In the first millenium BC the mighty kingdom of Khorezm, in Central Asia, was renowned throughout the ancient world; subsequently it became an Important Muslim state. In the 12th and 13th centuries AD Khorezm reached the peak of its might, capturing vast areas of Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Persia, before itself being ravaged by first by the forces of Jenghiz Khan and then of Tamerlane.
In the following centuries the khanate blossomed once more with the city of Khiva, founded in the 10th century, on one of the main trade routes through the desert, as its capital. The outstanding architectural monuments of Khiva, for which the city is now famed, were built mainly in the 19th century, and are consequently well preserved.
The photographs within this album are presented in two parts: first a fascinating collection from 1858, when photography was a very new process, taken by a Russian expedition to Khiva; the second part is made up of photographs taken between the 1870s and 1890s.
The photographs here are intriguing as early examples of the art, but also as a unique record of pre-Soviet Central Asia. The bulk of them have never before been published - the originals are held in the scientific archives of the Russian Geographical Society and the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of the History of Material Culture in St Petersburg.
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