For its fecundity and picturesque scenery Fergana valley is rightly called a pearl of Central Asia. For the most part the valley is surrounded by the Tyan Shan, Hissar and Alay mountains, and only in the west it is open for the Syr Darya River.
Fergana valley has always ranked high in the history and culture of Central Asia. Thus Fergana state Davan was first mentioned in the Chinese chronicles, while in the Middle Ages it was one of the leading principalities of Movarounnakhr. The trace of ancient settlements as well as medieval monuments serve the evidence of the fact that in the ancient times this valley was the habitat of many civilizations.
Today Fergana valley is one of the prosperous regions of Uzbekistan. Fertile oases enclose the region. Along the northern boundary f the valley there flows the Syr Darya River, which is formed by the confluence of two smaller rivers - the Karadarya and the Naryn. Their waters feed three main canals - the Big Fergana Canal, the Southern Fergana Canal and the Northern Fergana Canal - the first nation-wide constructions of the twentieth century. The big cities - Fergana, Kokand, Andijan and Namangan are located in the oases of the valley. In the rural area there prevails the cultivated landscape - vast cotton fields, green spots of gardens, melon and gourd plantations and vineyards cut with lines of irrigation ditches. Rows of poplar trees and mulberry trees, plane trees and elms run along the highways.
Margilan, one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia, remembers the invasion of Alexander the Great. It is known from the historical sources that this great conqueror raided the territory from Khodjent to Uzgen and on his way back he crossed the town, which later was named Margilan. In the 10th century Margilan was already the biggest city of Fergana Oasis and was famous for its silk fabrics, which along the Great Silk Road were delivered by merchants to Egypt and Greece, Bagdad, Khorasan and Kashgar. Today too we can call Margilan the silk capital of Uzbekistan. It is here that the famous "khan-atlas" fabrics, woven and dyed manually in accordance with the ancient techniques, are manufactured.
In 1876, after Kokand khanate had been annexed to Russian empire, in 12 kilometres from Margilan there was built a town which got the name New Margilan and which became the center of Fergana Region. The construction works in this new town were carried out with respect to the regular plan, which in its general outline has been preserved to our time. New Margilan first renamed into Skobelev and subsequently into Fergana, was built in accordance with radial-circular system the centre of which was the fort constructed on the highest hill to the south from the city. In general the plan of Fergana copied the plan of St-Petersburg.
Fergana was growing slowly, for a long time being used as a big "work-place" for the military and officials. The noticeable growth of the city began only the twentieth century, especially after the republic gained independence. At present Fergana is an important industrial centre of Uzbekistan and it is the second town in the republic after Tashkent as regards the production volumes. Within the last few years there appeared many modern constructions in the city - a comfortable many-storeyed hotel, a beautiful tennis court, a covered city market, a big park zone with flower-beds and fountains.
In 50 kilometres from Fergana there is a small town Rishtan. From the old days the citizens of Rishtan have been renowned for their ceramics. For over 800 years from generation to generation the craftsmen have imparted the secrets of producing ceramics from the local red clay and the glaze manufactured from the natural mineral dyes and ashes of the mountain herbs.
Big shallow dishes "lyagan", bowls "shokosa", pots for water, vessels for milk, decorated with ornaments made in "ishkor" glaze characteristic of turquoise and azure colours - all these made the craftsmen from Rishtan world-known and their works decorate numerous international exhibitions, museum displays, private collections.
For a long time Kokand was the main city of Fergana valley. The first written evidence about the town of Khavikand can be found in the 10th century chronicles where it was mentioned as a town located on the Great Silk Road and famous for its crafts. In 18-19th centuries it was the capital of powerful Kokand khanate, the state that dominated most of the territory of modern Uzbekistan and contiguous states. Kokand was a big religious center. In the years of its prosperity there were 35 madrassahs and 100 mosques here. Unfortunately, the majority of them were ruined in the course of time or as a result of earthquakes, or by the Soviet power.
Twenty-nine khans reigned over Kokand, but the most famous among them was the last khan - Khudoyar-khan, who ruled over the city from 1845 to 1876. Four times he lost his thrown and four times he managed to reinstate his power. In 1868 Khudoyar-khan acknowledged himself a liegeman of the Russian emperor. Eight years later, together with his court, his four wives and his harem he arrived to Tashkent where he handed over to the general-governor of Turkistan the state seal and other fasces. Thus Kokand khanate ceased to exist.
They say in the East: "New ruler - new money". Similarly we can say: "New ruler - new palace". In the violent history of Kokand the Khudoyar-khan palace that has been preserved to the present time, was the ruler's seventh mansion-house within only one and a half centuries.
The best craftsmen from all over the valley decorated the magnificent palace built in 1871 by the architect Mir Ubaydullo. The palace facades contain the ornaments made of ceramic tiles; the interior is decorated with carved ganch and multicoloured wall paintings. The palace consisted of 7 small inner courtyards and 119 rooms. The carved stone fence surrounded the whole territory. Above the entrance gates there was made an inscription in Arabic: "Seid Mukhammad Khudoyar-khan - the great ruler". Nowadays the palace houses the city museum of local lore.
Madrassah Norbutabi, which was built at the end of the 18th century, was the most important religious centre of the city. After Uzbekistan gained its independence this madrassah again started to function as a seminary and at the moment more than eighty students study here.
The cathedral Juma-mosque, which was built at the beginning of the 19th century, can be considered the bright specimen of Islamic architecture. The overhead coves of avian are supported by 98 carved columns made of such a hard wood that it is called "stone wood" The unique ceiling of the mosque is made of beautifully decorated with intricate paintings wooden plaques "vassa", which are placed across the bars similarly decorated with ornaments. A minaret visible from any spot in the city towers the mosque.
One of the peculiarities of Kokand was that unlike in other oriental cities there existed no division into "old city" and "new city". After Kokand had been annexed to tsarist Russia, the ruler's palace was turned into fort, while arterial roads lined the city quarters - makhallas. Thus along the newly laid avenues among the constructions of old Kokand there appeared the European-style edifices built of burnt "Nickolay's" bricks.Soon the city turned into a big centre of capitalistic activity of Turkistan, surpassing Tashkent in number of banks. For instance, on the portal of one of the buildings dated back to the first half of the 20th century, there has preserved the Inscription "Russian-Asiatic bank".
Among the Fergana valley cities Namangan, the homeland of Uzbek poet Mashrab, stands apart. Not far from Namangan there are the ruins of ancient town Aksikent. The archeological research proves that the town had the citadel and thick outer walls. The town possessed an advanced trade and handicraft industry. Aksikent was the capital of Fergana valley up to the 13th century. In the later period it was destroyed by the Mongols and in the 17th century strong earthquake finally demolished the town. Thus the year of 1582 can be considered the year when Namangan was founded. It was then that Sheibanid ruler Abdallah II brought here, to the north of Fergana valley, the numerous prisoners of war after his victorious military campaign to Khorasan. At the beginning of the 17th century there moved here the citizens of Aksikent whom the devastating earthquake forced to leave the native town. In mid-18th century Namangan became the administration centre of the viloyat. In 1875 it joined Russia. At that period of time the foundation of a new city was laid in accordance with the regular city-plan. This new part had to be separated from the old part by the fort, which traditionally became the main point from which there radiated the city streets. At the beginning of the 20th century Namangan was the second city in Fergana valley as regards number of population and volumes of cotton processing. It was at this period of time that religious buildings such as Khoja-Amin mausoleum and Mullo-Kyrgyz madrassah and many others were constructed.
In the vicinity of Namangan there is another big city Andijan, homeland of Zakhiriddin Bobur, a poet, the author of famous epic work "Babur-name", a statesman, a military leader who conquered India and formed the dynasty of Great Mogols.
The age of Andijan makes it one of the most ancient cities of Fergana valley. Already in the first century A.D. the city was part of Kushan's kingdom. In 30 kilometres from the modern urban area there lies the site of ancient settlement Erish - the capital of ancient Davan state, which was famous for its swift-footed stallions. It was from here that these fast horses were delivered as a very precious thing to the court of Chinese emperors. In the 9th-10th centuries Andijan became the domain of Samanid dynasty. In the 15th century it was ruled over by Bobur, the descendant of great Temur.
Bobur wrote about the city: "There are 7 cities in Fergana valley. Five of them are situated on the southern bank of the Seykhun River, while the other two stand on its northern bank. One of the southern cities is Andijan, just in the middle. This is the capital of Fergana valley. Bread is abundant there and the fruit is rich, while melons and grapes are the best". In Maverannakhr, besides Samarkand and Kesh, there is no fortress bigger than Andijan. There are three gates, and the citadel is located in the southern part. Water comes to the city by nine canals; and the most amazing thing is that it does not drain anywhere. The people of Andijan are all Turks; there is no one in the city or in the market who cannot speak Turkic. The spoken language is very close to its literary variant. Alisher Navoi's works are written in this language though he was brought up in Herat".
In 1902 Andijan suffered a terrible earthquake and subsequently it was built anew. Of all the architectural monuments of the past only Jami madrassah has been preserved.
Andijan today is one of the biggest industrial centres of Uzbekistan. Many modern industrial enterprises have appeared here in recent years: a big Uzbek-Korean joint venture manufacturing the cars, an engineering plant, cotton manufacture, textile factory. The city is surrounded with fruit gardens, cotton and wheat fields.
Fergana valley - the vast prosperous oasis with the most fertile lands in Central Asia and the finest climate - is rightly called Golden Valley.