BOḴĀRĀ-YE ŠARĪF “Boḵārā the noble,” the first Central Asian newspaper published in Persian. It first appeared on 4 Rabīʿ II 1330/11 March (Julian) 24 March 1912, and the last issue, the 153rd, was dated 24 Moḥarram 1331/2 January (J.) 15 January 1913. It was published 13 km from the city of Bukhara, in Novaya Bukhara (Kagan), a small town founded by Russians, where the Russian “political agent” was established. For approximately the first four months Boḵārā-ye šarīf appeared six times a week, then three times, and toward the end only twice. Each issue consisted of four pages in large format. The newspaper was printed by L. M. Levin, probably the best local firm for printing in the Arabic alphabet.

According to the contemporary Russian Muslim press, six Bukharans, six Russians, and three Persians formed the group that founded Boḵārā-ye šarīf (Samoĭlovich, 1912a, p. 278). Only two of these men can be identified, however: the millionaire Mīrzā Moḥyi’l-Dīn Manṣūrov and the first local doctor to practice European medicine, Mīrzā Serāj-al-Dīn (q.v.), both active in the Javān-boḵārīyān, Young Bukharans (q.v.), a group of Islamic modernists (jadīds, ʿAynī, 1926a, p. 94; Umnyakov, p. 90, n. 2; Mīraḥmadov and Ṣamad, p. 111). The launching of the newspaper was approved by the Russian political agent, A. S. Somov, who was persuaded that it would reflect the spirit of the post-1905 Russian constitution and especially that it would propagate Russian culture and promote the expansion of cotton cultivation, in which the Russian administration in Central Asia was very interested. Novaya Bukhara was chosen as the headquarters mainly in order to evade an anticipated prohibition by the Bukharan amirate. Somov did, however, persuade the authorities not to put obstacles in the way of its circulation in the amirate, and the amir’s chief cabinet minister, the comparatively liberal Naṣr-Allāh, issued a special decree permitting it.

Some other newspapers published by the jadīds publicly interpreted this decree as a command to subscribe to Boḵārā-ye šarīf. The Russian political agency showed its support by appointing its interpreter Ḥaydar Ḵᵛāja Mīrbadalov as nominal editor in chief. In fact, he appears to have served only as a kind of liaison with the political agency, exercising some power of censorship. The actual editor was Mīrzā Jalāl Yūsofzāda (1278-1350/1862-1931), a Shiʿite from Transcaucasian Azer­baijan, an experienced journalist, and the author of several educational books and works of belles-lettres in both Persian and Tūrkī, a kind of artificial Turkic literary language favored by jadīds. In fact, though it was never officially proclaimed so, Boḵārā-ye šarīf was the organ of the Young Bukharans. Even its name was an obvious allusion to the Šerkat-e Boḵārā-ye šarīf, a progressive educational society apparently already es­tablished in 1909 or early 1910 (Umnyakov, p. 85 n. 1).

There are no exact data on the number of copies printed or the number of subscribers. Subscription income certainly did not cover the expenses of publication, for the newspaper suffered financial difficulties. A sister publication in Tūrkī (intermingled with Čagātāy and Özbek), called Tūrān, was launched on 11 Šaʿbān 1330/14 July (J.) 27 July 1912, also under the supervi­sion of Mīrbadalov; the Istanbul-educated Bukharan Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Maḵdūm Ḥosnī was managing editor.

In August, 1912 (J.; the exact date is unknown), the political agency attempted to close down Boḵārā-ye šarīf. Although the agency was being pressed to do so by the amirate, which was in turn under pressure from the strong qadīmī (traditionalist) group among the Sunnite religious leadership in Bukhara, the Russians them­selves were apparently not pleased by the paper’s content. The printer, a Russian subject, was asked to break his contract with the publishers, on the pretext that they were unable to pay him. In response the Young Bukharans met and established a joint-stock company capitalized at 10,000 rubles, divided into 100 shares at 100 rubles each. Ninety shares were sold on the spot, and the sum of 9,000 rubles thus collected was sufficient to ensure that the newspaper would continue to be printed (Samoĭlovich, 1912a, p. 472 n. 2). Its first maneuver having failed, the political agency then recalled Mīrbadalov in order to dissociate itself publicly from the newspaper. Ḥosayn Ebrāhīmov of Samarkand took his place. At about the time that the 150th issue appeared (again the exact date is unknown), the political agency finally ordered the offices closed, using as excuse the amir’s opposition (ʿAynī, 1923, p. 101; Umnyakov, p. 91). Tūrān was also terminated, after its forty-ninth issue, which appeared 23 Moḥarram 1331/1 January (J.) 14 January 1913.

During its short lifetime, the editors of Boḵārā-ye šarīf succeeded in attracting to its pages the leaders of the Bukharan modernist intelligentsia, including such outstanding writers as Feṭrat and ʿAynī. Many contributors, however, feared retaliation from the amir and especially from the qadīmī leaders and disguised their identities with pseudonyms or initials; it is thus not possible now to determine who they were. It can be assumed that the newspaper was read by almost all the modernists and sympathetic intellectuals in the amirate, as well as by most of those in Central Asia who were able to read Persian.

In the second issue Yūsofzāda formulated the newspaper’s principal aims: using “simple Pārsī,” to bring “various problems and varied information” to the attention of “the population of Bukhara the noble . . . [which] wants to be informed about the world situation” and to urge “the people to seek eagerly for knowledge and for improvement of the educational situation.” Most of the news about the world situation (with special emphasis on Muslim countries and on the Russian empire, especially its Muslim central Asian portion) was translated or adapted from Russian- and Turkic-language sources. Translations of Russian literature appeared from time to time as well, including several stories by Leo Tolstoy. As for the second aim, improvement in education was an important compo­nent in the ideology of the jadīds, especially the Young Bukharan wing. Some other ideological tenets were also reflected in the pages of Boḵārā-ye šarīf, which actively encouraged development of local business and devoted much attention to topics connected with trade. The editors also expressed a strong pan-Islamic bias, promoting a kind of Islamic ecumenism (apparent in the appointment of a Shiʿite as managing editor). Furthermore, paradoxically for a Persian-language newspaper, it showed clear pan-Turkic tendencies as well. These tendencies were closely related to the vague ethnic identifications of bilingual Tajik- and Özbek-speakers on the Central Asian flatland, from whom most of the writers were drawn. Finally, the “simple Pārsī” in which the newspaper was to be written actually included a broad range of language, from simplified classical Persian through simplified contemporary Iranian Per­sian to varying amalgams of classical Persian with elements from the Samarkandi-Bukharan group of Tajik dialects. In addition, the contributors freely borrowed terms from Russian and Tūrkī.

Boḵārā-ye šarīf actually had more in common with the foreign Turkic-language than with the Persian-language press. As already mentioned, much of its material was translated or adapted from such publications. The Tūrkī newspaper Tarjomān (established in 1300/1883) at Bakhchisaray in the Crimea, which was published by Esmāʿīl Gasprinskiĭ (Gaspralı, 1267-­1332/1851-1914), founder of the jadīd movement and initiator of Tūrkī as the movement’s lingua franca; Waqt, a journal in Tūrkī heavily interlarded with Volga Tatar, which was founded at Orenburg in 1324/1900; and the Turkish-language Sırat-i müstakim (established in 1326/1324 Rumī/1908, renamed Sabilürreşad in Ṣafar, 1330/Şubat, 1329 R./February, 1912) were the main sources. In turn the Turkic-language press in both the Russian and the Ottoman empires relied heavily on Boḵārā-ye šarīf for news of events in the amirate, though foreign editors also expressed criticism of the newspaper. For example, the main organ for express­ing the pan-Turkish ideology of that time was the fortnightly Türk yurdu of Istanbul, established in 1327 R./1911; its editor, Yusuf Akçura (Akçuraoğlu, Aqčurin, 1293-1354/1876-1935), who was of Volga Tatar origin, sharply criticized the editors of Boḵārā-ye šarīf for publishing in Persian and accused them of “looking down on the mother tongue” of what he claimed was the “entirely Turkish” population of Bukhara (Samoĭlovich, 1912c, p. 642). As for the contemporary Persian-language press, Boḵārā-ye šarīf had some affinity with some newspapers outside Iran, for example, Ḥabl al-matīn in Calcutta and Serāj al-aḵbār in Kabul. The editors were especially receptive to the pan-Asiatic views expressed in the Kabul paper.

Sets of Boḵārā-ye šarīf, varying in completeness, can be found in some Central Asian libraries and private collections.



S. ʿAynī, Tārīḵ-eamīrān-e manḡītīya-ye Boḵārā, Tashkent, 1923, repr. in his Kollīyāt X, Dushanbe, 1966.

Idem, Boḵārā enqelābī ūčūn māterīyāllār, Moscow, 1926a.

Idem, Tārīḵ-eadabīyāt-e tājīk, Moscow, 1926b.

A. Bennigsen and C. Lemercier-Quelquejay, La presse et le mouvement national chez les musulmans de Russie avant 1920, Paris and the Hague, 1964, pp. 168-69.

I. Braginskiĭ, Ocherki iz istorii tadzhikskoĭ literatury, Stalinabad, 1956, p. 397.

Idem, “O prirode sredneaziatskogo dzhadidizma v svete literaturnoĭ deyatel’nosti dzhadidov,” in his Iz istorii persidskoĭ i tadzhikskoĭ literatur, Moscow, 1972, pp. 455-59.

E. Browne, The Press and Poetry of Modern Persia, Cambridge, 1914, p. 54, no. 80.

H. Carrère d’Encausse, Réforme et révolution chez les musulmans de l’empire russe. Bukhara 1867-1924, Paris, 1966, pp. 161-63.

ʿA. ʿEṣmatī, “Yak negāh be maṭbūʿāt-e enqelābī-e tājīk,” Rahbar-e dāneš 9, 1929, pp. 3-5.

B. Hayit, Turkestan im XX. Jahrhundert, Darmstadt, 1956, pp. 38-39, n. 112.

A. Mashitskiĭ, “Materialy po istorii bukhar­skoĭ revolyutsii,” Vestnik Narodnogo Komissariata Inostrannykh Del 4-5, 1922, pp. 122ff.

A. Mīraḥ­madov and V. Ṣamad, “Tafsīr-e yak ešāra-ye ʿAynī,” Ṣadā-ye Šarq 10, 1986, pp. 111-19.

A. Oktay, “Türkistan’da cedid matbuatı,” Türkistan (Istanbul) 1/5, 1953, pp. 19-24, 1/6, pp. 15-18.

Ż. Saʿīdūf, Öz­bek vaqtlī maṭbūʿātī taʾrīḵīga māterīyāllār, Tash­kent and Samarkand, 1927, pp. 43ff.

A. Samoĭlo­vich, “Pechat’ russkikh musul’man,” Musul’manskiĭ mir 1, 1912a, pp. 257-83, 463-83, 611-33.

Idem, “Osmanskaya pechat’,” Musul’manskiĭ mir 1, 1912b, pp. 284-87, 484-92, 633-44.

I. Umnyakov, “K istorii novometodnoĭ shkoly v Bukhare,” Byulleten’ Sredneaziatskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta 16, 1927, pp. 81-99.

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(Michael Zand)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 3, pp. 327-329