Probably, Khiva is the most peculiar Uzbek city. Its history is inextricably connected with the history of the legendary Khorezmshah’s State with its capital in Urgench before. Khiva is a very ancient city.
In the 10th century Khiva is mentioned as a major trading center on the Silk Road. All the caravans had a stop here on their way to China and back. From dawn to dusk, until the gates were opened, an endless stream of moving string of camels with baggage passed them.
At the beginning of the 16th century Khorezm State became home for Uzbek nomadic tribes, who founded Khive Khanate here. However, Khiva did not become immediately the Khanate’s capital. It happened only after Urgench, an existing capital, had been destroyed due to the change of Amu Darya’s channel. In 1598 Khiva became the main city of the state.
In the 19th century Russia annexed part of Khiva Khanate. One century later, in 1919, the last Khan was liquidated of the ruling dynasty. So Khiva became the capital of the new Khorezm Soviet People’s Republic. In 1924 territories of Khorezm oasis became a part of modern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
There are many interesting legends that tells about the origin of Khiva. Allegedly, the city grew around the well Hewvakh, with tasty and cool water. The well was dug by the order of Shem, the elder son of Biblical Noah. Today one can see this well in the old part of Khiva, Itchan-Kala.
Khiva – a unique city, rightfully claiming the title of “the seventh wonder of the world”, thanks to its authentic atmosphere of the ‘era of the beginning of time. ” Most of the city of Khiva is similar to the open-air museum. And the nucleus of this museum – castle Itchan-Kala. It is inside this fortress concentrated all the architectural masterpieces of Khiva. Everyone who enters the fortress, are among the marvelous minarets, stone-paved alleys curves, leading to a madrassa with lacy rough mosaic of the ancient walls. This oriental tale! In 1990 the city was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The history of Khiva
The history of Khiva goes back centuries. Nobody knows exactly when this city sprang up, but the legends have it that once a son of the biblical hero Noah, Shem ordered to dig a well. By the way, this ancient well still exists in Ichan-Kala (the inner city) these days. But throughout its history up to 1598 Khiva was a small town in the desert, which was found on the way of caravans passing through Khorezm. At that time, it was often destroyed by various invaders: Alexander the Great, the Arabs, led by Qutayba ibn Muslim, Genghis Khan, Amir Timur, and many others intruded into this land.
But in 1598 Khiva became the capital of the Khanate of Khiva, because the Amu Darya River had changed its course, and destroyed the former capital Kunya-Urgench. Khiva gradually developed into a small but well-fortified city, which at the same time became a spiritual center of the Islamic world. Nevertheless, slave trade was flourishing in Khiva long enough – Khiva raiders drove people from the southern regions of Russia and Persia into slavery. This caused the Russian Empire in 1873, to organize a military campaign to do away with a flesh-traffic in Central Asia. And as a consequence of it, the Khanate of Khiva was annexed to the Government-General of Turkestan.
In 1919, the Red Army of the newly formed Soviet Union overthrew the last khan, and in 1920 Khiva became the capital of Khorezm People’s Soviet Republic. In 1924, the city became the administrative center of the Khorezm region in Uzbekistan. In 1991 Uzbekistan gained independence, and Khiva became one of the country’s major tourist centers. Indeed, today, in Uzbekistan, there is hardly a place, that would have such a concentration of different landmarks.