Fergana Valley is about 420 km east of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Eight million people, one third of the population, live in this fertile flood plain of the Syr Darya. The river sweeps down from the Pamirs into a Valley approximately 300 kilometers long and 170 kilometers wide, surrounded by spurs of the Tian Shan – the Chatkal range to the north, Ferghana to the East, and the Pamir-Alai to the South.
The modern Ferghana Valley consists of three regions of Independent Uzbekistan: Ferghana, Andijon and Namangan regions.
Fergana has been a center for oil production in the Fergana Valley since the region’s first oil refinery was built near the city in 1908. Since then more refineries have been added, and Fergana is one of the most important centers of oil production and refining in Uzbekistan. Natural gas from western Uzbekistan is transported by pipeline to the valley, where it is used to produce fertilizer.
In the 2ndc. BC the Great Silk Road connecting China and Mediterranean countries ran through Fergana. -In the 2ndc. BC it was called Ershi and was the ancient capital of Davan; there was the embassy of the Chinese emperor Udi who signed agreement on opening the Great Silk Road. -In the 2ndc. BC discord with China caused the war between China and Davan.
In the 2nd – 4thc. a part of Fergana Valley was in Kushan Kingdom. -In the 7thc.- 8thc. Fergana Valley was conquered by Arabs. In 715 Kuteiba-lbn-Muslim, the conquerer of ancient Sogd and Khorezm towns, governor of Khorasan and Khorezm was killed near the town Kasan. In the 8thc.- 9thc. the Samanids came to power over Fergana Valley. In the 9thc. – 11thc. the town Akhsikent became the capital of Fergana where production of high-quality steel had been developed by that time. In the beginning of the 12thc. the valley was devastated during the Mongolian invasion. In the 14thc. the Temurids came to power over the Valley; Fergana became the favorite holiday place of Tamerlane. In the 16thc. the town Andijan became the capital of Fergana Valley during the reign of Babur. In the 16thc. Sheibani-khan annexed the Valley to the Uzbek state. -In 1700 the Sheibanids were dethroned; Kokand became the capital of the new state. -In the 18thc. Fergana Valley formed the new independent Kokand Khanate. In 1875 Kokand Khanate as Fergana Region was Annexed to tsarist Russia. Following the revolution of 1917 according to the ethnic demarcation in 1924 the territory of Fergana Valley was divided among Uzbek, Tadjik, and Kirghiz Soviet Republics; the three regions of Fergana, Andijan, and Namangan were given to Uzbekistan.
Around 1710 the Shaybanid Sharukh established his Uzbek Min tribe as an independent principality in western part of Ferghana. He built a citadel in his capital, the village of Kokand, as did his son Abd al-Karim. In 1758 Shahrukh’s grandson Irdana was forced to recognize Chinese independence that extended into the rule of Abd al-Karim’s grandson Narbuta Beg, from 1774 to 1798. Kokand’s authority was still limited to western and central Ferghana when Narbuta’s son Alim succeeded him. Combining great ambition with ruthless efficiency, Alim Khan hired a mercenary army of Tajik highlanders to curb hostile tribal chiefs and dissenting dervish orders. He secured the whole valley and took Khodjent and Tashkent, before his assassins set his brother Omar on the throne in 1809. A poet who fostered cultural and religious life, Omar Khan nevertheless pursued expansion, taking Turkestan in 1814 and building steppe fortresses against Kazakh tribes.
Despite the best efforts of Omar’s widow, the poetess Nadira, their son excelled at cruelty and debauchery, giving Emir Nasrullah of Bukhara the excuse to take Kokand and their lives in 1842. Preferring their own despots, Ferghana’s people soon expelled Nasrullah and established Madali’s cousin Shir Ali, but the next two decades saw the khanate riven by internecine warfare, worsened by Bukharan and Russian incursions. Nasrullah’s second entrance into Kokand in 1858 replaced Khudayar with his brother, but once restored in 1865, Khudayar immediately came under the sway of Nasrullah’s successor. The rivalry of the khanates fatally undermined resistance to the common enemy, tsarist Russia. Tashkent fell the following year, Khodjent a year later. The khanate was reduced to the valley from which it had sprung. At this time Kokand’s most infamous export, Yakub Beg, one time lord of Tashkent, seized Kashgar from the Chinese to begin a decade of terror.
A commercial treaty in 1868 left Khudayar a Russian vassal, yet free to continue building his lavish palace squeezing more taxes from a shrunken proletariat. Visitors were impressed with this city of 80,000 people, whose 600 mosques and 15 madrassah, teaching 15,000 students, bestowed a reputation second only to holy Bukhara.
In early 1875 Kokand came under control of Tsarist Russia; first Tashkent, then Orenburg and death in exile. His kinsman Pulad Khan’s anti-Russian stance provoked the annexation of Kokand in August by Generals Kaufmann and Skobelov. By march 1876, after fierce fighting, the khanate was declared the province of Ferghana in Russian Turkestan.
As the regional centre of tsarist and Soviet rule, the town of Ferghana has grown into the valley’s third-largest city, with a population of 230,000. Founded in 1876, 20 kilometers from the ancient town of Margilan, it was christened New Margilan, then in 1907 became Skobelov, after the first military governor, and in 1924 assumed the valley’s name. Ferghana’s wide avenues spread fan-like from the old military fortress, recalling the St. Petersburg design of Tashkent. Parks, fountains, Russian architecture and industrial zones strengthen the similarity, and the contrast, with Uzbek, Islamic Margilan.
Margilan was a major Silk Road stop by the ninth century, although local legend extends its history back to the Alexander the Great. On his arrival he was given chicken (murgh) and bread (nan), from which the town grew its name. In the late 15th century Bobur found it ‘a fine township full of good things. In recent times mass machinery has transformed the handicraft of sericulture to make Margilan the heart of Soviet silk production, rolling out millions of meters iridescent rainbow every year. Like much of the valley, the town enjoys a reputation as a traditional stronghold of Islam, with deeper roots then further west. In the 19th century, Margilan had several madrassah and over 200 mosques, but many fell to rampaging Bolseviks.
The most famous silk factory in Uzbekistan and abroad the Yodgorlik (Souvenir) factory. In 1983, a group of Margilan silk workers established the mass production of silk and preserving traditional methods. Demand for their strictly handmade goods, at present time the number of worker of the factory increased up to 2000. Individual households feed silkworms with fresh mulberry leaves until the warms spin their cocoons of silk. Before the pupae mutate into moths, the cocoons are steamed and dispatched to the factory where they plunged into boiling vats to soften and draw out the treasured thread is carefully unwound and woven into compact fabric. Only men perform the painstaking process of wrapping and an wrapping the silk for dyeing in various colours.
Next door women fill a hall clattering to the sounds of their weaving. The result is the khanatlas ‘king of satins pattern; the shimmering blur walking every Uzbek street.