The city lies at an altitude of just under 1,000 metres above sea level, in the extreme southwest of the Ferghana Valley and on the northern foothills of the Turkestan mountain range with peaks of over 4,000 metres.


Istaravshan is believed to have been originally founded by the legendary Persian king Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC. As ruler of the area, he saw his empire threatened by attacks from the northeast and subsequently had various fortified settlements built, including Istaravshan. In 329 BC, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great. The city, which was called Cyropolis in Greek sources, withstood the siege for a long time and, according to legend, could only be conquered through treachery.

Istaravshan was also mentioned as an important trading city in early Chinese sources. In the Han Hanshu (or “Writings of the Later Han”) it is mentioned that Istaravshan had a six-kilometre-long city wall.

At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the city lost its importance. It was destroyed by Genghis Khan’s troops around 1220. Almost all the inhabitants were either killed or enslaved. A century later, Istaravshan was rebuilt under the Timurids and was henceforth called Ura-Teppa.

In the 18th century, Ura-Teppa was targeted by the Bukhara and Kokand Khanates but resisted so successfully that the two khanates decided to lay siege to the city together in 1754. But even this attack was successfully repelled and the city remained independent for the rest of the 18th century.

The fertile Fergana Valley and with it Ura-Teppa remained at the centre of various disputes in the 19th century. Although the city remained largely autonomous, it was formally under the rule of the Bukhara Emirate. Individual uprisings against this rule were bloodily suppressed.

Already before the conquest of the Fergana Valley by the Russian Tsar’s army in 1866, the city was known for its arts and crafts. Towards the end of the 19th century, about 20,000 people lived in Ura-Teppa, including about 300 Russians. Besides an Orthodox church, a telegraph office and a Russian school were built.

Due to industrialization, the population growth in the 20th century. Ura-Teppa was also connected to the natural gas and drinking water supply. Today, about 65,000 people live in the city, which was still called Ura-Teppa after independence and was only renamed Istaravshan in 2000.


Istaravshan has a semi-arid climate, i.e. a climate that is characterised by distinct dry seasons. As a rule, six to nine months are dry but at least three to five months are humid. Temperatures range from an average of just under 33 degrees in summer to 3.2 degrees in January.


Istaravshan offers some sightseeing but is mainly known for handicrafts. Tourists usually visit the city on their way from Khujand to Dushanbe. As a rule, various studios are visited. Due to the following long drive to the capital, there is usually not enough time for further sightseeing.

Air connections: Istaravshan does not have an airport. The nearest airport is in Khujand. For a wider range of destinations, it is recommended to travel to Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

Railway connections: There are also no rail connections in the city.

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