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Notes on the Geography of Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel

Think of Bukhara's history in tranches.  First are the Samanids, who come in the 9th century, at least a thousand years after the city's establishment but who create the oldest of its surviving monuments.  Then there's a Turkish interregnum.  It begins in 999 and lasts until the Mongols.  Nothing tangible remains of either.   Timur arrives in 1370, but he doesn't leave much because his capital is Samarkand.  Then, starting in 1500, comes a long period of Uzbek khans, chiefly the Shaibani, Janids, and Mangids.  They're of greater or lesser regional sway, but these are the rulers who create most of what is now historic Bukhara and make it the cultural center of Central Asia. Among the great builders of the era are Ubaidallah Khan (1512-, Abdul Aziz I (1530-60), Abdulla Khan II (1557-99), and the Imam Quli Khan (1611-41).  

Last come the Russians, who create a General Government of Turkestan in 1867, leave an emir in place, but effectively rule Bukhara.  That charade ends in 1920.  In the process of bombarding the city, the Soviets destroy three-quarters of it; what survives is then heavily bulldozed.   Population growth is directed to new, peripheral developments, while the old city--its population cut in half to about 40,000--is reduced to little more than a scattering of protected monuments, their traditional functions abandoned.  It remains so today, though UNESCO in 1994 put Bukhara on its list of world heritage sites.

The captions here rely heavily on the ponderous but useful Bukhara: The Eastern Dome of Islam, by Anette Gangler, Heinz Gaube, and Attilio Petruccioli, 2004)

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Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 1

The city once had a wall; it's mostly gone now but this gate survives.  It's called the Sheikh Jalal Darvoza, or Sheikh Jalal Gate.  A visitor a century ago saw it locked.  "All these gates... are shut at night and the key delivered at the palace of the Emir, where they are again fetched the next morning; only at the gate where the road from new Bokhara leads into the town are the keys always with the guard at the gate out of regard for the Russian political agency, which has free passage day and night." (Quoted from O. Olufsen, The Emir of Bokhara and His Country, 1911.)

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 2

Within the city there was an inner citadel or fort, the Ark, where the emir had his palace.  Its wall was reduced to near-rubble before the Soviets in the name of cultural preservation began rebuilding it.  The picture shows the "before," with a bit of "after."

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 3

A closer view of the wall in contrasting states of health.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 4

Near the one surviving entrance to the citadel, the wall is solidly restored.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 5

And here's the gate, built in 1742.  Judging from the length of the citadel's walls, you'd expect to find plenty inside, but you'd be disappointed.  Most of the buildings that were here a century ago were bombarded to splinters and bulldozed into oblivion.  A few things survive, clustered near this gate.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 6

From the top, the wall looks like this.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 7

Inside the citadel and near the entrance there's a classic guzar or flat-roofed mosque.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 8

Such mosques are built in a modular form and can easily be enlarged.  Roof timbers have always been scarce and precious, however, and they've often been reused--even moved from city to city.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 9

The mosque in its entirety.  Compare it with the Baland Mosque in a following chapter.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 10

Porticoes rim the kurinesh khana or throne room.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 11

Around it are buildings with the classic Uzbek wood-frame wall, loosely filled with adobe bricks (guwalyak).

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 12

Flanking the Ark is Bukhara's famous zindan, or prison.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 13

Inside, there's a number of smaller buildings.

Uzbekistan: Bukhara: Citadel picture 14

Gratings cover one of the pits in which prisoners rotted.


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