Every Stan has a capital: Astana (Ger., Eng.) (Almatay until 1997), Ashgabat (Ger., Eng.), Bishkek (Ger., Eng.), Dushanbe (Ger., Eng.), Kabul (Ger., Eng.), and Tashkent (Ger., Eng.) (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, overview).
Since the end of the SU and given the richness of natural resources in the area, the Stans are back on the political map of the world. In 2003 the BBC showed a documentation about traveling in the region, Meet the Stans (scroll down and see all four episodes). About Tashkent an interesting book is published in 2010 by Paul STRONSKI*.
STRONSKI’s book is a pioneer work in the field of urbanisation in Central Asia. Since its conquer 1865 onwards Tashkent became the object of an ongoing Europeanisation, what showed itself in the building of orthodox churches and representational administration buildings under the Czar, factories and power plants under the Bolshewiki. From the Thirties to the Sixties Uzbekistan was transformed from an agricultural country to an industrial one, at least according to the Soviet propaganda. The big earthquake of 1966 put an end to the coexistence of traditional, colonialist and modernist buildings – the planners pragmatically eliminated the last islamic rests and built anew: While in the Western parts of the SU the capitalist residue was to be overcome, in the eastern parts old oriental remains were to be vanquished.
Tashkent from the 1930s onwards was earmarked to become a socialist Musterstadt, a model city, based on the principles of the 1935 general-plan for Moscow : There were other grand plans and layouts for capitals around this time, for Greater London and Groß-Berlin for example. I would like to find a comparison of these projects somewhere in the literature. The second world war brought a mighty boom for Tashkent and the whole region, because people and production were translocated within the SU from the West towards the East, out of the reach of the German invaders. STRONSKI puts the emphasis in his description on this time and on urbanisation as a whole, he wants urbanisation in its entirety be understood as one line of tradition of Soviet history. His book focuses on the local development, based on Russian and Uzbek archive materials, and can be seen as cultural science based dichte Beschreibung, “thick description” (Ger., Eng.).
It is surely worth a read.
* Tashkent. Forging a Soviet City, 1930-1966, Pittsburgh 2010; German recension by Thomas BOHN here, who himself wrote about Minsk (Ger., Eng.), the capital of White Russia in 2008: Minsk – Musterstadt des Sozialismus. Stadtplanung und Urbanisierung in der Sowjetunion nach 1945, Köln 2008. I follow BOHN’s recension of STRONSKI’s book.