• The Times of Central Asia
  • 2003-05-29 TCA-No. 022
  • Size: 4.9 Kbytes .
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  • Words: 808

Burana, the oldest survived minaret in the region

Author: By Aleksey Schetnikov, TCA contributor

BISHKEK (TCA). Kyrgyzstan has a few important historical and architectural monuments - the architectural ensemble in Urgench, caravan-serai Tash-Rabat, and Burana Tower.

The latter is probably the most important historical sight in Kyrgyzstan - the remnants of once great city of Balasagun. Burana Tower greatly impresses all who come to see it standing alone amidst the Chui Valley south of Tokmok (60 km of Bishkek). The tower seems to be a fragment of some ancient great civilization which sank into oblivion, leaving only this lone minaret.

In the 2nd half of the 19th century, Russian explorers discovered the ruins of an ancient city near Burana. However, because the tower and the discovered city ruins were separated by 1,500 meters, they did not even suggest that these two archaeological monuments had any relation to each other. They offered the first explanation to what was the purpose of this lone tower. The scholars suggested that "Burana" is the distorted word "monara" which means the minaret.

The Russians asked local residents, but they could not give any helpful information. The 19th-century Kyrgyz never heard of the large ancient city located close to Tokmok. But the city was very large. The ruins of strong city walls discovered 1.5 km of Burana and the tower itself were only part of a huge megapolis buried by history. The latest researches have proven that this megapolis, with an area of 25-30 square kilometers and nearly 50,000 residents, was the capital city of once powerful Karakhanid dynasty - Balasagun.

The Karakhanid empire was the most developed and powerful state in medieval Central Asia. It appeared in the 10th century, stretching from the Chui and Issyk-Kul valleys to Fergana and Samarkand.

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