The palace of the Khan of Kokand, with seven courtyards and 114 rooms, was built in 1873, though its dazzling tiled exterior makes it look so perfect that you'd be forgiven for thinking it was as new as the modern park that surrounds it. Just three years after its completion, the tsar’s troops arrived, blew up its fortifications and abolished the khan’s job.
The Khan in question was Khudayar Khan, a cruel ruler who had previously cosied up to the Russians. Just two years after completing the palace, Khudayar was forced into exile by his own subjects, winding up under Russian protection in Orenburg. As his heirs quarrelled for the throne, the Russians moved in and snuffed out the khanate, in the process breaking a promise to eventually return Khudayar to the throne. The homesick khan later fled Orenburg and embarked on an epic odyssey through Central and South Asia before dying of disease near Herat.
Roughly half of the palace used to be taken up by the harem quarters, which the Russians demolished in 1919. Khudayar’s 43 concubines would wait to be chosen as wife for the night – Islam allows only four wives so the khan kept a mullah at hand for a quick and short-lived marriage ceremony.
Six courtyards remain and their 27 rooms collectively house the Kokand Regional Studies Museum, which has some interesting offbeat exhibits such as the wooden lock and a pair of circus stilts.