Vitaly Naumkin


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First settled in the 6th or 7th century BC, Samarkand has known periods of prosperity and decline – its craftsmen traded and settled as far afield as the Chinese borders, and its great military leader Tamerlane fought wars against Persia, Syria and India. Samarkand is best known as a centre of Islamic learning and architecture. The photographs in this collection were taken during the key period from 1871 to the 1890s, following the Tsarist conquest of 1868, but before the Soviet rule which resulted in the destruction of many Islamic landmarks.

This series presents selections of 19th century and very early 20th century photographs held in St Petersburg archives. The photographs are intriguing as early examples of the art, but also as a unique record of pre-Soviet Central Asia.

Professor Vitaly Naumkin is a widely known scholar and writer on Arab and Islamic history, the contemporary Middle East and Central Asia. He studies at the universities of Moscow and Cairo, and has since lectured at a numbered of universities both in the West and in the Arab world. He is Deputy Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and President of the private Russian Centre for Strategic Research and International Studies.