Zharkent mosque

The town of Zharkent only has one sight of note but it is a striking one, Tsarist-era mosque whose design is an exuberant medley of central Asian, Russian and, especially, Chinese influences. In 1887, the leaders of the Muslim community of the young town decided to raise the funds to construct a mosque. The main sponsor and chief organizer of the project was a merchant named Vakiakhun Yuldashev. He engaged a Chinese chief architect named Hon Pik. a popular local tale runs that Hon Pik had produced a dazzling building in China. The jealous patrons of that structure resolved on its completion to have him executed, so that he would be unable to repeat his triumph. Hon Pik learnt about their plan and fled, a commission from distant Zharkent coming as the ideal answer to his problems. Zharkent folk tells that the glorious structure that he built in China has not survived, and thus that their mosque has no equal. The mosque was completed in 1892. It survived a major earthquake, as well as neglect in the early Soviet period, when it was used as a store. It was restored in the 1970s and turned into the Zharkent Mosque Architectural and Historical Museum, the Soviet authorities choosing to highlight its architectural worth rather than religious function. It remains officially a museum to this day.