinage of its own. Finds of Chinese coins, mirrors, and textiles are more frequent in Farḡāna than in the neighboring lands. This testifies to its well-established links with China. After the beginning of the C.E. the influence of other Central Asian cultures on Farḡāna became markedly stronger. Vast burial-grounds of nomadic cattle-breeders include burials of various kinds: catacombs, burial pits with side niches (the type widespread in other regions of Central Asia), and tombs constructed of stones or mud bricks. The variety of burial customs probably reflects the co-existence of several different ethnic groups of nomads and semi–nomads, the tribes of the so-called Kaunchi culture. These originated most probably from Čāč and later gradually penetrated into the Farḡāna valley. In general, however, the culture of Farḡāna still preserved at that time many of its original features. Several local variants of this culture can be distinguished. Fortified rural estates, “castles” with bastions and arrow slits, are characteristic of this period. Oftren they are surrounded with a settlement. The cities of that time have not been investigated (unlike the urban settlements of the earlier period). The architecture of the fortified buildings finds very close parallels in Sogdia and in Persia. At the same time local pottery with carved decorations over red slip is noticeably different from Sogdian pottery.

In the 5th-6th century, the number of settlements in Farḡāna decreased. Pottery of that time is more crude, becoming more like the Kaunchi ware. Like many other Central Asian lands in the 6th-7th century, Farḡāna was included into the Turkish kaghanate Its population was still mainly Eastern Iranian, though many Turks settled there at that time. So far, however, there are not many Turkish burials discovered there or elsewhere in Transoxiana. Some of the 8th century rulers of Farḡāna were of Turkish origin.

According to Chinese pilgrims, the population of Farḡāna spoke its own dialect in the early medieval period. At the same time archaeological sites of the 7th-8th century reflect the spread of Sogdian culture and language; local coins, in particular, have Sogdian legends. Sogdian customs, such as ossuary burials, were also accepted in Farḡāna. In artificial caves near the village of Pap an ancient city necropolis was discovered, with burials in reed coffins set one upon the other in several rows. The same necropolis revealed also a ceramic ossuary of the 8th century Sogdian type.

In the suburbs of Kuva, several houses and a temple dating to the 7th-early 8th century have been discovered. The architecture, pottery, and the clay sculpture of Kuva are very close to Sogdian patterns. The temple was first thought to be a Buddhist shrine since the iconography of its sculpture revealed distinct Indian features. Similar features, however, are present in the iconography of the native Sogdian gods. According to Markus Mode (pp. 183, 185, 187, fig. 5b), the temple was dedicated most probably to the Sogdian deity ʾʾδβγ (Ahura Mazda) represented as the Indian god Indra.

Both written sources and coins found in Kuva (Beal, 1906, pp. 30–31) prove that Farḡāna was divided into several dominions since at least the 3rd to 4th centuries C.E., even if there was some supreme ruler there, titled “the King of Farḡāna” as mentioned in one of the Sogdian documents from Mt. Mug as well as in the chronicles of the Arab conquest (see below, Farḡāna in the Islamic Period).



A. Anarbaev and B. Matbabaev, An Early Medieval Urban Necropolis in Fergana: Silk Road Art and Archaeology III, Kamakura, 1993-94, pp. 233-50.

S. Beal, Buddhist Records of the Western World I, pp. 30 ff.

A. N. Bernshtam, Drevnyaya Fergana (Ancient Farḡāna), Tashkent, 1951.

V. Bulatova, Drevnyaya Kuva (Ancient Kuva), Tashkent, 1972.

E. Davidovich and B. Litvinskiĭ, Arheologicheskiĭ ocherk Isfarinskogo rajona (An archaeological survey of the Isfara region), Stalinabad, 1955.

B. Gafurov, Tadzhiki (The Tadjiks), Moscow, 1972, pp. 25, 136-37, 205, 292-95.

N. Gorbunova, The Culture of Ancient Ferghana, VI century B.C.-VIth century A.D., BAR International Series 281, Oxford, 1986.

F. Hirth, “The Story of Chang Kien: China’s Pioneer in Western Asia,” JRAS 37, pt. 2, 1917, pp. 94-116.

G. Koshelenko, ed., Drevneishie gosudarstva Kavkaza i Srednej Azii (The most ancient states of the Caucasus and Central Asia), Moscow, 1958 (ch. 8, pp. 193-98 by V. Sarianidi, G. Koshelenko, and Yu. Zadneprovskiĭ; ch. 16, pp. 304-16, by Yu. Zadneprovskiĭ).

B. Litvinskij, Kurgany i kurumy zapadnoĭ Fergany (Barrows and qurums of western Farḡāna), Moscow, 1972.

Idem, Keramika iz mogil’nikov zapadnoĭ Fergany (Pottery from the burial grounds of western Farḡāna), Moscow, 1973.

Idem, Ukrasheniya iz mogil’nikov zapadnoĭ Fergany (Decorations from the burial gounds of western Farḡāna), Moscow, 1973.

Idem, Orudiya truda i utvar’ iz mogil’nikov zapadnoĭ Fergany (Tools and household utensils from the burial grounds of western Farḡāna), Moscow, 1978.

B. Litvinskiĭ, A. Okladnikov and V. Ranov, Drevnosti Kajrak–kumov: Drevnejshaya istoriya severnogo Tadzhikistana (The antiquities of the Kajrak-qum: The ancientmost history of northern Tadjikistan), Dushanbe, 1962.

M. Mode, “Sogdian Gods in Exile: Some Archaeological Evidence from Khotan in the Light of Recently Excavated Material from Sogdiana,” Silk Road Art and Archaeology 2, Kamakura, 1991-92, pp. 179-214.

E. Pulleyblank, “Chinese and Indo-Europeans,” JRAS, 1966, pp. 22-25.

Yu. Zadneprovskiĭ Drevnezemledel’cheskaya kul’tura Fergany (The ancient tilling culture of Farḡāna), Materialy i issledovaniia po arheologii SSSR 118, Moscow, 1962.

(Boris I. Marshak)



In the early 8th century, at the time of the Arab conquest in Transoxania, Farḡāna was an independent principality under a Sogdian ruler with the titles eḵšīḏ and dehqān. His capital was at Aḵsīkaṯ (q.v.). Although, according to later legend, the tombs of the companion of the Prophet Moḥammad b. Jarīr and his men, said to have been sent by the caliph ʿOṯmān (23-34/644-56), were located in Farḡāna, the province cannot have been raided before the arrival of Qotayba b. Moslem in 94/712-13. He was killed there three years later, having launched a rebellion against the Omayyad caliph Solaymān (96-99/715-17); local tradition locates his grave near Andījān (see ANDEJĀN). The full extension of Arab military control over Farḡāna and the Islamization of the province were very slow. In 103/721-22 the Sogdian princes returned. In 121/739 an Arab governor, Moḥammad b. Ḵāled Azdī, was sent to subdue the province again (Ṭabarī, II, p. 1694), but the appearance in Central Asia of the Chinese imperial army under Gao-xian-zhi in 133/751 delayed permanent imposition of Arab control. A local prince was mentioned in the time of the caliph al-Manṣūr (136-58 /754-75), and al-Mahdī (158-69/775-85), Hārūn al-Rašīd (170-93/786-809) and al-Maʾmūn (198-218/813-33) all had to despatch troops to suppress opposition to Arab rule and particularly to the imposition of Islam in Farḡāna (Yaʿqūbī, Taʾrīḵ II, pp. 465-66, 478; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 129).

In fact, Islamization of Farḡāna was not completed until about 205/820-21, when al-Maʾmūn’s governor in Khorasan, Ḡassān b. ʿAbbād, put Aḥmad b. Asad b. Sāmān Ḵodā (q.v.; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 146), founder of the Samanid line, in charge of the province; the indigenous dynasty disappeared, and Farḡāna remained under Samanid control for two centuries. During that time it was a source of men (farāḡena) for the caliphal army in Iraq; as freeborn Iranian professional soldiers, they are to be distinguished from the Turkish slave troops of the ʿAbbasids (Ṭabarī, III, pp. 1215-16, 1218).

The geographers of the 10th century described the Farḡāna valley as flourishing, with towns, large villages, and good agricultural land. It was on the frontier with the lands of the pagan Turks (Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, p. 115: “the gate of Turkestan”) and thus served as a corridor for importation of Turkish slaves into the caliphate. Perhaps because of its comparatively dense population the province retained its Iranian ethnic character longer than other regions of Transoxania, which became speedily turkicized. The mountain ranges surrounding the valley produced such useful minerals as gold, silver, mercury, and coal (already used as fuel; found in a mountain of the district of Esfara south of the Syr Darya; Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 515; tr. Kramers, p. 492), and accordingly there was a lively metalworking industry; the prosperity of the province is reflected in its annual tax yield: 280,000 dirhams in ca. 375/985 (Moqaddasī, p. 339; for other reports, see Le Strange, Lands, pp. 476-80).

Control of Transoxania passed to the Qarakhanids (382-607/992-1211) at the end of the 10th century. Farḡāna became an important part of the western khanate, with Özgand as its capital; coins were struck there and at Aḵsīkaṯ (often with only the name Farḡāna given as the minting place). After 536/1141 the probably Mongol Qara Khitay overran Transoxania, including Farḡāna, though Qarakhanid princes seem to have been allowed to remain, as at Samarqand in the western khanate.

The Farḡāna valley suffered in the early 13th century from the warfare between the Ḵᵛārazmshahs and the Mongols; it was subsequently allotted to Čaḡatai (see CHAGHATAYID DYNASTY) but from about 624/1227 to 636/1238 was administered by Ögedei’s governor of the settled population of Transoxania and Moḡolestān, Maḥmūd Yalavāč, and subsequently by his son Masʿūd Beg (636-87/1238-89). It was at that time that Andījān, previously of secondary importance, emerged as the most prominent urban center of Farḡāna. When the Chaghatayid ulus was split into two branches in the 1340s most of Farḡāna fell within the eastern portion, Moḡolestān, but after a few decades it was annexed by Tīmūr (771-807/1370-56) for its agricultural richness. By the Timurid period Andījān had become a purely Turkish town, whereas the increasingly important town of Marḡīnān (modern Margelan) still retained its Persian ethnic character. According to Ebn ʿArabšāh, there were nine tümens (defined by him as populations each producing 10,000 soldiers) in Timurid Farḡāna (Manz, pp. 35, 90-91). The province was joined to Khorasan under Šāh-roḵ (807-50/1405-47) and his son Oloḡ Beg (850-53/1447-49). The prince ʿOmar Šayḵ took control toward the end of the century, but his son Bābor (q.v.) was unable to maintain himself in Farḡāna and left for Afghanistan and India; it is nevertheless in his memoirs that the most detailed description of the region in about 1500 survives (Bābor-nāma, tr. Beveridge, pp. 1-12).

Farḡāna passed to the Shaybanids and, in the 17th century, to various Khoja lines of the Uzbeks; it was a separate khanate between 1121/1709 and about 1212/1798, after which it was part of the khanate of Ḵoqand until the Russian conquest in 1293/1876. The new Farḡāna district, had its capital at New Marghelan. From 1917 to 1922 the district was the scene of guerrilla warfare between the communists and Turkman nationalist Basmachis; the valley was then divided administratively between the Uzbek and Tadzhik S.S.R.s, and the surrounding mountains fell largely within the Kirghiz S.S.R. At present Farḡāna is divided among the three new republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kirghizia.


Bibliography (For cited works not found in this bibliography and for abbreviations cited here, see “Short References.”):

Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 155-65, 186 ff.

Idem-[B. Spuler], “Farghānā,” in EI2 II, pp. 790-93.

B. F. Manz, The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane, Cambridge, 1989.

A. M. Prokhorov et al., eds., Bol’shaya sovetskaya éntsiklopediya, 2nd ed., 51 vols., Moscow, 1950-58, XLIV, pp. 617-20.

G. Wheeler, The Modern History of Soviet Central Asia, London, 1964, pp. 10 ff., 44-45, 77-79, 108-10, 243-44.

(C. Edmund Bosworth)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: December 15, 1999