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Regular army of the Bukhara Emirate 1920. Author:  М. Медин

Michael Medin, (Especially made for "Siberia-Miniatures").  
Computer graphics by the author.  
Full or partial use of articles is only allowed with the permission of the author.

Reconstructing the uniforms of the regular army of the Bukhara Emirate 1920

 This subject is little studied, the information is sketchy and incomplete, so many details are reconstructed by analogies to Russian uniforms, which served as models for the Emir's army. In addition were used informations on the army of Bukhara from earlier times. This work will require many more additions and refinements, so the author will be grateful for any information that can clarify and supplement the illustrations showing one of the most interesting armies of the period.

 We know that by 1920 the armed forces of the Emirate consisted of a regular army and a militia. In different sources the number of these contingents vary, but in the regular army was more than 8.000 infantry and 7.500 cavalry. Further from 16 to 40 guns, of which about were 10 breech-loading, rifled mountain guns. In the fightings were also in use about sixty copper and iron muzzle-loading guns of obsolete models. In the militia, led and assembled by local lords, were up to 27.000 men, cavalry and infantry. A significant number of the militias were armed with outdated firearms, using both flints and matchlocks, hunting rifles or carried only edged weapons, but also among the militia were troops armed with quite modern small arms.

 As model for the regular Bukharan served the Russian uniform with some local specialities. For headdresses were hats of different sorts, and the boots were of same type as used by the local Bukharans. The uniforms of the senior officers were decorated with different pomp and originality, often were as uniforms used expensive robes with sewn on rank ditinctions.   It is impossible not to mention a feature which often caught the eye of contemporaries - in the Bukhara Army officers often wore both epaulettes and shoulder boards of not only different patterns, but also showing different ranks and in different colours and sizes. In some regiments the soldiers had yellow ciphers painted on their shoulder straps, but on same person could be shoulder straps with different ciphers. So to show the system of rank distinctions in the Bukharan army is not possible. In general military ranks followed those of the Russian army.

 The ranks in the Emir's army were named as follow with the Russian equivalent after:

Alaman (Nefer) - Private;
Dog-Bashi - NCO;
Chur-Agasi - Sergeant Major;
Mirza-bashi - (Junior) Lieutenant;
Yuz-Bashi - Lieutenant;
Dzhivachi - Shtabs (Junior) Captain;
Karaul-begi - Captain;
Mirahur - Lieutenant Colonel;
Tok-Saba - Colonel;
Datkho - Major-General;
Parvanchi - Lieutenant General.

 The military was divided in two categories: military in narrow sense, the soldiers and commanders of the army - the Sipo, and the representatives of the military-administrative structure, the so-called Amaldor`s. The military wore the prescribed military uniforms. Amaldor Officers usually wore robes made of expensive fabrics, girded by wide belts decorated with silver plates of different types and patterns. They wore high boots with very high heels. The Amaldors also wore small, white turbans. Scimitars were hung on a sabre-belt, made of a special kind of local, chamois leather (Guzor). In such cases were usually beneath further a broader official belt.

 The regiments had regimental bands. They played various kinds of flutes (nai), pipes (surnay, karnay) and drums.

 After a visit to Russia the Emir, having neither foot guards nor horse guards in his army. Following the example of the Russian Czar, he decided to establish his own guards.


The Emir's "Caucasus" Horse Guards:
1. Cossack "Terek regiment"
2. Cossack "Kuban regiment"
3. Cossack "Arabian (Turkic) regiment"
4. Cossack - artilleryman
5. Cossack - musician  

 3 regiments were formed - the Terek, the Kuban and the Arab (Turk or Turkic), which were organized and outfitted like the Russian Caucasian Cossacks. Also a Mountain Horse Artillery Battery was formed and equipped with appropriate modern Russian equipment. The Terek regiment was considered the most important, as the Emir was registered as a cavalry general in the Russian Terek Cossack Army.

 The Cossacks were fully provided for by the Emir's treasury. They were provided uniforms and meals at the expense of the Emir. As rank and file served very young men, when the men reached the age of eighteen(?), they were transferred to the infantry. Horses in the regiments were of different colours. The regiments also had orchestras.

 The Terek regiment was located in Old Kagan and numbered about 900 men, armed with rifles of different models: non-commissioned officers had Mosin 3-line rifles or English rifles, the men were armed with Berdan rifles. The cartridges were worn on belts of Caucasian type or in a leather "triangle" of Anglo-Indian model, a so-called "Afghan".

 The Kuban regiment was located in the Old Kagan and at the railway station. The regiment had 360 men. One quarter of the regiment was armed with (including all the non-commissioned officers) Mosin 3-line rifles, the rest with Berdans. Sabres of various models also used in the Russian Army.

 The Arab regiment had detachments with 100 men stationed at each gate of the Old Bukhara and 200 men in the Kazi Kalyan Garden. A regiment with up to 500 men with mixed weapons. The regiment consisted of Turkmens - the Bukhara citizens, would be mobilized in the bekstvo`s (districts) of Karshi, Guzara, Kreki-Kelif, Budarlyk and Termez.


Emir's Guard:

Sekerde "Sherbacha" (The Patronized Regiment - Chief or First Regiment):
1. Sarbaz (Private)
2. Sarbaz in a robe (apparently superseding his greatcoat)
3. Staff officer (uniform version)

Sekerde "Turkbacha" (Turkish Regiment):
1. Sarbaz

Sekerde "Arabbacha" (Arabic Regiment):
1. Sarbaz
2. Sarbaz in greatcoat

 In 1918-1919, the Bukhara Army was enlarged with three Guard Regiments (Serkerde) - "Sherbacha", "Turkbacha" (Turkish) and "Arabbacha" (Arabic).

 The Sherbacha was located in Starai Mahasa. The regiment was formed from the disbanded "Dzhilyau"company, as well as from volunteers of the Mlobacha (Medersa Students). Consisted of 6 bayrakov (companies of about 150 men). Numbered about a thousand men. Could serve both on foot and on horse. (Witnesses saw soldiers of the regiment on foot and on horse. But it is not known - whether all the soldiers of the regiment could be used as cavalry or if this regiment had a special mounted unit.) Was armed with Mosin 3-line rifles.

 The Turk regiment - seen by many visitors as the best regiment in the Bukhara Army. Was also known as the "Sirbazy-Piada." Formed on Turkish soldiers from the forces broken by the British in Caucasus and Persia and from Turkish prisoners of war, who had escaped from Russian captivity. Further the regiment had 60-70 Afghans and about 150 Sarts and Kirghiz. The regiment had 10 Turkish officers and about 1.250 men in more than 8 bayrak. The regiment was armed with British rifles, two machine guns and 3 guns. The regiment had ambulance carriages. Located in Harmyzas. Wore Russian-made footwear of good quality, ammunition bandoliers of Russian type.

 Arabic regiment had 4 bayraks and numbered 400 men. Could be used both on foot or as mounted. Probably not ethnic Arabs, but Afghans.


Infantry officers:
1. Summer uniform for senior officers
2. Uniform for senior officers
3. Summer uniform for staff officers
4. Uniform for staff officers (uniform version)
5. General's uniform (uniform version)



Sarbaz (lower ranks):

1. Summer, everyday uniform
2. Everyday uniform
3. Parade uniform

Some variations of infantry uniforms:
1. Soldier
2. Officer

 In the army, there were 10 Sarbaz battalions, each with four companies. The Emir's Army was divided in two parts: the "Saturday" and the "Tuesday" soldiers. The Saturday men served on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and the "Tuesday" men on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. In the morning was a two-hour assembly, the rest of the day was absorbed by guard duties and nothing else.

 The "Saturday infantry" (three battalions) were armed with 4.2-line Berdan rifles number 2. The soldiers lived in barracks, or rather left their weapons there and anyone, who was not carrying out guard duties or appointed to another job, could go wherever he wanted. Each soldier was only to serve in the appointed period.

 In "Tuesday infantry" were armed with 7-linear Russian muzzle-loading rifles or Krnka rifles. They did not live in barracks, but at the inns in rented rooms. Their weapons remained with them all the time. Time free from military service was used to ensure their livelihood. The soldiers were engaged in various menial work, repairing footwear or doing other small crafts.

 In his free time the Sarbaz wore ordinary civilian clothes.

 Soldiers (Sarbaz`s) received salary - twenty Tenge (three Rubles) per month. Military uniforms were issued as part of the salary. When the "Saturday Infantry" did guard duty at the barracks, they got per day one bowl of porridge for each ten man. The service life of infantry soldiers continued until the end of their days.

 After the outbreak of the Russian Civil War and the ensuing developments in Central Asia (especially the Kolesov campaign), the Emir had to decide on re-arming his army with modern weapons and to do so were taken vigorous measures. More about that will be addressed in the section devoted to the arms of Bukhara Army.

 Known details about some Sarbaz battalions:

 Shirabudin Battalion: had 500-600 men, armed with Berdan rifles and 7-line muzzle-loading rifles.

 Dzhambulafur Battalion: stationed on the Bukhara railroad stations. Was armed with Berdan rifles.

 "Seyshambegi" Battalion had up to 2,000 men. At every gate of the city and the country house of the Emir was stationed one company (200-250 men) of its men. The age of the soldiers ranged from 35 to 60 years.

 "Dumbula Pul" battalion. The name indicates that originally the battalion was armed with Berdan rifles, but before the fighting started, it was re-armed with 3-line rifles. A large part of the soldiers were ethnic Turkmen. 200 soldiers in the battalion were children. A detachment of 50 men from the battalion carried out guard duty at the Kushbeg Palace.

 The Bukhara Army had a machine-gun detachment with 125 men and 12 machine guns, manned entirely by Afghan men and officers.


Bukhara police:
1. Summer uniform
2. Winter uniform

In defense of the city the police was actively involved. The police had a military organization, molded and uniformed on the Russian police. The police officers - about 60 men were armed with revolvers like "Nagan" and "Bulldog", but rarely with pistols like "Browning". As side weapons the carried Bukhara shaskas (Russian type sabres). Age of police - from 19 to 50 years. Half of the police officers were on foot, half on horse. Cartridge pouches worn as cross-bandoliers in the Afghan way, but a small number of the pouches were Russian models.


Examples of firearms used in the Bukhara Army:
1. Mosin 3-line rifle, M.1891
2. Mosin 3-line rifle, M.1891 (version 1910)
3. Lee-Enfield Mk I*
4. Werder-Gewehr M.1869
5. Berdan II M.1870
6. Russian Krnka M.1867
7. Russian caplock 7-line rifle M.1854
8. Vickers M1910 machine gun
9. Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun

This article was published on Thursday 31 October, 2013.
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