Tashkent (//; Uzbek: Toshkent, Тошкент, تاشكېنت, ; Russian: Ташкент, ) is the capital and largest city of Uzbekistan, as well as the most populated city in ex-Soviet Central Asia (though the larger urban centers of Urumqi in China and Kabul in Afghanistan lie well within the geographic region of Central Asia) with a population in 2012 of 2,309,300. It is located in the north-east of the country close to the Kazakhstan border.
Tashkent was influenced by the Sogdian and Turkic cultures in its early history, before Islam in the 8th century AD. After its destruction by Genghis Khan in 1219, the city was rebuilt and profited from the Silk Road. From 18th to 19th century, the city became an independent city-state, before being re-conquered by the Khanate of Kokand. In 1865, it fell to the Russian Empire, and became the capital of Russian Turkestan. In Soviet times, Tashkent witnessed major growth and demographic changes due to forced deportations from throughout the Soviet Union.
During its long history, Tashkent has had various changes in names and political and religious affiliations.
Tashkent was settled by ancient people as an oasis on the Chirchik River, near the foothills of the West Tian Shan Mountains. In ancient times, this area contained Beitian, probably the summer "capital" of the Kangju confederacy. Some scholars believe that a "Stone Tower" mentioned by Ptolemy and by other early accounts of travel on the Silk Road referred to this settlement ("Tashkent" means "stone castle"). This tower is said to have marked the midway point between Europe and China. Other scholars, however, disagree with this identification, though it remains one of four most probable sites for the Stone Tower.
In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, the town and the province were known as Chach. The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi also refers to the city as Chach. Later the town came to be known as Chachkand/Chashkand, meaning "Chach City".
The principality of Chach had a square citadel built around the 5th to 3rd centuries BC, some 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) south of the Syr Darya River. By the 7th century AD, Chach had more than 30 towns and a network of over 50 canals, forming a trade center between the Sogdians and Turkic nomads. The Buddhist monk Xuánzàng 玄奘 (602/603? – 664 AD), who travelled from China to India through Central Asia, mentioned the name of the city as Zhěshí 赭時. The Chinese chronicles Suí shū 隋書 ("Book of Suí"), Běi shǐ 北史 ("History of Northern Dynasties") and Táng shū 唐書 ("Book of Táng"), mention a possession called Shí 石 or Zhěshí 赭時 with a capital of the same name since the fifth century AD .