The Emir of Bukhara

Emir Said Mir Mohammed Alim Khan


In 1911, Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky travelled to the Emirate of Bukhara, a protectorate of the Russian Empire, to photograph and illustrate the interesting region that is now known today as Uzbekistan. One of his many subjects of his photographic adventures to the region included the Emir of Bukhara, Said Mir Mohammed Alim Khan. Alim Khan was the last emir of the last ruling dyansty of the Emirate of Bukhara. Coming into power the same year Prokudin-Gorsky started his travels, Alim Khan set out to modernize and reform the still traditional and “backwards” region. Unlike many of his predecessors, he swore off accepting personal gifts and tribute from officials and demanded the officials stop accepting bribes and kickbacks from the public. He also sought out to abolish unjust forms of taxation being waged on the public to benefit the greedy officials in his government. Despite promising his officials and advisers that he was a traditionalist much like his predecessors, his modernization and reform moves alarmed officials in both Bukhara and in far out places such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. He would find himself in a middle of a conflict in his emirate between reformers who wanted the Emirate to modernize to prevent any collapse in order and traditionalists who saw any form of modernization as a threat to their prestige and power. The circumstances and events surrounding Alim Khan’s reign in Bukhara paint a more broadened picture of what the Russian Empire was facing in the early years of the 20th Century. Faced with a choice between modernization/reform or double down defending tradition and the old ways, the Russian Empire would find itself in a rude awakening in the period between 1905 and 1917.