The Palace of the Emir of Bukhara in Kagan (suburb)

The Palace of the Emir of Bukhara in Kagan (suburb)

The Palace of the Emir of Bukhara in Kagan (suburb)

The Palace of the Emir of Bukhara in Kagan is located 12 km from Bukhara. Kagan acquired the status of a town in 1929, and until 1935 it used to be called "New Bukhara." It began to be actively developed during the Russian Empire rule in Central Asia. In an effort to connect the new imperial lands to the center, Trans-Caspian railroads were developed intensively. Kagan settlement was located right on the route to Tashkent. In addition to the natives, the settlement's population was enlarged by newcomers from the military, builders, engineers, and technicians who operated the station. Many came to stay permanently, acquiring plots of land and houses here. In response to the demand, commerce started growing quickly and many stores were opened. A post office, a bank, a college, a court, and a customs office were founded as well.

The rich Emirate of Bukhara immediately established close diplomatic relations with Russia. This explains the noticeable Russian trace in the architecture of Kagan. Of the surviving landmarks of that era, Kagan is adorned with the building of the Russian Imperial Political Agency and the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The town and the magnificent palace greet everyone arriving at the train station as the building is across the street within the walking distance.

The construction of this eclectic project began on August 14, 1895, at the initiative of Bukhara's emir Said Abd al-Ahad Khan, the son of emir Muzaffar Bahadur (Muzaffar bin Nasrullah) of the Mangits dynasty and Shamshat, a Persian slave girl famous for her sharp mind.

Three years later, the palace appeared in its finished appearance before the demanding ruler. The author was a phenomenal architectural genius Alexei Leontevich Benois (nephew of Russian architect Nikolai Leontevich Benois), who had come to Turkestan while serving in the Military People's Administration in the office of the Governor-General Konstantin Petrovich von Kaufman and was in charge of the development of Tashkent. Alexei Benois also built Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich Romanov's residence in Tashkent (the grandson of Nicholas I). However, some experts consider the Kagan Palace to be the highlight of his work. The decor was made jointly by Bukhara and Russian masters, and the result of their work turned out to be impressive and organic. To decorate the façade, they used ganch, oriental ornaments made of plaster.

There are different theories about the original motivation for the construction:

1) Emir of Bukhara planned to establish a country residence there to strengthen relations with the new urban community but was not satisfied with the modesty of the decor.

2) The palace was being prepared to receive Emperor Nicholas II, who was supposed to come to the Emirate of Bukhara to pay a visit to Said Abd al-Ahad Khan. Although the visit of the Emperor did not take place in the end, this version seems more plausible, since the next heir to the throne, Sayyid Alim Khan, who ascended the throne in 1910, also used the palace to receive high-ranking officials coming to Bukhara.

Thus, a unique sample of Moorish architectural style appeared in the Bukhara suburbs, with visible French Empire style motifs and baroque elements but without excessive extravagance, with many domed ceilings and classic towers resting on refined columns.

The building now serves as the community center (Palace of Culture) for railway workers and is protected by the state as an architectural monument. Its visit is rarely listed as among the recommended attractions, but sophisticated tourists and admirers of European architecture with an Oriental touch always find their way to it.

Entrance: free of charge but depends on the schedule and working hours of the administration. Moreover, the facade of the building deserves closer attention because the original interior has not been preserved.

Workdays: Monday to Saturday

Operating hours: 09:00-17:00