Khiva / Khorezm / History/
Kheivak Well / Shem / Kunya-Urgench / Gurganchi
Khiva is ancient Chorasmia and later known as
Khwarizm and Khorezm. It is formerly a large khanate (kingdom) of
West Central Asia. Located south of the Aral Sea and is now part of
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The
ancient city Khiva is located in
Uzbekistan and is famous for its many historic buildings which are
preserved as a museum like walled city. Khiva is most intact of the
ancient cities of Uzbekistan. Most of its historical buildings are
of 19th century creation, and because of the excellent condition of
its architecture, Khiva gives an excellent idea
of what other cities
of Central Asia may have been like before.
Khiva was not from the beginning the capital city of Khorezm.
Historians tell, it was happened in 1589 when the Amu Darya, (ancient
Oxus; Turkmen Amuderya; Uzbek Amudaryo; Tajik Dar'yoi Amu - large
river originating in the lofty Pamirs Plateau, Central Asia, about
2495 km (about 1550 mi) in length) had started back from doomed
former capital city Gurganchi (old Urgench). Amu Darya passed
through the Khanate and emptied in the Caspian Sea providing the
ancient kingdom with water as well as with a waterway to Europe.
Over the centuries the river has shifted its course several times.
The last turn of Amu Darya at the end of 16th century has killed
Gurgangi. 150 km (about 93 mi) northwest of Khiva stand what had
remained of the ancient capital. The ruins now are situated in
Turkmenistan, in the neighborhood with the village called
Kunya-Urgench, which means, "Old-Urgench".
Khorezm has put up great resistance to such conquerors as Alexander the Great
and then Arabs of
Kuteyba Ibn Muslim in AD 680. They
attacked Gurganchi, but were unable to win full control over Khanate.
Only Genghis Khan's associates for the first time badly conquered
Gurganchi. They invaded Khorezm and besieged Gurganchi.
In six month
of the siege, when Mongols tore down the dams on Amu Darya,
Gurganchi was destroyed by water and fell. Then they massacred
100,000 inhabitants of the city, other ones were enslaved. Each
soldier of Mongol's army gained 24 slaves from Gurganchi. Only 200
years later the capital of Khorezm was fully restored and became
Five times Tamerlane moved forward to seize Khorezm, but only in
1388 he was able to take full control of that region.
However, conquerors were not able to annihilate this heroic and
glorious city, but act of God was. When the capital was moved to a
new place it was undoubtedly one of worse periods of Khorezm's
history. Although, with time khanate will flourish again, and for a
short period, Khiva will become the spiritual center of the Islamic
In 1589, when Khiva became a main city of khanate, it was a small
fortified city with a history approximately ten centuries long. Its
legend of origin is that the Kheivak Well with extraordinary tasty
water, around which the city grew up, was dug at the direction of
Shem, son of the biblical Noah. The big well can still be seen today
in Ichan-Kala - inner city of Khiva.
Russia annexed part of the khanate in 1873 (partially because of the
slave trade of Khiva that caused terror in southern Russia as
Turkmen raiders snatched peasants from their farms and sold them in
the slave markets of Khiva and Bukhara). In 1919 the USSR deposed
the khan of Khiva, dissolving the khanate. Khiva became (1920) the
Khorezm Soviet People's Republic, and in 1924 it was absorbed into
the Uzbek SSR and the Turkmen SSR, which in turn both became
independent countries in 1991.