Bishkek is a relatively young city. This year, it will celebrate only its 141st birthday. The first human settlements on the site of Bishkek and its suburbs appeared long ago, in the 5th-3rd centuries BC. Archaeologists find here evidence of various settlements, from the Saka and Wusun tribes to ancient Turkic khaganates of Middle Ages. Starting from the 15th century, the majority of the population were Kyrgyz tribes.
The modern history of the city began in 1878, when Gerasim Kolpakovsky, military governor of the Semirechensk region, ordered to move the center of the Tokmak district to the town of Pishpek. The city’s layout, with a clear pattern of blocks and straight streets running from the south northwards and from the east westwards, was developed at the turn of the 20th century, under the first governor, Ilya Terentyev. In 1926, the Soviet authorities renamed the city Frunze, to commemorate Soviet commander Mikhail Frunze. In 1991, after the Soviet Union broke up, the government of Kyrgyzstan restored the historical name of the capital, Bishkek.
Bishkek today is an international and interfaith city. As many as 20 ethnicities and tens of confessions – Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. – coexist here peacefully. Young people and children make up half of the city’s population, which has a strong impact on its character. Bishkek is the country’s absolute leader for the number of kindergartens, schools, universities, colleges, sports sections, nightclubs, and alpine ski resorts. The young urban population enthusiastically picks up international trends, such as healthy lifestyle, active tourism, jogging and biking, development of IT and creative technology.
Bishkek is a donor of the entire country, accounting for almost 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product. It is also a trade hub between China, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Its universities are the alma mater and place of employment not only for hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz students and their teachers, but also for a big number of foreign young people and professors from 45 countries. Bishkek has about 30 universities: the Manas Kyrgyz-Turkish University, the American University in Central Asia, the Kyrgyz Akhunbayev State Medical Academy, the Kyrgyz Technical University, etc.
Bishkek is also a center of science, with about 70 research and development institutes and laboratories established on the basis of the National Academy of Sciences. Over 200 developments of Kyrgyz designers were used for space exploration and in science: a drilling unit for the Moon-24 space station, a unique method for determining the age of lakes and rivers using uranium isotopes, and others.
The city is not large, but it has remarkable architecture and is surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers and lakes. You won’t find ancient temples or fortresses here: time and cataclysms did not spare them. But even the existing buildings create a historical outline: clay-walled huts from the previous centuries, typical apartment blocks of the Soviet era, and latest buildings, looking like business quarters of a technopolis. Neoclassical buildings create a distinct accent in the image of the city. Their European look comes as a surprise for tourists who expect to see oriental arches, ornamental patterns and domes in an Asian city.
On the foothills in the southern part of Bishkek there is a house that for many years was home to internationally renowned writer Chinghiz Aitmatov. There is a monument to him in the city center.
On the northern slope of the Ala-Too range, 40 km from the capital, there is the Ala-Archa national park. The gorge overgrown by juniper offers over 150 mountain-climbing and tourist routes; there are warm and hot springs, and an amazing variety of flora and fauna on mountain slopes.
All this creates unforgettable memories for every visitor of the Kyrgyz capital, making everyone wish to come back to one of Central Asia’s cleanest, greenest and, more importantly, freest and most cosmopolitan cities.