Before the rise of Islam
The Sasanian empire was Persian, by this time influenced by the Greek invasions of much earlier times.

Note the word Turan.  In Iranian literature there is reference to a continue struggle between Iran and Turan, possibly suggesting a tension between peoples who were primarily sedentary and those who were primarily nomadic.  We know that both groups needed each other, but as indicated earlier there was a tendency for the nomadic populations to be more successful at war, and so were a threat to the sedentary populations.
The “western Türküt” were presumably Turkic even though the sedentary populations were essentially Iranian

This map indicates the extent of the Abbasids [750-1258] at their zenith.  This was the period when Baghdad was the center of the flow of commerce and ideas.  Sufi orders flourished in the city.  Also, the great collectors of hadith enjoyed great respect, renoun.  But by 833 the Abbasids, distrustful of their own relatives in the court, hired Turkish mercenaries from Central Asia to guard them and manage the court affairs for them.
In 861 the Abbasid caliph was murdered by his Turkish “slaves” and from then on the caliphs were essentially dependencies of the Turkish “slaves” [mamluks] who ran the affairs of the court.

In the eastern lands of the Abbasids [now northern Afghanistan, eastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, Bukhara, etc.] there were many movements that troubled the Abbasids.  In fact, their early impulse had come from this region and spread elsehwere.  But by the ninth century they were losing control of their eastern frontiers.  Tahirids [819-873] became autonomous in Khorasan, and to the east of them the Samanids arose; they would dominate Central Asia between 875-998.


In second half of the 9th century Samanids dominate the settled oases of Mawarannahr [Transoxiana];
Turkic pastoralists are on the neighboring pasturelands.  The Samanids introduced Persian as the language of public affairs [vs Arabic].  Poetry became an especially powerful idiom for expressing the collective rejection of Abbasid/Arabic culture.

In 998 one of the generals of the Samanids broke away and set up his own court in the city of Ghazni.  Ghaznawids were situated in this region, taking over the Samanid lands in the process, from 998-1186.  His son, Mahmud of Ghazni, would sweep into India.  Note Lahore [now a major city of Pakistan] within his realm on this map.  They would eventually set up Lahore as their capital.

Early 13th c., before the Mongol invasions.  Note that the Naymans [Naïmans] are not far away in the East.  This was one of the last Turko-Mongol tribes subjected by Genghis Khan.  Beginning in 1218 the Mongols, now a united coalition under the great khan, moved westward, overwhelmed the Khorezmshah’s empire and then southward into what is now Afghanistan.


In the 1300s the Mongols have extended into eastern Europe and the Middle East.  But they have soon divided politically and in their respective political zones have assimilated to the local customs.  The Ilkhans [Ilkhanids] were soon converted to Islam and Persianized, as were the Chaghatay.

Timur [Tamerlane], 1370-1402, establishes a new coalition in and around Samarqand and subjects much of Central Asia.  He sacks Delhi in 1398.  A Turk, he cultivates Persian culture, architecture, art, literature.  His successors, “Timurids,” would establish some of the finest artistic traditions ever.

Successors of Timur carried on his commitment to high Persian culture

Trade routes in Central Asia.  Note the only routes south and into India are through Kabul or Herat.

Early in the 16th century important developments are taking place.  The Safavids [1491-1722] have arisen in Iran and will soon force the country to become Shi’ite, importing Shi’a scholars from elsewhere because there were few in the land.  This action may have been prompted by something else going on:  Another Turkic power was rising to the west, the Ottomans.  By the mid-16th century the Safavids would we surrounded by Sunni powers, the Mughals in India and the Shaybanids [Abulkhayrids here] in Transoxiana.  This was a period of critical change, as the Ottomans, Safavids, and Moghals would recover the balance of power against the pastoral societies of Central Asia, by the use of cannon.  Hodgson designated these the “gunpowder empires”.