Bokhara (Bok-hah'ra or Bo-hah'ra), the portion of Turkestan under the rule of the khan (or emir) of Bokhara, nominally independent, but practically a vassal state of Russia. It lies between Russian Turkestan on the N., the Pamir on the E., Afghanistan on the S., and the Kara-kum desert on the W. Area, 90,000 sq. m.; pop. 1,800,000. Only in the neighbourhood of the rivers is cultivation possible. The rest of the soil is composed of a stiff arid clay, interspersed with low sand-hills. Bokhara has only three rivers of any importance - the Amu-Daria or Oxus, the Zarafshan, and the Karshi, of which the first reaches the Sea of Aral, the other two are absorbed in the desert sands. Outlying provinces of Bokhara, separated by mountains, are Darwaz, Karategin, Hissar, and Kulab, The climate is healthy, but subject to great extremes of heat and cold. The sands of the Oxus yield gold, and salt, alum, sulphur, and sal-ammoniac are found. The other products include rice and cotton, wheat, barley, beet-root, vegetables, hemp for making bhang, silk, fruits in immense abundance, tobacco, and the sweet gum or manna of the camel's thorn. The industry includes the manufacture of silk-stuffs, cotton-thread, shagreen, jewellery, cutlery, and firearms. Its geographical position secures Bokhara the transit-trade between Russia and the south of Asia; and the Transcaspian Railway has increased its prosperity. The population consists chiefly of the aboriginal Tajiks of Persian, and of the dominant Uzbegs and Turkomans of Turkish origin. Persian slaves are numerous. The army numbers 30,000, since 1885 drilled by Russian officers.
Bokhara, corresponding in the main to the ancient Sogdiana, was conquered in the beginning of the 8th century by the Arabs, who were dispossessed of it in 1232 by Genghis Khan. It fell into the hands of Timur in 1403, and in 1505 was taken by the Uzbegs, its present masters. With the accession of the Khan Nasrullah (1826) the country became an object of rivalry to Britain and Russia, who in vain sent envoys to cultivate his friendship. After the capture of Tashkend by the Russians in 1865, the khan was compelled to oppose them, but was utterly defeated at the battle of Irdjar, May 20, 1866; and in July 1868 a peace was concluded by which Samarkand was ceded to the czar. During the invasion of Khiva in 1873 the khan assisted the Russians, and was rewarded by a large addition to his territory from the Khivan possessions. In 1882 a Russian political agent was appointed.
Bokhara, the capital, is situated on a plain a few miles from the Zarafshan, in the midst of trees and gardens. It is between 8 and 9 miles in circumference, and surrounded by embattled mud walls about 24 feet high, and pierced by eleven gates. The houses are built of sunburned bricks on a wooden framework. The palace of the khan occupies an eminence over 200 feet in height in the centre of the city. The mosques, which are said (fabulously) to be 365 in number, form one of the greatest features of Bokhara, which is the centre of religious life in Central Asia. The city has long been celebrated as a seat of learning, and contains about 80 colleges, said to be attended by some 5000 students. Bokhara is still the most important commercial town in Central Asia, although the gradual drying up of the Zarafshan, through the Russian irrigation-works at Samarkand, has lessened the population by about a half. Silks, woollens, and swords are manufactured, and large slave-markets are held; but the most striking feature of the town is its numerous bazaars, filled with the richest wares of Europe and of Asia. Bokhara was in 1888 connected by the Transcaspian Railway with Merv, and so with the Caspian ports. The pop. is estimated at 70,000. See Turkestan; the History of Bokhara, by Vambery; Wolff's Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara (1845); and works on Central Asia, by Vambery (1874-85), Boulger (1879), Von Hellwald (1874), Lansdell (1885), and Curzon (1888).