Darvaz (region)

Darvaz (Persian: درواز, Romanized: Darvāz /dæɾˈvɒːz/), alternatively Darwaz, Darvoz, or Darwoz, was an independent Pamiri principality until 1878,[1] ruled by a Mir and its capital was at Qal'ai Khumb.[1] The principality controlled territory on the left and right banks of the Oxus River. The major towns were Qal'ai Khumb and Kham.

درواز (Persian)
Map of the Principality of Darvaz from the 17th to 19th centuries. Modern borders are overlayed in red.
Map of the Principality of Darvaz from the 17th to 19th centuries. Modern borders are overlayed in red.
CapitalQal'ai Khumb
Common languagesPersian
• ?-1638
Shah Gharib
• 1638-1668
Shah Qirghiz
• 1668-1729
Mahmud Shah
• 1734-1761
Mohammad Khan Shah
• 1762-1778
Mizrab Shah
• 1778-1788
Shah-i Darvaz I
• 1788-1797
Mansur Khan
• 1797-1802
Shah Turk Khan/Shah Turkan
• 1845-1863
Isma'il Shah
• 1864-1868
Shah-i Darvaz II
• ?-1878
Shah Siraj al-Din
Succeeded by
Emirate of Bukhara
Today part ofTajikistan


Traditionally it was able to maintain its independence against its more powerful neighbors.[2][3][4] At the beginning of the 16th century, the region was caught up in the conflict between the Timurids and the Uzbeks. Despite the Uzbek conquest of Badakhshan, it seems the northern part of Darvaz was able to maintain independence.[1]

During the 17th century, the ruler of Darvaz was Shah Qirghiz. Information regarding the length of his reign was disputed. Barthold writes that in 1638 the Uzbeks conquered Darvaz and executed the ruler, his brother Shah Gharib. In his stead, Shah Qirghiz became an independent ruler and reigned from 1638 to 1668.[2][5] However, other sources report that Shah Qirghiz founded the new capital of Darvaz at Qal'ai Khumb in 1606–07. The capital had previously been located 6.5 kilometers to the northeast.[2] However, most historians can agree that under his reign Darvaz became a powerful state. Reportedly Wakhan, Karategin, Roshan, Shughnan, and Wakhsh were under his suzerainty.[2] Upon his death and during the 60-year long reign of his successor, Mahmud Shah, Wakhan and Shughnan-Roshan were able to declare their independence.[2]

The primary rival of Darvaz were the Yarid rulers of Badakhshan, who ruled the area from 1657. Multiple conflicts would be fought between the two over the region of Ragh, a semi-independent principality located along their border.[1][6] During the reign of Mir Sultan Shah, ruler of Badakhshan from 1748 to 1768,[5] Shah Yadgar was the Mir of Ragh. He previously submitted tribute to Darvaz but then switched his allegiance to Fayzabad. In response the Shahs of Darvaz led a punitive expedition against Ragh, but Mir Sultan Shah was able to provide aid to his vassal and expelled Darvaz's troops.[6]

During this period Darvaz was ruled by a confederation of brothers, all sons of a Shah Gharibullah.[6] (Ghulamov lists these brothers as Tughma Shah, Mansur Khan, 'Aziz Khan, Shahrukh Mirza, Sa'adat Shah, and Sultan Mahmud.) These brothers allied themselves with the rulers of Shughnan against Mir Sultan Shah. In 1749, they defeated the Mir at Gharjvin[7] and took a large portion of his army, including his brother Burhan al-Din into captivity. He was forced to send a peace delegation, led by a high-ranking religious leader named Mulla 'Azim Akhund Mufti, to Darvaz to plead for their release. While there, Mulla joined a religious discussion among the nobles and 'ulama of the court and was able to show off his intellect. Tughma Shah quickly took a liking to him and agreed to his request to release the captives.[6][7]

During the 19th century it was still seen as a stable principality. In the 1820s and 1830s, Karategin was unified with Darvaz.[2] In the 1830s, Mohammad Murad Beg attempted to conquer the principality, but these attacks were unsuccessful and only encouraged the ruler of Darvaz to counter-raid, as the principality had a strong army compared to its neighbors.[2] In 1839 the ruler of Khoqand, Madali Khan, conquered both Karategin and Darvaz and forced Sultan Mahmud to pay tribute. However, it soon regained its independence.[2] During the rule of Isma'il Shah from 1845 to 1863, Karategin and Shughnan were turned into protectorates and the bekdoms of Kulab and Hisar became its tributaries.[2]

Conquest by BukharaEdit

During the instability in Khoqand that had been occurring since 1842, the Mir of Karategin, Mohammad Rahim, had provided shelter to political enemies and was adamant on opposing Russian expansion into Central Asia. During the Russian campaign against Khoqand in 1875–76, rumors began to spread of an impending attack by the Mir of Karategin. As a result, when the campaign was over the Emir of Bukhara, Muzaffar, had an excuse to invade both of these principalities.[3]

Despite efforts in the spring of 1876 by the Mir to avoid the incoming assault, by early August the principality was in the hands of Bukhara and Mohammad Rahim was put under house arrest. Mohammad Sa'id was appointed the ruler of Karategin but the following year he was deposed and it was turned into a Bukharan beylik (province).[3]

Soon after Darvaz was invaded in December 1877. The reason for this is due to the Mir not wanting to pay the annual tribute.[8] By the following spring, all of the principality was occupied and absorbed into Bukhara.[2][3] 200 people were killed during this conflict.[8] It was placed under the administration of the Emir and controlled by a militia numbering 500–600.[8] By this time, the last ruler of Darvaz, Shah Siraj al-Din (who was also a relative of Mohammad Sa'id)[3] only controlled Qal'a-yi Khumb, Wanch, Yazghulam, and lands of amlak-dars (estate holders) on the left bank of the Panj as far south as Khwahan.[2] He lived in confinement until the end of Muzaffar's reign, when he was released on orders of the governor-general of Turkestan. The Mir's sons managed to escape to Bukhara, while two other relatives of Siraj al-Din who were amlak-dars on the left bank of the Panj, managed to flee to Badakhshan. One of them tried to seize the left bank of the Panj supported by the Afghans, but failed and was executed in Bukhara.[3]


The Mirs of Darvaz and their power was based on a system of patronage. The Mir's supporters were given shares of loot from raids as well as revenues from taxation. The existence of large extended families resulted in internal divisions of labor.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Grevemeyer, Jan-Heeren (1994). "DARVĀZ". Encyclopedia Iranica.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k History of civilizations of Central Asia, v. 5: Development in contrast, from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Vol. 5. UNESCO. 2003. pp. 226–229. ISBN 92-3-103876-1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Becker, Seymour (1968). Russia's Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara and Khiva, 1865-1924. Harvard University Press. pp. 70–72. ISBN 978-0-674-78360-7.
  4. ^ Nourzhanov, Kirill; Bleuer, Christian (2013-10-08). Tajikistan: A Political and Social History. ANU E Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-925021-16-5.
  5. ^ a b Nourmamadchoev, Nourmamadcho (2015). The Ismāʿīlīs of Badakhshan: History, Politics and Religion from 1500 to 1750 (phd thesis). SOAS University of London.
  6. ^ a b c d Dagiev, Dagikhudo; Faucher, Carole (2018-09-28). Identity, History and Trans-Nationality in Central Asia: The Mountain Communities of Pamir. Routledge. pp. 127–30. ISBN 978-1-351-12424-9.
  7. ^ a b Gulamadov, Shaftolu (June 2018). The Hagiography of Nāṣir-i Khusraw and the Ismāʿīlīs of Badakhshān (Thesis). University of Toronto.
  8. ^ a b c Bliss, Frank (2006). Social and Economic Change in the Pamirs (Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan). Routledge. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-415-30806-9.