Tashkent is the capital city of the Republic of Uzbekistan, a country located in the region of Central Asia between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. The city itself is located on the Zarafshan River, just to the west of the Ferghana Valley. The history of Tashkent goes back more than 2,500 years, to a time when there was evidence of habitation in the region. The name itself means "city of stone," perhaps indicative of the stones used in its construction. It grew to be a significant stop on the great silk road in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, yet remained in the shadows of the more important city of Samarkand, which is approximately 300 kilometers (185 miles) to the south.
The city's fall to Russian forces in 1865 signaled the beginning of Imperial Russian rule over the region. It was designated as the capital city of the Turkestan Governor-Generalship and was the Russian capital of Central Asia. Indeed, as the city grew in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, distinct districts were formed, for both indigenous peoples and for the European colonizers. Tashkent was the scene of some of the bitterest
fighting during the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the subsequent civil war. For much of this period, Tashkent was a Red bastion, surrounded by anti-Bolshevik forces.
The political importance of Tashkent continued through the Soviet period. While Samarkand was initially designated as the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (UzSSR), in 1929 the honor was given to Tashkent. During World War II, numerous factories and industries were moved to Tashkent from areas within Russia and Ukraine that were threatened by invading German forces. Consequently, Tashkent became industrialized from the 1940s onward, giving the city a strong economic importance to Central Asia and the Soviet Union as a whole.
In 1966 Tashkent experienced a devastating earthquake that left significant portions of the city in ruins. The Soviet government made the city's reconstruction a national effort, and citizens from all parts of the country moved to Tashkent to help in the rebuilding, with a number staying afterward. As a result, the population of the city quickly exceeded one million, and by the late 1980s was more than 2.5 million. As of 2002 the official population of the city was 2.6 million residents, although some estimates are closer to 3.0-3.5 million, or 12–14 percent of Uzbekistan's total population. While Samarkand and Bukhara make claims to be the cultural centers of Uzbekistan, Tashkent remains the political and economic power of the country. Moreover, it is a major transportation and trade hub for Central Asia.
See also: central asia; islam; uzbekistan and uzbeks
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TASHKENT , capital of Tashkent district, Uzbekistan. Tashkent was conquered by the Russians in 1865. Previously there was a small community of Bukharan Jews living in a special quarter there. Russian rule improved the legal status of the Jews, and many Jews from neighboring *Bukhara consequently settled in Tashkent. Although Jews from European Russia were prohibited from settling in Tashkent under czarist rule, a small community of Russian Jews who belonged to categories permitted to settle outside the *Pale of Settlement was formed there during the second half of the 19th century. In 1897 there were 1,746 Jews in the region of Tashkent, most of whom lived in the town itself. On the eve of World War i about 3,000 Jews lived there and maintained Jewish educational and cultural institutions in which the language of instruction was Hebrew. A Tajiki-language Zionist newspaper, Raḥamim, was published. With the establishment of the Soviet regime, the Jewish cultural and religious institutions were gradually liquidated and the Zionist newspaper was replaced by a Communist one, Bairaki Huriet ("The Flag of Freedom"). During the 1920s and 1930s Tashkent became one of the centers to which active members of the Zionist Organization and members of the pioneering youth movements were exiled. During World War ii Tashkent became one of the most important absorption centers for refugees from the German-occupied regions. Many remained in the town after the war, and a large Jewish settlement was thus created.
In the 1959 census 50,445 Jews were registered in Tashkent (5.5% of the total population), most of them newly arrived Ashkenazi Jews and a minority of old-time Bukharan Jews. There was one synagogue for Ashkenazim and two for Bukharans all in the same compound. In 1963 the organized baking of maẓẓot was prohibited, but Jews continued to bake them at home. The synagogue buildings were damaged in the 1966 earthquake in the area; the Bukharan Jews repaired their synagogue, while Ashkenazim moved to a new synagogue building. Tashkent Jews applied for exit permits to Israel, particularly from 1968. After the mass exodus of the 1990s only a few thousand Jews remained in Tashkent, which maintained an active community center as part of the general revival of Jewish life.
Voskhod, 5 (1885), 1413–14; 6 (1886), 450–1; A. Neimark, in: Ha-Asif, 5 (1889), 74–75; E. Tcherikower (ed.), In der Tkufe fun Revolutsye (1924), 356–66; A. Rudnitski, Shanah be-Rusyah (1945), 193–7; I. Ben-Zvi, Niddeḥei Yisrael, ed. by A. Reuveni (1965), 165–6, 175 (= The Exiled and the Redeemed, 1957).