Osh is a lively place with the largest and most crowded outdoor market in Central Asia which was a major market along the Silk Road and is now named the Great Silk Road Bazar in reference to its historical importance. The city's industrial base, established during the Soviet period, largely collapsed after the break-up of the Soviet Union and has recently only started to revive. The proximity of the Uzbekistan border, which cuts through historically linked territories and settlements, deprives Osh of much of its former hinterland and presents a serious obstacle to trade and economic development. Daily flights from Osh Airport link Osh - and hence the southern part of Kyrgyzstan - to Bishkek and some international destinations, mainly in Russia. Osh has two railway stations and a railway connection to Andijan in neighbouring Uzbekistan, but no passenger traffic and only sporadic freight traffic. Most transport is by road. The recent upgrading of the long and arduous road through the mountains to Bishkek has greatly improved communications.
The city has several monuments, including one to the southern Kyrgyz "queen" Kurmanjan Datka and one of the few remaining statues of Lenin. A Russian Orthodox church, reopened after the demise of the Soviet Union, the largest mosque in the country (situated beside the bazaar) and the 16th-century Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque can be found here. The only World Heritage Site in Kyrgyzstan, the Sulayman Mountain, offers a splendid view of Osh and its environs. This mountain is thought by some researchers and historians to be the famous landmark of antiquity known as the “Stone Tower”, which Claudius Ptolemy wrote about in his famous work Geography (Ptolemy). It marked the midpoint on the ancient Silk Road, the overland trade route taken by caravans between Europe and Asia. The National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman is carved in the mountain, containing a collection of archaeological, geological and historical finds and information about local flora and fauna.
Its first western-style supermarket Narodnyj opened in March 2007.
Osh city (Ош шаар - Osh shaar) covers 182.5 square kilometres (70.5 square miles) and like the capital city Bishkek, is administered separately and not part of any region, although it is the seat of Osh Region. Besides the city proper, 11 villages are administered by the city: Almalyk, Arek, Gulbaar-Toloykon, Japalak, Kengesh, Kerme-Too, Orke, Pyatiletka, Teeke and parts of Ozgur and Tölöykön.
Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan after the capital city of Bishkek. At the census of 2009 the city population amounted to 258,111, of which 25,925 in the 11 villages that are administered by the City of Osh. Of the total population, 47.9% were Kyrgyz, 44.2% Uzbeks, 2.5% Russians, 2.2% Turks, 1.1% Tatars and 2.1% other nationalities. The population of the city with its suburbs in the surrounding Kara-Suu District is estimated at about 500,000 inhabitants (for 2012).
The city is among the oldest settlements in Central Asia. Osh was known as early as the 8th century as a center for silk production along the Silk Road. The famous trading route crossed Alay Mountains to reach Kashgar to the east. In modern times, Osh has become also the starting point of the Pamir Highway crossing the Pamir Mountains to end in Khorog, Tajikistan.
Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire and descendant of Tamerlane, was born in nearby Andijan, in the Fergana Valley, pondered his future on Sulayman Mountain and even constructed a mosque atop of the mountain. Babur somehow concludes that the confines of the Fergana would cramp his aspirations as a descendant of famous conquering warrior princes. He wrote of the city:
"There are many sayings about the excellence of Osh. On the southeastern side of the Osh fortress is a well-proportioned mountain called Bara-Koh, where, on its summit, Sultan Mahmud Khan built a pavilion. Farther down, on a spur of the same mountain, I had a porticoed pavilion built in 902 (1496-7)"
The city was occupied and annexed by the Russian Empire in 1876 when Russia overwhelmed the Central Asian khanates during the so-called "Great Game", the contest between Britain and Russia for dominance in Central Asia. This conquest was achieved and the inclusion to the Russian empire made by mid 1880's, with main credit to General von Kaufman and General Mikhail Skobelev, nicknamed the "White General" from his victories and achievements in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 (he wore always a white uniform and rode a white stallion in battle).
The Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR of the newly formed Soviet Union in 1924, with Osh as a part.
In the 1960s Osh and other towns in the south of the Kyrgyz SSR began to be industrialized. The population of Osh and other towns in the Fergana Valley that falls within Kyrgyzstan has traditionally consisted of a significant number of ethnic Uzbeks. When Osh started to industrialize the ethnic "Kyrgyz were encouraged to move from the Kyrgyz populated countryside to the cities to work in industrial jobs and public administration." This contributed to the rise of social tension between the two groups.
In 1990, shortly before the end of Soviet power in Central Asia, Osh and its environs experienced bloody ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. There were about 1,200 casualties, including over 300 dead and 462 seriously injured. The riots broke out over the division of land resources in and around the city.
In 2010, after riots in Bishkek and other major Kyrgyz cities, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev took refuge in the city to hide from protesters denouncing his government and its response to the nation's struggling economy. On May 13, 2010, Bakiyev supporters took over government buildings in Osh, and also seized the airport, preventing interim government officials from landing. The protesters demanded Bakiev's return, and forced the regional governor to flee. The former Osh regional governor Mamasadyk Bakirov was reinstated.
On June 10, 2010, riots erupted in Osh, killing at least 400 and injuring thousands of others. "An explosion of violence, destruction and looting in southern Kyrgyzstan on 11–14 June 2010 killed many hundreds of people, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks got killed and destroyed over 2000 buildings, mostly homes, and deepened the gulf between the country’s ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks."
Local media reported that gangs of young men armed with sticks and stones smashed shop windows and set cars aflame in the city center. Several buildings and homes across the city were also set on fire. The city's police force proved incapable of restoring order resulting in a state of emergency being declared and the army being mobilised. The Kyrgyz intelligence agency claimed that the 2010 violence was initiated by the just-deposed president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is said to have made a deal with foreign narco-jihadist gangs to take over southern Kyrgyzstan and initiate a shariah state in exchange for the Bakiyev family's being returned to controlling Bishkek. However, to the day no serious proof has been presented to the public and media. According to various sources, up to 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks refugees fled to Uzbekistan. Many refugee camps have been organized in the Andijan, Fergana and Namangan regions of Uzbekistan for uzbek citizens of Kyrgyzstan who cross the border seeking safety.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Osh features a continental climate (Dsa), with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Osh receives on average roughly 400 millimeters of precipitation annually, the bulk of which typically falls on the city outside the summer months. Summers are hot in Osh, with average high temperatures routinely exceeding 30°C. Winters are cold with average temperatures below freezing during a good portion of the season. Spring and autumn are transitional seasons, with temperatures rising during the course of the spring season and falling during the course of the autumn.
Osh is twinned with: Yozgat, Turkey