Tashkent (tăshkĕnt´, –kĕnd´) or Toshkent (tŏsh–), city (1992 pop. 2,133,000), capital of Tashkent region and of Uzbekistan, in the foothills of the Tian Shan mts.; the name is also spelled Dashkent. The largest and one of the oldest cities of Central Asia, it is the economic heart of the region. It is also a major cultural center, a rail and highway junction, and an important air terminal. The city lies in a great oasis along the Chirchik River and on the Trans-Caspian RR. There is extensive trade in grain and raw cotton. Tashkent has one of the largest cotton textile mills in Asia. Other industries include railroad workshops, food- and tobacco-processing plants, and factories that manufacture agricultural machinery and consumer goods. The Tashkent oasis produces cotton and fruit. Irrigation canals on the Chirchik River supply power for several hydroelectric plants.
Among the city's educational and cultural facilities are Tashkent State Univ. and the Uzbek Academy of Sciences. There are many museums and parks, a Muslim university, and several theater companies. Tashkent is also a military center. The modern section of the city coexists with the old quarter (partly reconstructed), with its narrow, twisting streets, numerous mosques, and bazaars; Tashkent lost most of the old town in a 1966 earthquake that heavily damaged the city. Once the preserve of Russian bureaucrats and settlers, the modern section filled with Uzbeks in the early 1990s, as Russians left for homes in Russia.
First mentioned in the 1st cent. BC, Tashkent came under Arabic rule in the 7th cent. AD and passed to the Turkish shahs of Khwarazm in the 12th cent. It developed as a commercial center on the historic trade route from Samarkand to Beijing. Tashkent was captured in the 13th cent. by Jenghiz Khan and in the 14th cent. by Timur. With the breakup of the Timurid empire, the city passed to the khanate of Kokand.
Captured by Russian forces in 1865, Tashkent became (1867) the administrative seat of Russian Turkistan. It remained active in the caravan trade between Central Asia and W Russia and gained new prosperity with the construction (1898) of the Trans-Caspian RR. From 1918 to 1924, Tashkent was the capital of the Turkistan Autonomous SSR, and in 1930 it replaced Samarkand as capital of the Uzbek SSR, subsequently becoming independent Uzbekistan's capital.