Matmurod Devonbegi (also known as Muhammad-Murod-Devonbegi Sheikh-Nazar-Yasaulbashi-Öghli, Mat-Murad, Mohammed-Murad, Mad-Murad, Mahmud-Murad Sheikhnazar-ogli, Madmurad Sheikhnazar-ogly) was born in 1830 in Khiva, Dishan-Kala, in the family of a high-ranking official of the Khanate of Khiva – Sheikh-Nazar-Yasaulbashi Muhammad Murad-Öghli, military minister of the Khanate.
Matmurod Devonbegi was also an important political, social and military figure of the Khanate of Khiva in the 19th century and one of the largest landowners (owned 50 thousand tanapas, i.e. 20.5 thousand hectares of land) and horse breeder of Khiva, the most important dignitary of the era of Khan Feruz Khan (Muhammad- Rahim-khan) as Devonbegi (Prime Minister).
As General M.A. Terentyev noted, “Devonbegi is the commander-in-chief, he is also in charge of irrigation, zakat collections and mint. At that time Devonbegi was called ‘Mad-Murad’.
Matmurod Devonbegi graduated from the Madrasah of Khiva and befriended the poets of Khiva like Kazi-Inatullah, Baeni, Mirzo, Tabibi, Kimyab, Mutrib Chokar and others. He was one of the most educated people of the Khanate; he knew almost all Turkic languages (Uzbek, Turkmen, Turkish, Tatar, etc.) as well as Arabic, Persian and Russian; he also wrote poetry.
He served in the personal guard of the Khan of Khiva, passing through all the ranks from junior officer to commander of the guard, military minister and commander-in-chief of the troops of the Khanate. He was awarded the rank of general of the army of the Khan of Khiva and was the recipient of a number of awards from the Khanate of Khiva.
Matmurod Devonbegi served successively under five Khans: Muhammad Amin-khan (1845 – 1855), Abdulla-khan (1855), Kutlug Murad-khan (1855 – 1856), Said Muhammad-khan (1856 – 1864) and Muhammad Rahim Khan Feruz (1864 – 1910).
Under the last two khans, he headed the Council (Devon) under the khan. As a contemporary researcher N. Polvonov notes: “Matmurod (Muhammad Murad) Devonbegi emerged, in whose hands the main leadership functions were concentrated.
In 1864, Matmurod directed the construction of the Sayyid Muhammad-khan Madrasah. He distinguished himself by courage, bravery, strong will, “valour and energy” (agakhi) and participated several times in the battles against the rebellious Turkmen and Kazakh tribes as well as against the Iranian and Russian troops. In 1871, he built the madrasah in Khiva known as the Muhammad Murod Madrasah.
In 1866 Matmurod Devonbegi at the head of the troops of Khanate Khiva crushed the rebels near the fortress of Ghaziabad, in 1867 – in a series of battles (near the village of Kattabagh, the lake Korp, the canal Ak-yab, Keneges) mentioned at Agakhi.
For these and other victories he was awarded several times (a gold-woven Khan robe with belt, a dagger with precious stones, a purebred Arabian stallion). In 1869 Matmurod commanded the troops of Khiva sent to Tau-Kara (Dau-Kara), which is noted by Bartold: “News came that the Russians, who had built a fortress at Kazalinsk on the north bank of the Syr-Darya, were planning to subjugate the Kyrgyz, who had summer houses on the south side of the river and were paying zakat and haraj to the government of Khiva. The Khan decided to send a deputation under the leadership of ‘Muhammad Murad Devonbegi’ to the Tau-Kara area. As V.V.Bartold noted in another essay, “Devan-begi Mat-Murad was at the head of the force sent to the steppe in 1869”.
As it was noted in the St. Petersburg magazine “Niva”: “The first place among the advisers and ministers of the Khan belongs to Mad-Murad Devan-begi, a very talented man, Mad-Murad gained a strong influence on the weak ruler”.
General Maksud Alikhanov-Avar noted the same: “the principal dignitary of the Khanate as the former tutor of the Khan and as the person determined and energetic, Mat-Murad had a great influence on him, and due to this he ruled the whole Khanate almost indefinitely”.
This fact was also noted by American J.A.Mak-Gahan: “Till now he (khan. – R.N.) has entrusted the entire administration of the state to his minister, Mat-Murad Devon-begi.
He also managed to earn the favour of the young Khan and the latter made him his chief adviser after his accession to the throne.” He also managed to earn the favour of the young Khan, and the latter made him his chief adviser after his accession. He led the army of Khiva at Sheikh-aryk and then accompanied the Khan”. He was leader of the army of Khiva at Sheikh-aryk and then accompanied the Khan, i.e. during the attack of the Russian imperial troops on Khiva in 1873. The paintings of the painter N. N. Karazin entitled The Khiva Campaign 1873.
Passage of the Turkestan commando through the dead sand to the wells “Adam-Krilgan”, “The first appearance of the Russian troops at the Amu-Darya. The crossing of the Turkestan commando at Sheikh Aryk”. N.Polvonov calls Matmurad “the hero of the struggle against the Russian invaders”.
Matmurod Devonbegi had 6 sons (Kutlug Murad, Sheikh Nazar, Husain Muhammad, Amankeldi, Kutlugkadam, Khudaibergan), all of whom were high military and civil officials of the Khanate of Khiva.
In 1904 – 1905, the sons of Matmurod Devonbegi actively collected donations for the Russo-Japanese War in the Khanate of Khiva. In 1873 Matmurod commanded the troops of Khiva, losing his eldest son Kutlug Murad in the fighting.
Unlike a number of other dignitaries of the Khanate Khiva (such as Mat-Niyaz, Said-Amir-ul-Umar, Yusuf-Maksum and others) who were proponents of the earliest peace treaty with the Russian Empire, Matmurod Devonbegi was a proponent of armed struggle against the invaders.
As stated by Mak-Gahan: “When Khan surrendered to the Russians, Matmurod Devonbegi was captured. Thanks to Matmurod Devonbegi and a number of other patriots (Rahmatulla-Bek Yasaulbashi, Abdulla-Bek) who led the anti-imperial resistance, the Khiva Khanate was not completely liquidated (this was envisaged in the original plans).
After the defeat of the Khiva Khanate and the signing of an agreement with the Russian Empire, the most active members of the resistance against the Tsarist troops were suppressed. Matmurod also came under repression – he was exiled with his family first to Kazalinsk (1873 – 1874), and then – to Kaluga, where he lived until 1880, his 2 younger sons were born there.
As Bartold notes: “After the capture of Khiva, his property was confiscated and he was exiled to Kaluga, where he lived for 6 years”. Along with him, his two closest associates, Rakhmatulla-Yasaulbashi and Abdulla-Bek, were exiled.
According to some reports, Matmurod Devonbegi had contacts with relatives and companions of Imam Shamil in exile who lived in Kaluga. One of the peculiarities of Kaluga was that it was practically the only city in the centre of Russia (apart from Moscow) that had a mosque.
Probably for this reason, disobedient Muslims were often exiled here. The last Khan of Crimea Shagin-Giray, the last Khan of the Younger Kazakh Zhuz Aryngazy-khan, the leader of the Turkmen uprising Cherkez-khan, the Chechen Sufi Kunta-Khadji, Imam Shamil and finally the exiled Khiva residents Matmurod Devonbegi, Rakhmatulla-Bek-Yasaulbashi, Abdulla-Bek were sent here at various times.
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the Tsarist government began to shift from a policy of harsh confrontation with and pressure on the elites of the Muslim peoples to a different tactic of rapprochement with them.
This was expressed in the admission of noble family members to Russian military schools and to serve in the elite units of the Russian army and bodyguard (including the Tsar’s own retinue).
During the period of exile in Kaluga, Matmurod’s two sons, Sheikh Nazar (future Yasaulbashi) and Husain Muhammad, studied at the Muslim section of the Voronezh Cadet Corps (1878-1880).
In 1879, at the personal request of the Khan of Khiva, Matmurod was pardoned by Emperor Alexander II and allowed to return to Khiva. In December 1879, the Governor General of Turkistan, Adjutant General von Kaufman, wrote to the Khan of Khiva: “In accordance with my submission to Your Excellency’s petition concerning the return home of the dignitaries of Khiva Devonbegi Magamed Murad and Yasaulbashi Rakhmatulla who were exiled in 1873, the Emperor, the merciful White King, has decreed on 27 September this year that the aforementioned Khiva people return to their homeland.
I inform Your Highness of this imperial order and request you to exercise strict supervision over Magamed-Murad and Rakhmatulla after their return home.”
On his return home in 1880, Matmurad was again appointed Devonbegi. As Bartold notes, “On his return to Khiva he was reinstated and by 1883 he was the chief minister”.
It should be noted that quite often Matmurod did not carry out many orders of the Tsarist authorities, which is mentioned in the documents. For example, in the letter of the Turkestan Governor General Dukhovsky to Khan Khiva dated 17 June 1898, it says: “Muhammad Murad could not fail to learn the concept that the orders of the Lord Governor General of Turkestan, as a person endowed with the full confidence of His Imperial Majesty, are reported to the authorities in Khiva for exact execution, and therefore I absolutely do not understand what considerations could guide Muhammad Murad Devonbegi not to carry out my order.
Under the new Emperor Alexander III, Matmurod received a number of Russian orders (St. Stanislav, St. Anna, St. Vladimir) and the rank of colonel in the Russian army (the Khan of Khiva himself had the rank of major general). Matmurod Devonbegi also received the decorations of the Khanate of Khiva, the Emirate of Bukhara and Persia (in particular, the Order of the Rising Star of Noble Bukhara and the Persian Order of the Lion and the Sun).
Many have noted Matmurod’s desire (especially after his return from exile) for European forms of organising life. As V. Bartold noted, “In Khiva he had a house in the European style, with European furniture and windows; there was no other house with such usual amenities for the European in the Khan’s capital at that time”.
As a member of the embassies of Khiva and privately, Matmurod visited various Russian cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg, etc.) many times. He died in Khiva in 1901 and was buried in Khiva in the family tomb.
Among Matmurod’s descendants there were many famous statesmen and public figures, scientists and writers, among whom the most prominent are:
- The son of Sheikh Nazar Yasaulbashi (1869 – 1918) – Yasaulbashi (Military Minister and Commander of the Life Guard) of Mukhammad-Rahimkhan Feruz and Isfayandiyar-khan. He had been more than once to St. Petersburg, Moscow, etc.
- The son Husayin-bek Matmurodov (1871 – 1918) – one of the leaders of the movement “Young Khivaans”
- The grandson Islam-khoja (18…-1913) – the son of the daughter of Matmurad and Ibrahim-khoja, vizier in 1899 -1910, grand vizier of the khanate under Isfandiyar-khan in 1910 – 1913
- Grandson Sayid Nazar (1909 – 1959), son of Sheikh-Nazar-Yasaulbashi, poet, prose writer, dramatist and journalist, in 1942-1952 head of the Samarkand branch of the Uzbek Writers’ Union
- Grandson Davlat Nazarov (1913 – 1988) was the son of Sheikh Nazar Yasaulbashi, a hero of the Second World War, a victim of Stalin’s repressions, a statesman and an important figure
- The great-grandson Renat Saidovich Nazarov (b. 1936) – the son of Said Nazar, the meritorious agricultural worker of Uzbekistan, doctor of agricultural sciences, professor, leading expert of Uzbekistan in the field of cotton cultivation
- The great-granddaughter Rakhima Saidovna Nazarova (b. 1946) is the daughter of Said Nazar. An eminent medical professional, a leading specialist in ultrasound examinations
- The great-grandson Nazarov Nodir Saidovich (b. 1952) – the son of Said Nazar, teacher, diplomat, public figure
- The great-great-grandson Ravshan Rinatovich Nazarov (b. 1966) is the son of R. S. Nazarov, graduate of Moscow State University, doctor of philosophy, scientist – ethnologist, historian, political scientist