IN THE STEPPE OF CENTRAL ASIA
by Paul Hinson,
Webified by John Switzer
One often overlooked area of study relating to the empire building period of the late nineteenth century is that of the Russian conquest of Central Asia. The absorption of "Turkestan" into the Russian Empire commenced in the 1830's and concluded in the 1890's with the seizure of part of the Pamir Mountains above the Afghan Panhandle. The campaigns in ways resembled British and French operations in North Africa and Asia and also the U.S. Army's operations against the Plains and Desert Indians of the American West.
Early Russian campaigns were conducted across the barren Ust-Urt Plateau and along the Syr Darya. Later operations were waged across the near desert-like climates and conditions of the Kyzyl Kum and the Kara Kum. Indeed much of the fighting between Russia and Kokand, Khiva, and Bokhara was for control of the oases complexes in these near-deserts. The expeditions against the Turcomen and the Afghans were conducted from the ports of Chikislar and Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea. Again much of the fighting against the Turcomen was for control of oases.
The campaigns in Central Asia, much like the African and Asian campaigns of France and Britain, made, and in a few cases, broke the reputations of several top Russian officers. Among the more famous, or infamous, of these officers were Mikhail Chernyayev, Konstantin Kaufman, and Mikhail Skobelev. Of the three, Chernyayev enjoyed the best reputation among friend and foe. Called "Shemail", or the "Lion Viceroy" by the Uzbeks, he was considered gallant, chivalrous, and was generally admired by both sides.
His successor was Kaufman. Although an able administrator, Kaufman was also highly ambitious, cold, calculating, and ruthless. His name is still cursed in Uzbekistan and parts of Turkmen SSR. Skobelev was the flamboyant one of the three. Known popularly among the Russian soldiery as The White General, Skobelev always:
Struck by the "gleam" in his eyes, the Tekke Turcomen knew Skobelev as "Goz Kanle", or "Bloody Eyes".
Basically the Russian philosophy of warfare in Central Asia was best spelled out by Skobelev:
Both Kaufman and Skobelev at times employed the "Phil Sheridan Philosophy of Native Relations" (i.e. "The only good Indian is a dead Indian'). Skobelev would justify the slaughter of the defenders of Geok-Tepe as necessary to keep the rest of the Turcomen peaceful. It worked.
Opposing the Russian advance were the peoples of the Emirate of Bokhara, the Khanates of Kokand and Khiva, and the nomadic Turcomen. Except for the Turcomen, who were primarily nomadic herdsmen, stockbreeders, and raiders, and the Kirghiz, who were seasonal nomads around and below the Tien-Shan Mountains, most of the people of "Turkestan" were farmers or tradesmen. The villages and towns around the oases were populated by "Sarts," or "town-dwellers". These were mostly Uzbeks and Tadjiks.
Herein lay the two fundamental weaknesses of the three Muslim states. First, there was much tension and often trouble between the nomads and the Sarts. Indeed, it was the inability, or supposed inability, of the rulers of Turkestan to control nomadic raiding into Russian territories which furnished the overt excuse for the occupation of the region by Tsarist forces. Social conflict which developed into civil war between the Sarts and Kypchak Uzbek nomads led to the seizure of Kokand by Russian forces. Secondly, the citizens of the three states saw themselves not as Khivans, Kokandians, or Bokharans but as Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Kirghiz, or Turcomen. Even then, the only one of these ethnic groups which had a sense of "nationality" or ethnic cohesion was the Turcomen.
Militarily, the Khanates and Bokhara each had something resembling regular armed forces. In Bokhara, the regular army consisted of an infantry corps, the Sarbaz, and an artillery corps, the Topchi. Bokharan cavalry, the Sipah, was locally raised by the Emir's provincial governors, or hakims. It was to the hakims and not the Emir that the sipahis owed their allegiance. Being very poorly equipped and generally lacking a sense of "nationalism", the Bokharan army was ill thought of by foreign observers, primarily Persians, in the 1850's.
Despite having a reputation of low fighting qualities, the Bokharans gave a good account of themselves on occasion. Yet the fact that Kokand and Khiva, like Bokhara, had something resembling regular armies made the states prone to fight set-piece battles. This simply made the Russian task easier.
From Peter the Great to Perovsky
Russian operations against the states of Central Asia date back to the time of Peter the Great. During his reign, three Cossack expeditions were sent against Khiva. The third campaign, some 5,000 men led by Prince Cherkassy-Betovich, in 1717 successfully occupied the city of Khiva but was gradually exterminated by Turcomen as the troops withdrew toward Orenburg. Cherkassy-Betovich was killed and his head was sent to the emir of Bokhara as a battle trophy. The Emir tactfully declined to accept the gift.
Not for 122 years did the Russians mount another campaign in Turkestan. In 1839, General V. A. Perovsky, then governor-general of Orenburg, led a force of 5,000 men against Khiva in retaliation for nomad (usually Turcoman) raids into Russian territories. These raids had carried off not only cattle and sheep, but people for the Central Asian slave markets. Knowing the climatic and topographical difficulties which had confronted his predecessors, Perovsky decided to wage a winter campaign.
Heavy snowstorms and ice proved as daunting as the summer heat. The Russians had hoped for light snows, expecting to feed their animals on the grasses underneath. Running short of forage for the animals and having lost a good portion of his column, Perovsky was forced to return to Orenburg without coining close to Khiva. As it was, almost two-thirds of the men and nearly all the pack camels perished. Shortly thereafter, Perovsky was transferred.
Even though he was out of Central Asia for eight years, Perovsky did not let the problems of that frontier slip from his mind. With the knowledge gained from the hardship of the 1839 expedition, he developed a plan by which Khiva would be approached via the oases of Fergana and Kokand. Perovsky believed that only after the Russians gained control of these two regions and introduced Russian shipping onto the Aral Sea, the Syr Darya, and the Amu Darya could military operations be successfully undertaken against Khiva. Thus he proposed to seize Khiva by occupying Tashkent, Kokand, Bokhara, and Samarkand first.
Returning to his old post at Orenburg in 1847, Perovsky managed to push Russian frontier outposts and forts cast of the Aral Sea. By 1854, Russian garrisons extended from the Aral Sea along the Syr Darya to the Chu River and then to Fort Vierney (now called Alma-Ata). Further to the cast, Siberian columns had worked south from Semipalatinsk to the Ili River and eventually to Fort Vierney.
The peoples of Turkestan had not been idle while the Russians were on the move. When the Russians had started construction along the Syr Darya, the Khan of Kokand moved troops into Tashkent, Chimkent, the city of Turkestan, and Ak-Mechet (now called Kyzl-Orda). The two sides finally collided at Ak-Mechet, which Perovsky took by assault in 1853. Over the next ten years frontier skirmishes and raids from Bokhara and Kokand became the routine and eventually provided Tsarist commanders with an excuse to push farther south.
In 1860, the Kokandians invaded the Kazakh-populated Russian province of Seminech'ye and attempted to foment rebellion among their co-religionists. Some 20,000 Kokandians laid siege to the Russian outpost at Uzun-Agach. In the tradition of the American Western movies, a column of some 800 troops and six guns, led by one Lieutenant Colonel Kolpakovsky, marched to rescue the trapped garrison. In open battle, Kolpakovsky defeated and routed the Kokandian host. According to source materials, Muslim cavalry showed great courage but the infantry and artillery of the Kokandians left much to be desired.
The strategic and political importance of the actions at Uzun-Agach vastly outweigh the military value of the siege and Kolpakovsky's battle, particularly to the Russians. The actions reactivated Russian desires for, and interest in, Central Asia. But General Perovsky had left Orenburg for good in 1860. He was succeeded by General A. P. Bezak, who would hold the governor-generalship until 1865.
The Campaign for Tashkent
After the failure of a diplomatic mission to Khiva and Bokhara, the objective of which had been to gain the aid of those states against Kokand, Bezak visited the Syr Darya line in late 1863 and determined that the Kokand city of Tashkent, population 100,000, would be the initial target for an offensive. He planned to use two columns --one from Ak-Mechet, now renamed Perovsk, and the other from Fort Vierney in Siberia. The columns were to unite below Tashkent and then seize the city. With Tashkent in Russian hands, Kokand could be humbled and the trade routes between China and Khiva/Bokhara under Russian control.
When the Tsar's government finally determined that a diplomatic solution was not forthcoming, Bezak was given permission to commence military operations. On May 1, 1864 Colonel Mikhail Chernyayev led some 2600 men out of Fort Vierney and Colonel N. A. Verevkin left Perovsk with 1600 men. On the Siberian front, operations had actually been going on for two years. In the autumn of 1862, the cities of Takmak and Pishpek (now Frunze), after having been seized and lost in 1860, had been reoccupied by the Russians. The following summer, the Kokandian fortress of Suzak had been successfully stormed.
Chernyayev's first big test came at the Kokandi town of Auli-Ata (now Dzambul). On June 4 the Russians took the town at a cost three wounded. The defending garrison; some 1500 men equipped with old flintlocks, lances, and a few antique cannon; suffered nearly 700 casualties.
Marching up the Syr Darya, Colonel Verevkin's column captured the city of Turkestan eight days after Auli-Ata fell. Russian losses amounted to five dead and 25 wounded. In September, 1864, the two columns united below the Kokandi city of Chimkent, Chernyayev assuming command of the whole force.
Seeing the danger to his frontier and realm, Khudyar Khan, the ruler of Kokand, lost little time in reinforcing the endangered city. Under his personal leadership, the initial Russian assault on the city was repulsed. A prolonged siege was averted by fate, or luck. Thinking the Russian threat at end, the Khan turned and attacked Bokhara, leaving some 10,000 men to garrison Chimkent.
In fact, the Russians had suffered only a temporary set back. On September 22, 1864 Chernyayev's troops stormed Chimkent after a four day siege. Most of the garrison either fled or melted into the population. The Russians suffered two killed and seventeen wounded.
Despite the success of the expedition thus far, the colonels received orders from St. Petersburg to stop the invasion of Kokand The other European powers, particularly Britain, had lodged official protests against Russian expansion in Central Asia. Prince Gorchakov, the Tsar's foreign minister, assured Britain and France that the Russians would stop their encroachments toward Afghanistan.
The Russian government showed little ability to control its commanders in the field however. Five days after Chimkent was captured, Chernyayev, newly promoted to major general, moved on toward Tashkent with 1500 men. The Russians attacked that city on October 14 but were repulsed with a loss of eighteen dead and sixty wounded. Chernyayev was forced to fall back on Chimkent.
The failure of the attack on Tashkent gave heart to the Kokandis, who made raids deep into Russian territory. The city of Turkestan was attacked unsuccessfully by 10,000 of the Khan's forces. Shortly thereafter the Kokandis cut off and surrounded a sotnia of 112 Cossacks under Captain V. R. Serov outside the walls of Turkestan. For three days the Cossacks repelled attacks and inflicted heavy casualties on their enernies. Finally, having lost 57 men and running out of food and water, the Russians managed to break out of the trap by launching a charge through the Kokandi lines. The survivors reached safety in Turkestan. Not long afterwards, the Kokand Army abandoned its efforts against Turkestan when word reached its commanders that a Russian relief force was approaching. Although a minor action and certainly no Russian victory, Serov's "last stand" paved the way for Chernyayev's victories the following summer by cracking the will of the Khan's army.
Again operations were hafted as the Russian government debated its options and the wisdom of risking a confrontation with the rest of Europe. Once more events forced the hand of the Tsar's ministers. Muzzafar al-Din, emir of Bokhara, massed his army at Samarkand to check further Russian advances and to seize some Kokandi territory. As the Russians were on the defensive, Kudyar Khan dispatched a good portion of the remains of his army to counter the Bokharan invasion, which was heading toward the Kokandi fortress of Ura Tube.
Meanwhile Chernyayev moved to capitalize on the threat to Kokand. Fearing that the Bokharan invasion was aimed at the seizure of Tashkent, only fifteen miles from Russian territory, the Russians sprang into action. On April 29,1865 Chernyayev smashed a force of 7,000 Kokandis at Fort Niaz-Bek, which controlled the water supply and irrigation systems of Tashkent and its environs. Eleven days later, with 1300 men and twelve guns, the general defeated Alim Kul, the senior Kokandi general, before the gates of Tashkent. While the Russians lost ten wounded, the Kokandi army of 6,000 men and forty guns lost its leader and over 300 others killed.
In desperation the Khan and the citizens of Tashkhara appealed to Bokhara for help. On June 9 a small Bokharan force entered the city and took control of its defense. Again fearful of European hostility, the Russian government decided that Tashkent was not to be attacked. Once more events on the scene would frustrate the Tsar's
Chernyayev, upon hearing that Bokharan troops were participating in the defense of Tashkent, was determined to settle matters with Kokand. First, he sent troops, under Colonel A. K. Abramov, to block the road from Bokhara. Then with 1950 men and twelve guns, the general marched on Tashkent. Upon arrival he found that the city was defended by some 30,000 Kokandis and Bokharans with 63 cannon to back them.
Despite the odds, Chernyayev was determined to carry on. On June 14, 1865 the Russian attack began. A series of feints along the whole of Tashkent's sixteen mile perimeter encouraged the defenders to disperse their troops to guard each of the city's fourteen gates and the intervening walls.
The following morning a picked force of Russian infantry worked its way over the walls near the Kamalan Gate. Spiking the closest guns, the forlorn hope threw open the gate for its supporting columns. The first man through, holding his large cross high above him, was the Orthodox chaplain of the 4th Orenburg Line Battalion. About the same time, a second assault group seized the Kokand Gate to the east. The city's citadel fell quickly and, after a day-long street battle, the civic leaders surrendered. By June 17 Tashkent was in Russian hands and Chaplain Andrei Y. Malov had won a military cross for valor.
Once again casualties were tremendously lopsided, with the defenders suffering hundreds of losses and the Russians 25 killed and 89 wounded.
Upon entering the city, Chernyayev went to work soothing the conquered. He promised to respect the Islamic religion and local customs and that Muslims would not be inducted into the Russian Army. These proclamations, plus a one-year moratorium on taxes, quickly quieted Tashkent's population. What made the subjugation of Tashkent somewhat bizarre was the fact that prior to the June 14 assault, Chernyayev had received orders from his government and superiors not to attack Tashkent. Possibly suspecting the contents of a dispatch envelop he received on that morning, the general simply chose not to open the message until after the gates had been forced. Faced with a fait accompli, the Russian government annexed the newly conquered lands and made Chernyayev the military governor of "Turkestan."
After the debacle at Tashkent, the Emir of Bokhara invaded Kokand and, following the occupation of Khodzent and Kokand, Khudyar Khan submitted and acknowledged the Bokhara Emir as his superior. In a position to magnanimous, Muzaffar appointed the Khan to be his viceroy for Kokand. In response, Chernyayev moved troops to the south bank of the Chirchik River.
Meanwhile talks between the Emir and the Russians produced a stalemate in October 1865. To force the issue, Chernyayev seized some Bokharan merchants then in Tashkent. In retaliation Muzaffar ordered the Russian diplomatic team arrested in November. Shortly afterward, all Russians in Bokhara were arrested.
Chernyayev had a new war. Intelligence discovered that while treating with the Russians, the Bokharans had been also entertaining envoys from Kokand, Khiva, Shahr-I-Sabz, and Afghanistan in an effort to form an anti-Russian coalition. Therefore on January 12,1866 Chernyayev sent a small force across the Syr Darya at Chinaz. The Emir countered by massing his army near Samarkand and entering into serious negotiations with Khiva and the Turcomen nomads.
On the last day of January, 1866 Chernyayev took a large column across the frozen Syr Darya and marched against Djizak, a Bokharan frontier fortress and trade center which controlled access to the Zerashan Valley, the heart of the emirate. As he advanced the general sent a message to the Emir that he was not seeking to conquer Bokhara but simply sought the release of the captive Russian diplomats and traders. Further, the general said that he was marching on Djizak because this was the closest oasis to Bokhara large enough to service his troops.
The march on Djizak proved to be Chernyayev's undoing. The army camped about five miles from the oasis Attempts were made to buy firewood and hay but the local hakim rejected all offers. Chernyayev sent a small force to collect the denied supplies and the Bokharans fired on the foragers.
Short of forage and fuel, the Russians gradually realized that the Emir had no intention of releasing his prisoners Finally on February 11, 1866, after deciding not to assault Djizak, Chernyayev ordered a retreat to the Syr Darya. Unknown to him, three days earlier St. Petersburg had issued an order for his recall. Governmental disapproval of Chernyayev's thrust into Bokharan territory, Prince Gorchakov's frustration over getting the general to abide by government policy, the jealousy of N. A. Kryzanovsky, the new governor-general at Orenburg, combined to force him home in disgrace. Ironically, Chernyayev had been awarded a sword of honor only months earlier by the Tsar. Shernail was ignorant of his fate until the arrival in Tashkent of General D. I. Romanovskii, who informed Chernyayev that he was to assume command on the Syr Darya.
To make sure that the new governor of Turkestan would not have the freedom of action which his predecessor has assumed, Miliutin and Gorchakov, the Tsar's ministers of war and foreign relations issued Romanovskii a joint set of instructions. Unfortunately their orders were so broad and, at times, vague, the general was almost free to do as he pleased.
Thus when Romanovskii joined his command at Chinaz in March, 1866 and learned of the frequent skirmishes between Russians and Bokharans and of Emir Muzaffar's request to Khiva for help, he proposed to strengthen Russian's position in the region by weakening that of Bokhara. This he would do by seizing strategic villages and towns, hoping that St. Petersburg would be able to convince Britain and Persia of the necessity of such moves as well as his country' s peaceful intentions.
After receiving a Bokharan delegation demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops while avoiding the subject of the captive diplomats, Romanovskii started moving his column in early May, 1866. On May 6, with 3600 men, he routed a force of 5,000 Bokharan regulars and 35,000 Khazaks from an entrenched position near Irdzar. Muzaffar, who had commanded his troops in person, fled with the great bulk of his army, leaving over 1,000 dead on the field of battle. The Russian body count amounted to one dead and eleven wounded.
Instead of using the victory to secure the release of the diplomats and then withdrawing, Romanovskii decided to drive a wedge between Bokhara and its new vassal Kokand. Thus he turned his column up the Syr Darya. On May 14 Nau was entered without opposition. Ten days later the Russians stormed Khojend (Leninabad). At a cost of 5 killed, 122 wounded, and 6 missing Romanovskii controlled access to the Fergana Valley and a convenient staging point for further operations against either Bokhara or Kokand. A more immediate result of the battles at Irdzar and Khojend was the release of the diplomatic mission by the Emir in early June, 1866.
The summer of 1866 passed rather peacefully. There was a truce with Bokhara. Furthermore, although a treaty with Kokand was still two years off, Khudyar Khan of Kokand had accepted Russian peace terms after the fall of Khojend. In August, General Khryzanovsky appeared in Tashkent. Officially he was there to annex Tashkent, Kojend, and the territories in between to the Russian Empire. The Bokharan threat had forced Alexander II and Gorchakov to abandon plans for the creation of an "independent" state in the new territories. He was also there to take personal command of operations against Bokhara. He was dissatisfied with Romanovskii's handling of the truce talks with the Bokharans and, once again, jealous of his subordinate's successes.
Khyzanovsky immediately announced to the Emir via Romanovskii that he was waiting in Tashkent to conclude peace. To strengthen his chief's hand, Romanovskii threatened to renew hostilities unless a Bokharan envoy was dispatched to meet the governor-general. With no alternatives available, Muzaffar sent a negotiator. Talks broke down almost as soon as they started and Khryzanovsky issued an ultimatum on September 13.
After a week elapsed, Russian troops moved out of Khojend. Three days later when the ultimatum expired on September 23, Khryzanovsky had an army on the Bokharan frontier. Two days into October the fortress of Ura-Tyube was captured. On the l8th Djizak fell to the Russians. The occupation of that city ended the 1866 campaign season.
The Bokharan position was obviously weakening steadily. After the fall of Djizak, the semi-autonomous hakims of Shahr-i-Sabez deserted the Emir and declared their willingness to cooperate with a Russia advance on Bokhara. The following January an appeal by the Emir to the Viceroy of India for help was rejected. In the mean time, peace talks with the Russians had resumed once again but, as before, had failed.
These diplomatic and political maneuvers had carried on until the early spring of 1867. During the first months of the new year, Khryzanovsky realized that although he held Djizak, his army was in a precarious position. To truly be secure in Djizak, he learned that the Russians also had to control the fortress at Iangi-Kurgan, which was still under Bokharan occupation. Just as Niaz-Bek had controlled the water supply of Tashkent, Iangi-Kurgan served that function for Djizak. Thus on May 25,1867 Colonel Abramov led a column against Iangi-Kurgan and successfully stormed the fort.
In December, 1866 a memorandum written by Gorchakov best summarized the situation in Central Asia and the actions undertaken by the generals there:
No matter how brilliant the recent successes of our arms, in a political respect
they have achieved no satisfactory results whatever
The obvious solution was to make the field commanders more responsive to the wishes and policies of their government. Therefore on the recommendation of Miliutin, supported by Gorchakov, the Russian government raised the Turkestan Oblast, or province, to governor-general status. Much to the disgust of Khryzanovsky and many others who had been in Central Asia for years-the new governor-general was to be an outsider: Konstantin P. Kaufman, one time adjutant general and most rec6ndy the governor-general of the "Northwest Region", or Russia's Polish provinces.
Ambitious, vain, and hungry for glory, Kaufman reveled in the pomp and ceremony of his new position. The displays and etiquette carried out by the new governor-general earned him the title of "Yarim Padishah", or the "Half Emperor", from his new subjects. Despite his character flaws, or maybe because of them, Kaufman also displayed a good deal of administrative ability.
In September, 1867, shortly after Kaufman's assumption of power, negotiations conducted by Khryzanovsky resulted in a treaty to which the Russians quickly agreed as it was highly favorable to them. Unfortunately conditions in Central Asia continued to work against any kind of peaceful solution to Russo-Bokharan problems. The Emir was again attempting to form a coalition with Kokand, Khiva, Kashgar, and Afghanistan. This time he was backed by the British and the Turks. Yet again, however, Muzaffar's efforts were fruitless.
In September, 1867, one of' the Emir's hakims had seized a Russian patrol between Chinaz and Djizak. The Russian officer leading the patrol was tortured, forcibly converted to Islam, and made to serve as a military instructor for the Emir's army. By November of that year, hakims were frequently leading raids into Russian territory.
Eventually Kaufman realized that the Emir, once again, was stalling for time. Thus on December 19, he wrote to the Bokharans asking that Muzaffar ratify the peace, treaty and that the captive Russian soldiers be returned to Tashkent. To make sure that he need only fight on one front, Kaufman concluded a treaty with Kokand in 1868, effectively making the Khan a vassal of the Tsar.
While Kaufman prepared for war, Muzaffar al-Din's position was becoming shakier. The ulema criticized him for even talking to the Russians and threatened to replace him with his eldest son. Further, the Emir managed to alienate the Uzbek aristocracy by curbing their raiding.
Finally in late March 9,1868, the Bokharan war party, composed of ulema, hakims, and merchants, proclaimed a ghazawat, or holy war, to defend country and religion against the Russian infidel. In Samarkand the garrison had to be called out to restore order after the mullahs had roused the populace to a jihad. In Bokhara the Emir was forced to flee from his capital to Kermine, where he finally gave in to the war hawks and himself proclaimed a ghazawat. By mid-April the Bokharan army, led by the Emir in person, was moving toward the Zarafshan River.
Kaufman learned of these developments on April 8, 1868. Even though war preparations had continued, the March release of the imprisoned Russians had breathed hope into the prospects for a peaceful settlement. The subsequent declaration of a holy war and the buildup of Bokharan forces at Samarkand finally caused the Russian government to approve an expedition against the emirate.
When the Emir refused to move his army away from the Zarafshan River, Kaufman marched into Bokharan territory. Samarkand fell on May 2 after the Russians had routed the Bokharan host outside the city gates the previous day. With a 700 man garrison left in Timur's ancient capital, Kaufman pushed on after the Bokharan army. Urgut was taken on May 14 and Katta-Kurgan four days later. After. the Russians occupied the, latter, they once again sent a peace proposal to Muzaffar, who rejected the offer and dealt harshly with the two Persians who had conveyed it.
Finally on June 2, following the rejection of the latest peace offer, the Bokharans turned to fight. They occupied the Zerbulak Heights overlooking Katta-Kurgan and entrenched the site. Some 6,000 Sarbaz, 14 guns, and 15,000 Sipahis were dug in and waiting for the Russians. Without hesitation, Kaufman sent his 3,500 men up the slopes. The Bokharans were routed, having suffered lost a cost of 38 wounded, the governor-general had broken the back of the Bokharan army and opened the way to the city of Bokhara.
Despite this situation, Kaufman was unable to exploit his success. Not long after the Bokharans had fled the field, word reached him that the garrison at Samarkand was in desperate condition. On June I the city had risen against the Russian garrison, which managed to gain the citadel. 700 Russian soldiers, commanded by one Major Shtempel, were set upon by overwhelming numbers: 15,000 Samarkandians; 15,000 other Bokharans and Khazaks; and 25,000 men from the semi-autonomous Bokharan province of Shahr-i-Sabz.
Kaufman quickly turned his army around and marched to relieve the beleaguered garrison. When his troops lifted the siege on June 8, they discovered how near had been disaster. Shtempel's men were running out of supplies and ammunition and were nearing physical exhaustion.
Ten days after Samarkand was relieved, Muzaffar capitulated and asked for peace terms. Paying an indemnity; losing Samarkand, Katta-Kurgan and neighboring territories; and conceding trade rights to the Russians, the Emir realized he merely postponed the inevitable. In September, 1873, Bokhara officially became a Russian protectorate.
The Emir's problems did not cease with the signing of a peace treaty. Those elements in Bokhara which had become dissatisfied with Muzaffar's leadership had withdrawn to the mountainous wilds of Shahr-i-Sabz in eastern Bokhara. Shahr-iSabz, as stated, was semi-autonomous and in a state of near perpetual rebellion against the emir. Feeling it necessary to maintain Muzaffar in place in order to further their own policies in Central Asia, the Russians decided to suppress the rebels. A column led by Abramov, now a major general, was sent into eastern Bokhara. The rebels met the Russian force near the town of Karshi, where the insurgents were crushed during a three-day battle in October, 1868.
As a reward, Abramov became the commandant of the newly created Zarafshan District. Two years later he again had to march into Shahr-i-Sabz and the neighboring. province of Kitab to suppress rebellion. After the capture of Shahr and Kitab cities and the flight of the real hakims, Abramov invited the Emir to resume the governing of the two troublesome provinces. Thereafter, though nominally independent. The Emir was a loyal vassal to the Tsar.