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a district of medieval Islamic Transoxania lying to the east of Samarqand (q.v.) on the upper reaches of the Zarafšān river or Nahr-e Ṣogd.

OSRUŠANA, a district of medieval Islamic Transoxania lying to the east of Samarqand on the upper reaches of the Zarafšān river or Nahr-e Ṣogd. It extended northwards to the southern bend of the Syr Darya and the western fringes of Farghana (see FARḠĀNA), and southwestwards to the Bottamān mountains, which separated the upper Oxus basin and its right-bank tributaries from the Syr Darya valley. It was accordingly traversed by the highway linking Samarqand with Farghana. The exact form of the Iranian name Osrušana is not clear from the sources, but the forms given in Ḥodud al-ʿālam (tr. Minorsky, pp. 63, 115, comm. 354), indicate an original *Sorušna.

Osrušana was a region comprising plains, whose fertility, agricultural richness, and pasturelands are praised by the geographers, and hills and, in the south, the Bottamān mountains (rising up to over 5,000 m), which were usually reckoned as belonging to it administratively. The mountains were rich in minerals; and gold, silver, sal ammoniac, and vitriol were obtained from them and exported; above all, local iron ore was made up into tools and weapons at the towns of Marsmanda and Mānk/Mink and sent as far as Khorasan and Iraq (Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, p. 38; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 505-6; tr. Kramers, pp. 483-84).

The region was little urbanized, and it long preserved its ancient Iranian feudal and patriarchal society. The main settlement, described by the early geographers as the ruler’s residence, was *Bunjikaṯ (Ḥodud al-ʿālam, tr. Kramers, p. 115, spelt Navinjkat; cf. Markwart, Wehrot und Arang, pp. 81, 162). It was identified by Barthold, who surveyed the ruins of the area in 1894, with Šahrestān, some 25 km from the modern Ura-Tyube at the entrance to the Farghana valley (Turkestan3, p. 166). It was flourishing and populous in the 10th century, and Ebn Ḥawqal estimated its male population at 10,000. There was a citadel, a walled inner town, and a walled suburb, in which was situated the administrative building (dār al-emāra).Streams from nearby hills supplied irrigation water and drove ten mills (Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 503-4; tr. Kramers, p. 482; Maqdesi, p. 277). Next in size and importance came Zānin or Sarsanda, likewise walled and fortified and a staging post on the Samarqand-Farghana road. Dizak or Jizak, also situated in the plains, was a rallying point for ghazis or fighters for the faith, who made raids from there into the Turkish steppes; amongst its many rebāṭs (see “Ribāṭ,” in EI ²)was one at Ḵodaysar built by the Afšin (see below; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 504-5, tr. pp. 482-83; Maqdesi, pp. 277-78).

At the time of the Arab incursions into Transoxania, Osrušana had its own line of Iranian princes, the Afšins (Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, p. 40), of whom the most famous was the general of the caliph Moʿtaṣem (q.v. 833-42), the Afšin Ḵayḏar or Ḥaydar b. Kāvus (d. 841; see AFŠIN). Bottamān may have been a separate administrative district, since Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh (p. 29) says that it had its own malek with the curious title (which must be a corrupt spelling) of Ebn Naʿnāʿ “possessor of mint.” In this latter region lay the original home of the Sogdian magnate Abu’l-Sāj Divdād, commander in the service of Motawakkel (847-61) and progenitor of the later line of Sajid governors in Azerbaijan (see SAJIDS).

Osrušana, a region strongly under Iranian cultural influence, for long strenuously resisted the Arab invaders. The governor of Khorasan, Qotayba b. Moslem, is said to have fought there “wearers of black,” and the last Omayyad governor, Naṣr b. Sayyār, invaded it and concluded treaties with the local rulers of the middle and upper Syr Darya regions (called in the Arabic sources dehqāns; see Gibb, pp. 49, 90). According to T’ang dynastic annals, the ruler of Osrušana in 752 tried vainly to get Chinese help against the Arabs (Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 196). It did not submit definitively to the Arabs till Maʾmun’s (r. 813-33) caliphate in about820. The Afšin Kāvus submitted, but, despite the killing of his son Ḵayḏar or Ḥaydar (see above), members of the line continued to rule in Osrušana, minting their own coins there until 893, though theoretically under Samanid suzerainty. Thereafter, the Samanid Amir Esmāʿil b. Aḥmad (q.v., r. 892-907) brought it under his direct authority and incorporated into his empire. With the fall of the Samanids at the end of the 10th century, the region passed under Turkish Qarakhanid (see ILAK-KHANIDS) control; and the process of Turcification, which would be completed in the more northerly part of the region by modern times, now begins. The name Osrušana drops out of use by the time of the Mongol invasions. In the mid-19th century, the main town of the region, Ura Tyube, lay in a frontier zone disputed by the Khans of Bukhara and Khokand; in 1866 it was captured by the Russians advancing into Central Asia. Shortly after this, the American traveler Eugene Schuyler (I, pp. 308-13) describes his journey through what was the region of Osrušana. The lowland parts of medieval Osrušana now fall mainly within the easternmost part of the republic of Uzbekistan, and the Bottamān mountains within the northern part of the republic of Tajikistan.


Sources. Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 503-7; tr. Kramers, pp. 481-85.

Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, pp. 29, 38-40. Eṣṭaḵri, pp. 326-27, 336, 343.

Hodud al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. 63, 115, comm. 354. Maqdesi, pp. 277-78.

Yāqut, Boldān (Beirut), I, p. 197.

Studies. Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 165-69 (gives the exiguous scraps of historical information in the Arabic sources).

C. E. Bosworth, “Usrūshana,” in EI ² X, pp. 924-25.

H. A. R. Gibb, The Arab Conquests in Central Asia, London, 1923, pp. 48-50, 90-92.

Le Strange, Lands, pp. 474-76.

J. Markwart, Wehrot und Arang. Untersuchungen zur mythischen und geschichtlichen Landeskunde von Ostiran, Leiden, 1938, pp. 78-81, 160-62.

E. Schuyler, Turkistan. Notes of a Journey in Russian Turkistan, Khokand, Bukhara, and Kuldja, 2 vols., London, 1876, I, pp. 308-13.

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “OSRUŠANA”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 15 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_1477>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20050720

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