Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and with 937,000 people it is also the country's biggest city.

Originally Pishpek, it started out as a small fort, in 1825, as a stop on the Silk Road through the Tian Shan mountains.  In 1862 the Russians set up a garrison here.  The name was changed to Frunze in 1926 and in 1936 it became the capital of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic.

Mikhail Frunze statue
In 1991, prior to independence from from the USSR, the Kyrgyz parliament changed the name to Bishkek.   Before independence the city's population was overwhelmingly ethnic Russian but by 2004 it was only about 20%.  Now it's only around 8% but everything is still written in Kyrgyz and Russian.

Бишкек isn't really known for its sightseeing.  It's a typical Soviet style planned out city.  There are lots of monuments throughout the capital.

The Martyrs of the Revolution monument was erected in 1978.  The main figure is Urkuya Salieva, an early communist in Southern Kyrgyzstan, who was killed by rich peasants.

The White House is the seven story presidential office building.  In 1985 it was built as the headquarters of the Communist Party's Central Committee.

In 1974 the People's Friendship Monument was unveiled to honor the 100th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's entry to the Russian Empire.
Museum of Fine Arts

The Victory Monument was completed in 1984 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War (WWII).

The red granite ribs represent a yurt while a woman stands over an eternal flame waiting for her son or husband who will never return from the war.

At Ala-Too Square is a monument to Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov.  The monument was displayed in 2011 for the 20th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's independence.

At Ala-Too Square is the State Historical Museum which is pretty interesting.  The flagpole was built in 1998 and there is an hourly changing of the guard.

Manas the Great is the national hero.  The Bishkek Airport is now Manas International.

Behind the museum is a statue of Lenin.  It used to be where the Manas statue is but was moved several years ago.  I think it's one of the last Lenin statues still up in Central Asia.

Not far away from Lenin, in Oak Park, is a statue of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

This building was built in 1936.  Until 1984 it was the headquarters of the headquarters of the Supreme Soviet.  Today it is the American University of Central Asia.

The Bishkek Circus was built in 1976.

The Red Guards Memorial is a mass grave for those who died in the war.  In 1970 an eternal flame was added but it currently isn't lit.

Kurmanjan Datka was a military leader and stateswoman.  She also served as a colonel in the Russian Imperial Army.  The monument of her was unveiled in 2004.

The granite monument of Friendship and Glory of Labor was erected in 1974 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kyrgyz Communist Party.

Aaly Tokombaev was a national poet who wrote under the pseudonym Balka (Hammer) and contributed to modern Kyrgyz literature.  His monument was erected in 1996.

Jumabek Ibraimov was the mayor from 1993 to 1995.  He served as the country's prime minister from 1998 until his death from stomach cancer in 1999.  He was the first PM who publicly spoke out about corruption high within the government.

Since becoming independent there have been two revolutions in Kyrgyzstan.  This monument is in memory of those killed in 2002 and 2010 and it symbolized the victory of good over evil.

The Frunze Museum contains the home of General Mikhail Frunze who was born in Bishkek.  He was a close associate of Lenin and played key roles in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917.  The city bore his name until it was changed to Bishkek.

Panfilov Park contains more memorials, some nice paths, and lots of rides for the kids.  Although some of the rides looked as if they hadn't been serviced in quite some time.

The monument for Nasirdin Isanov was installed in 2003 as part of the city's 125th anniversary.  Isanov was the country's first prime minister.

Toktogul Satylganov was a poet, singer and musician.  This 1974 granite monument shows him with his traditional instrument, the komiz.

The philharmonic hall was built in 1980.

Bishkek was pretty easy to get around.  Almost everything is written in Kyrgyz and Russian.  Some of the younger people seem to understand basic English but it was nice to give my Russian a work out.

I found the old buses interesting.  When you get on, you enter in the rear.  You exit from the front of the bus as you pay the driver.  A ride was only 8 Som (~12¢).

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