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The first known record about Dushanbe comes from 1676. It was called kasabai Dushanbe which shows its status as a town. It was favourably located at the crossroads of caravan routes connecting the Hissar valley with Bukhara and Samarqand, the Pamirs and Afghanistan. The word Dushanbe in Tajik means "Monday". There was a large bazaar in the city on that day and that is why it was so named. In the 19th century it was only 272 hectares and had a population of 7-10,000. The town was also surrounded by a wall and Shohm-ansur Village was outside of the town.

At the beginning of the 20th century Dushanbe was a small village, where several hundred people lived. Later Sary-Osiyo and Shohmansur villages joined the conurbation. In the whole of Dushanbe there was only one oil street lamp, located in the bazaar square. The Russian officer, B. Litvinov, in the 1904 edition of "Historical Bulletin" magazine wrote: "Currently, Dushanbe represents a poor Hissar town, stretched along the Var-zob River with slightly more than 500 households, mostly Tajiks. Poor clay-walled buildings and walls alternate with great orchards. At the edges of the town, the houses are covered with a cane-span roof like in the villages. As for the centre, near the part-destroyed clay-walled fortress, the houses are cleaner..."
In 1924 in Dushanbe there were 42 small houses and several hundred residents and neither electricity nor a water supply system; river water was delivered in sheep skins. The first diesel power-station for 200 street lights was built in the city in September 1924. Dushanbe's rapid growth began in 1929, when the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic was founded.

At that time it covered an area of only 5 hectares. The first paved street was then laid in Dushanbe and a mill, a soap factory, an oil factory, a cotton-cleaning plant, and a metal-working-mechanical and joiner's workshop began functioning. The same year a film studio was opened in Tajikistan's capital and the first documentary produced there recorded the arrival of the first train in Dushanbe from Termez by railway, which was built in 1929. Production of movies also began in Dushanbe in 1932. The first water supply system (about 4km long) was built in the city in 1931. Two passenger buses ran in the town. All goods, including construction materials, were delivered by camel. In 1929 Dushanbe was renamed "Stalinabad", the name by which it was known for the following 32 years.
The first hydropower station in the country was built on the outskirts of Dushanbe on the Varzob River and the capital was provided with electric light. In 1938 the first General Development Plan was developed for the city, whose population was now 170,000. In accordance with this plan, the Opera and Ballet Theatre, Vakhsh Hotel, the House of Government, the House of Specialists and a number of other beautiful buildings were built, which still today, after many decades, decorate the capital of Tajikistan against a background of snowy mountains and blue sky.

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