Amlākdārs, Khwājas and Mulk land in the Zarafshan Valley after the Russian Conquest

Alexander Morrison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This paper is a revision and correction of Chapter 3 of my 2008 monograph ('Russian Rule in Samarkand') in which I made a number of errors and misjudgements. The most glaring of these was to confuse a Bukharan tax official (the amlakdar) with the owner of 'mulk' (a category of landed property which usually carried some form of tax exemption). I have disentangled these, added some further evidence, and reconsidered the evidence which I put forward in my book. I argue that Russian attempts to implement at what is sometimes called 'land reform' in the Zarafshan Valley in the 1860s and 1870s are better understood as a fiscal measure, rather than anything to do with property rights. The Russians found the Bukharan land tax system impossible to understand, and so proceeded to dismantle it, abolishing the annual assessment of the quantity and value of the harvest (which had been the responsibility of the amlakdar) and also refusing to recognise claims made by religious elites in the region that they were entitled to tax breaks on their mulk property. However, the system the Russians put in place instead placed enormous power in the hands of village oligarchies, ensuring that at the lower levels the Russians had little control over how the tax burden was allocated, and almost certainly collected far less than their Bukharan predecessors. The Russians also failed in their attempt to have the region's land declared the patrimony of the state. The paradoxical result was that, at least in the Zarafshan Valley (and quite possibly in other sedentary regions of Central Asia) the advent of the colonial regime meant a reduced tax burden, less state oversight, and security of property at least equal to what had existed before.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExplorations in the Social History of Modern Central Asia (19th- Early 20th Century)
EditorsPaolo Sartori
Place of PublicationLeiden
Number of pages41
ISBN (Electronic)9789004254190
ISBN (Print)9789004248434
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameBrill's Inner Asian Library
ISSN (Print)1566-7162

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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