Sogdian Territory (03:06)
Dr. Sam Willis navigates narrow roads in Tajikistan's Yaghnob Valley in search of the last Persian ethnic group. The Sogdians once dominated Silk Road trade but conflicted with Islam in the 8th century. Their language survived and is spoken by the Yaghnobi.
Sogdian Descendants (04:02)
Niyoz Karimov welcomes Willis to his remote Yaghnob Valley village. The family speaks an ancient language used on the Silk Road. Professor Saiffidin Mirzozoda explains that forced migration under Soviet rule caused Yaghnobi culture and language decline.
Struggle to Preserve Yaghnobi Culture (03:48)
The Soviet regime destroyed most of the Sogdian language. Niyoz teaches village children vocabulary; dwelling foundations date to Alexander the Great. Locals live without modern amenities and have been forgotten by the rest of the world.
Tashkent Monuments (03:12)
A bus stop in the Yaghnob Valley symbolizes Soviet creation of new national boundaries over Sogdiana. Willis journeys to Uzbekistan, where Timur statues replaced those of Marx and Lenin.
Timur's Legacy (02:43)
Willis reads a quote from a Christopher Marlowe play describing the conqueror's ruthlessness. Soviet scientists reconstructed his face; he is central to a new Uzbek national identity.
Journey to Samarkand (02:42)
Willis takes a high speed rail from Tashkent to Uzbekistan's cultural heart. Europeans in the 19th century stereotyped Central Asia as sensuous and wicked, demonstrated in Silk Road poetry.
Registan and Bibi-Khanym (03:40)
Alexander the Great visited Samarkand in 329 B.C.; it was later replaced by Timur's city. A mosque featuring Timurid style architecture undergoes rennovation. At its height, the empire threatened Turkey and China; most of Timur's conquests were Muslims.
Samarkand Restoration Projects (02:56)
The Bibi-Khanym and Registan were in a state of disrepair a century ago, and have since been refurbished. Timur died in 1405, while planning to invade China.
Remembering Timur (02:10)
The empire crumbled soon after Timur's death. In 1941, Soviet anthropologist Mikhail Gerasimov exhumed him for scientific scrutiny. Samarkand erected a new statue of the conqueror in a ruler's stance; young Uzbeks pay their respects.
Traces of Sogdian Culture (04:34)
Genghis Khan destroyed Afrosiab in 1220; the city was Sogdiana prior to Arab conquest. Soviets preserved 7th century paintings depicting trade negotiations with visitors, including Chinese traders carrying silk bales.
The Silk Road hub became an intellectual powerhouse during the 9th century. Islamic philosophers like Ibn Sina preserved and translated Aristotle's works. Mathematics are a central concept in geometric building decorations.
Algebra and Algorithm Origins (02:28)
Uzbek children learn their forefathers' contributions to science and mathematics. In the 12th century, Al-Khwarizmi's work reached Europe, inspiring a renaissance. Astronomy was also developed in Bukhara.
Stealing Silk Road Ideas (01:59)
Turkish silk carpets depend on repetition mathematics. Willis discusses how the West has denied Islamic culture's contributions to its ideas.
Lunch in Khiva (03:03)
Khwarezm residents descend from Iranian colonists; Turkmen were nomads throughout Central Asia. Willis' guide Utkir introduces him to Uzbek food; noodles, dumplings and tea may have come from China or Italy along the Silk Road.
Khiva Tile Making (04:04)
Since independence from Soviet rule, Uzbek craftsmen revived a decorative art that Timur used on structures throughout his empire. Tiles help them reclaim their history.
Credits: The Silk Road: Where East Met West: Episode 2 (00:37)
Credits: The Silk Road: Where East Met West: Episode 2
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