Known as the "Oasis of Soghdiana," Bukhara was conquered by Alexander the Great and was also once ruled by the Kushan Empire. However, when the Samanids later came into power, they created a large feudal state, with Bukhara as its capital. It was part of what came to be called the Golden Road, the meeting point of the northern and southern branches of the Great Silk Road, and hence a great center for commerce, religion and culture.
In Sanskrit, Bukhara means "Monastery", and in the Medieval Muslim East, it was known as "the noble and glorious stronghold of the faith." With more than 140 architectural monuments dating back to the Middle Ages, even after 2300 years, it is a "museum town". In the 10th century, Bukhara became a scientific and cultural center, home to famous poets like Rudaki and Dakiki, and Avicenna, the great scientist and physician.
By the mid 19th century, Russia and Britain were both trying to gain control of Central Asia: Russia from the north and Britain from India in the south. Isolated since the time of the Silk Routes, Central Asia had not seen Western visitors for hundreds of years. Although Russia gained control of much of the region by 1868, Bukhara managed to keep its Emir as the master of the city. Inside the high walls, a strong anti-westerner sentiment was always present, fanned by the Emir himself. In 1918 the Russian revolution spread to Uzbekistan, but Bukhara never really fell into the fold until the city was almost destroyed and thousands of people were massacred on September 6, 1920.
Although Soviet rule lasted until 1991, the city never lost its Eastern culture and atmosphere, and always played simple lip service to Moscow.