Bishkek, formerly Pishpek, is the capital city of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. It has several historical buildings and museums, and boasts vast expansions of natural heritage. It is considered one of the most famous economic, cultural and tourist centers in the country, and one of Central Asia’s best cities to live in, due to its ability to create balance between its old traditional heritage and modern aspirations.
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The name of Bishkek is thought to be derived from Russian “bishkek”, which means the churn used to make fermented mare’s milk (Kumis), the Kyrgyz national drink.
Bishkek is located on the Chu River in northern Kyrgyzstan, towards the northern fringe of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range. The Soviet style is still present in the city, which contains several green spaces, gardens and parks.
Origin and Evolution:
Bishkek was founded in 1878 on the ruins of the Russian Pishpek Fortress built in 1855. Hence, the name “Bishkek” was given to both the fortress and the neighboring city. In 1926, the city was given the name of Frunze, after the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze. The city regained its name in 1991, when the Republic of Kyrgyzstan achieved its independence. The first to inhabit this region were the nomadic tribes coming from the different parts of northern Asia between the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. when Turkish nomadic tribes invaded the region. Turkish nomadic tribes continued to invade the region until the 12th century A.D.
In the beginning of the 13th century, the Mongols invaded the whole region, and founded districts they named khans, which were ruled by chieftains. The origins of some of Kyrgyzstan’s population can be traced back to these Turkish and Mongol tribes, which continued to live in the region until the advent of Islam in the beginning of the 17th century A.D. The region remained under the rule of the Mongols until 1758 A.D., when the Chinese controlled the country until 1830s. In the middle of the 19th century A.D. the Russian Empire started to extend towards central Asia. In 1876, the region became Russian, following the Russian control of vast territories of Kyrgyzstan. In 1936, the region became a soviet republic under the name of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic. However, on August 31, 1991, Kyrgyzstan declared its independence, and joined the independent former Soviet republics.
Main Civilizational Landmarks in Bishkek:
Bishkek contains a number of historical buildings dating back to the Soviet and pre-Soviet eras. It also comprises a number of cultural buildings and squares that were built in honor of the heroes who contributed to the independence of the country. Among these we find Ala-Too Square, Erkindik (Freedom) Boulevard in the centre of Bishkek, along with other squares and fountains spread across the city. Bishkek also comprises the State Historical Museum, the Central Mosque, and the Islamic Waqf Building, along with other cultural institutions.
State Historical Museum:
The State Historical Museum, which opened in Bishkek in 1927, is considered as one of the city’s main landmarks. It is visited by the different categories of the Kyrgyzstani society as well as by tourists. It contains unique art pieces, soviet icons, as well as rare collections of carpets and embroidered pieces, epitaphs and murals.
The city also contains a number of theaters, contemporary art museums, culture palaces, state opera theatres, libraries, museums, cinematography centers, higher institutes, art and music schools, sports centers, as well as the state’s main universities.
Also, Bishkek includes the State Museum of Applied Arts, which dates back to 1934, along with some factories that date back to the Soviet era, when the city was home to a large number of factories, many of which were closed or downsized.
Ala-Too Square is located in the centre of Bishkek. At the heart of the square, a bronze statue of a lady symbolizing the freedom of the Kyrgyzstani people is erected. Around the square, you can find several new buildings, such as theatres and contemporary art museums, as well as plants, trees, and several ornamenting elements.
The city also comprises several squares decorated with fountains, and bronze statues of the heroes of the revolution, such as the Osh Park, which dates back to the late 19th century, and which was designed in the Russian architectural style. The Bazaar comprises several sculptures created by local artists.