Nadezhda Dukhovny
Nadezhda Dukhovny

Ancient and Unique Uzbekistan: The Fergana Region I

Welcome to Uzbekistan! Welcome to Ferghana region!

Posted by Uzbekistan Embassy in Israel on Saturday, April 10, 2021

It is no coincidence that the Fergana region is called the “Cradle of ancient civilizations”. After all, the route of the Great Silk Road passed here, ancient and medieval monuments were found, and education and science developed.

Fergana region is one of the most picturesque and rich places in Uzbekistan. It is located in the Fergana Valley in the middle of the Pamir-Alai and Tien Shan Mountain systems.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region

The Fergana Valley is distinguished by its abundance and variety of natural resources. Therefore, the people call it the pearl of Uzbekistan. It has all the natural and geographical conditions necessary for human life and development since ancient times: fertile soils, a favorable climate, and an abundance of water. All this in many ways contributed to the emergence of settlements on this land since ancient times. Fergana was an independent historical and cultural oasis of Central Asia, similar to Bactria, Sogdiana, and Khorezm.

According to scientists, already in the II millennium BC, the first settled agricultural settlements, for example, Chust, arose in the Fergana Valley.

At the turn of the II-I millennium BC, in the largest settlements, there was a process of separation of citadels, that is, the rudiments of fortification and the transformation of settlements into fortified cities. Numerous studies by archaeologists have shown that the appearance of such settlements was everywhere associated with the development of property stratification in society.

On the territory of the Fergana Valley, numerous monuments of the past have survived to this day – the ruins of ancient cities, fortresses, castles hidden by the mudslides, as well as magnificent medieval social and religious buildings and many memorial buildings, which reflect the art of local architects.

During the Achaemenid and Alexander the Great period, Fergana was considered a separate region and an independent state. Although it had close cultural and political ties between the states of Central Asia, Fergana was never part of these large states.

In the middle of the III century BC in Central Asia, there were independent states – the Parthian and Greco-Bactrian. During excavation work on the Fergana Canal, a copper coin was found with an image of the Greco-Bactrian king Heliocles, testifying to the ties of Fergana with Bactria.

Information about the events that took place on the territory of the Fergana Valley in the 3rd centuries BC is very scarce. After the fall of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, new state formations arose on the territory of Central Asia. Among them appears under the name of Davan Fergana.

In the III-VI centuries. AD in connection with the invasion of the nomadic tribes of Central Asia, the Turkification of Fergana begins.

By the middle of the 5th century AD, the formation of a semi-nomadic Hephthalite state on the territory of Central Asia was completed.

In the 19 century, Fergana was part of the Samanid state, the center of which was Bukhara.

The cities of medieval Fergana in the 19 century were concentrated in the flat part of the valley. The international trade route to the east passed here, which went through southern Fergana, headed from Kuva through Chuet to Osh, then led to Kurshab, Uzgen, and Kashgar.

In the subsequent time, Fergana acquired a new meaning in the history of Central Asia. If under the Samanids it established its role in economic and cultural life, then under the Karakhanids (11th-12th centuries) it acted as an important political center.

In the XI-XII centuries, Uzgen retained and, apparently, strengthened its position as the capital of Fergana. This is evidenced by historical data, as well as wonderful architectural monuments.

At the end of the XIV century. Timur included Fergana in his empire, after which it remained in the power of his descendants until the end of the dynasty. Zakhiriddnn Muhammad Babur, who ruled this region in 1494-1504, described the towns and villages of the Fergana Valley in Baburnama. From his notes, we can glean information about the fortifications of cities, palaces, suburban buildings, and garden culture of that period. “The largest cities,” Babur noted, “were Andijan, Osh, Margilan, Isfara, Khojent, and Kai Badam”. In the north of the valley, he mentions “Kasai and Akhsyket, which after Andijan was larger than other cities of Fergana”.

In the 16th century, the Uzbek dynasty of Sheibanids established itself in Central Asia, which, having made Bukhara the capital, annexed Fergana to their state.

After the fall of the Sheibanids in 1710, the Kokand Khanate arose on the territory of the Fergana Valley.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region

In the Kokand Khanate, there were tendencies towards the unification of the fragmented territory into a single state. State tasks were fully determined under Alimkhan (1800-1809), who managed not only to unite Fergana under his rule but also to subjugate the regions of Tashkent and Chimkent. Kokand rulers intensively built capital buildings with rich decorative finishes in the capital and other large settlements. Among them are the Urda Palace in Kokand, a number of madrasahs in Andijan, Namangan, Shakhrikhan. During the same period, many residential houses were built for the townspeople, as well as richly decorated quarter mosques and memorial structures.

In the 60s of the 19th century, the conquest of Central Asia by Russia began and in 1876 its protectorate was established on the territory of the Fergana Valley. The cities of the Kokand Khanate at this time largely retained their old feudal appearance. The center was usually the bazaar square (chorsi), from which the main streets radiated out in radii, and between them, there was a labyrinth of countless alleys and dead ends. Orchards and vineyards stretched outside the city. Many cities were divided into parts — daha. In Kokand and Andijan there were 4 dakhas, each had its own administrative persons – one kazi (judge), one ming bashi (thousander). Dakha were divided into quarters – mahallaguzar, headed by mahalla elders, aksakals. There was a mosque in every quarter of the city. In the Fergana Valley, many mosques of this period have survived with a peculiar layout and often unique painted ceilings (Sirli mosques in the Namangan region, Pansot in Shakhrikhan, Jami in Kokand, etc).

There are 376 objects of material cultural heritage in the Fergana region, of which 113 are archaeological sites. The most famous of them are Kuva Shahristan, Muyi Mubarak, Sarykurgan, Mug Pasha, Zangish Tepa, Sufan tombs, Ark Tepa, Ziyrak Momo, Kara Mulla, and others.

In recent years, in cooperation with the Institute of Archaeological Research of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, work has been carried out in Kuva Shakhristan, Mashhadi square in Besharik district, Ziyrak-momo in Oltiarik district, Ziyrak-momo in Toshlok district, Oktepa and Sokhibi Khidoya in Rishtan district. As a result, information was obtained about the ancient urban planning and early agricultural culture, crafts, industry, and production schools of the Fergana Valley.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region

 

The name Fergana reflects the essence of this magnificent place – “a valley surrounded by mountains”.

Beautiful Fergana, music of the East is the main city of the region. There are so many dedicated poems and songs sung to her! And all because it is so difficult to convey all the charm of Fergana in simple sentences. This is an amazing land of a kind and talented people, ancient monuments and holy places, picturesque landscapes and clean air, juicy and sweet fruits, cozy teahouses, and generous dastarkhans.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region

To this day, the inhabitants of Fergana use ancient methods in the manufacture of incredibly beautiful products, the secrets of which have been passed down from generation to generation. Fergana handicraft is considered a cultural treasure and heritage of the entire Uzbek people.

Modern Fergana is a large industrial center with a developed economy. It is located in the southern part of the Fergana Valley. The city has a zoo, several green parks, sports centers, numerous entertainment venues, modern buildings, and striking attractions.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region

 

A monument to the outstanding Central Asian scientist Al-Farghani is erected in Central Park. In the park, you can visit the Museum of Local Lore and the Puppet Theater.

And across the road behind the monument is the Fergana market – the main bazaar and a great place to get acquainted with the local flavor. The bazaar has a huge selection of delicious fruits and melons, Fergana flat cakes – a hot delicacy that you cannot refuse.

A little further than the market is the central Yangi Chek mosque. Another beautiful mosque, Nur-Jomiy, stands out for its bright green facade.

Several old buildings near Central Park are reminiscent of Tsarist Russia. They were built at the end of the 19th century and their architecture is perfectly preserved. Among them are the Russian Drama Theater (formerly the building of the military governor), Fergana State University (formerly the men’s gymnasium), as well as the House of Officers, and the Temple of St. Sergius of Radonezh.

Another picturesque park, Sanat Saroyi, is a good place for walking and cycling. On the territory of the park is the Palace of Arts. I.A. Karimov. Walking around the city, on the way, you will meet cafes and restaurants with national cuisine. Do not deny yourself the pleasure of tasting Fergana pilaf, known for its aroma and slight pungency.

If you want to find yourself in a city with a rich architectural heritage of the 18th-19th centuries, then Kokand, located in the Fergana region, will become an unforgettable journey.

The Ministers of Tourism of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States decided to declare the city of Kokand the capital of tourism of the Turkic world in 2022.

Ah, blooming Kokand, the abode of wisdom and poetry! The people say that there are 440 mahallas in this city and poets live in each. And this is not surprising, because once the city was the center of the Kokand Khanate, science, religious education, and poetry flourished here.

In the very heart of the city, there is the main architectural star – the Khudoyar Khan Palace, a monumental building with a magnificently decorated facade and luxurious interior decoration. There are many ancient mosques and madrasahs in the city. Among them are the Jami Mosque, the Madari-khan mausoleum, the Norbut-biya madrasah, the Gishtlik mosque, the Emir madrasah, the Dakhma-i-Shakhon burial vault.

Kokand. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

25 minutes from the administrative center – and you are in one of the most ancient and distinctive cities of Fergana, in Margilan.

The Fergana Valley is the “silk center” of Uzbekistan, and the city of Margilan is a place where the ancient traditions of silk weaving, not lost in the age of industrialization, have been preserved. Traditions of silkworm breeding and weaving in the valley date back to the days of the Great Silk Road, when enterprising davani traders, disguised as wandering monks, took out the first silkworm cocoons hidden inside travel staffs from the Celestial Empire.

The most famous landmark of the city is the Yodgorlik silk factory, which produces natural khan-atlas fabrics (100% silk fabric) and adras (semi-silk fabrics) using the old ikat technique. The factory was opened in 1972.

The famous khan-atlas. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

Already in the 10th century, Margilan was a fairly prominent craft center and was especially famous for its silk fabrics. It has developed its own deeply national local school with its own style and techniques. Therefore, for a long time weavers from all over Central Asia have been studying in Margilan, adopting the Margilan style of decorating silk and semi-silk fabrics, which formed the basis of that national style of ornamentation of handicraft fabrics that has survived to this day. Such a high level of silk weaving could only be based on the deep traditions and experience of many generations of masters.
Let us also recall that the flourishing of the production of fabrics is always closely connected with the way of life of the people and political stability – only under favorable economic conditions, the production of artistic fabrics grew stronger and developed.
Since the XIV century, the importance of Margilan as a large and wealthy handicraft center with a vast agricultural area has been increasing.
During the Kokand Khanate (XVIII-XIX centuries), Margilan was the center of the vilayat and was ruled by close relatives of the khans, playing an important role in the politics, economy, and life of the country. It was during that period that artistic weaving in Margilan reached its peak.

Yodgorlik silk factory. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

For centuries in the East and West, Margilan silk was famous for its unique pattern. Well-known are heavy semi-silk fabrics – bekasabs, benaras and adras, light and thin silks for women’s clothing – shayi and madali, dense, well-draped purple fabrics – turme, picturesque, completely original in contrast and at the same time harmonious colors – abra atlases.
The most popular fabrics have always been patterned abra silk, the beauty of which is achieved by a special dyeing technique (abrband) and the selection of complex ornamental compositions when refueling the loom. The second name for abra is ikat, it is under this name that this fabric is known in the West.
“Abr” in Persian means “cloud”. It is difficult to determine the time of the appearance of abra dyeing, but one of the legends says that the craftsmen imitated the reflections in the water of a pond of running clouds, and the other – the rainbow spots obtained from the oil poured into the hauz.

Yodgorlik silk factory in Margilan. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

Truly, all ingenious is simple! If, according to the classical genre, a ready-made fabric is dyed, then here the warp threads are dyed in separate sections in different colors long before the weaving process, which gives a wide scope for the imagination of the masters. Many researchers suggest that it is the Fergana Valley that is the birthplace of abra fabrics.

An old legend about khan-atlas says that in time immemorial one of the rulers of Margilan decided to marry for the fifth time. His choice fell on the young daughter of a poor weaver. Frustrated, the girl’s father threw himself at the feet of the old khan, begging him to back down from the girl. The khan replied that he would fulfill the poor man’s request if by the next morning he would create something so extraordinary that it would make the khan forget about the beauty of the girl.

The saddened weaver sat on the bank of a ditch, not knowing what to do next. And suddenly he saw in the water a reflection of clouds, colored, after the last rain, in all the colors of the rainbow. “Oh heaven, thank you for the idea!” He exclaimed and ran home to immediately get to work.

The next morning, he weaved an extraordinary fabric in the image of what he saw – light and airy like a cloud, cool like clean mountain air, and shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow.

When the master brought this extraordinary fabric to the khan, he was shocked by its magical beauty “How did you do that?” He asked the weaver. To which the weaver replied: “I took the green of the foliage washed by the rain, added the color of tulip petals, the blush of the dawn, the blue of the night sky, the glare of the sun on the fast-flowing water of the irrigation ditch, the glitter of the eyes of my beloved daughter and mixed everything.”

The unusual fabric was called “khan-atlas” (“khan’s silk”), and the khan gave the weaver’s daughter as wife to his beloved son.

Margilan silk store. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

A 50-minute drive from Margilan is the main pottery workshop of Central Asia – the city of Rishtan. Since ancient times, the city has been famous for its ceramics, the quality, and painting of which is amazing. The most beautiful glazed ceramics have been considered the standard of pottery for more than one century. They are made by local Kuzagar ceramists.

Rishtan ceramics. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

Putting their soul and kindness into each ornament and curl, the masters of drawings of Rishtan ceramics convey the sacred meaning.

Rishtan ceramics. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

As a rule, authors are inspired by nature, as can be seen from the color palette and drawing. The favorite color is usually blue, it symbolizes the beginning of life and faith in the future.

The Fergana Valley has presented the world with many amazing places with magnificent monuments and craft centers. For example, the city of Quva, one of the most ancient cities in Central Asia, once located at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road, was a center of education and cultural exchange.

Quva. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

The exact location of Kuva is the eastern part of the Fergana region, bordering the Kyrgyz Republic. Like many cities in the Fergana Valley, Quva is of a very venerable age. The exact date of the foundation of the city has not yet been established. However, archaeological research is underway on the territory of the city, and, perhaps, soon we will learn many secrets associated with the formation of human civilization in this area. In the meantime, scientists, with the accuracy of surgeons excavating the temporary layers, date the age of the settlement to the 3rd century BC.

Quva excavation site. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

Quva is one of the oldest cities in the Fergana Valley. Nobody knows what the name of this settlement was at the very beginning, but the Arab conquerors who came here in the 10th century called this place “Kubo”, which means the same as “tepa” in Turkic, namely “hill”. And this is not surprising, because the new city was built on the ruins of the former, gradually settling adobe settlement, which in turn was built on the ruins of the previous one. From the same Arab sources, it becomes clear that Kuva was a typical eastern city, consisting of three parts: the shahristan citadel, surrounded by a city wall and rabads, trade and artisan settlements around the city. According to the same data, during the early Middle Ages, the city may have been larger and more beautiful than the ancient capital of the Fergana Valley – Aksikent, and also possessed economic and political power, trade and crafts flourished in it.

Archeological excavation in Quva. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

Also, on the territory of the settlement, a Buddhist temple and Buddhist figurines and statues of Buddha were found. The size of one such statue was about three meters. The Buddhist temple was located on a small hill and was separated from the rest of the ancient city quarters by a special wall. Kuva burials dating back to the X-XI centuries were discovered near the destroyed temple. The found treasure with bronze coins, which were very unusual and uncharacteristic for that time, is attributed to the same period.

Before the Mongol invasion, Quva was the center of education. Science, literature, and poetry developed here.

It is believed that it was here that the genius scientist of the 9th-century al-Fergani (Latinized name Alfraganus) was born. He was able to scientifically substantiate that the earth has the shape of a ball. He also mathematically proved the existence of the shortest and longest day of the year, predicted solar eclipses and changes on the sun’s surface. His works on astronomy, mathematics, and geography became the property of the entire scientific community. In the center of the city in honor of Al-Farghani, there is a majestic memorial complex.

Quva. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of Fergana Region.

Today Quva has developed into a city of gardens with cotton and textile production. Going on a trip to Kuva, be sure to try the most delicious and juicy Quva fruits: the famous pomegranates, peaches, cherries, persimmons, apples.

Despite the fact that significant results have been obtained during many years of excavations at the Quva settlement, archaeologists still face many unresolved issues, among which the most important is the question of the time of the first settlements on the territory of the city and the question of its political status in different eras.

The village of Shakhimardan is located 55 km from Fergana. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is surrounded by Kyrgyz territory and is located at an altitude of 1550 meters. Shahimardan has the purest mountain air. It is washed on both sides by two rivers – Ok-su and Kok-su, which ultimately unite into one large river Shakhimardan-sai.

According to legend, the appearance of this place is associated with the fourth caliph Hazrat-Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. It is believed that this is where the caliph was buried, and the place became holy. On this territory, in honor of the great ruler, a beautiful architectural complex was built, including a mosque and a mausoleum.

The nature of one of the most picturesque corners of the country is famous for its transparent mountain rivers and healing springs, as well as magnificent slopes. The village is dominated by a medicinal mountain climate – ideal for restoring health, both for the whole body and for the treatment of the respiratory system.

The nature of the Fergana region is a separate story. Since ancient times, colorful landscapes have inspired Fergana masters, writers, and artists. Perhaps, for this reason, the Fergana art is so unique and beautiful.

About the Author
Nadezhda Dukhovny was born and raised in Uzbekistan and made aliya in 2005. She holds an MA in Linguistics from Tel Aviv University and works in translation. She has a true interest about her motherland and would like to tell more about that fascinating country to make Israeli readers familiar with another culture from other part of the globe.
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