Merv: Cultural Capital of the Turkic World 2015

Merv: Cultural Capital of the Turkic World 2015

Monday, 29 June 2015

As an initiative launched by TURKSOY  the "Cultural Capital of the Turkic World”  further contributes to the liveliness of culture and art in cities of the Turkic World.

Upon decision of the  Permanent Council of Ministers of Culture of Turkic Speaking Countries which came together at its 32nd term meeting held on November 21st, 2014  in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, the city of  Merv was declared as the Cultural Capital of the Turkic World 2015.

The proposal to declare this city located on the historical Silk Road as Cultural Capital of the Turkic World 2015 was put forward by the president of the  Republic of Turkmenistan Gurbangulı Berdimuhamedov at the 5th Summit of the Turkic Council held in Bodrum in 2014. Thus, upon unanimous decision of 14 Ministers of Culture,  the city of Merv  was declared as the Cultural Capital of the Turkic World 2015.

This beautiful city of Turkmenistan located on the historical Silk Road  once used to be the capital of the Great Seljuk Empire. At the same  time, it is an oasis in the Kara-Kum desert.

The city of Merv which was founded by the mythical Khan Afrasiyab according to the legend was conquered by the ruler of the early Seljuk Empire, Chaghri Beg in 1307. During this period, the city center was shifted towards the West so that it developed around  Sultan-Kala. This is also where the Sultan Senjer Shrine dating back to the 11th century is located. This shrine along with the tomb of Yusuf Hamdani, as well as the mausoleums of Shehriyar-Erk, Ibn Zayd and Muhammed also featuring various archeologic relics are all located in Merv.[5]

In 1221, this place was plundered by Mongolians ruled by Chinghis Khan who killed almost all the people living there. Before 1221, Merv was the most important city for Imam Ali Rıza also known as the Shah of Khorasan.

In 1380, Merv was plundered again by Timur’s army comprised of Mongolians and Turkmen people. In 1505, the city was then conquered by Uzbeks before being taken over by Persians five years later. The Persians took over the city until 1524 and later again from1601 to 1747. The declaration of Merv as Cultural Capital of the Turkic World 2015 is meant to revive the Golden Age of this historical city of the Turkic World.

In the speech he delivered following the declaration of Merv as Cultural Capital, the Minister of Culture of Turkmenistan said: "We, the Turkmen people, will be proud to bear this prestigious title. We are already excited about events and activities which we will be hosting in Merv throughout 2015. We look forward to welcoming you and all kindred peoples of the Turkic World in Turkmenistan.”

Throughout this year, the city of Merv will be hosting concerts, cinema events, painters’ and photographers’ gatherings  as well as academic meetings gathering artists and scholars of the Turkic World.

2500 Years of History

The city of Merv located on the historical Silk Road used to be the home of Achaemenids, Seleucids, Sassanids, Muslim Arabs, Samanens and finally Turks throughout 2500 years.

The City  of Seljuk Princes

When Sultan Mohammad Alparslan ascended the throne in 1063, Merv where Princes were appointed as ruler of Khorasan. Merv experienced its golden age as the Capital of the empire  during the reign of Sultan Sanjar. In this period, Merv became an important city of science, culture and arts of the region with numerous madrasahs and libraries.


From Safavids to Russians

In 1510, Shah Ismail defeated the Uzbek Sheban Khan and the city was then ruled by the Safavids. In the 18th century, Shah Murad, the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the Murgab Bend and exiled people; after that the city completely lost its vitality. During the occupation of Turkmenistan, Merv was besieged by the Russians in 1884.


Home of the ‘Alp Erens’

Merv is also an important place in terms of the history of Islam and Sufism. According to some sources, Bureyde el-Eslemi and Hakem el-Gifari, the Sahabas who introduced Islam to the Turks, were buried in Merv. Besides, Khoja Ahmed Yasawi who contributed much to the Islamization of Anatolia with the development of Turkic culture on its territory, and Yusuf Hemedani, the spiritual leader of Bahaddin Naqshband who later founded the Naqshbandi Order are also buried in this city.