One of the most significant changes in the history of Margilan city in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was related to the invasion and liquidation of the Kokand khanate by the Russian Empire in 1876. After the Kokand khanate had been liquidated, Margilan city, which was the centre of the Margilan beyate, was included in Fergana province, part of the Turkistan General Governorship. In 1876 a new city was planned to be built near ancient Margilan. For this purpose, General Skobelev firstly chose an area of land half a verst from Margilan. But this land was not suitable for building the city. Thereafter, an area of land at a distance of 10–12 kilometres west of Margilan was chosen. This place belonged to the population of the villages Yormozor and Chim. The special commission appointed to choose the land was assigned by the Governorship to allocate several areas of free land for the construction of administration buildings, military barracks, and storage and living areas.
In 1877 the city’s general structure plan was approved. A similar plan was adopted also for building new cities near Tashkent and Samarkand. Thus in 1877, “a new city” appeared and became the centre of Fergana province. This city was named New Margilan in 1877, and then renamed Skobelev in 1907, and finally in 1917 its name was changed to Fergana. On the matter of naming the new city, the local authorities advised that the city should be named Fergansk or Fergana. But the Governor-general didn’t approve these names and ordered that the city be named New Margilan. Since that time, the city has been separated into two parts.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, New Margilan was founded and all the attention of the Russian authorities was centred on it. European style buildings, avenues, and beautiful gardens — all were built in “the new city”. The population of New Margilan grew faster than that of the other cities of the province. There were 196 families in the city in 1877, whereas in 1913 their number increased to 2,005. In 1911 the total population in the centre of the province was 11,000, 7,000 of which were Russians. According the archival documents, owing to the fact that the number of people moving to the city of New Margilan at the end of the nineteenth century was extremely large, difficulties arose in the process of providing housing and employment for them. House and food prices rose in the city. The city authorities asked the military governor to reduce the number of the people moving to Fergana province. But at that time, the Tsar's government endeavoured to subject the local people to its influence by housing more and more Russian-speaking people in the cities.
Since the city was the centre of Fergana province, more attention was centred on it than on the other cities of the Fergana Valley. But at the same time, in the northern part of New Margilan there appeared Old Margilan, which had a long history, and developed simultaneously with the new city. New Margilan soon became the most industrialized city in the valley, the third in the Turkistan General Governorship after Tashkent and Samarkand. After Margilan was invaded by Tsarist Russia On September 8, 1875, it remained one of the uyezd cities of the same name of Fergana province in the Turkistan General Governorship until 1917.
In the days of the Russian Empire, the city’s name was recorded as Old Margilan in the sources of that time. Artisans and craftsmen constituted the majority of the population of the city. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the introduction of the Russian industry into the city prepared the ground for the crisis of the members of this profession. But industrial enterprises were also established in Margilan, as opposed to the other cities. The industrial enterprises were all built in New Margilan. But at the same time, the local and foreign proprietors in Old Margilan also promoted the development of the Russian industry in this city. The list of these people included the proprietors such as The Craft Brothers, Madgoziboy, Ruzimatboy, Said Ahmadhoja, Kasimkhon kozi, Orifboy, Ohunjon, Shokir mingboshi, Mahmud mingboshi, and also Abdullakhan mahsum etc.
Uzbeks made up the majority of the city’s population. It was inhabited also by the Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and later by Russians. But their number was very small. By that time, the city had been divided into four regions: Kalandarkhona, Safultoda, Toshmozor and Mashadga. Each region had its own millenary and cadi who were subordinate to the commander of the uyezd.
The city’s population increased year by year. It was 3,192 in 1891, 6,518 in 1900, 11898 in 1913, 46,613 in 1914, 49,319 in 1917, and 51,000 in 1919. 298 Russians, 45 Tatars, 350 people from Kashgar, and 480 people of different nationalities lived in Old Margilan.
In order to improve the general situation in the province and win the confidence of the local people, the authorities of Fergana province tried to improve the living conditions of the people of “the old town”. That’s why such processes gained strength also in Old Margilan at the beginning of the twentieth century. So, for example, one hospital, one women's and children's clinic with ten beds, and also one chemist’s were built in the city in 1913. Two physicians, four medical assistants, and two pharmaceutists worked in these medical institutions. In 1921 one hospital with fifteen beds, one children’s clinic with twenty-five beds and one outpatients’ clinic provided services for the people of Margilan.
There were several reasons why greater attention was paid to this campaign in Old Margilan than in the other cities of the province. Firstly, this city was situated near the centre of the province. Secondly, Russian-speaking population was increasing in this city day by day. This situation made the province authorities and the commanders of the uyezd intensify this process.
The generosity of the entrepreneurs and financiers played a significant role in resolving the socio-economic problems of the city. They allocated large funds for its development and improvement. Muhammad Aziz Margiloniy, who worked in the administration of the Margilan Uyezd at that time, also gave information about fifteen merchants and the other influential people of the city in his work.
Margilan city was the centre of the Margilan Uyezd in 1918. The governing bodies of the uyezd and city carried out their activities in this city.
The famine which fell upon the peoples of Turkistan in 1917–1920 greatly worsened the misfortunes of the population. The population of Fergana province, including the people of Margilan, suffered heavily from this stroke of fate. According to the archival documents, 31,523 starving people were registered in 1922 in the Margilan Uyezd. At the beginning of 1922, four free meal centres for children, two free meal centres for adults and one children’s home were established in Margilan city. Furthermore, five chemist’s shops opened in Margilan uyezd and provided services for the population. Because of the fact that medical service was very limited in 1922–1923, various diseases spread in the city and killed thousands of people.
The February Revolution and the October Revolution, carried out in Russia in 1917, also exerted its influence in Margilan city. The population of Margilan city took an active part in the social and political processes that took place after the establishment of the Soviet government in Turkistan. The representatives of the city's population participated in the 4th Extraordinary Session of the Kurultay of the Muslims of Turkistan, held in Kokand city on December 9–11, and supported the establishment of the Turkistan government. On November 28, 1917, the Turkistan Autonomous Government was established. It was comprised of 8 members of the Turkistan Provisional Council. The representatives of Margilan city, such as Obidjon Mahmudov, Mirodim Mirzaahmedov, Sobirjon Yusupov also participated in the National Assembly, which was attended by 32 people elected in the Kurultay.
Obidjon Mahmudov (1858–1936), born in Margilan, was a big financier and distinguished representative of the jadist movement in Turkistan. When he was a child, he moved to Kokand and received education in a madrasah. He graduated from Saint Petersburg University and took a degree in mining. Thereafter, he returned to Kokand and started working in this field. He participated in the jadist movement in Fergana Valley and provided material assistance for them. Moreover, Obidjon Mahmudov was a publisher and established a publishing house in Kokand in 1914. In 1917 he worked as the Deputy Chairman of Kokand Municipal Duma and the Minister of Food of the Turkistan Autonomous Government.
Thousands of people held demonstrations to support the autonomy in different cities of Turkistan, including Margilan. However, the Bolsheviks considered the Turkistan Autonomous Government as a threat to their rule. After the Turkistan Autonomous Government was liquidated by the Bolsheviks, an armed rebellion started in the Fergana Valley. In the spring of 1918, young people from Margilan also participated in the National Liberty Movement, which spread across the Fergana Valley. The first armed uprising in the Skobelev Uyezd was initiated by Muhammad Aminbek Ahmadbek ugli Madaminbek (1892–1920), the head of the Margilan militia. The armed units organized by Madaminbek struggled to liberate Margilan from Bolshevik rule in the autumn of 1918 and achieved their goal. But the Bolsheviks attacked Margilan and reoccupied it. Several cities, such as Margilan, Osh and Andijan were liberated from the Bolsheviks by Madaminbek in 1919.
Margilan was one of the most important centres of resistance to Soviet rule until 1924. By the end of 1924, the Bolsheviks had succeeded in establishing their rule in Margilan and the whole Fergana Valley.
In conclusion, the socio-economic and political changes that took place in the days of the colonialism and the Soviet Government were reflected in the life of Margilan city. Despite the fact that Margilan’s population, being economically dependent and deprived of its rights, could not completely realize its potentials, it showed industriousness and love of freedom, and consequently succeeded in preserving the national and cultural values for future generations.
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