The Glories of Soviet (re)Construction!

A short day trip to Hissor, a small city west of Dushanbe and the location of one of Tajikistan’s more overrated attractions. But still worth the trip!

The fortress at Hissor from the hills, the city stretching out in front of it.

The fortress at Hissor from the hills, the city stretching out in front of it. The two madrassahs are visible down the hill in the center and left of the picture.

Tajikistan is pretty low on the historic sites front. There are the occasional small pilgrimage sites, or one-off tombs, but let’s face it: basically all the major “Tajik” landmarks are in Uzbekistan. Although there are a few old cities around, for the most part, most historic sites fall into one of two categories: ruins and Soviet reconstructions. The (once) great fort at Hissor falls into the latter category. But since there was extra space on the American Councils trip out there, Maki and I could go for free, and since I had missed the Hissor trip my last time around for a trip to Tursunzoda, I figured it was time I see this site, featured on the 20 Somoni bill, especially since it’s an easy 40 minute drive west of Dushanbe in the direction of Tursunzoda. The approach, once we finally reached the site after twirling through some neighborhoods, was reasonably impressive, in a late-Soviet antiquity sort of way.

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We were greeted by a tour guide, who showed us around in Tajik, though I will admit that I wasn’t really processing anything for longterm retention. So, anyway, inside the gates, it was clear that this was not just a Soviet-era reconstruction project, but an ongoing project. The entrance was covered in scaffolding, and workers swirled around as we toured the site.

2014-11-01 hissor 14Perhaps most noteworthy of the entire complex were the beautiful views of the Fan Mountains, which stretch out northwest of Dushanbe.

View of the Fan Mountains from Hissor.

View of the Fan Mountains from Hissor.

Even if the site itself is a bit underwhelming, we enjoyed spending a little time exploring the sites. It was nice to have a little change of scenery — especially on such a beautiful day.

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Maki and I clean up pretty nicely.

2014-11-01 hissor 20From there, we headed across the way to the little museums across the way, in two 18th century madrassahs, places for the religious education of local elites. The many small classrooms are now filled with various artifacts from various eras of Tajik history, ranging from pottery shards to Soviet posters of World War II veterans. My favorite thing was the 3D map of the country — it was nice for perspective.

In case you couldn't tell, this country is basically entirely mountains -- 93% is  the official percentage.

In case you couldn’t tell, this country is basically entirely mountains — 93% is the official percentage.

For the most part, pretty forgettable. As we toured the museum, though, we could hear the sounds coming from not one, not two, but, it turns out, three wedding parties that had stopped by the fort for pictures. A nice conclusion to a small excursion.

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While I know this doesn’t make the place sound exactly thrilling (it isn’t), I do think it’s well worth a half-day excursion. Since it’s less than an hour from Dushanbe, it’s pretty easy to get there and back and still have plenty of stuff with your day… Besides, this is Tajikistan. What else are you going to do?


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