Legend about Ark citadel
According to legend, the citadel was built by the Persian prince Siyavush. Siyavush had to flee from his homeland because of slander, and reached Bukhara. Here he fell in love with the daughter of the local ruler. The latter put his future son-in-law to the test: he gave him a bull skin and said he could marry his daughter only if he built a palace on that skin. Siyavush turned out to be clever: he cut the skin into thin strips, joined them together and built the desired palace inside the formed circle.
*The term Registan is derived from the Persian language and consists of the words “reg” (sand) and “stan” (place) and thus means “sandy place”. Usually, the main squares of Central Asia were called Registan. The most famous Registan Square is located in Samarkand.
Ark means “fortress” in translation. The first fortress dates from the 1st century and is said to have been built by thousands of slaves. However, the area was used even before that: the remains of buildings dating back to the 4th century BC have been found during excavations. Over time the citadel was destroyed and reconstructed several times. According to some sources, the citadel received its present unusual shape in the 7th century.
The citadel occupies about four hectares and is surrounded by massive walls, with a total length of about 800 metres and a height of about 16 to 20 metres. The buildings inside the palace have been replaced over and over again, and those that survive today date back to the 17th-20th centuries.
In its historical past, Ark was a city within a city. Around 3,000 people lived within its walls: apart from the ruling family, other noble families lived here as well as high-ranking officials with their families. The fortress also housed government offices such as barracks or mint, as well as outbuildings such as warehouses and stables.
In 1920, an anti-monarchical coup took place in Bukhara Emirate, which overthrew the Emir of Bukhara and established the Bukhara People’s Republic. The emir’s supporters took shelter in the citadel: the Red Army, under the command of General Mikhail Frunze, launched air attacks on the Ark. The fortress was severely damaged: about 80% of the citadel was destroyed in the bombardment.
Museums in Ark
Today only a part of the citadel can be visited. But it already gives an impression of its original size. Inside you can visit the former coronation hall. The last coronation took place here in 1911. The same place was also used as a reception hall. The buildings, including the mosque and the former prime minister’s house, are now used by a total of seven museums:
|Museum of manuscripts||The museum is located in an old mosque and displays mainly Korans from different centuries. Among others, poetry and scientific works are displayed.|
|Museum of Nature||The Museum is dedicated to the regional flora and fauna. Among the exhibits are stuffed animals.|
|Museum of Archeology||The museum exhibits were mainly discovered from digs in the historical settlements of Varakhsha (about 45 km west of Bukhara) and Paykend (about 60 km southwest of Bukhara).|
|Museum of artefacts found at the ancient site of Paykend||It features exhibits from the ancient settlement of Paykend. The museum was funded by the US Ambassador to Tashkent.|
|History Museum I||One of the two history museums, dedicated to the period from ancient times to the 15th century. Worth mentioning is an ancient fresco depicting the Zoroastrian fire cult. The fresco was found during excavations in the ancient settlement of Varakhsha.|
|History Museum II||This history museum covers the period from the 16th to the 20th century. Among the exhibits are maps of Central Asian states, clothes, goods of export and import, and old photography.|
|Museum of Numismatics||Coins from various periods are displayed in the museum: from the era of Alexander the Great till the collapse of the Bukhara Emirate|