Sunday, November 27, 2005

What is Sogdiana?

It occured to me after someone asked that most people have no idea what Sogdiana is, which makes the name of my blog sort of strange. Sogdiana was the name of much of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in antiquity, up until the middle ages. It got its name from the Sogdian people, who were an ancient Iranian people indigenous to the region. The Sogdians, along with the Bactrians (who lived in Bactriana, just to the south) and the Parthians (who lived in Parthia, to the southwest of Sogdiana) are the primary ancestors of today's Tajiks.
The map here shows where Sogdiana was - to the north you can see the Aral Sea, and to the west, across what is now Turkmenistan, is the Caspian Sea. The cities of Bukhara and Samarqand are also there, and they were important centers of the Sogdian empire. In Persian, particularly the dialects of the former USSR and Afghanistan, there is a considerable Sogdian element in the vocabulary, and Sogdian place names abound in the region. Despite having been one of the most important languages of the region, as the Sogdians were a wealthy and cultured Silk Road civilization, after the Arab conquest the language went into decline. By the 10th century or so, it was largely dead, with one exception. In the Yaghnob valley in Tajikistan, a few thousand people, the Yaghnobis, continue to speak a Sogdian dialect. Thus, modern Tajiks, particularly those from such Sogdian centers as Bukhara, continue to have a strong sense of attachment to the Sogdian heritage. I have also put a map of Central Asia as it is today, just to get a sense of what part of the world I am referring to in many of my posts. I would also include Afghanistan in Central Asia, both from a geographical and from an ethnolinguistic point of view.

Map Credits: Sogdia map -, Central Asia map -


At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Sarbador said...

Saying that Sogdian people are ancestors of only tajiks is a big mistake. Sogdiana mainly was on the territory of Uzbekistan and a little slice of Tajikistan. Modern tajik language is a quite different lang. and have nothing common with sogdian.
At different periods of time capitals of sogdiana were Samarkand and Kesh, which means Uzbekistan and again Uzbekistan.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger TojikYor said...

If you will read the post, the phrase "only Tajiks" is never used, please reread the entry before making unwarranted corrections. Further, the term "Uzbekistan" is a very recent one - Uzbeks did not arrive in the area until long after the Iranian peoples had settled there. Additionally, if you would like a list of Sogdian words in the Tajik language, I would be happy to provide them for you. Since Tajik and Sogdian are both Iranian languages, to say that Tajik has "nothing in common with Sogdian" reflects a complete ignorance of the linguistic reality. The boundaries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were fixed by the Soviets with no regard for the history of the region or the ethnicities living in those areas, so whether an area was located in what is now Tajikistan or not has nothing to do with whether it is a part of Tajik heritage. Bukhara and Samarqand are both proudly and correctly considered important Tajik-Persian cities by the Tajiks. Since the ancestors of the Uzbeks did intermarry with the indigenous Iranian peoples, there is most likely a Sogdian element in the Uzbek population as well. However, Uzbeks are primarily of Turkic origin, which means that their ancestors were Altaic migrants from the east, with an ethnolinguistic origin completely unrelated to the Sogdians or any of the other Iranian (and therefore Indo-European) peoples of Central Asia who were already there when they arrived.

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Sarbador said...

Do you know how the word Tajik appeared? When Arabs invaded Central Asia in the 8th century they were called “taziks” by the Sogdian people.
Moreover there were an ancient Chorasmia or Kwarezm and their lang. was also Iranian but this doesn’t mean that ancient Khwarezmians were ancestors of Tajiks.
Tajiks had formed into a nation in the 11th century and are primarly contained of people of Persia, Khorasan. They came to Central Asia when there already were Sogdiana, Baktria and Chorasmia (Khwarezm).
Tajik lang. was based on literary Farsi lang. and has little differences with it, except some Arabic words and phrases.
Uzbek has also a lot of Persian words. Uzbek has also lots of Russian words; but does it mean that we are ancestors of Russians?
Indo – Europeans… Indo-European. Is it deserved?
If you would say that Tajiks look like indo- Europeans I say that Uzbeks don’t differ.
The fact that “your” lang. is indo –european doesn’t mean that Tajiks are i.-e.
Kazakhs say that they are Europeans but looking at them you won’t say that.

You are insisting that our fathers came to CA after Sogdians. I can say the same about your ancestors too.

Best Regards

At 11:48 AM, Blogger TojikYor said...

The origin of the term is not agreed on by everyone, however, those who subscribe to the "Arab" origin of the name agree that it was ultimately applied to those Iranian-speaking Central Asians who adopted Islam. However, the existence of a similar term for the Iranian-speaking people of Azerbaijan, the Tats, leads other linguists and scholars to believe that this is a term used to denote the non-Turkic peoples of the region who were Iranian speaking. I would challenge you to provide a single source documenting that the Tajiks are the descendants of people that moved from Persia - not once have I ever encountered this theory, although I must say that I tend not to read Uzbek accounts of history, because they tend to be quite ridiculous. To act as if there is no physical difference between Tajiks and Uzbeks is not only ridiculous, it defies all reality. You can also say that the sky is green, but it will continue to be blue in reality - Tajiks appear generally Caucasian (I don't think I can be confused for Mongol), while Uzbeks appear generally Asiatic/Mongol. Whatever fantasies the Uzbek government and Uzbek nationalists may cherish, unfortunately they will be at odds with reality. There is no shame in being a Turk, or the descendant of later migrants from Mongolia, but it's unfortunate that you and others feel this way about your origins. It is also clear that you do not speak either Tajik or Iranian Farsi, because you don't seem to know anything about the linguistic structure or lexicography of either one - I would suggest that before making sweeping statements or comments about either dialect, you should probably know how to speak it. The Persian element in Uzbek exists because Persian was the primary literary language of the area, and thus all the other regional languages, such as Uzbek, Pashto, Turkish, etc. borrowed extensively from it. Further, the Russian words are obviously from recent origin and in part the result of efforts by the Soviets to Russify the languages of Central Asia. Thus, this analogy is entirely irrelevant. Just as Uzbeks fantasize about being the area's original inhabitants, or descendants of Sogdians, or any number of nonsensical theories, Kazakhs may well fantasize about being European. Both groups need to simply accept reality - they are Altaic-speaking, and Asiatic-looking, and any scholarly publication will tell you that both are the descendants of a wave of Altaic, Turkic migrants from the east. This blog is about Tajiks primarily, and will not become subordinate to Uzbek national myths - you and your people may be able to perpetuate both oppression and a nationalist fantasy in Bukhara and other Tajik places wrongly given to Uzbekistan for now, but fortunately I am free in the United States to say the truth. If you can't handle it, please refrain from reading this blog - also, please be advised that any further continuation of this nonsense will be deleted from the blog comments. I am not going to be sidetracked by the exact sort of mentality that led us to have to leave our beloved home, the TAJIK city of Bukhara. You can say that your ancestors came at the same time, but it will continue to be based purely in the fantasies of you and other Uzbek nationalists. Please propagate your pan-Turkic nonsense elsewhere - thank you! "Tojikistonam Samarqand, Tojikistonam Bukhoro" :-)


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