As you travel from southern Kyrgyzstan, past the Tian Shan mountain range, you will notice an immediate difference in the culture and the people. Suddenly we weren’t the only white people around. There are a lot of Russians and other foreign workers and students. Every block is filled with concrete apartments and soviet statues. A mountain wall lines the southern border and a flat plain opens Bishkek up to the Kazakhstan border. People fill the streets dressed in modern clothing rushing to and from meetings or classes. All the signage is written in Russian as the post soviet language dominates the cities communication over the national Kyrgyz. Kyrgyzstan’s capital is a happening place with almost a million people taking part in the daily commerce.
However, Bishkek has a relatively short past due to the Soviet control of the area. The capital was named Frunze for almost 70 years after a Russian war commander. In 1991, the Soviet lost control of the area and the city was restored to its original name. Walking through the streets though, you can see how much the Soviet influenced the architecture and infrastructure. Many of the buildings have very blocky, simplistic, geometric shapes without much making them architectural wonders. Yet the simplicity and symmetry is something to be marveled in itself. Many statues and busts of soviet rulers are still seen walking around the city and usually placed symmetrically in front of the prominent buildings. In front of the museum, you can see the statue of Lenin pointing north towards the former soviets capital. In front of the theater, however, we see a Kyrgyz hero, Manas. It is said that Manas united all of the Kyrgyz tribes pushing Kyrgyzstan to its glory age in the 9th century AD. In front of the Government House, patterns of flowers brighten up the other wise cold architecture.
Although the architecture of Bishkek is not the most unique or creative, its streets are filled with an up and coming culture. Hip coffee shops fill in the city blocks and delightful cultural restaurants from Georgia, Indian, and Italy bring to life the tourists taste buds. The Mountains create an adventure junkies playground for hiking and skiing. And the buildings hold stories of recent soviet rule for the budding historian.