The city of Khiva was first recorded by Muslim travellers in the 10th century, although archaeologists assert that the city has existed since the 6th century. By the early 17th century, Khiva had become the capital of the Khanate of Khiva, ruled over by a branch of the Astrakhans, a Genghisid dynasty.
In 1873, Russian General Von Kaufman launched an attack on the city, which fell on 28 May, 1873. Although the Russian Empire now controlled the Khanate, it nominally allowed Khiva to remain as a quasi-independent protectorate.
Following the Bolshevik seizure of power after the October Revolution, a short lived Khorezm People's Soviet Republic was created out of the territory of the old Khanate of Khiva, before its incorporation into the USSR in 1924, with the city of Khiva becoming part of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic.
Khiva is split into two parts. The outer town, called Dichan Kala, was formerly protected by a wall with 11 gates. The inner town, or Itchan Kala, is encircled by brick walls, whose foundations are believed to have been laid in the 10th century. Present-day crenellated walls date back to the late 17th century and attain the height of 10 meters.
The large blue tower in the central city square was supposed to be a minaret, but the Khan realized that if completed, the minaret would overlook his harem and the muezzin would be able to see the Khan's wives. Construction was halted and the minaret remains unfinished to this day.
The old town retains more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses, mostly dating from the 18th or the 19th centuries. Djuma Mosque, for instance, was established in the 10th century and rebuilt in 1788-89, although its celebrated hypostyle hall still retains 112 columns taken from ancient structures.