Sogdia (6th century BCE - 11th century CE) was a historical region in Central Asia, the northernmost province of the Persian Empire and of the kingdom Alexander the Great established in the region after conquering the Persians. It lay north of the Oxus River (now called Amu Darya) and the Romans called it Transoxania (literally Beyond the Oxus). Sogdia was the center of the overland Silk Roads, and many of the quintessentially "Silk Road" cities lie in the region.
Historically, the Sogdians (the Indo-Iranian group who occupied the region) were never politically unified. Rather, their cities competed with each other for mercantile benefits, much like the city states in Renaissance Italy while the people were all the same.
The area is a fertile plain while much of the nearby land is mountains and deserts. Borders have changed over the centuries, and the area has not always been united. Today most of it is in Uzbekistan, but parts of the historical region extend into what are now Kazakhstan, Tajikistan (Sughd region) and Afghanistan.
- 1 Samarkand is near the center of the region, one of the great Silk Road trading cities, and was the capital of Tamerlane's empire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 2 Bukhara is another great Silk Road city, further west, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 3 Panjakent, east of Samarkand in Tajikistan, a fairly important city in ancient times, is a town with interesting ruins nearby today.
- 4 Shakhrizabz, south of Samarkand, was Tamerlane's birthplace, and is home to some impressive ruins.
- 5 Khujand, northwest of Samarkand, was founded by Alexander the Great as Alexandria Eschate, or Alexandria the Furthest. Now, it's Tajikistan's second-largest city and a regional hub at the opening of the Ferghana Valley.
- 1 Sarazm - UNESCO World Heritage Site Ruins of what is arguably the oldest city in Central Asia (c. 4th century BCE) and the first one with proven trade relations with civilizations in the Middle East, India, and China. Located between Panjakent and the Tajik/Uzbek border.
Depending on where you are (and the extent of your interaction with locals), you will encounter different languages spoken and written. The dominant language spoken by locals in most of Sogdia (Tajikistan and parts of Uzbekistan) is Tajik, a dialect of Persian. In Uzbekistan and bordering regions you may also encounter Uzbek, a Turkic language.
Due to the region's history as being part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, Russian is still widely spoken by educated people, although more and more English is being taught in schools.
The ancient Sogdian language has been extinct for over a thousand years. A descendant, Yaghnobi or Neo-Sogdian, survives, but it is spoken by only a few thousand people in the isolated Yaghnob Valley near Panjakent, and due to historic persecution, most of these speakers prefer to speak in Tajik.