On 17-18th September 2020, Leiden University organized an online conference titled "Contesting Empires: Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara between the Sasanian empire, the Tang dynasty and the Muslim Caliphate (ca. 600-1000 CE)".
According the ECO Cultural Institute, this conference brought together both senior and junior scholars who have expertise in the study of conflict and interaction between the Sasanians, early Islamic Caliphate, Turko-Iranian authorities, and the Tang dynasty of China, over the regions of Sogdiana, Bactria, and Gandhara between ca. 600-1000 CE.
Each side attempted to expand or consolidate its political and military control over these regions. With the expansion or contraction of any of these powers, the political map of these regions also changed. The shift of frontiers in these regions between these powers had complex impacts, both at the centres and the peripheries of the empires. As a result, it encouraged or forced local political elites to define and redefine their inter-regional relations, and also their relations with those greater political powers.
Several important conclusions have been made at this conference. The importance of these regions as the connecting points between China, India, and Iran has been highlighted further. The geographic, ethno-linguistic and religious diversity created not only a colourful cultural mosaic in these regions but also reflected very different political priorities of the local political elites. The bigger political powers like the Sasanians, the Tang empire, or the Umayyads tried to keep power balance in these regions sometimes by forming regional alliances or fighting each other. In between, the local political elites tried to retain their socio-political positions by cooperation with any bigger power that could ensure their local interests. Hence, both the strategies applied by those bigger powers or the policies enforced by the local politicians could change based on the situation.
It is worth mentioning that the idea of this conference was provided by Said Reza Huseini, the Chief editor of ECO Heritage magazine. He was also among the conference speakers along with Arezou Azad, Peter Frankopan, Robert Haug, Joe Cribb, Shuqi Jia, Jialong Lui, Pavel Lurje, Gabrielle van den Berg, Elena Paskaleva, Petra Sijpesteijn.