Termez is the cradle of Buddhism in Central Asia. Present Termez, which is the regional center of Surkhandarya province, was founded around Russian garrison fortress in the 19th century.
The city is located on the right bank of the Amudarya (Oxus) river where the Syrkhandarya River flows into it at the Afghan border.
Surkhandarya province is separated from the rest part of the republic by the mountains which are not very high to local measure: Kugitangtau in the west, Gissar mountain range in the north and Babatag in the east. These mountain massifs create a unique subtropical climate in the region. Termez is the hottest town in Uzbekistan with very warm winter and long hot summer.
Today’s Surkhandarya used to be a part of Bactria whose capital was ancient Balh, which is presently in Afghanistan. The city itself is in the list of the most ancient cities of Central Asia. But even today we can’t tell the exact date, conditions ad reason that Termez was built. Historians still dispute about the founding and forming of the city. But the majority assumes that it is connected with Alexander the Great and asserts that the appearance of Alexander on the land of Surkhandarya in the IV AD served as a strong impetus in forming the structure of Termez.
Before his arrival there had been a settlement here that was to be the core of the future city. Having arrived at the Amudarya River, Alexander ordered to set up a camp for his army to have the possibility to build the pontoon bridges for transportation through Amudarya.
Although historians sill have doubts about Alexander’s crossing Amudarya in this place, they have come to more general conclusion about the origin of the name of Termez.
The old name of Termez is Tarmita, derived from Greco-Bactrian King’s name Demetr, who built a citadel in ancient Termez. Upon this the city was named after him. Demetr became Darmit after local transformation. Later it becomes Tarmita which eventually became Termez. Termez has witnessed different periods like many other cities of Central Asia. It has lived through heights and prosperity, invasions decline and destructions.
Termez saw its height of development during Kushan Empire’s reign (1st century BC 4-th century AD ). The city becomes one of the largest cities of Central Asia with area of more than 400 hectares. Trade, the arts, architecture develop at a high pace in this period. If to speak about Termez in Greco-Bactrian period, then we can state that the city was greatly influenced by different people in Kushans’s reign. It was the city of Hellenistic culture in this period.
Goods from India, China, Parthia and even from Roman Empire were brought to the city’s bazaars. The arts and architecture, also affected by this International exchange, breed a unique combination of Indian, Iranian, Greek and local arts. A number of Buddhist temples such as Zurmala, Fayaz-Tepe, Kara-Tepe date back to this period. Their ruins are still in place on the outskirts of Termez.
Termez is rightfully considered to be the center and cradle of Buddhism in Central Asia. Termez, along with other cities, has lived through many invasions:
• In the middle of the 3 rd century the city was invaded by Sasanids dynasty
• In the 5 th century nomadic tribes of Gun-Ephtalites completely destroyed the city. In this period Bactria was split up into several feudal estates, which in turn makes it easy for Arab caliphate to conquer Termez in 689.
Between X and XIII centuries the city was destined to undergo several invasions and changes of power of various dynasties: Samanids, Gaznevids, Karakhanids, Seldjukids and Khorezm shahs. This epoch of instability is known in the history of Central Asian peoples as a period of Renaissance.
Termez was at its height of prosperity in this period. This time was the zenith of economic development, trade and crafts. The port and fortress were reconstructed and the city was expanded due to fortification constructions built around new districts.
Such great monuments as Hakim-at-Termizi and Sultan Saodat mausoleums date back to this period. In 1220 Termez was invaded and completely destroyed by Mongol hordes of Genghis khan, which led to total desolation up to the XIV century. In the second half of XIV century in the epoch of Timurids reign, the city revives and becomes a large center of Timur’s and Timurids state till XVI century. In XVI century Sheybanids conquer the city and again the city was in complete desolation till XIX century.
Only at the end of XIX century, after Russian invasion, Russian tsar ordered to build a garrison fortress in Termez for protection of southern borders of Russia from the English, which gave birth to modern city of Termez.
Monumental architecture didn’t remain in Termez. Nevertheless, such archaeological monuments as Zurmala, Sapalli-Tepe (XVII BC), Kampir-Tepe, Dalverzin-Tepe, Kizil-Tepe, Fayaz-Tepe, Kara-Tepe, Jarkurgan minaret and others attract a great number of tourists.