Khiva, in the south of the country on the River Amu Darya between the Karakum and Kyzylkum deserts, is one of Central Asia’s best preserved cities. A major tourist destination, its centre is kept virtually as an open air museum.
According to popular legend, Khiva was founded by Shem, son of Noah. Archaeological finds confirm it existed in the sixth century. In the eighth century the town was an important trading post on the Silk Road and was sacked during the thirteenth century Mongol invasion. It became the capital of the Khivan Khanate in 1592 but was repeatedly sacked during tribal wars and an Iranian invasion.
In the seventeenth century it was developed as a centre of the slave trade, with at least a million people being sold. Diversifying into other trades during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was ceded to Russia in 1873. Conquered by the Bolsheviks 1920, it served as capital of Khorezm Soviet People’s Republic (1920–23) and the Khorezm...