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The Great Silk Road

Khiva is one of the most ancient and still surviving cities of the Great Silk Road in Central Asia. At the time of the blossoming of Khoresm it was the largest world trade centre; a key point on the Great Silk Road. Merchants travelled from afar; from the Volga region, India and Iran. They gathered here, with trading caravans from the region travelling to the Near East, to East Turkistan and China. There were routes to Mongolia from Khiva, and through the Polovtsian Land - to Saksin, a trading city at the mouth of the Volga River. Goods were traded further afield to Russian princedoms and even to Europe. Archaeologists have discovered new routes which ancient caravans travelled; in particular, from Khoresm to Mangyshlak and from there to the sea in the lower Volga region; proving that Khoresm merchants connected a considerable part of the Central Asian states with Eastern Europe trade.

The Great Silk Road is a unique phenomenon of the history of the development of a civilization through its aspirations towards the exchange of cultural values, the conquest of living space and the development of trade.

This, the largest transcontinental trade path in the history of humanity connected Europe and Asia, and in ancient times stretched from Rome to the ancient capital of Japan - Nara.

It is important to note that this road was never the only path, it included various routes which branched off like the crown of a mighty tree. As a matter of fact, one of the main roads crossing Asia from east to the west had its beginnings in the capital of ancient China - Chan-gan - and weaved its way to the northwest border. Having being ferried over the glaciated Tyan-Shan mountains, part of the caravans passed through the Fergana Valley staying awhile in the Tashkent oasis and continuing on to Samarkand, Bukhara, Khoresm. Some continued further to the Caspian and Black Sea shores, Bactria and India.

The establishment of trade links contributed significantly to the development of semi-precious stone quarries in the mountains of Central Asia which enabled lazurite, nephritis, cornelian and turquoise to be utilized.

As the name signifies, the main item that was traded on the caravan roads was silk, highly sought after around the world. For instance, in the early Middle Ages, silk was the most popular measure of commerce even surpassing that of gold. In Sogdiana, for example, the price for a horse was equivalent to the price of ten cuts of silk. Silk was the currency for work and for the maintenance of servants. Silk could also be used to pay atonement for crimes committed.

The Venetian merchant Marco Polo was the first to call these caravan routes "silk roads". He was also reputedly the first European to reach the borders of the Chinese Empire. The term "The Great Silk Road" was introduced into the lexicon in 1877 by the German researcher Ferdinand Richthofen in his fundamental work "China".

The Great Silk Road was not only the trade path for the caravans, it was also the route for the spreading of the cultural achievements of the various 'silk' nations, as well as their intellectual values, and religious beliefs. For many centuries hundreds of world famous scientists, researchers and warriors have traveled on these caravan roads.

A special long-term program which includes proposals concerning the renaissance of the historical heritage has been created in cooperation with UNESCO. In 1994 Samarkand's declaration as "Renaissance of the Great Silk Road" was adopted.