Principality of Ushrusana
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
• Samanid conquest
The Principality of Ushrusana (also spelled Usrushana, Osrushana or Ustrushana) was a local Iranian dynasty of Sogdian origin, which ruled the Ushrusana region from an unknown date to 892. The rulers of the principality were known by their title of Afshin.
From the 5th to the 7th century CE, Ushrusana was part of the territory of the Hephthalites, followed by the Western Turks after 560 CE. The Principality probably retained a certain level of autonomy throughout this period, and was ruled directly by the afshins of the Kavus dynasty.
Ushrusana was a frontier province in Central Asia, bordering the lands of Islam during the Umayyad and early Abbasid caliphates. It was situated between the districts of Samarkand in the west and Khujand to the east, and was somewhat south of the Syr Darya River. As a result of its location, several roads ran through it, making the province a frequent stop for travelers. The terrain of the country consisted of a mixture of plains and mountains; some districts of Ushrusana had towns, but overall the region was little urbanized. The primary city was Bunjikath, which was often referred to as the City of Ushrusana.
Ushrusana is first mentioned during the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana, and was at times nominally subject to the Caliphate, but it remained effectively independent. Several Umayyad governors conducted raids into the country and received tribute from its rulers, but permanent conquest was not achieved by them. After the Abbasids came to power in 750, the princes of Ushrusana made submissions to the caliphs during the reigns of al-Mahdi (r. 775–785) and Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809), but these appear to have been nominal acts and the people of the region continued to resist Muslim rule.
Ushrusana was more firmly brought under Abbasid control following a quarrel that broke out within the ruling dynasty, during the caliphate of al-Ma'mun (r. 813–833). In 822, a Muslim army under Ahmad ibn Abi Khalid al-Ahwal conquered Ushrusana and captured its ruler Kawus ibn Kharakhuruh; he was sent to Baghdad, where he submitted to the caliph and converted to Islam. From this point on, Ushrusana was generally considered to be part of the Abbasid state, although the afshins were allowed to retain their control over the country as subjects of the caliph.
Kawus was succeeded by his son Khaydar, who had assisted Ahmad ibn Abi Khalid in his campaign against Ushrusana. Khaydar, who is usually referred to in the sources simply as al-Afshin, decided to enter the service of the Abbasids and made his way to al-Ma'mun's court. There he embarked on a military career, and became a commander in the caliphal army. With Afshin came a number of his followers, a number of whom were fellow natives of Ushrusana. These men were integrated into the army and, serving under their prince, became known as the Ushrusaniyya. However, Afshin later tried to gain control over all of Khurasan and Transoxiana from the Persian Tahirid dynasty. He even secretly supported Mazyar, the Karenid ruler of Tabaristan, who had rebelled against the Abbasids. The rebellion, however, was soon suppressed, and Afshin's ambitions were revealed by the Abbasids. Furthermore, Afshin was accused of being a Zoroastrian, and he was soon imprisoned and died. His successor is not known; however, the Afshin family continued to rule Ushrusana until 892, when the Samanid ruler Isma'il ibn Ahmad incorporated Ushrusana into his Empire and killed its ruler, Sayyar ibn 'Abdallah.