Tashkent: past and present
Tashkent: past and present Kukeldash madrasah Main fridays mosque Sheikhantaur Earthquake of 1966 Pushkin's street Square in new city Sail'goh street Theatre square Temples of christian faiths
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Main mosque in old city

Tashkent is a city on border of agricultural oases of Central Asia and boundless Eurasian steppes. It exists already more than two thousand years. In an extreme antiquity when this city still was known as Chach, it was not very large and on history value considerably conceded to more southern neighbors - to Samarkand and Bukhara. But archeologists today confidently identify in territory of modern capital of Republic of Uzbekistan some significant archeological objects, that are ancestors of Tashkent. And the kept monuments of ancient architecture have venerable age. Thus, well-known underground chilla-khana at Zain ad-din bobo mausoleum is constructed in XII century. But a great amount of ancient monuments of Tashkent which can be seen today, concern to XVI century when Tashkent became capital of one of the big state appendages of Sheibanid and ruled by authoritative branch of this dynasty.

Other group of interesting monuments of a history and architecture are the kept constructions of new city created by talented engineers of the end XIX - the beginning of XX centuries for public institutions of an administrative center of the Turkistan territory formed in Central Asia after a conquering these grounds by Russian empires.

At last, our present including both old, and new, numerous reorganizations, full re-planning, grandiose super modern construction - all this has transformed Tashkent into a unique sample of the largest Central Asian mega city in which it is extremely instructive for us to try to comprehend mutual relation of an antiquity and the present, to understand spirit of this city.

People live in a place of modern Tashkent already many thousand years. The fertile green of the Tashkent oasis stretched on coast of small, but the abounding in water river - Chirchik, have attracted the human in the Stone Age. Chirchik follows from Chimgan Mountains (this is the western spurs of highland Tien Shan, in clear weather they are well visible from Tashkent) and runs into the great river of the Central Asia - Syr-Darya.

In an antiquity to expand the area of grounds irrigated by Chirchik, in its top current - numerous channels were allocated. These channels operate even today, they proceed through modern city in the form of natural small rivers, but actually it is the irrigational constructions dug by people two - two thousand of years ago. If you look at Tashkent from the plane clearly it is possible to see, that the city settles down at bottom of high mountains on the hilly plain pitted by channels which are smoothly going down from northeast on a southwest. The highest mark within the limits of city - 511,7 meters above sea level, the lowest - 381,1 meters.

Many hills guessed under city building, - the remains of ancient settlements. It is considered that the oldest of them is Minguruk-tepe hill at northern railway station. Archeological excavations have shown, that it is the remains of initial city of Tashkent of two-thousand-year prescription, the city destroyed during the Arabian conquer of the Central Asia, that is in the beginning of VIII century. Then both the city and all oases referred to Chach. Experts make the modern name of city - Tashkent - from words Chach-kent, that in translation from ancient Turk language means "city of the Chach country". Under name Chach it is known in documents and inscriptions of ancient Persian kings who repeatedly undertook military campaigns here.

In those far times when the country Chach was desired extraction for conquerors: Persian shakhinshahs , phalanxes of Alexander the Great, nomads of the Central Asia (white Huns, uechgi), local residents were fire-worshippers, that is they profess primordially Central Asian religion - Zoroastrizm. Monuments of Zoroastrizm epoch are scattered on all territory of modern Tashkent. Under separate hills archeologists have found small strong settlements - castles, temples of Fire and other zoroastrizm deities. Rather frequently characteristic ossuaries are appeared in the ground of Tashkent - the special decorated clay vessels for burial of human bones according to strange ceremony of Zoroasrizm representatives.

After destruction of Chach (Arabs used "Shash") by conquerors - Moslems under leadership of known commander Kuteiba ibn Muslim, city in area Minguruk-tepe has not restored any more, and began to build up in the other place - on a hill between modern squares - Khadra, Eski-Juva and Chorsu. It can be imagined very evidently, standing on a platform before the kept monument of medieval architecture - Kukeldash madrasah, located at the end of Navoi Street opposite to high-altitude hotel Chorsu. Builders of XVI centuries - during Sheibanid governor Dervish Muhammad-khan have chosen this extremity southern face of medieval internal city - Shahristan - for erection of a majestic building - Madrasah (that is Islamic institute), the largest one of seventeen similar educational institutions existing in Tashkent.

Kukeldash madrasah in it's present look

View of Kukeldash madrasah and Chorsu square demonstrates one of very prominent features of modern Tashkent - its amazing many-sided feature. Super modern constructions quite often adjoin to a gray antiquity, memories of the past live near to skyscrapers of the future.

Near to Kukeldash madrasah three updated domes are visible. Here the main mosque is reconstructed. It has a name of the known public figure of Timurid epoch Hodzha Ahrar (1404-1490) - the main sheikh of powerful dervish of Nakshbandi institution.

The panoramic view of old city photographed from the dome of Hodzha Ahrar's mousque The panoramic view of old city photographed from the dome of Hodzha Ahrar's mousque

Tashkent was typical medieval east clay city. The impressive wall with twelve gates and watchtowers protected the townspeople from intrusion from outside. Presently Multi-kilometer Fortification practically was disappeared, unless modern decorative imitation of the Samarkand gate. Inside city walls, one-store houses made of adobe bricks under flat earthen roofs formed small quarters - Mahalla, surrounded narrow unpaved streets. To the beginning of XX century in old city 21 thousand such apartment houses formed almost 280 mahalla. Mahalla were united in large areas - Daha, each of which coped own elective administration. In Tashkent were 4 daha, their names were kept up to now: Sheikhantaur - in the east, Beshagach - in the south, Kukcha - in the west, and Sibzar - in the north old city. Daha converged to the centre where at bottom of the main city hill (Shahristan) the central market - center of then public life settled down.

View of old city market in the beginning of XX century View of old city market in the beginning of XX century

"Noisy, motley crowd of different tribes, abundance of any exotic fruit, a spots of unusually bright colorful clothes, brighter tones of any Asian goods which are sticking out along the rows of shop-tents, stately white-beard horsemen on horses, donkeys and the camels, making the way in different directions on multi voiced transitions and the areas, - and all this as in the fused oil, floats in sparkling in the southern sun ", - in this way the eyewitness describes a remarkable Tashkent market in the beginning of XX century. The main market of Tashkent exists on the same place already more than ten centuries. Long since here appeared to people and any news was distributed, singers - Hafizs, preachers - maddahs, clowns - maskharabozs and sharp fellows acted. In special show places circus actors - darvazs showed their art. Here it was possible to meet wandering dervishes-kalyandares, dressed in the original clothes tailored from multi-coloured rags. Every dervish wore a characteristic peaked cap (kulah) on his head, and carried a special cup for gathering the handouts on a belt, made of a coconut.

Dervishes in tashkent market Ceramics in old city

And certainly, on a market various production of masters - handicraftsmen was on sale. This production in the East Tashkent from time immemorial was glorified. First of all, it was outstanding according to art advantages Shash ceramics - jugs, bowls, dishes, children's toys and special image the dressed leather - green shagreen leather.

Premises of a market differed from mahalla a little and consist from all the same pise-walled frame constructions. Only here and there in city above monotonous yellow walls of the houses which are not having windows from the side of street, monumental public buildings with the domes, erected of a burnt brick, - mosques, madrasah and the mausoleums devotees of Islam towered. Their only small part was extant. And time of construction (XII-XIX c.), and art value of the monuments that have survived century of ancient architecture of Tashkent are rather various. We can see it on an example of the esteemed mausoleum (mazar) of Muslim sacred Abu Bakr ibn Ismail Kaffaal, located among medieval constructions of complex Hast Imam. The way to Hast Imam passes through partly extant typical mahalla of old city.

Mazar of Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashskiy

Mausoleum of Abu Bakr Kaffaal -is a dome construction of freakish outlines on the high basis with a facade to the north - was erected in 948 year of Hidjra (1541) about what there is an appropriate inscription on a facade which once was entirely decorated with a majolica. Bad safety of a building (loss of decorative tiles, deep cracks in a bricklaying) is caused, mainly, by influence of tremors. Existing mausoleum Abu Bakr Kaffaal - certainly, not the first above a tomb of sacred, life and activity of whom concerns to X century (he died in 976 year). When the previous structures collapsed from ancient earthquakes, the townspeople persistently erected and erected new ones.

Barakhan Madrasah Barakhan Madrasah (former Kok Gumbaz)

In general, Hast Imam area is rich with his extant monuments of ancient east architecture. Now the residence of mufti - chapters of Moslems of Republic of Uzbekistan here is placed. It is located in ancient Barrack - khan madrasah, built in XVI century, for some decades earlier, than Kukeldash madrasah.

The long, forty-year period of life of outstanding east poet Zain ad-din Vasifi (1485-1556) is connected with Hast Imam. It is considered, that he worked as the first rector (Muddaris) in Barrack - khan madrasah, and on one of nowadays not extant structures of this madrasah (a dome Kok Gumbaz) with color majolica laid out verses from poem about Tashkent written by Vasifi in 1515 where there are such lines:

Oh, what a beauty, what a realm!
And Paradise can't be compared with Shash.
And one, who makes his home this place for long,
Forever will forget what paradise it is.
Perhaps to die in Tashkent it is better,
Than life to drag in any other place!


Namazgoh at the beginning of ХХ века. Namazgoh of Tashkent

Certainly, cities have their own destiny. Though Tashkent in the past was not capital of any large ancient state, however has got sufficient popularity. Because through these places there passed northern branch of well-known trading road of an antiquity - a so-called Great Silk Road about which Venetian Marko Polo has so eloquently told to the West in due time. Occurrence of the Great Silk Road is lost in darkness of centuries, but it is authentically known, that already two thousand years ago silk fabrics from China were transported to Roman Empire overland through the Central Asia. Certainly Tashkent took part in this transit trade too - brisk trading city along the way from the East to the West.

Therefore it is not surprising, that national legends connect Tashkent and the well-known hero of an ancient history - Alexander the Great that in the Koran is called Iskander Bicorn. As if once Alexander after battle with Scythians at a ferry through Syr-Darya in 328 year B.C. has stopped at the certain sacred source in the district named Shaihontaur now. When he scooped Water of Life and began to drink directly from the fighting helmet decorated with gold horns, droplets of precious moisture dripped from ends of horns, and there where they drop on the ground, began to grow special trees of local coniferous breed Saur. Around of wonderful boscage then cult of Iscandar Bicorn appeared, very much dear in the East. Generally speaking, Saurs are rather durable, but since then has passed so a lot of time that these trees had time to dry and even to harden. In such kind the avenue of sacred Saurs of Alexander the Great in Tashkent existed till 30th years of XX century.

If we shall examine Shaihantaur today we wouldn't see well-known dry trunks outwardly resembling human fingers, sticking out from the ground. But one tree of Iscandar still is extant. It is inside the mausoleum of local sacred - sheikh Hovendy at-Tahur, occupying space from a floor up to the dome. Most likely, in XIV century the building was erected directly around of one of sacred trees at which roots the sheikh once bequeathed to bury.

It is interesting, that now there is no source of water in Sheihantaur area, but in other places of Tashkent there are some fountains of geothermal mineral water, and they have industrial value. It is known, that in zones of earthquakes natural outputs of underground hot waters eventually can change the arrangement and consequently the legend about a source about Sheihantaur, probably, has under itself quite real bases.

Around of esteemed trees of Iscander Bicorn in Middle Ages there was a complex of constructions most part of which during totalitarianism, unfortunately, was demolished. Now of sixteen monuments of ancient architecture here it was extant only three (mausoleums of Hovendi at -Tahur, Kaldirgach-biya and Unus-khan Mogul). Monuments are carefully kept, as they are connected to outstanding people of the past.

Thus, Unus-khan Mogul from posterity of Chingizkhan - the native grandfather of the great poet and statesman Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the state of Great Moguls in India. As Babur writes himself in his memoirs, he repeatedly visited Tashkent and, certainly, made in Sheikhantaur a traditional ceremony of worship ancestors.

If we come back to later times these places are too consecrated by the important events in culture and art. Here in middle of 20th years of XX century in the adapted rooms of one of madrasah (any more not existing) film studio "Uzbek film" has opened and the first Uzbek films - at that time still without sound were shut.

So old and new is fancifully mixed in Shaihantaur, and monuments of the past now from different directions are surrounded with ordinary city building. Catastrophic earthquake of 1966 has given a push to full change of shape of Tashkent.

All what we see today, especially in territory of new city, it is possible to name a result of full reorganization and reconstruction of capital of Uzbekistan after earthquake of 1966. Together with the structures destroyed from tremors also many whole, but strongly decayed from time one and two-storied houses in new city were demolished. Main streets of new city reserved shape, for example, Pushkin Street. During entry of Central Asia in structure of Russian empire in Tashkent were built monumental temples of various Christian faiths, the majority of which was not extant to present time. Last decade XX centuries, which is within independence of Uzbekistan, there is radical reconstruction of the Old city as the natural resource of life of apartment houses came to an end there. Some old buildings representing historic-cultural interest (the number of them is insignificant), and a grid of initial streets are kept only. However, and transport arteries have undergone to significant changes. In past west cities built in spontaneous way, in our automobile century transport problems especially draw their attention. Tashkent has favorably changed in this sense only last years. New two-story overpasses and convenient traffic intersections have considerably simplified trips around city of what we easily can be convinced, having a trip round a part of new city from a memorial "Courage" through an overpass at Alayski market and Pushkin street to Amur Tumur square.

Picturesque square in new city - main architectural - planning centre of this part of Tashkent. Decorated with century trees - giants, flower beds and fountains. The square gives bright representation about peculiarities of vegetation of Uzbekistan. In particular, here it is possible to see Elms, silvery poplars and the most known tree of these places - plane trees (a Turkistan plane tree) that in favorable conditions can live several thousand years. In the centre of square there is bronze horse monument of Amur Timur (1336-1405) - well-known statesman of the Central Asia, the commander and the legislator. Amur Timur (in Europe had name - Tamerlan), having won struggle for authority in Central Asian country between two rivers, almost forty years successfully ruled the extensive state which borders he broadened up to Mediterranean sea, India, the Chinese Turkistan and Russia. Amur Timur transformed his capital Samarkand into original Rome of the East, having decorated it, and other large cities of the empire (including Tashkent) outstanding buildings and constructions. He liked to repeat: " If you doubt of our force and power, look at our constructions". About all this is possible to learn in detail in the State Temurid museum, opened near to square in 1995. The museum is a typical sample of new public buildings of modern Tashkent.

Monument of Amir Temur State Temurid museum
Female gymnasium in the beginning of XX century Man's gymnasium in the beginning of XX century

And near to a museum it is necessary to pay attention on two long brown three-store bulks bordering square from the west. These are the first educational institutions in Tashkent of the European type: the man's and female classical gymnasiums, which have accepted the first pupils in 70th years of XIX century. On the basis of gymnasiums then, already in XX century, the Tashkent University was created. Well-known politician of XX century - Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970) studied here in 1900, the Head of the provisional Government of Russia in 1917 ended a gymnasium among the best pupils.

Other important event for a history also is connected to buildings of grammar schools. In this place the first-ever telecast was held. The student of the Tashkent University Boris Grabovsky invented and then patented the special device named Telephot in which the principle of transfer of the image by the radio for the first time was applied, used in our TVs now. He established the working model of the device - transmitter on a crossroads at grammar schools, and the device - receiver (that is TV) placed from it on the distance of five hundred meters along the street to the west. At the presence of numerous spectators experimenters received the moving image of a tram on the screen in the summer 1928. Between buildings of old gymnasiums the Sail'goh Street goes from square to the west, an original Tashkent Broadway. There is always crowd here, sidewalk open-air artists work, every possible souvenirs, production of national crafts are sold, in cafes located along street it is possible to try various dishes of the Uzbek National Meal.

In the south from street Sail'goh there is a magnificent Theatre Square of Tashkent where outstanding building of the Big academic theatre of an opera and ballet of name Alisher Navoi is located.

The Big academic theatre of an opera and ballet of name Alisher Navoi.

Having turned from the Theatre Square to Uzbekistan prospectus, we passing by the president residence of Republic of Uzbekistan located near to the majestic Square of Independence where traditionally populous celebrations in days of the state holidays take place, and go in the direction of People Friendship Square. On an example of this area of Tashkent it is possible to see the advanced tendencies of town planning of capital of independent Uzbekistan. In the center of the area before the Palace of People Friendship, which is usually used as a concert hall, very significant monument of Tashkent is established. It represents big family of ordinary smith Shaahmed Shamahmudov (1890-1970) really existing in city who within the Second World War has adopted 15 deserted small children of different nationalities and brought them up.

If you round the Palace of People Friendship and rise on a hill topped with a monument to the great poet, the founder of Uzbek classical literature Alisher Navoi (1441-1501) before us opens an impressing panorama of modern Tashkent. In environmental building - openwork multicolumn building of Oliy Maglis (that is a Supreme Council) of Republic of Uzbekistan under a huge blue dome, a glass skyscraper of the Interbank Centre, the reconstructed and comfortable park zone on a place of former clay mahallas of Beshagach draw special attention.

The monument to Alisher Navoi in National Park of Uzbekistan The building of Oliy Maglis of Republic of Uzbekistan

It is difficult to believe, that these monumental original on the architecture, necessary for city - capital beautiful products of modern town-planners have grown and some years were entered in a living tissue of the Tashkent city landscape more recently, in the last. Nevertheless a certainty remains, that years of independence of Republic of Uzbekistan were years of incessant, all of extending construction of new Tashkent. And now It rises before us in its beauty - ancient and eternally young two-million city in the centre of Asia which is named in one very popular modern song - "a star of the East, capital of friendship and hospitality".

Tashkent: past and present Kukeldash madrasah Main fridays mosque Sheikhantaur Earthquake of 1966 Pushkin's street Square in new city Sail'goh street Theatre square Temples of christian faiths
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