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(sămərkănd`, Rus. səmərkänt`), city (1991 pop. 395,000), capital of Samarkand region, in Uzbekistan, on the Trans-Caspian RR. It is one of the oldest existing cities in the world and the oldest of Central Asia. At the time of its greatest splendor medieval Samarkand was a fabulous city of palaces and gardens, with paved and tree-lined streets and a water system that supplied most of the individual houses. It had great silk and iron industries and was the meeting point of merchants' caravans from India, Persia, and China.

Modern Samarkand still is a major cotton and silk center. Wine and tea are produced, grain is processed, and there are industries producing metal products, tractor parts, leather goods, clothing, and footwear. The irrigated surrounding region has orchards and gardens and wheat and cotton fields. Samarkand is the seat of the Uzbekistan state university and of medical, agricultural, and teachers' institutes and the site of a regional museum.

Points of Interest

The old quarter of Samarkand with its maze of narrow, winding streets occupies the eastern part of the city and centers on the Registan, a great square. It contains some of the most remarkable monuments of central Asia, built during the reign of Timur and his successors. The most famous of these is Timur's mausoleum, surmounted by a ribbed dome and faced with multicolored tiles; the conqueror's tomb was opened in 1941. Other buildings include the Bibi Khan Mosque, with its turquoise cupola, erected by Timur to the memory of his favorite wife; several other magnificent mosques; the mausoleums of the Timurid cemetery (Shah-i-Zinda); and the ruins of the observatory built by Ulugh-Beg, a grandson of Timur.


Built on the site of Afrosiab, which dated from the 3d or 4th millennium B.C., Samarkand was known to the ancient Greeks as Marakanda; ruins of the old settlement remain north of the present city. The chief city of SogdianaSogdiana
, part of the ancient Persian Empire in central Asia between the Oxus (Amu Darya) and Jaxartes (Syr Darya) rivers. Corresponding to the later emirate of Bukhara and region of Samarkand, it was also known as Transoxiana.
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, on the ancient trade route between the Middle East and China, Samarkand was conquered (329 B.C.) by Alexander the GreatAlexander the Great
or Alexander III,
356–323 B.C., king of Macedon, conqueror of much of Asia. Youth and Kingship

The son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, he had Aristotle as his tutor and was given a classical education.
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 and became a meeting point of Western and Chinese culture. The first paper mill outside China was established there in 751.

The Arabs took Samarkand in the 8th cent. A.D., and under the Umayyad empire it flourished as a trade center on the route between Baghdad and China. In the 9th and 10th cent., as capital of the Abbasid dynasty in central Asia, Samarkand emerged as a center of Islamic civilization. The tomb of BukhariBukhari, Muhammad ibn Ismail, al-
(c.810–70), Arabic scholar, b. Bukhara. He traveled widely over Muslim regions and made an authoritative collection of the hadith, the traditional sayings of the Prophet.
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 (d. 870), near Samarkand, is a major Muslim shrine. Samarkand continued to prosper under the Samanid dynasty of Khorasan (874–999) and under the subsequent rule of the Seljuks and of the shahs of KhwarazmKhwarazm
or Khorezm
, ancient and medieval state of central Asia, situated in and around the basin of the lower Amu Darya River; now a region, NW Uzbekistan. Khwarazm is one of the oldest centers of civilization in central Asia.
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In 1220, Jenghiz KhanJenghiz Khan
or Genghis Khan
, Mongolian Chinggis Khaan, 1167?–1227, Mongol conqueror, originally named Temujin. He succeeded his father, Yekusai, as chieftain of a Mongol tribe and then fought to become ruler of a Mongol confederacy.
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 captured and devastated the city, but it revived in the 14th cent. when TimurTimur
or Tamerlane
, c.1336–1405, Mongol conqueror, b. Kesh, near Samarkand. He is also called Timur Leng [Timur the lame]. He was the son of a tribal leader, and he claimed (apparently for the first time in 1370) to be a descendant of Jenghiz Khan.
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 (or Tamerlane) made it the capital of his empire. Under his rule the city reached its greatest splendor; sumptuous palaces were erected, and mosques and gardens laid out. Under Timur's successors, the TimuridsTimurids
, dynasty founded by Timur (or Tamerlane). After the death of Timur (1405) there was a struggle for power over his empire, which then extended from the Euphrates River to the Jaxartes (Syr Darya) and Indus rivers.
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, the empire soon was much reduced; it broke up in the late 15th cent. and was ruled by the Uzbeks for the following four centuries. Samarkand eventually became part of the emirate of Bukhara (see Bukhara, emirate ofBukhara, emirate of,
former state, central Asia, in Turkistan, in the Amu Darya River basin. Part of ancient Sogdiana, it was ruled (A.D. 709–874) by the Umayyad Arabs and played an important role under the Samanid dynasties (875–1000).
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) and fell to Russian troops in 1868, when the emirate passed under Russian suzerainty. In 1925, Samarkand became the capital of the Uzbek SSR, but in 1930 it was replaced by TashkentTashkent
or Toshkent
, city (1992 pop. 2,133,000), capital of Tashkent region and of Uzbekistan, in the foothills of the Tian Shan mts.; the name is also spelled Dashkent. The largest and one of the oldest cities of Central Asia, it is the economic heart of the region.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city and the administrative center of Samarkand Oblast, Uzbek SSR. It lies in the Zeravshan Valley (between the Dargom and Siab canals), on the Great Uzbek Highway connecting Tashkent with Termez. The city has a railroad station on the Krasnovodsk-Tashkent line; another line runs from Samarkand to Karshi, 142 km to the southwest. Population, 299,000 in 1975 (55,000 in 1897; 105,000 in 1926; 136,000 in 1939; 196,000 in 1959; 267,000 in 1970). Area, 51.9 sq km.

From the fourth century B.C. to the sixth century A.D., the site was occupied by the city of Maracanda, the capital of Sogdia-na, which later became part of the Turkic Kaganate. In 329 the city was captured by Alexander the Great’s army. In the early eighth century A.D., the Arabs seized the city. In the ninth and tenth centuries it was ruled by the Samanids; in the 11th century it was conquered by the Karakhanids and later by the Sel-juk Turks; in the mid-12th century it was taken by the Karaki-tai; and at the beginning of the 13th century it was annexed by the Khwarazm shahs.

In 1220 the Mongol-Tatars destroyed Samarkand. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries it was the capital of Timur’s empire. Under Ulug Beg, an astronomical observatory was built in the city between 1424 and 1429. During this period Samarkand was a major economic and cultural center in Middle Asia. In 1500 it became part of the Sheibanid state, the capital of which was transferred from Samarkand to Bukhara in the mid-16th century. In the late 16th century Samarkand came under the control of the Bukhara Khanate.

In 1868 the city was occupied by tsarist troops and was incorporated into the Russian Empire as the capital of the Zeravshan Okrug; from 1887 it was the administrative center of Samarkand Oblast. The city was linked by rail with Krasnovodsk in 1896 and with Tashkent in 1899. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry developed, chiefly cotton ginning, tanning, and food processing. The first revolutionary demonstrations of workers took place in the 1880’s and 1890’s. In the early 20th century, political exiles in the city helped form local Social Democratic organizations. After Soviet power was proclaimed on Nov. 28 (Dec. 11), 1917, Samarkand became part of the Turkestan ASSR. Between 1924 and 1930 the city was the administrative center of the Uzbek SSR, and in 1938 it became an oblast administrative center. Its 2,500th anniversary was celebrated in October 1970; on Feb. 5, 1971, it was awarded the Order of Lenin.

Samarkand is Uzbekistan’s second largest city, after Tashkent, in terms of population and industrial development (68 large industrial enterprises). During the first five-year plan (1929–32), silk reeling and silk weaving factories, a fruit cannery, and a tea curing factory were built. During the Great Patriotic War several plants were evacuated to Samarkand: the Krasnyi Dvigatel’ Plant, producing spare parts for tractors and automobiles, the Kinap Plant, manufacturing film-making equipment, a tobacco-fermentation plant, and a spinning mill.

A superphosphate plant was put into operation in 1948, a footwear plant in 1959, a house-building combine in 1961, and a furniture factory in 1966. Several new industrial enterprises were opened in 1970: a porcelain plant, a garment factory, plants manufacturing elevators and household refrigerators, and the Gelion Plant, producing radio components. Among other important branches are light industry and the food industry. The city obtains natural gas via the Bukhara-Tashkent pipeline.

In the northeastern part of the city are the Afrasiab ruins of an ancient fortified town, with the Museum of the History of the Founding of the City of Samarkand. Nearby are the Shah-i-Zindah mausoleums and the Bibi Khanum religious complex (1399–1404). The complex includes the ruins of a magnificent congregational mosque with rich faience and carved marble decorations on the facade and interior ornamental wall paintings and an octahedral mausoleum with a cross-shaped hall (adorned with tiles and wall paintings) and a crypt. In the center of the old section of Samarkand is Registan Square, with its group of madrasas. South of the square stand the Gur Amir mausoleum, the Aksarai mausoleum (1470’s, a cross-shaped hall with cells and magnificent mosaic and stalactite ornamentation), and the Rukhabad mausoleum (1380’s). Southeast of Registan Square are the ruins of the Ishrat Khan mausoleum, built in 1464. The cross-shaped mausoleum has a domed central hall flanked by two-story chapels. Nearby is the memorial complex of the Abdi Darun mausoleum, dating from the 15th century. Among other noteworthy buildings are the 15th-century Chupan Ata mausoleum, the Khodzha Akhrar madrasa (1630–31), and the Khazret Khyzr mosque, built on an ancient foundation in the 19th and early 20th centuries by the architects Usto Baki and Usto Abdukadyr.

In Soviet times city planning has incorporated the old architectural monuments. Today, Samarkand has a rectangular and radial layout with broad avenues, squares, and parks. A general plan worked out by the architect T. N. Kalinovskaia and the engineer K. P. Orchakovskii was approved in 1969. An 11-story hotel, the Samarkand, was built in 1971 (architects O. Aidinova and A. Balaev).

The city’s scientific research and higher educational institutions include the Research Institute of Karakul Raising, the Research Institute of Medical Parasitology, the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek SSR, the University of Samarkand, and institutes of architecture and building, agriculture, medicine, cooperative trade, and pedagogy. There are also 14 specialized secondary schools. The most noteworthy of the city’s six museums (including branches) are the Museum of the History of the Founding of the City of Samarkand, the Museum of the History of the Culture and Art of the Uzbek SSR, noted for its collections of the ancient and medieval art of Middle Asia, and the S. Aini House Museum, where the writer lived from 1918 to 1954. The city has three theaters—an opera and ballet theater, an Uzbek drama theater, and a Russian drama theater.

On Jan. 1, 1975, the city had 26 hospitals with 6,700 beds (22.4 beds per thousand inhabitants), 2,300 doctors (one for every 132 people), and more than 5,000 medical assistants. There is also a children’s tuberculosis sanatorium.


Istoriia Samarkanda, vols. 1–2. Tashkent, 1969–70.
Aleskerov, lu. N. Gody, ravnye vekam: Stranitsy istorii Samarkanda. Tashkent, 1973.
Polupanov, S. N. Arkhitekturnye pamiatniki Samarkanda. Moscow, 1948.
Samarkand. Tashkent, 1969.
Samarkand: Putevoditel’. Tashkent, 1970.
Pugachenkova, G. A. Samarkand. Bukhara [2nd ed. Moscow, 1968].
Iz istorii iskusstva velikogo goroda. Tashkent, 1972.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Arabs defeated Chinese (751); adopted some of Chinese technology and culture. [Chinese Hist.: Grun, 78]
See: Battle
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in E Uzbekistan: under Tamerlane it became the chief economic and cultural centre of central Asia, on trade routes from China and India (the "silk road"). Pop.: 289 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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