Khiva is one of the most remote surviving cities of the Great Silk Road in Central Asia. During its heyday, Khorezm was the largest center of international trade, a key point on the Great Silk Road. Merchants from the Volga region, India, Iran came here, from here trade caravans to the Middle East, Eastern Turkestan and China went. From Khiva they made their way to Mongolia, and through the Cumanian steppes – to Saxin, a trading city at the mouth of the Volga River, and further to the Russian principalities and Europe. Archaeologists are opening more and more new routes of ancient caravan routes and, in particular, from Khorezm to Mangyshlak and from there – by sea to the Lower Volga region, which proves that Khorezm merchants held in their hands a significant part of trade of Central Asian states with Eastern Europe.
The Great Silk Road is a peculiar phenomenon in the history of human development, its aspiration to unite and exchange cultural values, to conquer the living space and markets. This transcontinental trade way, the largest in the history of mankind, connected Europe and Asia and stretched from ancient Rome to the ancient capital of Japan, Nara.
It is important to note that the Silk Road was never a single highway, but included various routes that branched out like the crown of a mighty tree. Thus, one of the main roads crossing Asia from east to west began in Chang’an, the capital of ancient China, and followed it to its northwestern borders. Having crossed the Tian Shan, part of the caravans went through the Fergana valley and the Tashkent oasis to Samarkand, Bukhara and Khorezm, then to the shores of the Caspian Sea, and part – from Samarkand – kept the way to Bactria and India. The emergence of trade relations was largely facilitated by the development of deposits of semi-precious stones in the mountains of Central Asia – lapis lazuli, nephrite, carnelian, turquoise.
The main subject of trade on caravan routes was silk, valued all over the world. For example, during the Middle Ages silk was the most popular unit of account, displacing even gold from circulation. In Sogdiana, for example, the price of a horse was equal to that of ten cuts of silk. Silk was paid for the work done, for the maintenance of mercenaries, silk could pay off the punishment for the crime.
These caravan roads were first called “silk” by the Venetian merchant Marco Polo, the first European to reach the limits of the Chinese Empire. And in 1877 the term “Great Silk Road” was introduced by the German researcher Ferdinand Richtgofen in his fundamental work “China”.
Not only trade caravans went along the Great Silk Road, but also cultural achievements of peoples, spiritual values and religious ideas were spread along it. Finally, scientists, researchers, travelers and even warriors went along the caravan roads for centuries.
A special long-term programme, which includes proposals for the revitalization of the historical heritage, was created jointly with UNESCO. In 1994, the Samarkand Declaration on the Revival of the Great Silk Road was adopted.
In Khiva, there was a traditional division of the city into two separate parts: the inner city – Ichan-Kala ( Shakhristan) and the outer city – Dishan-Kala ( Rabad).
The mysterious city of Khiva managed to preserve an exotic image of the eastern city in the ancient part of the city – Ichan-Kala, where numerous architectural monuments are located. The inner city occupies an area of about 30 hectares and has a rectangular shape in plan. Khiva was within the boundaries of the fortress Ichan-Kala in XVI-XVII centuries. and was surrounded by a powerful clay wall, the height of which reached 8-10 m, thickness – 6-8 m, and length – more than 2200 m. Fortified walls of Ichan-Kala with semicircular towers along the perimeter provided reliable protection of Khiva. At the top of the wall there was a lancet gallery with loopholes and teeth. In the center of each of the four parts of Ichan-Kala walls there was a darvaza (gate). The western ones – Ata Darvaza – are located near Kunya-Arka (a Khan’s fortress), the northern ones – Bakhcha Darvaza – overlook the road to Urgench, the eastern ones – Palvan-Darvaza – are directed to the Khazarasp and Amudarya rivers, the southern ones – Tash Darvaza – to the Karakum sands. The Ata-Darvaza Gate was destroyed in 1020 and rebuilt in 70s of XX century.