State Historical and Cultural
Park "Ancient Merv" (1999)
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Merv is the oldest and best-preserved of the oasis-cities along the Silk Route in Central Asia. The remains in this vast oasis span 4,000 years of human history. A number of monuments are still visible, particularly from the last two millennia.
Throughout its history, the expansive, barren area between the Caspian Sea and the Amu Darya river -- the area of present-day Turkmenistan -- has been subject to conquests by foreign powers. It became part of the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great in the 500s bc and was conquered by Macedonian leader Alexander the Great in the 300s bc.
Arabs invaded the area in the 7th and 8th centuries ad, introducing the local population to Islam. In the 11th century the Seljuk Turks appropriated Merv, an ancient city near Ashgabat, as the center of a dominion that stretched from Afghanistan to Egypt. Merv became one of the most important Muslim cities in the world. The land of present-day Turkmenistan was included in the vast empires of the Mongol Genghis Khan in the 13th century and the Turkic leader Tamerlane (Timur Lang) in the 14th century.
The ancestors of the Turkmens, believed to be Oghuz tribes from the foothills of the Altay Mountains to the northeast, migrated to the area in about the 10th century. The Turkmens, a nomadic Turkic-speaking people, were a distinct ethnic group by the 15th century. From the 15th century to the 17th century, the southern portion of present-day Turkmenistan was under Persian rule. Meanwhile, the northern portion fell under the suzerainty of Khiva and Bukhoro, which both became Uzbek-ruled states in the 16th century. The Persians ruled Khiva and Bukhoro from the early to the mid-1700s, when Uzbek dynasties regained control.
Sources and links:
Many thanks to Mr. Leonards Naglis (Latvia) for all help and support.
Other World Heritage Sites in Turkmenistan. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Turkmenistan, for further information about the individual properties.
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Revised 21 jul 2006