Turkestan can justifiably be called the main cult place in Kazakhstan involved in the global network of pilgrimage. With the same reverence it is visited by Kazakhs (as the ancient capital of their khans), and Central Asians (especially followers of Sufism and admirers of Ahmed Yasawi), and citizens of Turkey (considering these places as a "fathers’ homeland"), and everyone who is concerned about the past.
Personality: the role and the cult
Role of the individual in the historical process that so vividly concerned the Russian literature and Soviet pedagogy, here in Turkestan raises no doubts. If there would not be Khoja Ahmed in the local history, there would be no history at all.
His lifetime fate as a popular Sufi sheikh created around Ahmed Yasawi the aura of sanctity, special insight and closeness to God. His posthumous fate presents a vivid example of the canonic mythmaking traditional for all religions. Magic craving of stuck in sins mankind for clean and bright – the desire to communicate to the higher through proximity to the saint and to enter paradise using somebody’s else authority - is so obviously expressed here.
Earlier, when the public did not know the true age of the city, it was suggested that the city started from dervish community ("village of Sufis") founded on the grave of the dead Master. And as it often happens in the history the most dark and gloomy strives for the most white and bright. (Therefore, the overall tone of the history is mostly gray) Example of neighborhood of Timur the Lame and St. Ahmed is not unique in human history. But this relationship is fundamental for Turkestan. If omnipotent dictator (and pathological sadist) had in front of the grave no fear of "bloody boys", and had no vain desire to hedge before the swift Supreme Court, there would not have been an amazing human creation, the Mausoleum of Ahmed Yasawi.
Black people at the construction
The construction history of the cult complex of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi is preserved only in an official report created on the basis of cheerful reports from the construction site. Unrealistic deadlines that were set by the formidable customer (Iron Lame!) turned out to be within the grasp of miraculous builders gathered together throughout all countries conquered by Tamerlane. And it would be strange if it was different. Timur’s workers could only dream of loosing just a job after discontent of Iron Chief. Everyone knew and remembered the story of foremen at the capital main construction - mosque in Samarkand. Irate patron deprived them of not only their positions, but of no longer necessary heads too.
An informal history of the emergence of a colossal Steppe monument to glorious Khoja is much more interesting and exciting. Let me remind you that on the north, up to the Arctic Ocean and on the east of Ural there is nothing like Turkestan rarities. Therefore, its appearance is surrounded by so many legends and speculations making Samarkand autocrat’s act of will wrap into the form of something magical, worthy of genie and The Thousand and One Nights.
People say that the bricks for the construction, for example, were not produced on the spot, but twenty miles away - in humdans (brickworks) of Sauran. And for construction material transportation alive human transporter was used, people were passing bricks from hand to hand.
It is clear that for such process a lot of manpower was needed. That is why, in anticipation of the ingenuity of American planters, the best free labor force was brought to the construction of Yasa, straight from Africa, in the form of Negro slaves.
It is rumored that another no less exotic imported goods carrier was used for the stones transportation. After the raid to India Indian elephants were widely used on the construction of Samarkand.
And another rumor is that during the construction in parallel somewhere underground many kilometers of underground passages were dug out. Allegedly, this medieval "metro" was dug from Turkestan to the shores of the Syr-Darya and Otrar.
Biography of completion (Short Course)
Nobody really knows how much managed to build during the Tamerlane time. An opinion exists that it was about half of what we see today. Allegedly, the clear boundary line that divides minarets in half indicates the height reached during Timur time. Anyway, the portal, the large dome and interior decoration were not finished before the Iron Lame’s death (1405).
The largest contribution to the completion of the building belongs to Abdullakhan, (1538 - 1598) the ruler of Bukhara. Just after that it started looking like we know now. A legend tells that after the completion of the portal arch a copper ball with gold was fastened at the top, under the "lock". This way Abdullah not trusting the builders insured availability of funding for restoration of the arch if it would collapse.
Kazakh khans contributed their share to the interior replanning; during their times this place served as a palace, the Supreme Council and the Congress Hall. The rulers surveyed the troops, communicated with the people and uttered speeches from the inconspicuous balcony in the middle of portal niche, where the inner chambers of the palace lead.
The final touch in the construction belongs to Kokand. Warlike battlements crowning the unfinished minaret witnessed those times when the entire building was part of the fortress. From here surrounding steppes were monitored; from here cannons shot at the enemy besieging Turkestan.
First money for the major repairs were given from the royal treasury almost immediately after Turkestan joined the Russian Empire. "Royal buttresses" built to protect the wall from the "sprawling" were preserved from these repairs.
And then began a long and full of drama the Soviet era restoration. Monument “rooted” into the ground for more than two meters by that time. People say that the funds allocated for restoration works at different times, would be sufficient for the construction of the same new building. But by the end of the Soviet regime works were not finished.
Then the Turks came there, and by the city's anniversary the memorial of Ahmed Yasawi shone up like a new one!
But portal part of the monument will not be finished ever. This is its historical fate. Today old whitish logs sticking out of walls under an arch - the historical frame of scaffolding - remind of all unfinished things. But those who saw the ornate tiled portals of madrasah and mosques in Central Asia can imagine how great and festive it could look under the glaze facing. If Timur had lived a little longer, who knows maybe we could have admired absolutely different work today...