Not every building can boast that it brings not only the architectural, but also the social and cultural value. A striking example of this is the Friendship Bridge, linking the southern part of the country with the largest port town of Afghanistan called Hairaton. The history of this construction began in the late XIX century, when a small wooden bridge was replaced by an iron one. Construction was carried out in the framework of the program of the Russian Empire to develop the region of Central Asia. The desire to strengthen economic and transport links between the regions led to the need for the construction of a full bridge.
The initial hardships did not stop the builders
This transport facility, the length of which exceeds two thousand meters, was built on the wooden stilts fortified in a special way. Historical evidence suggests that the first bridge on this spot stood only for fifteen years. The reason for such a short existence of that engineering construction was the work of nature – stormy river flowing at the base of the bridge, in a very short time by architectural standards totally destroyed the bridge.
In 1902 the railway transportation route, which covered most of Turkmenistan, led the local authorities to think seriously about the construction of a high-grade durable bridge at this point. Initial calculations showed that every day hundreds of trains with passengers and cargo would pass here, which required the creation of a unique construction capable of ensuring safe passage of trains.
The construction of a new bridge was oficially granted
For the construction of this project not only large amount of capital investment was allotted, but also the best engineering minds of that time were invited. Russian Empire allocated more than five million rubles from the treasury. If to convert this amount into the modern currency it would be enough not only for the bridge, but also for the construction of fifteen kilometers of electrified railway. The economic and political importance of this project forced the authorities to commission the construction to a person whose name had long been synonymous with reliability – architect S. Olshewski
The choice in favor of the architect was made not accidentally. Before that Olshewski had already managed to include the projects not only in the Aral Sea, but also in the West-Siberian Railways in the list of his victories. He decided to build the Friendship Bridge in all respects unique. Almost twenty-seven massive spans that were built over the stormy river brought this masterpiece of constructive ideas in line with the best constructions of that time.
The life of the bridge at the present stage
The fact that for more than seven decades the bridge did not require repairs or improvements proves the effectiveness of the used technology by the architectural genius. The next important stage in the life of this engineering structure occurred during the period of Soviet Union. In the mid-80s of the last century, it was decided to modernize the bridge the length of which was more than eight hundred meters. The builders had to work really under extreme conditions. Military operations in Afghanistan could not only stop the construction of a new bridge, but also to completely destroy it. Fortunately, the process of the construction of the bridge was completed in 1989, when withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan completed.
Despite the end of military actions, a difficult fate was waiting for the Friendship Bridge. The Taliban, who seized this part of the country, called engineering construction “Hairatan.” Over ten years the bridge was closed for the traffic of vehicles and people. This was done in the framework of the appropriate level of security. In 2001, when tensions in the region faded away, it was decided to resume the full operation of the bridge.