Central Asia in the Early Middle Ages,
Introduction to the history of the regions

6. Ustrushana

(p. 114, 122 of Chapter 6, "Ustrushana", N. Negmatov)

Ustrushana was one of the important and large regions of Central Asia. It occupied significant part of the plains on left bank of Sir Darja, the fore-mountains of the western part of the Turkestan range, the upper course of Zeravshan and its main tributaries - Macha and Fan-darja. It bordered Sogd in the west and south-west, and Chach and Ilak - in the north.

The ancient ethnic and cultural history of Ustrushana was closely connected to Sogd. The population spoke a Sogdian dialect, lived a sedentary life in towns, fortified setlements and castlesm and was occupied in agriculture and cattle-breeding. The cultural unity of Ustrushana with the neighbouring regions was noticed by Sjuan Czjan (VII c. AD) and Hoj Chao (VIII c.). Sjuan Czjan even called the whole country between Sujab (Semirech'e) and Kesh (Kashka-darja) with the general name Suli-Sogd, and its population - Sogdians [Negmatov, 1957.p. 49-73; Livshic, Hromov, 1981. p. 348-349].


(Images from the web-site of Falling Rain Genomics, Inc.)

The literary sources dealing with Ustrushana are not numerous. V.V. Bartol'd made a compilation of them at the end of the XIX c. [Bartol'd, 1963. p. 221-226, etc.], which was later expanded and analysed by N.N. Negmatov [Negmatov, 1957]. The chronicle Vej (386-581 AD), the dynastic histories of Suj (581-618 AD) and Tan (688-907 AD) [Bichurin, 1950. T. II], and the travel records of Sjuan Czjan (629-907 AD) and Hoj Chao (722 AD) contain short excerpts about Ustrushana. The works of the Arab, Persian and Tadzhik historians contain much more reliable data about the history of Ustrushana [Negmatov, 1957. p. 8-14].

The name of the region appeared written in several variants: Sudujshana, Sudulishena, Sudushina, Shuajdushana, Kobugjujna, Eastern Chao - in the Chinese chronicles; Ashrusana, Asrushana, Usrushana, Osrushana, Surashana, Sutrushana, etc. - in the Arab and Persian sources [Negmatov, 1957. p. 15-32].

The discovery of the Sogdian documents in the casstle at the mount Mug allowed to clarify its real name - Ustrushana [Livshic, 1962. p. 77-82; Negmatov, Hmel'nickij, 1966. p. 3].

The political history of Ustrushana is poorly documented in the historical sources. The analysis of the available historical evidence points out that Ustrushana drifted away from the Sogdian federation after the decay of the great Central Asian states of the late antiquity. This is shown in the chronicle of Bejshu when describing the historical situation in 435 AD [Bichurin, 1950]. Towards the end of the V-VII c. Ustrushana was part of the Hephthalite and Western Turkic state formations. Still it preserved its internal autonomy and was governed by its own kings - Afshins from the dynasty of Kavus.

Map 6. Ustrushana

a - large towns; b - compexes of tepes, c - tepes; d - mounds; e - settlements; f - modern settlements; g - fortresses and castles 

1. Aktepe, 2. Kallakhona, 3. Korez Kallakhona, 3. Mirzavudtee, 5. Karabuintepe, 6. Jumaloktepe, 7. Karaultepe, 8. Chimbandtepe, 9. Kalai Kukhna, 10. Karnajtepe, 11. Miskintepe, 12. Khokistartepe, 13. Dzharkubtepe, 14. Tulazardak, 15. Kuli Daroz, 16. Kulaltepe, 17. Gori Devona, 18. Kalai Dengaktepe, 19. Tepaipoin, 20. Tepaibolo, 21. Chichkontepe, 22. Mirobdtepe, 23. Karaultepe, 24. Aktepe, 25. Kurgantepe, 26. Surkatskietepe, 27. Majmundzhar, 28. Aktepe, 29. Kalai Kofar, 30. Gil'don, 31. Kalai Dakhkat, 32. Kalai Dakhkakha, 33. Chil'zhudzhra, 34. Urtakurgan, 35. Karaultepe, 36. Baertepe, 37. Kurgantepe, 38. Chilpaktepe, 

39. Bundzhikat, 40. Akhmedbektepe, 41. Vakhmtepe, 42. Sitoraktepe, 43. Eskipashatepe, 44. Kaumushtepe, 45. Makhssumtepe, 46. Shirinsajtepe, 47. "Vostochiij", 48. Mugtepe, 49. Shirin, 50. Akterek, Shaldibaldi, 52. fortress of Kurgancha, 53. fortress of Dungchatepe

The written sources (the documents from the mount Mug) as well as inscriptions on slips of wood from the Ustrushan castle of Chil'khudzhr give it the names of a number of rulers of this dynasty [Livshic, Khromov, 1981. p. 367]. The Ustrushana coins from Kalai Kakhkakha contain especially important date about the language and the writing of the Ustrushanis and about the dynasty [Smirnova, 1972. pp. 59-64; 1981. pp. 31-35, 324-335].

Towards the end of the VI c. - VIII c. Ustrushana was involved in the protracted and dramatic struggle with the armies of the Arab Caliphate [Negmatov, 1957. pp. 129-137].


The literary sources about early medieval Ustrushana mention the "white religion" with its main book Zaravakh and wooden sculptures of idols, decorated with precious stones. The idols and the books of the Mugs were kept is secret and were worshipped in the palaces of the Ustrushan prince Khajdar in Samarra. There were also idols in Ustrushana itself, in Buttam. They were brought to Ustrushana by the Khuttal refugees [Negmatov, 1957. p. 73-82]. This region contains many toponyms with the component "Mug" (fire-worshipper).

The Temple of the idols in the ruins of Kalai Kakhkakha I, "The house of the fire" in Aktepe near Nau, sanctuaries in palaces and castles, the wooden idols in the castle Chil'khudzhra, etc. have been excavated until now. The rock tombs near Kurkata, a plenitude of burials in khumas and in ossuaries, etc. speak about the specific version of Zoroastrianism practised there. It combined elements of the canonical Zoroastrianism with the worship of idols and other deities and cults, as seen by the monumental murals in Ustrushana. ... The evidence of the written sources, the archaeological material and the cultural monuments (murals, terracottas, etc.) reveal one quite complicated religious system based, no doubt, on the Zoroastrian-Mazdakite tradition.

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