Muhammed Alim Khan, the last emir of Bukhara

Muhammed Alim Khan, 1880-1944 CE, was the last emir of Bukhara, in today’s Uzbekistan. His family considered themselves the direct descendants of Genghis Khan via Nogai, Ghengis’s great-great grand-son. Once the Mongols had been ousted from Russia itself, the Nogai Horde, as it was known, retreated to two main areas, one north of the Black Sea and the other north of the Caspian Sea. From here they conducted raids on Russian territory, absconding with young boys who they sold to the Ottomans in Constantinople as soldiers. [Read more: “The Janissaries and Turkish music“]

Little by little, however, the Nogais were pushed south and eastwards by Russian settlers and by the advancing Russian army. In the end they came to inhabit an area in Central Asia known as Transoxania, with Bukhara and Samarkand as its two main cities. Here they family established themselves as emirs in 1785, but the Russians eventually caught up with them and in 1868 they occupied and annexed much of the emirate. The remainder became a Russian protectorate in which the emirs retained full power only over domestic matters.

At the age of thirteen, Muhammed Alim Khan was sent by his father to Saint Petersburg to study government and modern military techniques. In 1910, when he succeeded his father, he tried various reforms in order to combat corruption but soon realized that any lasting changes only were going to make his own position more precarious. He was challenged by modernizers – a movement known as “Young Bukhara” – who sought a far more radical transformation of society. After the Russian revolution in 1917, these radicals called on the Soviet state to help them and in September 1920 the Red Army intervened and established a “Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic.” Muhammed Alim Khan took refuge in Afghanistan. This was exactly 800 years after Genghis Khan himself first had invaded Bukhara. Muhammed Alim Khan was the last of Genghis Khan’s direct descendant to rule a state.

Muhammed Alim Khan’s daughter, Shukria Raad Alimi, ended up working for Radio Kabul and, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, emigrated to the United States and continued to work as a journalist for Voice of America.

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