Makhallya in Evolution of the City

Issue #1 • 1901

In the Republic of Uzbekistan, 2003 was declared “The Year of Makhallya” “in order to upvalue a role of makhallya as self – administration of citizens, to strengthen its influence in a course of national values and traditions promotion,” – stated the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers “On the Program “The Year of Makhallya”. For many centuries makhallya in Uzbekistan has actualized itself as a reliable instrument of evolution of lifestyle, preservation of crafts and traditional construction. Evolution of makhallya, society and cities are closely linked.

In Uzbekistan there are three types of cities: feudal Islamic, socialist and city of market economy now being under formation. With all their distinctions each of them has makhallya – in a whole, or in a form of centers or fragments. The task of the republic and its cities is to use all advantages makhallya has. The word “makhallya” that is “community” is going from the word “makhal” that means “place” and “time, moment”. This duality was always typical of makhallya. Affiliating makhallya in districts, the city administration ruled these administrative units. In a course of the state upraising or weakening, the districts were in prosperity, destroyed or absolutely disappeared. Makhallya as their part reserved its ability to revive.

From the 19th century new street ways cut through makhallyas and they got new name according to European style – quarters. Quarters as house modules between new streets have got no important functions, since importance of makhallya for a person, family, community, city and state had recognized. Makhallya reproduces itself spiritually as a part of society and tangibly as a part of the city. This place of makhallya in a life of society and city proves that there is nothing more constant than temporary things. What is a secret of makhallya’s constancy?

In Central Asia, in the II – I millennia B.C. proto – towns and settlements were constructed on hills as fortresses with a temple and palace in the center. Within walls of fortresses and at the hill foot were dwelling houses of the community’s members, which played a role of refuge and protection. At the Early Middle Ages dikhkans began to construct castles – keshks on hills – platforms. Agglomerations of such fortresses were being surrounded by settlements and transformed into towns. These fortresses became the first makhallyas. Numerous keshks in the Tashkent oasis formed a foundation for the future biggest urban center in Central Asia – Tashkent.

The Arabs saw keshks in the towns and in their suburbs. Merchant elite edged out the agrarian one. Municipal administration of Bukhara sold out shahristan and cultivated lands owned by dikhkan to merchants. Trade and craft streets – makhallyas came instead of keshks. At the middle of the 9th century the city administration surrounded ark, shahristan and rabat with walls – so the feudal city had been formed. Bukhara increased fivefold and by the 10th century had reached its maximum territory. Municipal administration tried to control over the city but was behind in walls construction. It worried about growing independence of makhallya. In Bukhara the administration refused the construction of the second wall, and in Afrasiab the Samarkand amir ordered to dismantle gates in “rebellious” makhallyas. Only external danger consolidated makhallyas and city administration. In the 9th – 10th centuries Tashkent bordered the steppe, had citadel with the two gates, shahristan with three gates and concentric walls around two rabats with 10 gates in the inner wall and 7 gates in the outer wall to protect the town in a case of nomadic tribes attacking.

In the 11th – 12th centuries, in the empire of Turks – Seldjuks the towns survived their progress. The Seldjuks settled in the suburbs and, as in a case of the Syrian town, Khaleb, by the 13th century they turned them economically independent towns with prevailing Turkic population. In these towns makhallyas found their place around centers of trade and craft at the joint of the inner and outer rabats. Features of such concentration have been still remained in historical cities. The Seldjuks governed states and cities on a basis of Central Asian tradition of family governing – “ulus”. The great sultan headed ulus, his sons were subordinated to him and governed provinces as sultans and viloyats as shahs and princes. This family tradition saved makhallya in the Mongolian 13th century and reached its blossoming in the Temurid cities in the 14th – 15th century.

Amir Temur and the Temurids delegated city planning and city construction powers to military commanders – amirs, which together with state officers constructed medresehs, mosques, khonakas, rabats and houses in Samarkand and Kesh. In the towns revived after the Mongols makhallyas announced about revival of the ethnos and crafts. Time reserved layouts and sizes of these stable and developed cities. Bulyuks, makhallyas of a new type bosomed in trees, surrounded Herat. They turned this cultural capital of the Temurids in the city – park. Its suburbs for the nobles became progressive in comparison with militarized and nomadic landscape of Samarkand’s suburbs. Bulyuks embodied the dream of a Central Asian citizen about the life out of close urban area within walls on the wide area blossoming and educated suburb. At this suburb makhallyas the outstanding guide on gardens “Irshad az – ziraa” was written and became a propagation of noble lifestyle. The principles of this guide were developed in “Odorous Anthology” (“Baioz-i Khushbai”), which Shahdjakhan the Temurid advised to the Indian elite in the 17th century.

In the 16th – 17th cc. merchants and craftsmen settled in the center of Samarkand so stably that occupied, with their makhallya and craft shops, the Temur’s citadel, which earlier made everybody to shake in fear. The Sheibanid elite removed to makhallyas of Nau, into the north – eastern suburb. In this period, in elite suburbs of Herat was born and was growing the future shah of Iran, Abbas I.

He became a king, who developed tradition of suburb gardens-makhallyas of this city and made it extremely wonderful. At the end of the 16th century he moved the capital of Iran to Isfakhan and on the territory of its western suburb constructed the square of Meidani – Shah and alley of Shahar – Bag with gardens and palaces of the elite. Amir Temur constructed architectural ensembles in Samarkand from the north to the south. Shah Abbas continued this practice in Isfakhan synthesizing it with attractive samples of majestic ensembles of Europe.

Suburb makhallyas of the elite developed in accordance with the balanced city layout. From ancient times citadels and cities oriented to the east, towards sunrise. But extension of the cities eastwards reached its maximum and in order to keep balance around city center they were turned to the west from citadels. New makhallyas on the west completed the process of late feudal city formation. North – western makhallyas belonged to the Samanid elite in Bukhara and to aristocracy and clergy in Shahrisabz. Popular majority of the Shahrisabz begstvo was Uzbek from the tribe of the Keneghes. In makhallyas of Khodja Mir Khomid to the west of Shahrisabz’s center lived the Temurid Keneghes. In the north – west of Samarkand, nearby Sheihzade was located villa of the powerful Ubaidullokh Khodja Akhrar. In the 16th century the elite of north – western Bukhara became a part of the city with their wide gardens: to this effect the city wall was moved 500 – 800 m to the west and on the place of old wall was formed Khiebon Avenue. In the 19th century in Khiva the city wall also was transferred to the west in order to include cultivated lands and gardens of local elite into the city area. The area of Bukhara was measured by its diameter from the Mazar gate on the east to the Shirgaron gate on the west. It was equal, as well as in Khiva, to 2,500 m. Both cities were developing along channels and roads. From the north to the south their dimension was 1,500 m. In the 18th – 19th cc. Khodjent of 3,200 m in width exceeded Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva: its makhallyas were developing along the Syrdarya river course.

From the 16th c. in the cities dominated the elite formed by the descendents of Chagatai, a son of Chinggis – khan. In the 18th – 19th cc., thanks to the trade with Russia Tashkent had got impulse to intensive development. There were four dakhas, Sheihantaur, Beshagach, Kukchin and Sebzar. The two last were under the power of Khodjas. Aksakals of all dakhas from the classes of craftsmen, merchants and landlords formed Khan’s Board that exercised administrating of the city. Municipal authorities of Tashkent, the Russians called “Hamburg of Central Asia and the Tashkent republic”, changed “ulus” as a family form of administration. Ambassadors of Peter I called Balkh, Margilan, Andijan and Balakhshan as “Free Cities”: “like in the republic, public leaders, about 40 men, are managing all city life”. Tashkent and its suburbs had 4 dakhas headed by 40 khakims. Each of these rulers from the Chinggizids independently governed his dakha with own fortification system, administration and army. The border line between dakhas was fixed along the ravine of the brook from Labzak up to the Samarkand – darvaza and along perpendicular line of the street from the Sagban gate to the Beshagach gate. Only several tens of makhallya mosques out of 250 city makhallyas had a right to practice Friday divine service. In this way a role of guzar centers was fixed. The ruler Yunus – khodja prohibited to citizens to ride: arriving at the city border they must have dismounted from a horse and driven it on a bit.

Samarkand also had its ancient 4 dakhas, or kit’a, each of which included 30 guzars. The citizens of Shahrisabz being in conflicts from ancient time divided the city into the two parts – upper and lower in spite of basic division into 53 guzars. In these ways makhallya had saved family and community values for the state, was under the control of the power and promoted urban development.

At the beginning of the 21st century we are looking at makhallya considering the previous experience obtained in the 20th century when makhallyas were renamed and cut by new streets, and the cities were divided into so – called quarter boards. After revolutionary “extremes” at the beginning of the 20th c., at the second half of the century makhallya came into favour again. Diameter of Tashkent from 4 km at the middle of the 19th century had increased up to 10 km and more. The city planning was aimed to find a form of dwelling areas among the street lines with short connections for walkers and city transport, which was correspondent with local climate and lifestyle.

As a sample was taken German microdistrict, which side was equal to 1,500 m. This unit was diminished and four such microdistricts formed housing estate of 800 – 1000 m in radius. At the end of the 20th c. researching works of the Tashkent Regional Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Planning (TashZNIIEP) and Central Asian Scientific Research Institute of Theoretical Architecture and City Planning (SredAsNIITAG) confirmed schemes of such districts. Their inhabitants isolated themselves in their apartments and badly kept 25% of areas around the houses, 50% of the area of the estate and 25% of microdistrict centers. Microdistricts and estates could not provide proper conditions of life to the citizens.

TashZNIIEP stated that in summer time the temperature in these apartments is 10 degrees higher then outside. The heat in the period of “chillya”, from the end of June till the beginning of August becomes actually survival test. In traditional houses the heat is felt much easier thanks to the system of passed spaces. The people spend their morning, evening and night hours in the yard, and noon inside the house. Room – (“khona”) – “avian” – pergoli (“ishkom”) over the sufa nearby houz – yard (“sakhn”) form a space of traditional Uzbek house in makhallya. In a case of additional area is required above the first floor is installed a small shaded yard – “soyabon”. Summer air areas are 2 – 3 times bigger than area of rooms. In a case of the apartment a balcony often occupies just its fifth part. In spite of that, Soviet “Construction Standards and Normative” (1985) had cut standard normative of summer areas from 20 to 15% in a total square of apartment.

Traditional Uzbek house has some intermediate areas of makhallya’s streets, through which the house is linked with the city. “Logic system of passage from the city through the street, side street, yard and aivan to individual room being a personal area, which always was and will be necessary for each person, is a feature of the Uzbek house and form its basic architectural value”. (1, p.22) Life necessity made the authorities and architectures to turn back to the practice of makhallya.

Historical cities and makhallyas continue to be destroyed because of mistakes in a process of highway construction, lack or absence of social programs protecting interests of makhallya’s inhabitants and too wide rights of tourism as a profitable industry regarding the historical monuments. The historical city must be newly evaluated in order to be protected and reconstructed. General programs and projects mostly are in the past, and some, which are corrected and adjusted, can not meet new requirements and can not form an actual basis. The construction is made according to volition decision: through experiments and mistakes. Within further 15 – 20 years a number of cars in the republic will doubled or trebled, and 50% of them will run along the highways, which will be constructed, often through the historical cities. It is important that highways must keep but not cut through historical cities and makhallyas. The makhallya’s values must be integral part of designed and constructed city districts.

In Uzbekistan there are 20 historical cities, and most of 23 million citizens of Uzbekistan live in makhallyas or consider it their native environs. For last 30 years makhallya changed vision of city and methods of its reconstruction. This new approaches must be fixed in the future city planning.

Logic of planning structure of historical cities of Uzbekistan with makhallyas in its basis, which have been forming for centuries and was a flesh of the city, should be reserved and developed. Tashkent, Samarkand and the other historical cities were formed within radial – centric layout of 1,200 – 1,500 m in radius. Within this optimal pedestrial distance were developed city centers and makhallyas. For example, the center of Bukhara was developed within the distance of 1,500 m from the Registan square to the ensemble of Lyabi – Khauz and within the same distance up to country mosque Namazgokh. In Tashkent and Samarkand the center is static and most of makhallyas and guzar centers are located within 700 m around it. In Tashkent and Khodjent this area was walled. At the line of 700 m from the center of old Tashkent was cult center of Khazreti Imam. Now there is no wall there but streets and centers along this line have reserved. Concentric streets within this area are in Samarkand too.

Makhallya and guzar centers along these streets have been still keeping traditional local lifestyle. In Samarkand radial streets became clearly fixed from the epoch of Amir Temur. At the beginning and at the end of these streets there are city centers, and at the middle there are makhallya centers isolated from noisy city streets, for example Emini and Mirzo Pulod (the 15th – 19th cc.) in Pendjikent street. In parallel with noisy radial streets, in some distance from them, there are quiet inter – makhallya streets. Such streets – doubles exist in the north – east, east, south and south – west of historical Samarkand. Nearby the city walls these streets merged with main radial streets. Only in the Late Middle Ages the streets going to makhallyas were installed exactly from and through the city wall. This logic of development of city and makhallya centers existing in the historical cities must determine protective and reconstructive activity within them.

This task requires reorganization of management of the historical city, support of municipal authorities in regard with investments, grants and credits to private persons and cooperative structures for economic revival of makhallya.

Makhallya policy of “self – preservation” provides reconstruction of some fragments of the historical city by private persons and businessmen. The center on the revival of the historical city consolidates and aims the potential of private persons and businessmen to development of makhallya’s economy. In the Soviet period the risk of makhallya removing put bounds to the initiatives on reconstruction of houses. Governmental decree on the citizens’ rights on the land and private ownership gave guarantees to house owners and their initiatives. Makhallya exists, and it may be revived within the context of all historical cities, which corresponds with modern city center and must be reserved within new net of city highways.

General programs and projects of detailed city planning should revise and newly consider the regulations on land possession within the historical center in order to make it free of some modern functions and to keep here just functions typical of the historical city. A common shortage is concentration of functions in the core of the historical city and often ignorance of remained its parts. In a course of history the life”was running” from the city centers: it had left citadels, shahristans and even suburbs – rabads in favour of new territories for new urban forms. The historical city is a pedestrian system, within which different centers are located in accordance with logic pedestrian parameters. Experience of the 20th century had demonstrated that installation of highways through the historical core of the city can not solve the city transport problem and, at the same time, defective construction of these roads may destroy the historical cities.

The only solution is a slip road out of the historical core, makhallyas of which must be reserved as pedestrian zones with thoroughly considered system of local roads served needs of makhallya. Modern reconstructions of dwelling houses lead to congestion. It is important to decrease population within historical cities: in two thirds of houses in old Samarkand one family occupies just one room. The control should be spread over the use of modern construction materials too: “Eurostyles” of elite’s houses misbalance traditional scope and view of the historical city. Makhallya committees and their traditional mechanisms of solution making can promote this control. Citizens of makhallya should be oriented to implementation of measures fixed in general planning programs: on restoration of initial morphology of the historical cities, establishment of differential system of monuments and historical environs protection; restoration and reconstruction of monuments and valuable dwelling houses and providing the traditional vision of the historical city.

Author: Shukur Askarov

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