The biggest city and the capital of Kyrgyz Republic
Initially called Pishpek by the Kyrgyz and then renamed Frunze (1926) by the Soviets, it became Bishkek in 1991 just before Kyrgyzstan declared independence.
Bishkek is 800 + metres above sea-level and sits in the Chui Valley just to the north of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountains (4,855 metres) that provides a magnificent backdrop to the city. Throughout the year it is possible to see the distant snow-capped peaks.
The population is slightly over one million
The city is built mainly on a north-south, east-west grid system making navigation simple. Probably the greenest of all Soviet cities, Bishkek still has an abundance of parks and open spaces. Wide streets and boulevards, along with all the trees and many cafes and coffee shops, make walking around the city and enjoyable experience.
3 main museums are in the centre of the city – the State Historical Museum, the Sate Museum of Applied Arts and the Museum Under the Sky. Each is worth visiting. At the centre of the city is Ala-Too Square with a statue of Manas and the national flag that is “guarded” throughout the day. In fact all though the city you will find statues. Unlike many Soviet countries Kyrgyzstan did not destroy all its Soviet monuments, and many can still be seen.
There are 3 main bazaars in the city, the most famous of which being the Osh Bazaar, the largest and a must to go and visit. No central shopping exists, but there are malls (both old and new) scattered around the city.
Bishkek is a relaxed, easy-going city that is fun to walk around.
On almost all our programmes we include a guided tour of the city
First references to the city date back to the 1820’s when it was named Pishpek. It was given status by the Khokand authorities who built a fortress to monitor the Silk Road and collect taxes from trading caravans passing through.
The status of the city was further enhanced under Russian rule (from 1886) when it was made the capital of the Russian Kara-Khirgiz Autonomous Oblast, Russian Turkestan. With the onset of the Soviet Union the city was renamed (1936) Frunze in honour of Mikhail Frunze, a Bolshevik military leader born here.
In 1991 the city was again renamed, this time to Bishkek
Bishkek was reputed to be the second greenest Soviet city.