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Trade & Tyranny!

A continuing Power Struggle between the British and the Russians was on at that period of time over the control of Central Asia… The borders of the Russian imperial territories of Khiva, Bukhara and Kokand were important trade centres. The British East India Company joined hands with the ruler of Bukhara (now situated in Uzbekistan) to counter Russia. Colonel Charles Stoddart, a British officer, diplomat and a famous British agent of repute in Central Asia during the period of the Great Game, had arrived in Bukhara in 1839 as a messenger of Queen Victoria. When Stoddart met Emir Nasrullah Khan – the ruler of Bukhara; he, reportedly, was not carrying a gift for him… and, this got the Emir infuriated! After a while, he ordered his officials to throw Stoddart into a pit filled with poisonous insects, (famously known as The Bug Pit) for committing the offence of not carrying gifts for him. The 4mt deep pit is still there in Bukhara’s Zindon Prison!

Colonel Stoddart

The pit, which was home for various poisonous insects and rats, was accessible only by a rope. The envoy of the British East India Company was thrown there, and he had to stay in a pitiable condition inside that pit for about three years before being executed on June 17, 1842 at the age of 35! No one knows how Stoddart was able to survive there in those conditions for three years! Many were thrown into the pit before him… however, none of them survived for so long. In November 1841, British Captain Arthur Conolly arrived in Bukhara with part of his remit to attempt to secure Stoddart’s release. However, he was unsuccessful in that! Both the Englishmen were executed on charges of espionage for the British Empire on June 17, 1842!

Emir Nasrullah Khan

Emir Nasrullah Khan was an authoritarian ruler of Bukhara. He was popularly known as a ‘Butcher’! He decided not to maintain cordial ties with Britain, after the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842. That was the reason behind him having Stoddart and Captain Conolly executed. The Emir, reportedly, standing in front of the citadel, had publicly instructed his officials to carry out the order. Before giving the order, the ruler had asked the two British officials to convert to Islam. However, they refused to do so. When Stoddart and Connolly were pulled out of the pit, their conditions were serious. They were placed on their knees on the road. First, a soldier severed Stoddart’s head from his body by a blow of his sword. Then, Connolly was executed in the same manner…

Zindon Prison

Currently, The Bug Pit of Bukhara is one of the major tourist attractions in Central Asia. Thousands of people visit the Zindon Prison every day to witness it, and to learn about its history…

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