Bukhara, once the noble city where light shone up
from its streets, is now perhaps one of the most fascinating remnants
of Russian and Soviet colonialism in Central Asia. Unlike other historic
Silk Road locales, Bukhara has maintained much of the old charm while
at the same time mourns that which was lost.
Since the beginning of Russian colonization in the
late 1860's, much of Bukhara has been systematically 'cleaned up.' Water,
plumbing, sewerage, electricity and natural gas are all benefits of
the Russians and particularly the Soviets. The population is now literate
and educated. Hospitals and clinics have been built. In general, conditions
were raised from almost desperate to relatively prosperous.
During the Soviet era a vast number of historic
buildings were destroyed. Mosques, meddrasahs, caravan sarays, bazaars,
and the famous Bukhara pool system were torn down. Much of these were
destroyed to reduce the influence of Islam in what was now an officially
atheistic state. Others were destroyed to end capitalism. In a town
that had known trading for a thousand years, communism was now king
and the bazaars closed.
Despite the destruction the old city is more or
less intact. Outside of the old city there are Soviet era buildings
which are now being augmented by new "Uzbek" buildings of
the independent era which began in 1991. However, in comparison to the
still large amounts of old Islamic buildings, they are few, with the
ancient dominating the skyline. The charm of Bukhara is to let your
imagination run wild, picturing how it was in the days when the Emir
was king, when camels and donkeys teemed the streets, when the bazaars
were full of wares from Europe and China, when women were always veiled
and everyone at pain of death was a Muslim
Unlike Samarkand, the Soviet buildings generally
do not intrude on the historic. And unlike Khiva, the city is very much
alive and well with families living in their family homes for generations.
Today you will find a city full of charm, mystery,
excitement and beauty. Winter can be harshly cold with little cover
from winds whipping through ancient alleys. Summers can be beastly hot
with few trees to offer shade from the sun and dusty winds.
As always, the finest view in town may be enjoyed
from the top of the Kolon Minaret. A benefit of Bukhara today is that
tourists may go up this almost 900 year old structure and view historic,
Russian/Soviet and new independent Bukhara.