Journey to Turkmenistan and Khiva in 1819 and 1820


Nikolai Nikolaevich Muravʹev (1794–1866) was a Russian military officer and statesman who in 1819 and 1820 led an imperial mission to the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea and the Khanate of Khiva. At that time a captain on the general staff of the Imperial Russian army, he was accompanied by Major Ponomarev, the commandant of Ganja (present-day Gäncä, Azerbaijan). The objective of the mission was to secure the region’s trade routes with Russia. General Aleksiei Petrovich Ermolov, the powerful commander of the Caucasus who ordered the mission, envisioned the establishment of a Russian commercial port on the east coast of the Caspian Sea. The mission left Tiflis (Tbilisi, Georgia) on June 17, 1819, and traveled by land to Baku on the western coast of the Caspian, where a corvette, a merchant ship, and more troops were awaiting. The vessels arrived in the Bay of Balkan (present-day Karabogaz Bay, Turkmenistan) in September. From there, Muravʹev traveled by land to Khiva (present-day Uzbekistan) to meet the khan, Muhammad Rahim. He was not permitted to enter the city, however, and was detained for 48 days. He later was released and returned to his vessel. Accompanied by two Khivan envoys, Muravʹev sailed back with his men, and arrived in Baku in December. They were received by General Ermolov on January 17, 1820. Voyage en Turcomanie et à Khiva (Journey to Turkmenistan and Khiva) is Muravʹev’s account of his mission. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Muravʹev recounts the journey to the Bay of Balkan, the subsequent land journey to Khiva, and the return journey to Tbilisi. This part includes copies of letters from General Ermolov and Major Ponomarev to the khan of Khiva. The second part of the book is a general description of the territory of Khiva, its economy, and its military forces, and an account of the civil war in the khanate. The book also contains a catalog in Latin of the animals of Central Asia, notes describing the inhabitants of the region, and a map of the route from Tiflis to Khiva drawn by Muravʹev. The book was translated from Russian by G. Lecointe de Laveau and published in Paris in 1823.

Last updated: August 31, 2016