Tashkent was first mentioned in “Avesta” and in ancient Chinese manuscripts. The city arose in the Chirchik river valley, on the border of the oasis and steppe as the place, where farmers and cattle – breeders, settled population and nomads used to meet for joint trading. And this place proved to be a happy choice, because the city managed to survive in spite of all trials – wars, sieges and invasions. In the ancient chronicles the city was known under such names as Yuni, Chach, Shash: Judging from the accounts made by Beruni and Makhmud Kashgari, the name “Tashkent” first appeared in the Turkic sources of the 9th – 12th centuries. The city has always served as kind of a link between the countries in the East and the West, in the North and the South. The advantageous geographical location and favorable climate made Tashkent one of the main points on the trade routes of the Great Silk Road.
Quite often Tashkent’s destiny was really dramatic. More powerful neighbors constantly hankered after this rich trade city. And it was very rare, that Tashkent belonged to itself. In the 7th centuryTashkent was the “summer” capital of Eastern Turkic kaganate, in the 8th century it was destroyed by the Arabs, but managed to rise again anyway, whereas at the beginning of 13th century the city was captured by Khorezm – shah Mukhammad who then ceded it to khan Kuchlik. In the 14th centuryTashkent was a part of the empire of Temur, who then handed it down to his grandson Ulugbek. In the 16th century the city belonged to Sheibanids and one century later it was captured by Imam Kuli – khan from Bukhara, who delegated his power to his governor-general. At the beginning of the 19th century Tashkent became the colonial possession of Kokand ruler Alim – khan. Same century the city was annexed to the Russian empire and became the administrative and political center of Turkestan region. At, at last, in the 20th century Tashkent outlived the Soviet power and became the capital of Uzbekistan – the sovereign and independent state.
Ultimately, Tashkent was born under the lucky star. The city lives and grows, constantly extending its borders. In the middle of the 19th century there were less than 100 thousand inhabitants, but at the beginning of the 21st century the population of Tashkent numbers more than 2 million people.
Some imported things, found on the site of ancient settlement, in particular a riton with the picture of the Parthian ruler, testify to the brisk trade and wide cultural links with the antic world.
Tashkent is rich in archeological monuments. The scientists have investigated the capital of Uzbekistan as no other city of Central Asia. Ten years ago there were registered only 39 archeological monuments, but at present this number has increased up to 240.
Originally the building of Juma Mosque was built in 1451 at the expence of sheikh Ubaydulla Khoja Akhror – the great Sufi, the descendance of the prophet Mukhamad.
In XIX century the mosque was heavily destroyddamaged by destructive earthquake. But it was reconstructed by the order of Russian Impirer Alexandr III, who in 1888 allocated money from his own treasury for resconstruction and restoration f the mosque. Thus since that time the mosque has the second name – Tsar’s Mosque.
However time didn’t spare even the reconstructed mosque. The ruins of this mosque were leveled to ground in 1997, and new building of mosque was erected on the same place – next to the madrassah Kukeldash – in the old part of the city. And today the mosque has not one but three domes. By the way this is the third largest Friday mosque in Uzbekistan. It yields only to two constructions of similar type – Bibi Khanym in Samarkand and Kalyan Minaret in Bukhara.
Amir Temur Museum
Museum of the History of Timurids was established in Tashkent in 2006. Today it is an important landmark in the city. The grandiose building of the museum is an example of refine architecture, in the style of the oriental architecture: a round building is topped by a huge blue dome. The entire perimeter of the building is decorated with graceful columns, they look like supporting the roof. The museum’s windows are in the form of the arched niches.
The building’s facade is richly decorated. Its building, surrounded by fountains attracts the attention of all guests of the capital. The museum has collected more than three thousand exhibits that tell about the ancient history of our region. Among them there are paintings, historical documents that relate to the life and activity of Amir Temur, unique manuscripts, weapons, old clothes, utensils, and various coins. Each of the exhibits is a piece of history.
The site of ancient settlement Shoshtepa, situated in the capital’s outskirts, is called the progenitress of Tashkent. There was discovered the initial settlement here, which sprang up in the 4th – 5th centuries B.C. and in later period gave rise to the urban formation. People lived in mud-huts there and busied themselves with cattle – breeding and agriculture. They could make the molded ceramic dishes, had a knowledge of weaving and melting of bronze and iron. A rather notable discovery made on the territory of Tashkent was monumental pise-building, which most likely was a citadel.
In the 9th century the city was ringed about with an imposing wall having a watch-tower and 12 gates from which there ran the trade roads. Time did not spare this fortification construction; there have been preserved only the names of ancient streets which once were the continuation of caravan’s ways inside the city – Samarkand-darbaza (Gates of Samarkand), Chigatay-darbaza: The city was divided into 4 districts – dakha, which for its turn consisted of dozens of blocks-makhallyas. Each dakha, as well as makhallya, had its local government – Council of Elders. As a rule, the makhallya’s name reflected the professional belonging of its inhabitants. Thus, in the makhallya Dargez there lived foundry workers, Takachi makhallya was inhabited by blacksmiths, whereas in Igarchi makhallya there lived mostly saddle-makers.
In Navoi avenue, opposite the many-storeyed hotel “Chor-su”, there is a well-preserved monumental building of Kukeldash maddrasah; behind it one can see the domes of the main mosque of Tashkent Djuma-mosque, associated with the name of its builder – the most outstanding religious figure of Temurid’s epoch Khodja Akhrar, the native of Tashkent.
In the city’s historical part called Khastimom, a beautiful monument – mazar Kaffal Shashi – is situated. A high dome crowns this simple brick construction with fragments of majolica decoration. The remains of the one of the first Islam preachers in Tashkent Abu Bakra ibn Ismail Kaffal Shashi, who lived in the 10th century, are buried here. The mausoleum was constructed over his grave in the 16th century and became the place for worshipping.
To the south from the mausoleum, there is one of the best monuments of the Middle Asian architecture of the 14th century – Barak-khana complex, which includes one madrassah and two mausoleums, one of which was raised over the burial place of Suyudji-khan, the first ruler ofTashkent from Uzbek dynasty of Sheibanids. Being a grandson of Ulugbek and an educated ruler, he engaged to his court many scientists and poets. He also invited the famous poet from Herat Zainaddin Vasifi as a tutor for his son. The poet wrote about Tashkent: “Anyone visiting this city just once, will never want to leave it and will stop to dream about paradise blessings”. Today the Religious Administration of Moslems of Uzbekistan is situated in Barak-khana complex.
In one of the ancient districts of the city – Shaikhantaur, there are two more monuments of the medieval architecture: the 14th century mausoleum of Yunus-khan and the 15th century mausoleum of Shaikhantaur, both being considered as Moslem sacred places.
After Tashkent had been annexed to the Russian empire, the so-called, “new” city sprang up here. It was located next to the old city, and was separated from it by Anchor canal. The territory of the former fortress of Kokand governor-general from Urda became the part of this “new” city. Very soon the city assumed new forms. Along Shaikhantaur street (now it is Navoi avenue), connecting the “old” and “new” cities, the horse-drawn tram begun to run, and in 1912 the first automatic tram-line started to function. In this district in 1884 year there was opened the first Russian – native school, which initiated the secular education in Turkestan. There was also built a railway branch leading toTashkent. The brick buildings of banks, factories, hotels and restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas were constructed in the city. One of the most remarkable constructions of that period of time still adorns the center of the capital. This is the former palace of the Grand Duke Nikolay Konstantinovich who got in disgrace and was finally exiled to Turkestan. Nowadays this beautiful construction houses the Reception House of the Ministry of International Affairs.
In the middle of the 20th century, one of the central squares of Tashkent – Teatralnaya Square was formed. Today one of the ten city theatres – the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of opera and ballet – is situated here. It was built in accordance with the project of academician Shusev in cooperation with the Uzbek masters Usto Shirin Muradov and Tashpulat Arslankulov and is decorated with marble carving. The interior of the theatre is decorated with intricate ganch fretwork made in compliance with ornamental traditions of Bukhara, Khiva, Samarkand and Tashkent. The frescos, imaging the story lines of Alisher Navoi’s works, were made by the founder of the monumental painting of Uzbekistan Chingiz Akhmarov. In the repertoire of the theatre there are the operas and ballets of Verdi, Bizet, Chaikovsky, as well as the works of modern Uzbek composers.
The rich cultural and spiritual heritage is reflected in the expositions of Tashkent museums. Among them we can point out the Museum of History of Uzbekistan with its unique numismatic collection, archeological finds and ethnographical relics. In the museum of the Temurids there has been displayed a rich collection of exhibits testifying to the formation in the Middle ages of a statehood on the territory of Uzbekistan, as well as evidencing the development of science, culture and art relating to the epoch of Amir Temur and his heirs. The richest collection of traditional folk art articles is presented in the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts.
Tashkent Underground is a unique engineering construction built in the area of high seismic activity. Its three lines connect the residential districts and industrial regions with the city’s centers and each of its 29 stations, dressed in marble and granite, is decorated by the best painters and designers of Uzbekistan.
In the 20th century the city experienced two crucial events. The first was the destructive earthquake of 1966. The monument “Courage”, constructed in the epicentre of the earthquake, reminds about this nature disaster, which put an end to the old one-storied Tashkent. Only “islands” of the old residential sites remained. The ruinous, but none the less unsubdued city immediately busied itself with frame and panel construction work , which gave the citizens a new level of comfort.
Another event, which changed the appearance of both the capital and the country itself, was the declaration of independence of Uzbekistan in 1991. The tall buildings made of glass and metal, many-level highway junctions, new parks, museums, fountains, in a short time made Tashkent a modern developed international megalopolis.
The capital has got a new architectural exterior. Keeping the national traditions of the architecture, there have been raised the new buildings which are not inferior to the world standards of town planning.
Within the last ten years a number of modern sport complexes, tennis courts, swimming pools have been opened. The townspeople may spend their weekend in the Golf club on the “Rokhat” lake; they can enjoy a fabulous time in the “Aqua park”, or to have a rest in one of the comfortable hotels, situated in the picturesque Chimgan foothills or on the bank of the Charvak reservoir.
Today, the townspeople have the opportunity to satisfy the most refined tastes of theirs and to do shopping in the supermarkets and boutiques, where they are offered the fashionable garments and footwear from such famous fashion-houses as “Hugo Boss”, “Armani” or “Valentino”. Yet those who like exotics and inexpensive entertainment can visit the city center – Tashkent “Broadway” occupying Sailgoh mall. There are a lot of cafes and bistros, souvenir shops, stands with toys and bijouterie, funny ceramic figures, embroidery and varnished miniatures.
Those who like to relax after the strained day, in the evenings can go to the restaurants and night-clubs, where they can try the delicate dishes, listen to good music, watch fascinating shows. It is also possible to ascend to the viewing platform of the “Koinot” restaurant, situated at the height of one hundred metres above the ground on one of the layers of Tashkent TV tower, the highest one in Central Asia, and to watch the unforgettable panorama of the huge city with its avenues and parks, smooth water surface of the canals and artificial lakes, shining blue domes of the parliament – Oliy Majlis and City Khokimiyat, mirror-like windows of new high-rise residential constructions and office blocks, tall buildings of the hotels “Intercontinental”, “Sheraton”, “Radisson SAS”, of the National and Central banks, of International business center.
The contemporaries call the Uzbek capital “Star of the East” and “Ambassador of Peace”. These names remarkably harmonize with the very essence of the city, which for more than 20 centuries has been symbolically illuminating the life of its citizens as well as of those on the way.