Khiva is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. It differs from the two famous cities of Samarkand and Bukhara in that all the architectural monuments are housed in a fortress and have been preserved to this day. Therefore, in 1967 Ichаn Kаlа of Khiva was declared an architectural city museum. In 1990, it was the first in Central Asia to be included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Many legends about the origin of Khiva and the city museum Ichаn Kаlа have reached us until our days. One of them says that the Prophet Noah made a large ship and placed a pair of living creatures there by the command of Allah.
By Allah’s command, after a forty-day downpour, the whole land remained under water. As they sailed a long distance, they saw a hilltop in the distance. When Prophet Noah arrived there, he got out of the ship and ordered his son Shem to continue his journey.
After a few days’ journey, Shem sent some birds around the world to find land. But there was no land to be seen. One day he sends the swan and the dove again, and after a long flight they finally find land.
Then the swan made a sound of joy: “Kuvak” “Kuvak”, and the dove fluttered its wings. When Sim heard this, he steered the ship in that direction. So they found land and began to live there.
They began to call the name of this area by the words “Kuvak”, “Kuvak”, which was first given out by a swan on this land. Later, this name became the word “Hiwak”.
We can find interesting information about the origin of the city in the work “Dili Garayib” written by Khudayberdi Kush Muhammad, a resident of Khiva, in 1831. According to his information, there were many cities with 4-5 gates in Khorezm in ancient times.
One of them was Jurdjaniyah, another was Urgench, and another was Raml. Raml was founded by the son of Prophet Noah Shem like his father’s ship,” writes historian Khudayberdi. Nowadays, this city is known as Hiwak.
The former name of Raml meant “sand”. One day, after a hunt, Sem fell asleep on the top of a high hill and had a dream. In the dream he saw three hundred torches burning.
When he woke up, he found himself in the sand, the torches already gone. Satisfied with his dream, he marked the place with an appropriate sign. When he visited this place for the second time, he ordered fortress walls to be built there.
Then a deep well was dug in the western part of the castle. Some people have associated the name of the town with this well. It is known that the castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times.
The first trustworthy historical information about Khiva can be found in the Arabic historical-geographical works. In particular, the X century Arab traveller Muqaddis wrote: Khiva is located on the edge of the desert, on the bank of the canal, it has a well-equipped mosque. Kardarankhas and Khazarasp also have the same gate and the walls are surrounded by deep ditches. There is a lot of oral and written information about Khiva and its people. They can be found in many written sources of the last millennium.
In history, the state of Khorezmshakhs, through which the “Great Silk Road” ran, connecting the West and the East, including Khiva fortress, was conquered by the Arabs in 712.
From 1221, the fortress was under the control of the Mongol Empire and from 1389 it was part of the Temurid state. In the 16th century, Khorezm regained its independence and Khiva became its capital. Thereafter, the state of Khiva was called Khanate, although official documents and minted coins bear the name “Khorezm”.
Built in 1616 by the Arab Muhammadkhan, the medrese of Shirgazihan, called the “House of Scientists”, built in 1720, testifies to the restoration of the former glory of the state of Khorezm. But after the invasion of the Iranian ruler Nadir Shah in 1740, Khiva fell into ruin, which is why it lagged behind in its development for many years.
It was not until 1804, under the rule of the Kungrad ruler Iltuzarkhan, that the city began its further development. The city plan drawn by the engineer Nasimov bears witness to this.
Before the invasion of Nadirshah, the engineer Nasimov had already managed to draw the general view of the city. He came to this region at the invitation of Abulkhairkhan as a member of the military-topographical expedition to build a fortified stronghold on the banks of the Syr Darya.
After learning that Abulkhairkhan has left for Khiva, he follows him. Judging by Nasimov’s map, the fortress is surrounded by a deep moat with water on the outside. On the east side, a drawbridge over the gate gave access to the city. The governor’s residence was located in the western part of the city. This city gate was rebuilt several times during the reigns of Muhammad Amin Inak, Iltuzarkhan and Allakulikhan.
On behalf of the adjutant-general of Kaufman, commander of the Tsarist army that conquered the Khiva Khanate in 1873, sub-lieutenant Grigoriy Krivtsov took many photographs on the territory of the state. In particular, he wrote: “The Gul Darvaza” (coloured gate) is the name of the gate of the citadel near the bazaar. In fact, this gate is coloured, i.e. it is covered with coloured patterned bricks.
After the invasion of Nadir Shah, the city fell into ruins. It was rebuilt during the reign of Muhammad Amin Inak, and the number of gates was gradually reduced to four. At this time, the north and west gates were built in addition to the east gate. In front of the northern gate was the Khan’s garden and a pond after which he was called “Bogcha Darvoza”.
The gate facing Urgench was called Urgench Gate. Due to the fact that there was a mosque and a pond of Shermuhammad Ata in front of the western gate, they were named “Ata Darvoza”.
During the reign of Iltuzarkhan Ata Darvoza, Rahimkulikhan Bogcha Darvoza were rebuilt from burnt bricks. After Khiva became the capital of the state, the population of the city increased greatly. In this context, people began to move from the inner city to the outer city.
To ensure the defence and protection of the population in this part of the city, the Khan of Khiva Allakulikhan ordered the construction of another fortress wall in 1842. Due to the fact that the old fortress remained inside the new fortress, people began to call it Ichаn Kаlа, which later became a city museum of Khiva, meaning “Inner Fortress” of the city, and the fortress located between the two fortress walls began to be called “Dishan Qal’a”, meaning “Outer City”.
The circumference of the fortress was 3125 fathoms (6614 metres). Fortifications were built in each of the 18 fathoms (40 metres). The fortress had 10 gates, two of which have survived to this day – “Kosha Darvoza” (also called Urgench Gate) and “Kuy Darvoza” (also called Hazarasp Gate). The rest: from the eastern gate of Kuy to the south were Pishkanik, Yangarik, Shaykhlar, Tozabog, Shahimardon, Dashyak, Kush, Gadailar and Gandimyan.
Almost all the men of the Khanate who were fit for such work took part in the construction of the outer fortress. For it was impossible to erect such a grandiose structure in thirty days without such a labour force.
Allakulikhan achieved his plans through his enterprising and ambitious nature. The construction of this fortress became a bank holiday and many poets of his time glorified this event in their numerous poems.