Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, is situated in the centre of the Hissar valley more than 800m above sea level. Until 1961 it was called Stalinabad. From the north and east it is surrounded by the foothills of the snowy Hissar range with peaks reaching 4,000m and higher, and from the south it borders the Kofarnihon River.
Situated in the largest agricultural oasis of the country, Dushanbe occupies the area along both banks of the Varzob River (called the Dushanbinka within the city), taking its waters from the snowfields and glaciers of the Hissar range, which are a part of the giant Pamir-Alai mountain system. In the Upper Varzob river-basin there are around 120 glaciers of various sizes, which create a favourable microclimate in the mountainous valley near Dushanbe. Due to the proximity of the mountains, residents of the capital do not suffer so much from heat in the hottest seasonof the year because there is usually a gentle breeze. The Varzob River generously provides drinking water, irrigation for adjacent gardens and fields, and electricity for city residents. Varzob Valley is also a popular place for recreation in both summer and winter.
The city is very green with many trees including fruit trees, sycamores, maples, chestnuts as well as mulberry- trees, oaks, and walnuts besides vines and flower gardens. Precipitation occurs mainly in the winter and spring and is highest in March and April. Snow does not usually settle and, if it does, it generally melts within a few days. In summer the area has a continental-tropical climate, with a predominance of hot and dry weather.
Autumn is considered by most to be the best season of the year since there is warm, dry weather and a rich harvest of fruit, vegetables, cotton, and other crops. Present-day Dushanbe is a young capital, being only 80 years old. It cannot be compared in age, history, or monuments to ancient cities like Bukhara and Samarqand. However, the real age of Dushanbe is a subject of scientific dispute due to the numerous finds of archaeologists, ethnographers, and historians made recently in present-day Dushanbe. These include a wedge-shaped copper axe dated 2nd millennium B.C., an elegant and splendidly-made gold and silver alloy earring, a bronzegilded part of a harness in the middle of which there is the embossment of the head of the Greek god Dionysus, and a treasure of Sasanid silver coins, all of which provide evidence that this area was already populated and that a high-level of culture, craft, and town-planning existed here almost 2,500 years ago. The first-known record about Dushanbe comes from 1676. It was called kasabai Dushanbe which shows its status as a town. It was favourably located at the crossroads of caravan routes connecting the Hissar valley with Bukhara and Samarqand, the Pamirs and Afghanistan. The word Dushanbe in Tajik means “Monday”. There was a large bazaar in the city on that day and that is why it was so named. In the 19th century it was only 272 hectares and had a population of 7-10,000. The town was also surrounded by a wall and Shohmansur Village was outside of the town. At the beginning of the 20th century Dushanbe was a small village, where several hundred people lived.
Later Sary-Osiyo and Shohmansur villages joined the conurbation. In the whole of Dushanbe there was only one oil street lamp, located in the bazaar square. The Russian officer, B. Litvinov, in the 1904 edition of “Historical Bulletin” magazine wrote: “Currently, Dushanbe represents a poor Hissar town, stretched along the Varzob River with slightly more than 500 households, mostly Tajiks. Poor clay-walled buildings and walls alternate with great orchards. At the edges of the town, the houses are covered with a cane-span roof like in the villages. As for the centre, near the part-destroyed clay-walled fortress, the houses are cleaner…” In 1924 in Dushanbe there were 42 small houses and several hundred residents and neither electricity nor a water supply system; river water was delivered in sheep skins. The first diesel power-station for 200 street lights was built in the city in September 1924. Dushanbe’s rapid growth began in 1929, when the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic was founded. At that time it covered an area of only 5 hectares. The first paved street was then laid in Dushanbe and a mill, a soap factory, an oil factory, a cotton-cleaning plant, and a metal-working-mechanical and joiner’s workshop began functioning. The same year a film studio was opened in Tajikistan’s capital and the first documentary produced there recorded the arrival of the first train in Dushanbe from Termez by railway, which was built in 1929. Production of movies also began in Dushanbe in 1932. The first water supply system (about 4km long) was built in the city in 1931. Two passenger buses ran in the town. All goods, including construction materials, were delivered by camel. In 1929 Dushanbe was renamed “Stalinabad”, the name by which it was known for the following 32 years.
The first hydropower station in the country was built on the outskirts of Dushanbe on the Varzob River and the capital was provided with electric light. In 1938 the first General Development Plan was developed for the city, whose population was now 170,000. In accordance with this plan, the Opera and Ballet Theatre, Vakhsh Hotel, the House of Government, the House of Specialists and a number of other beautiful buildings were built, which still today, after many decades, decorate the capital of Tajikistan against a background of snowy mountains and blue sky.
World War II prevented further construction. In the post-war period construction of administrative and apartment buildings began on a large scale. Wide avenues emerged in the city along which, the Firdausi Public Library, the National museum, the National Bank, the Exhibition of National Economy Achievements, the Palace of Culture, movie theatres, Hotel Dushanbe and Hotel Tajikistan, a bus terminal, a railway station, the airport, and multi-storey apartment blocks were built. At the same time the city became more industrialised. More than 100 industrial enterprises were put into operation in the capital, which produced about 60 types of items including looms, refrigerators, cotton and silk fabrics, hydro-equipment for agricultural machinery, knitwear, apparel, leather goods, and many other goods that were exported to more than 50 countries.
Natural gas supply to Dushanbe began in 1960. Initially natural gas was brought in gas bottles but later the first gas pipeline was built. Dushanbe TV station also started airing programs the same year. Nowadays, on the relatively small area of 12,000 hectares occupied by Dushanbe, almost 40% of the country’s industrial enterprises and more than 600,000 people are concentrated. A city which emerged where a village existed only 80 years ago today meets all the conditions of modern urbanized life. The central street of the Tajik capital – Rudaki Avenue – was named in honour of the hero of Tajik literature. The avenue stretches 12km north to south from Varzob Valley down to the railway station. A walk or ride along the avenue will give you the chance to get to know many sights of the capital, its best architectural complexes, administrative, research and cultural instituties, universities, theatres, hotels and restaurants. There is a Memorial Complex in the central square in honour of the 1,100th anniversary of the Samanid State with a monument to Ismoil Somoni, the founder of the first Tajik state that existed in the 9-10th centuries. In the uplifted right hand of Ismoil Somoni is a regal gold sceptre with an image of the sun with seven stars – a symbol of national unity and revival in Tajikistan. The memorial complex was built in 1999. Large festivities such as military and mass parades are all held here in
Dusti (Friendship) Square. Slightly further along the avenue is Central Park, which, with its amusement park, stage and sports grounds, attracts Dushanbe residents during days-off, holidays and in the evenings. There are also restaurants and a cafe in the park.
On the opposite side of the Avenue, directly opposite the park, there is the capital’s administration building – the Dushanbe Hukumat (Town Hall). On the northern side of Central Park there is one of largest hotels in the capital – Hotel Tajikistan. The hotel specializes in receiving and servicing foreign guests. There are comfortable rooms with all modern facilities, satellite TV, cell phone and fax communication, e-mail, internet, a business centre, restaurants, bars, a guarded parking lot, and a foreign exchange office for tourists and business people. The hotel conveniently accepts credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, and STB card.
There are many large shops on Rudaki Avenue. The Central Department Store (TSUM) is located in the central part. People in the east used to judge towns by their bazaars. A large covered bazaar, Barakat, is located 5 minutes walk from Hotel Tajikistan. The other municipal market – Shohmansur (generally known as the Green Market), is also in the centre of the city, right behind the S. Aini Opera and Ballet Theatre. SultoniKabir, Sakhovat and Korvon markets are in the southern part of the city. In all the large municipal bazaars there is a wide range of foodstuffs, manufactured goods, and local crafts. At the intersection of Rudaki and IsmoilSomoni Avenues is an art shop where you can buy works of art as well as original handicrafts of local craftsmen and artists. There are several large museums in the city. Several years ago, the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan was opened, where you can see the famous 13m long clay statue of Buddha in Nirvana.
theSadriddinAini State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. Aini was the founder of contemporary Tajik literature, a famous writer, and the first President of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan. The theatre was opened in 1940. National operas and ballets are produced on its stage as well as classical repertoire. The first professional theatre in the country – the A. Lohuti Tajik State Academic Drama Theatre – is a recognized centre for the capital’s cultural life. Professional Tajik theatre began in Dushanbe in 1929 as an amateur art activities hobby group. Original and distinctive amateur and folk arts of the Tajik people served as the basis for forming the professional theatre. In their creative work the Tajik artists rely on the traditions of national art and international theatre. There are also theatres for the younger generations in the capital – the children’s “Lukhtak” puppet-theatre and the M. Vohidov Youth Theatre. It is impossible to be in Dushanbe without visiting the Rohat Teahouse. It is in the centre of the city, next to the Presidential Palace. Rohat Teahouse is not only a place where you can try Tajik cuisine, but also a museum and visible embodiment of beautiful national architecture. The National paintings on the ceiling of the other teahouse – Saodat, on Rudaki Avenue opposite the Tajik Medical University are no less impressive. The A. Firdausi National Library is one of the most beautiful buildings in the capital in which traditional local details blend together with modern architecture. There are more than three million books from a variety of world languages in this temple of literature’s depositories. It contains an invaluable treasury of human knowledge including the ancient oriental manuscripts collection, which is a particular pride of the library. Among the most unique and rare manuscripts are the History of Tabari (13th century), one of the best hand-written copies of Firdausi’s epic Shohnoma (16th century), a collection of Jomi’s works, Seven Beauties, poems of Hofiz, rubai (4-line stanza poems) of Omar Khayom, and an anthology of poems by Saadi. Manuscripts of the works of Avicenna, AlisherNavoi, Tusi, Ghazali, Bedil, Ahmad Donish and other famous writers, scholars and enlighteners of the Orient are also carefully preserved in the collection. There are about 100,000 books in 34 languages in the foreign publications collection. The library has thematic catalogues and several reading-halls. Opposite the library is a Press house built in the 1930s which is one of the first large printing houses in Dushanbe. The first printing equipment was delivered to the capital in 1925 from Termez by a camel caravan.
The state complex KohiVahdat (Unity Palace) is in the northern part of the city. It has several halls in the complex, the largest having a capacity of over 1,500 seats, in which large social and business meetings, forums, conferences, symposia, congresses, and other important national and international events are held. The northern part of the city holds the three largest universities of the country – the Q. Juraev Tajik Pedagogical University (the first higher education institute of the country, opened in 1931), the Abu Ali Ibni Sino Tajik Medical University and the Tajik Agrarian University. Tens of thousands of students study at these universities. A monument to the founder of Tajik-Persian classical poetry, Abu AbdullohRudaki, who lived and wrote more than 1,000 years ago, is in the square in front of the Agrarian University and will draw the attention of visitors
to the city. The Botanical Gardens of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan are located on one of the backstreets crossing Rudaki Avenue near the Agrarian University. It was founded in 1933. More than 2,000 species of plants from all over the world grow here. Collections of more than 600 species of roses and more than 30 species of juniper are of great interest.