Ferghana

Just as Uzbekistan is the heart of Central Asia, the Fergana Valley is the heart of Uzbekistan. Over seven million people, about a third of the population, live in this fertile flood plain of the Syr Darya. The town of Ferghana has grown into the Ferghana valley's third-largest city, with population of 220,000. Founded in 1876,20 kilometers from the ancient town of Margilan, it was christened New Margilan, then in 1907 became Skobelov, after the first military governor, and in 1924 assumed the valley's name.

Ferghana's wide avenues spread fan-like from the old military fortress, recalling the St.Petersburg design of Tashkent. Parks, fountains, Russian architecture and industrial zones strengthen the similarity, and the contrast, with Uzbek Islamic Margilan. Defined as the 'town of the boar' or the more enigmatic 'city of winds', Kokand lent its name to the powerful 19th century khanate stretching from the Ferghana Valley to Tashkent and the southern Kazakh steppes.

Though young compared to other Ferghana towns, Kokand quickly blossomed into a prosperous trading and religious center, contesting the spoils of Central Asia with the khanates of Bukhara and Khiva.In summer, the Ferghana Valley's resemblance to a dusty cauldron helps many people renew latent nomadism and head for the hills. A popular resort is Shakhimardan, where the appeal of cool air, rushing rivers and mountain lakes is laced with the twin allures of political and religious pilgrimage. The roads follow the luminous frey of the Shakhimardan River to its source in the town itself, where the clear Kok-su (blue river) collides with the bright Ok-su (white river).

Known in the tenth century as the village of Andugan, Andijan's steady growth ensured in the full force of Mongol destruction. Yet in the late 13th century Kaydu Khan, great-grandson of Genghis Khan, rebuilt the town into the capital of Ferghana. It remained so for the next three centuries, giving its name in Chagatai Turkish to whole valley. As the eastern gate to Transoxiana, Andijan was the center of lucrative trade with Kashgar.The city of Namangan ranks third largest in Uzbekistan, after Tashkent and Samarkand, yet it appears a relative newcomer to this eastern cradle of Ferghana civilization. It takes its name from local salt mines, namak kan , longtime suppliers to the kitchens of Tashkent.

At the time of the Russian occupation, the Namangan district had developed into a bastion of Islam, with over 20 madrassah and 600 mosques. The tsarist and Soviet eras Russified the center and industrialized he suburbs, spawning a rise in population to 330,000, but never tamed the people.


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