Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and the largest city in Central Asia. Tashkent lies in the northeastern part of the country. The city probably dates from the 2nd or the 1st century bc and was variously known as Chachkent, Shashkent, and Binkent; the name Tashkent, which means “Stone Village” in Uzbek, was first mentioned in the 11th century. An important centre of trade and handicrafts on the caravan routes to Europe and East Asia, When it was captured by the Russians in 1865, it was a walled city of some 70,000 inhabitants and already a leading centre of trade with Russia. In 1867 it was made the administrative centre of the new governorate-general of Turkistan, and a new European city grew up beside the old native one. Soviet rule was established by Russian colonists in November 1917 after an armed uprising.
Tashkent remained the capital of the new republic of Turkistan in the U.S.S.R., but when the latter was split in 1924, Samarkand became the first capital of the republic of Uzbekistan, U.S.S.R. The capital was transferred to Tashkent in 1930. The officially registered population of the city in 2006 was 2.1 million. Today Tashkent is the main economic and cultural centre of Central Asia. Cotton is the chief crop of the region in which it is situated. Wheat, rice, jute, vegetables, and melons are also grown, and silkworms are bred. The city lies in the most industrially developed part of Uzbekistan, and much of its industry is in some way connected with cotton—the manufacture of agricultural and textile machinery and of cotton textiles. It also has various food-processing industries.
The city’s numerous institutions of higher education and research establishments include the university, founded in 1920, and various institutes of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, set up in 1943. A lso notable is the Navoi Public Library. The city’s numerous theatres, Uzbek and Russian, include the Navoi Theatre of Opera and Ballet. There are also a Palace of the Arts and several museums, parks, and stadiums. The city has been extensively rebuilt since an earthquake in 1966 left 300,000 people homeless.