Fresh, fragrant city, where cherries ripen by the 1st of May, and strawberries are seven copecks a pound.
Stephen Graham (1914), English writer
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan. It is Central Asia's premier metropolis city with a 2,200-year history as a crossroads of ancient trade routes. This modern city of more than 2 million people, the fourth largest in the CIS after Moscow, St Petersburg and Kiev, holds much to arrest the curious traveller: from imposing squares, fine architecture and museums, to the mud-brick maze of the old Uzbek town, and the sweet spray of fountains on burning summer days.
The Tashkent oasis lies on the Chirchik river, within sight of the foothills of the western Tian Shan. Mountain water feeds the river, in turn feeding the Syr Darya. Over 50 irrigation canals nurtured more than 30 towns as Chach blossomed into an exporter of cattle, horses, gold, silver and precious stones. The seventh century remains of the ruler's fortress were found at Minguryuk.
Tashkent - stone village
Under Samanid rule in the ninth century the capital became known as Binkath, Arab pronunciation turned Chach to Shash and city walls fortified its mosques. Merchants rested their caravans here after the hazardous journey from China over steppe and mountain, before continuing to Samarkand and Bukhara. Arab visitors described a verdant place of vineyards, bazaars and craftsmen. Karakhanid's rule from the late tenth century maintained such prosperity and bequeathed a new, Turkish name Tashkent, 'stone village'.
The Mongol tour of devastation arrived in 1219, although Genghis Khan discovered the Khorezmshah had sacked the city only five years earlier. Recovery quickened under Tamerlane and his successors in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the city's oldest extant buildings arose. During the next three centuries the Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Persians, Mongol Oirots and Kalmyks all clashed for possession, yet by the 18th century growing trade with Russia had expanded Tashkent into four quarters with a common bazaar.
In 1780, Yunus Khodja, the chief of the Sheikhantaur quarter, ended internal strife by conquering the other three, Kukcha, Sebzar and Besh-Agach. Major General Mikhail Chernaiev's first assault was beaten off, but the threat of the Bukharan emir stealing this prize and the prospect of Great Game glory back in St Petersburg persuaded him to try again in May 1865. Ignoring orders not to attack, he advanced his force of 1,900 men against the city's 30,000 defenders. On the night of 14 June, the Russians crept up to one of 12 city gates. Just before dawn, a diversionary attack lent the main party lime enough to scale ladders and use a secret passage to open the gate from inside. Chaplain Malov led the charge, holding his Orthodox cross out high. After two days of fighting, city elders chose surrender to save Tashkent from destruction by superior firepower. Chernaiev had lost only 25 men. For his daring, locals christened him Shir-Naib, Lion Viceroy. Chernaiev's disobedience had secured with little cost a key foothold in the imperial underbelly.
With the coming of the Russians, the angel of death has breathed on all that was once the grandeur of the Orient at Tashkent. As the fine Russian streets were laid down, large shops opened, and the gardens laid out, the old uphill-and-down dale labyrinth of the Eastern city changed to a curiosity and an anachronism. The old and new parts of Tashkent became extremely loyal, peaceful and happy.
The trees were replanted, but architecture was less lucky: city walls and gates were demolished along with countless mosques, madrasahs and mausoleums. In 1930, the city won from Samarkand the capitalship. After that, institutions and industries flooded in, particularly during the war years (1941-45), when evacuees from European Russia doubled the population to a million.
Earthquake and Renovation
"Like living on the back of a berserk camel" was how one journalist described the earthquake (7.5 on the Richter scale) and over 1,000 subsequent tremors that devastated Tashkent on 26 April 1966. Casualties were relatively low, but 300,000 were left homeless. The whole Union rushed to the task of reconstruction and the result is today's Tashkent. Both the concrete grandeur of modern architecture and the old Uzbek traditional architecture stand next to each other and make the city one of its own kind.
After gaining independence in 1991, Uzbekistan prospered and became one of the leading countries in CIS. Tashkent became a regional hub with many hotels and business centers. If you do not visit Tashkent for one year, it will change to the level that you may not recognize it. It is becoming beautiful and clean year by year, many old buildings being renovated and many new ones are being built, streets are getting wider and smoother. In 10 years, Tashkent will compete along with the most developed cities in the World.