History of Khiva and Khwarazm

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A summary of the history of Khiva and of Khwarazm , the legendary region in which it rises, placed today between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Origins of Khiva and Khwarazm

According to a legend, the very first nucleus of Khiva was even built by Sem, the son of Noah, who dug a well in the ancient district of Ichan-Kale. Beyond the legends, the city of Khiva has always stood out for being the center of Khwarazm, so much so that according to recent archaeological remains its foundation dates back to more than 2500 years ago. The whole area was coveted since its origin and conquered by different cultures, ending around 500 BC. in the hands of the Saka and, subsequently, the Achaemenids, who conquered it during their expansion in Central Asia and under which it developed more and more. After the conquest of Alexander the Great these lands maintained an almost absolute independence from all subsequent dynasties.


After them the lineage of Afrighidi was especially distinguished, who ruled Khwarazm from 305 to 995, managing to maintain control of their land thanks to alliances and diplomatic agreements with the largest regional powers, including the Umayyad caliphate. With their fall, control passed first to the Samanids, then to the Ghaznavids, the Khwarazmian Empire and finally to Genghis Khan who arrived here in 1220, placing it definitively under Mongolian rule. Around the middle of the 14th century, Khwarazm gained more and more power within the Mongolian domains, thus infuriating Tamerlane who conquered it and destroyed its capital, Kunya-Urgench, in today’s Turkmenistan, leading the citizens to move more and more near today’s Khiva.

Khanate of Khiva, Russia and Uzbekistan

With the entry of the Shaybanids in today’s Uzbekistan and the Safavids in today’s Iran, Khwarazm proved to be a fundamental battleground between the two contenders, eventually falling into the hands of Shah Ismail I, against whom the Arabshahid dynasty rebelled, forming the Khiva Khanate, which they simply called “Khwarezm” or “Khwarazm”. This khanate found himself over and over again to clash with enemies of all kinds, including Cossacks and Kalmyks, finally being conquered only by Nader Shah, whose death will bring the lineage of the Khongirad, an ancient Mongolian tribe which also included the mother and grandmother of Genghis Khan. In 1873 it was occupied by Russia and became its protectorate.


In 1920 it became part of the Soviet Union and the territories of Khwarazm were divided between the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic and the Uzbek Republic, Khiva specifically passed to the latter, becoming part of Uzbekistan in 1991.

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