Urdas (Fortesses) of Tashkent

Urda. In Turkish and Mongol traditions urda meant military-administrative settlement. In the Middle Agea it was the residence of the highest leader. The names of major Turkish and Mongol states and tribal federations originated from this (like the Golden Horde and the Noghay Horde). The place of the king, the khan or other rulers was also called urda. In some cases it was also called “Arch”. 

According to historical sources there were five urdas in ancient Tashkent:

1. From the ruins of the ancient capital of Shosh, located in a big square between the Movarounnahr, Said Baraka, Moshtabib, and Ferghana streets (former Proletar, Pavlov, Klara Tsetkina and Kuybishev streets), only a small part of 100X40 meters are preserved. After the archeological excavations of the Mingurik site,it was found that this was the Urda of the ancient capital of Shosh, with it’s 0,5 hectares of square. It has it’s own protective walls and a Shakhristan (main town). It was destroyed by the Arabic troops entering Chach in 713. During the Kokand khanate this monument was surrounded by apricot trees (urik-apricot in Uzbek), and the area later was called “Mingurik - thousand apricot trees”. The surrounding areas of Mingurik was one of the mavzes of Sheykhantahur daha. The second Urda of Tashkent (in IX-XVI cc) between the present Eski Juva,Khadra, Chorsu and city bazaar. According to written sources remained from the X cc, historians Ibn Havqal, Maqdisiy and Istarkhiy,the Tashkent Urda was surrounded by a separate wall with 2 gates, the first leading to the Rabod (outside city), the second going the Shakhristan (main town). Inside the Urda was the khan’s palace, a mint and a prison and they were connected to the outer central mosque. The total square was approximately 1 hectare. The Shkakhristan covered a larger area than the Arch, and it was also surrounded by walls. The Shakhristan had three gates named Abul Abbos, Gumbaz and Qasr.One of the gates was in front of the present theatre named Abror Hidoyatov. There were mahallas of craftsmen, houses of rich people and shops of tradesmen. In Gulbozor mahalla of Shakhristan there were built a cathedral mosque and medresse (in XV cc) by his highness Khuja Akhror Valiy, who was acknowledged in the Islamic world as a great peer-murshid. Later in the south-western part of the Shakhristan the Kukeldash medresse was built.

2. In the XV-XVII cc as the city expanded towards Beshyoghoch the new Urda was built on the site of Qoratosh and Olmazor mahallas. The city was surrounded with new walls again. Inside the Urda there were administrative buildings and the Khan’s palace. At the beginning of the XVII century the Bukhara khan totally destroyed the city and the Urda. In the XVII century the centrally governed big city was under decline and split into four dahas, each daha started to be governed separately. In the XIX cc it was known by the name of Eski Urda (Old Urda). Nowadays only the ruins of Qoratosh bath-house from that period are preserved.

3. Wars between the khans of the four dahas (Beshyoghoch, Sebzor, Kukcha and Sheykhantahur) became very frequent. There were wars in Janggob and Janggoh mahallas at that time. As a result the khokim of Sheykhantahur daha became the winner in these wars and gained control of the city and the vilayet khanate. In the 80s of the XVII cc Yunuskhuja ordered the building of a small urda in Sheykhantahur daha, fortified with protective walls. According to some sources this urda was situated around the Ministry of Agriculture on the right hand side of the Anhor River. In the 30s of the XIX cc when Tashkent was invaded by the Kokand khanate this urda was destroyed too.

In the 30s of the XIX cc the Kokand khan built a new urda to the left hand side of the Anhor river, approximately where the Mustaqillik square is today. There was a fortified palace,garrison halls, armoury, a bath-house and administrative buildings inside of it. The bath-house was destroyed in 1966 (It was situated behind “Anhor” cafe). The bricks from the ruins of the old bath-house were taken for restoration works on the Abulkassim medresse in 1985.

The Urda fortress was intended for 10 000 soldiers. It was a special fortified residence for the city and vilayet khokim. Later additional protective walls were built and they were included in the city structure. The residence of the Kokand khan’s viceroy (beklarbegi) in Tashkent was also here. Also one of the 12 gates of Tashkent,the Kokand gate was situated here. When the Kokand khan visited Tashkent, he entered through this gate and was met by grandiose ceremony.

When Tashkent was occupied by Russian troops in 1865, the general Chernyayev established his headquarters in the khan’s palace in Urda, and a part of invading army moved in to the soldier’s hostel next to the palace. The officers were accommodated in houses in Qashqar mahalla, which were left by the owners after the war outside the urda. The same year the colonizers moved into Tuproqqhurgan which had just been built. But later the protective walls and the khan’s palace, were destroyed and the area was included in a new town.