ḤEṢĀR, the name of a region in the eastern part of Transoxania, in the upper course of the Sorḵān Daryā (medieval Čaḡānrud) and the Kāfernehān (on most modern maps it is called Gissar, derived from a poor Russian transcription). It is a fertile valley stretching for about 110-120 km in a latitudinal direction to the south of the Ḥeṣār range, which separates it from the upper Zarafšān basin; its maximum width is about 20 km. In the early Islamic period its eastern part was known as Šumān, and its western part as Aḵarun (see Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 74; Ḥodud al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. 115, 353). In the 4th/10th century, under the Samanids, Šu-mān and Aḵarun were included as territories in the possession of the Moḥtajid dynasty, whose center was in Čaḡāniān, south of Aḵarun (see Barthold, “Čaghāniyān,” in EI; Bosworth, “Muḥtādjids,” in EI2). The region was inhabited by mountain Tajiks known as Ḡarča, or Ḡalča, although a penetration of Turkic groups could have begun already under the Qarakhanids. In the post-Mongol period the names Šumān and Aḵarun were already forgotten, while the name Ḥeṣār appears for the first time in the history of Timur’s career (Šaraf-al-Din Yazdi, foll. 95a, 97b, 98a, 125a, 195b, 196b, 199a; see also Neẓām-al-Din Šāmi, II, p. 14, from Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru), both as the name of a plain (jolga) or province (velāyat), as well as the name of a town. In the latter case, its complete form is Ḥeṣār-e Šādmān “Ḥeṣār the Joyous”; according to a plausible conjecture by M. M. D’yakonov, “Šādmān” was a later interpretation of the earlier, and already little understood, “Šumān” (see D’yakonov, p. 183; Davidovich and Mukhtarov, p. 23). Ḥeṣār-e Šādmān, situated on the Ḵānaka, a tributary of the Kāfernehān, was apparently a strong fortress already: the region served as an armory (zarrād-ḵāna-ye ḵāṣṣ) for Timur (Šaraf-al-Din Yazdi, fol. 195b); after the death of Timur, Ḵalil Sultan tried to capture Ḥeṣār seven times without success (Tāj al-Salmāni, fol. 167b, tr., p. 122).

After Šāhroḵ defeated Ḵalil Sultan in 811/1409, he gave Ḥeṣār to Moḥammad Jahāngir b. Moḥammad Sultan, who ruled it until his death in 836/1433 (Ḥabib al-siār, III, pp. 581, 622). Under Sultan Abu Saʿid (862-73/1458-69), the governor of Ḥeṣār was Qanbar-ʿAli Beg Moḡol (Bābor-nāma, ed. Mano, I, p. 39; tr. Thackston, p. 61). After the death of Abu Saʿid, his son Sultan Maḥmud Mirzā, having fled from his brother Sultan Aḥmad Mirzā in Samarqand, came to Qanbar-ʿAli in Ḥeṣār and from there ruled a large region, which, besides Ḥeṣār, included Čaḡāniān, Termeḏ, Ḵottalān, Baḡlān, Qondoz, and Badaḵšān (Ḥabib al-siār, IV, p. 97; Bābor-nāma, ed. Mano, loc. cit.). When Sultan Maḥmud moved to Samarqand upon the death of Sultan Aḥmad, his amir Šojāʿ-al-Din Ḵosrow-Šāh (according to Bābor, a Qepčaq from Turkestan) continued to rule Ḥeṣār and all the other provinces mentioned above, except Badaḵšān (Bābor-nāma, ed. Mano, I, p. 42; tr. Thackston, p. 63; according to Mirzā Moḥammad-Ḥaydar, p. 163, Badaḵšān also belonged to Ḵosrow-Šāh). In 901/1495-96, Sultan Ḥosayn Bayqara tried to dislodge Ḵosrow-Šāh and unsuccessfully besieged Ḥeṣār (this campaign is described in detail in Ḥabib al-siār, IV, pp. 203-6, and Bābor-nāma, ed. Mano, I, pp. 49-53; tr. Thackston, pp. 68-71). Ḵosrow-Šāh ruled this entire region as an independent ruler until the Uzbek conquest. The economy of the region prospered (cf. Davidovich, 1983, pp. 202-23), enabling him to maintain an army of 20,000 soldiers (Bābor-nāma, ed. Mano, I, p. 42; tr. Thackston, p. 63; Moḥammad-Ḥaydar, p. 165). By this time the population of the region already included many Turkic groups: Čaḡatays, Moḡols, and some Uzbeks who had separated from Šaybāni Khan. The advance of Šaybāni Khan caused great concern to Ḵosrow-Šāh (Moḥammad-Ḥaydar, pp. 163-64), but he refused to help the Timurid Badiʿ-al-Zamān Mirzā to fight the Uzbeks (Ḥabib al-siār, IV, pp. 293-94). In 910/1504-05, Šaybāni Khan conquered Ḥeṣār, which was given to two brothers, Ḥamza Sultan and Mahdi Sultan (Bābor-nāma, ed. Mano, I, pp. 190-91; tr. Thackston, p. 164; Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ, pp. 96-116, 157-62, 172-87, 211-15; Moḥammad-Ḥaydar, pp. 178-79). In 917/1511, Ḥeṣār was briefly reconquered by Bābor, and Ḥamza Sultan and Mahdi Sultan were put to death (Ḥabib al-siār, IV, pp. 523-24; Moḥammad-Ḥaydar, pp. 243-45), but in 918/1512 Ḥeṣār was finally conquered by the Uzbeks (on the devastation and famine caused by the Moḡols who fought the Uzbeks on the side of Bābor see Moḥammad-Ḥaydar, p. 262), after which the province was given to the sons of Ḥamza Sultan and Mahdi Sultan (Bābor-nāma, ed. Mano, I, p. 556; tr. Thackston, p. 411).

Since then Ḥeṣār has remained under Uzbek rule. During the first half of the 16th century the province was an appanage of the sons of Ḥamza Sultan: first of all Šāh-Moḥammad, who was killed during the Uzbek siege of Herat in 957/1550 (see Rumlu, II, p. 444), and then his younger brother, Timur Aḥmad, who, for two years (963-964/1556-57) even claimed to be the supreme khan of the Uzbeks of Transoxania (see Davidovich, 1952; idem, 1992, pp. 56-59). In 982/1574, Ḥeṣār was conquered by ʿAbd-Allāh Khan, who gave the province to his cousin Uzbek Sultan (Ḥāfeẓ-e Tanïš, pt. 2, foll. 194b-199a, tr., pp. 165-73). During the 17th century, Ḥeṣār was governed by various Ashtarkhanid (Janid) princes, who were mostly subordinate to the Ashtarkhanid ruler of Balkh (see Eskandar Beg, tr. Savory, II, p. 797; Moḥammad-Yusof Monši, tr. Semenov, pp. 221-24; Burton, p. 270), but, with the decline of the Ashtarkhanids, the predominant role in Ḥeṣār seems to have been gradually acquired by the Uzbek tribe Yüz; the strongest one in the region (erroneously referred to by Barthold, “Ḥiṣār,” and later repeated by Spuler, “Ḥiṣār,” as a Turkmen tribe; the error comes from the name Turkman-Juz, which is, in fact, the name of one of the three main clans of the Uzbek tribe Yüz; see Karmysheva, pp. 95-96, 222-31). Another numerous Uzbek group was the Lakay tribe, who lived in the southern part of Ḥeṣār (Karmysheva, pp. 231-36; erroneously called “Tajik tribe” in Spuler, “Ḥiṣār”). Tajiks (the Ḡalča) were pushed to the higher mountain areas mainly in the north of the region. After the collapse of the central authority in Bukhara in the first half of the 18th century, the Yüz tribal chieftans became independent rulers of Ḥeṣār, which at that time included, besides Ḥeṣār proper, also the territory south of it, as far down as the Amu-Daryā (already in the 17th century work Baḥr al-asrār, it is said that Ṣaḡāniān, or Čaḡāniān, “is now known under the name Ḥeṣār, because its center is Ḥeṣār-e Šādmān”; see Maḥmud ebn Wali, p. 58). Moḥammad-Raḥim Khan, the first ruler of the Manḡït dynasty in Bukhara, conquered Ḥeṣār by the end of his reign, in 1171/1758, after a long campaign, during which the Ḡalčas and the Turks of Ḥeṣār offered a stubborn resistance. After his victory, Moḥammad-Raḥim notoriously ordered many “minarets” of severed heads of killed and executed enemies to be erected throughout the province (see Karminagi, foll. 289a-306b). However, a year later Moḥammad-Raḥim Khan died (ibid., foll. 308b, 310a), and Ḥeṣār became independent again. Later on, for almost a century, the rulers of Ḥeṣār would choose sometimes to recognize the authority of Bukhara, though they often remained independent, especially after the mid-19th century. In 1283/1866, Amir Moẓaffar-al-Din conquered Ḥeṣār, but in 1285/1868, after the Russian conquest of Bukhara, all eastern provinces of the Khanate of Bukhara seceded again. In 1287/1870 Moẓaffar-al-Din, with the military help of the Russians, who wanted to “compensate” the amir for his loss of Samarqand, finally conquered Ḥeṣār and incorporated it into the khanate. He divided the province into five provinces (velāyat), including Ḥeṣār proper; the governor of Ḥeṣār proper had the title of qošbegi, while the governors of the four other provinces, as well as those of Kulāb and Baljuvān, were subordinate to him. In 1886-1906, Ḥeṣār was governed by Āstāna-Qul, the amir’s half-brother, who received the highest Bukharan title of atalïq and enjoyed a very high status; after his death, until the end of the Khanate of Bukhara (1920), the governors of Ḥeṣār changed frequently (on the last period of the Bukharan rule in Ḥeṣār, see Khamraev, pp. 25-39). The seat of the governor remained in Ḥeṣār-e Šādmān, but in summer the bek, as well as most of the population of the town, would go to the town Qarataḡ, higher in the mountains, because of its much better climate (Qarataḡ was totally destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1907). Other towns of the province included Dushanbe, Regār, and Deh-e Now (pronounced Denaw).

European (exclusively Russian) descriptions and travel accounts began to appear from 1875 onwards, when the Russian authorities organized the first “Gissar Expedition” under N. A. Maev; subsequently, the region was visited frequently by Russian scholars, officials, and military officers. (See Pirumshoev, for a good summary of the study of Ḥeṣār by Russian researchers before the revolution; for a bibliography of this literature, see Bregel, pp. 814-27.)

After the revolution in Russia and the fall of the Khanate of Bukhara, Ḥeṣār became one of the main centers of the anti-communist guerilla movement (basmači), whose local leader, Ebrāhim Bek Lakay, continued fighting until 1927, when he fled to Afghanistan (see Togan, pp. 438-39, 463-67, 470-471; in 1931 he returned from Afghanistan, but was captured and executed, see Hayit, p. 278). With the creation of the Soviet republics, Ḥeṣār formed the core region of Tajikistan, including its capital Dushanbe.


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Barthold, Turkestan3. Idem, “Ča-ghāniyān,” and “Ḥiṣār,” in EI. C. Edmund Bosworth, “Muḥtādjids,” in EI2. Yuri Bregel, Bibliography of Islamic Central Asia, pt. 2, Bloomington, 1995, pp. 814-27.

Audrey Burton, The Bukharans: A Dynastic, Diplomatic and Commercial History 1550-1702, New York, 1997.

Elena Abramovna Davidovich, “K mednym nominalam kontsa XV—nachala XVI vv. po dannym chekana Khisara i Kunduza” (About the copper coins of the end of the 15th–early 16th centuries according to the mints of Ḥeṣār and Qonduz), in Soobshcheniya Tadzhikskogo filiala AN SSSR, vol. 24, Stalinabad, 1950, pp. 39-46.

Idem, “Iz istorii Khisara v XVI v. (Po numizmaticheskim dannym)” (From the history of Ḥeṣār in the 16th century [according to numismatic data]), Izvestiya Akademii nauk Tadzhikskoiĭ SSR: Otdelenie obshchestvennykh nauk 2, 1952, pp. 27-36.

Idem, “Novye numizmatcheskie materialy dlya kharakteristiki tovarno-denezhnykh otnosheniĭ na territorii yuzhnogo Tadzhikistana v XV v.” (New numismatic material for the characterization of the commodity-money relations on the territory of southern Tajikistan in the 15th century), in Abdurakhman Dzhami: E`pokha, zhizn’ i tvorchestvo, Dushanbe, 1965, pp. 31-50.

Idem, Istoriya denezhnogo obrashcheniya srednevekovoĭ Sredneĭ Azii (mednye monety XV—pervoĭ chetverti XVI v. v Maverannakhre) (History of the circulation of money in medieval Central Asia [copper coins of the 15th–first quarter of the 16th centuries in Mavarannahr]), Moscow, 1983.

Idem, Korpus zolotykh i serebryanykh monet Sheĭbanidov: XVI vek (Corpus of the gold and silver coins of the Shaybanids: 16th century), Moscow, 1992.

Idem and Akhror Mukhtarov, Stranitsy istorii Gissara (Pages from the history of Ḥeṣār), Dushanbe, 1969.

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È. Gulyamova, “Arkheologicheskie pamyatniki Gissarskoĭ doliny” (Archeological monuments of the Ḥeṣār valley), in Arkheologi rasskazyvayut, Stalinabad, 1959, pp. 180-91.

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Murat Khamraev, Ocherki istorii Khisarskogo bekstva kontsa XIX i nachala XX vv. (Sketches of the history of the Ḥeṣār beklik at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries), Stalinabad, 1959 (Trudy Akademii nauk Tadzhikskoĭ SSR, vol. 114).

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Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. Navāʾi. Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ, Šaybāni-nāma, ed. P. M. Melioranskiĭ and A. N. Samoĭlovich, St. Petersburg, 1908.

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Eskandar Beg, tr. Savory. Moḥammad-Yusof Monši, Taḏkera-ye Moqim-ḵāni, tr. A. A. Semenov, as Mukim-khanskaya istoriya, Tashkent, 1956.

Bertold Spuler, “Ḥiṣār,” in EI2 III, pp. 483-84.

Ḥāfeẓ Tanïš, Šarafnāma-ye šāhi, ed. and tr. M. A. Salakhetdinova, pt. 2, Moscow, 1989.

Ahmed Zeki Velidi Togan, Türkili (Türkistan) ve yakın tarihi, Istanbul, 1981.

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Šaraf-al-Din Yazdi, Ẓaf-arnāma, facs. ed. Tashkent, 1972, foll. 95a, 97b, 98a, 125a, 195b, 196b, 199a.

(Yuri Bregel)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 22, 2012

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