Mary (Merv)

Mary is the third largest city of Turkmenistan. It is located in a big oasis in the middle of the Kara Kum Desert . Mary was founded in 1884 as a Russian military administrative center 30 kilometers from ancient Merv (until 1937 Mary was called Merv). Today it is a major center of cotton industry, large traffic point and the main center of gas industry which brings the most revenues to Turkmenistan treasury. The most interesting places in the city are the History Museum with a rich collection of artifacts, Turkmen carpets, national costumes and silver.  

Some sites of ancient settlement which is to be the capitals of ancient Merv in different millenaries make up the historical-architectural zone "Bairamali" which is protected by the state. The most significant landmarks are: Sultan-kala (the 9th - the 12th centuries), Gyaur-kala (the 3rd century B.C. - the 8th- th 9th centuries A.D.), Erk-kala (the first century B.C.), Abdullakhan - kala (15th century), Bairamalikhan - kala (the 18th century) and the most important landmark: Sultan Sandzhar Mausoleum (1118-1157).

Map of ancient MervActually Merv is a group of sites of the ancient town having been arisen and perished. The sites of the ancient town Erk-Kala (VI century BC), Gyaur-Kala (III century BC), Sultan-Kala (X-XIII century AD), Big Kiz Kala (VI century AD) and Small Kiz Kala(VII century AD), Muhammed ibn Zeid (XII century AD) correspond to different period of its existence. Low cultural layers of the most ancient Merv part (Erk Kala) relates to the VI-V centuries B.C., i.e. to the entry time to the ancient Persian state of Akhemenids. At that time the city with the area of about 20 ha was surrounded by extensive fortress walls of raw brick. In the IV century B.C. Margiana was conquered by Alexander the Great. At the end of that century the lands along the Murgab River were a part of the Selevkid state. Antiochus Soter- the successor of Alexander the Great. The site of the ancient town of Gyaur Kala with the area of about 360ha corresponds to the Antiohiya. During ruling period of Sasanids cult buildings were erected. The tolerable attitude of the Sasanid governors to different religions is one of the peculiarities of that period. Together with the Zoroastrian state religion Buddhism and Christianity co-existed.

The forming period of the early feudal relations (VI-VII) in Merv was marked mainly by the building of numerous fortified feudal country-seats and castles reminding of knightly castles of medieval Europe. The best example of the Merv castle architecture of this period is Big Kiz Kala. 

Merv reached its highpoint of development at Seljuk period, especially during the government of Sultan Sanjar (1118-1157) who made it the capital of Seljuk state. During the period of Seljuks large buildings were built in Merv and its area reached 1500-1800ha. It considerably exceeded in size not only such famous cities of the Near East such as Damascus, Haleb, Jerusalem, but also large cities of West Europe of the XII and the beginning of the XIV centuries such as Paris, Bologna, Milan Naples, etc. Sultan Kala (fortress of Sultans) enclosed with the fortress walls at Melik-shah (1072-1092) corresponds to the cities of this period.

1221 it was fully destroyed by Mongols. After the Mongol invasion Merv was restored only 200 years later by Shakhruh, a son of great conqueror Emir Timur and ruler of an independent state with the capital in Herat. In 1418 he ordered to settle Merv. Because of difficulties with water supply the town was moved to a new place, two km to the south of Sultan Kala. Ruins of Timurid Merv are known as Abdullahan Kala. During the whole XVI century Merv was constantly exposed to raids and annexations by rulers of neighboring countries. In 1510 it entered the state of Sefevids and was conquered by the Sheybanids. Lack stability led to the displacement of the ancient West-East trade route from Merv in Heart. Only the XVII century passed fairly quietly for Merv thanks to Khiva’s protection. Total crisis in the end of the XVII century and the beginning of the XVIII century, however, generated anarchy again. In 1727 Nadir, the future khan of Iran evicted all the people of Merv to Mashad.


For 3D panoramic pictures of State Historical and Cultural Park "Ancient Merv" press HERE 

History of Merv >>> 

Another good article on History of ancient Merv >>> 

More useful information on sightseeings in & around Merv:

Erk-Kala (Margush) >>>

Gyaur Kala - remains of Antiochia  >>>

Sultan Kala >>>

Mohammed ibn-Zeid Mausoleum >>>

Bayram Ali Khan Kala >>>

Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum >>>

Yusuf Khamadani Mosque >>>

The Great and Little Kyz-Kala >>>

Talkhatan Baba Masjid >>>

Durnali settlement >>>

Askhab complex >>>

Ekedeshik cave settlement >>>

Gonur Depe >>>


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