Bishkek – the capital of kyrgyzstan

The Bishkek region was settled early on. Excavations have shown that people already lived here 20,000 years ago. In the Middle Ages, a settlement called Dshul stood on the site of today’s city. It was destroyed in the 13th century by the Mongols under Genghis Khan. Subsequently, the region was mainly inhabited by nomads.

Modern Bishkek originally developed from a caravan station on the Silk Road, which was called Pishpek. In 1825, the Khan of Kokand had the station fortified, but the fortress could not withstand the troops of the Russian Tsar and was conquered in 1862.

Subsequently, the city developed under Russian rule. The fertile soil attracted many Russian settlers who moved to Pishpek. In 1870, the Russian leadership decided to make the town the district capital, replacing Tokmok, which was affected by floods almost every year and was thus considered unsuitable. As a result, Pishpek was built as a planned city, with a rectangular street grid that still characterises the centre of modern Bishkek. On 29 April 1878, Pishpek officially received the title of the district capital, which the city used as an occasion to celebrate Bishkek’s 140th birthday in 2018.

After the Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Republic was founded, the city was made the capital and renamed Frunze in 1926. This was in honour of Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze, a Bolshevik leader and Red Army major who was born in Pishpek in 1885.

During the Second World War, Frunze developed from a provincial town into an industrial city. Because of its distance from all fronts, dozens of important factories were built in the town, among others for the production of military material. Also, the city took in many refugees from the front areas, including an estimated 45,000 Jews from various European nations.

After independence in 1991, the city was confirmed as the capital of Kyrgyzstan and renamed Bishkek.

Bishkek is located at about 800 metres above sea level, on the northern slope of the Tien Shan Mountains. The nearby mountains provide a spectacular backdrop to the city. The region is characterised by a continental climate, with hot summers and cold, humid winters. The record values measured so far are 42.8 degrees in summer and -34 degrees in winter. In winter, thick fog can form, which often does not dissipate for days.

Bishkek today has a population of over one million. The population grew rapidly, especially between 1940 and 1980 when the number of inhabitants rose from about 90,000 to more than 600,000. Until the 1990s, the city was still largely inhabited by people of Russian and European origin. In 1970, they still made up over 80% of the inhabitants, while there were only 12.3% ethnic Kyrgyz. Today, the Kyrgyz make up about two-thirds of the total population.

Due to the city’s young age, there are no historically relevant sights. Apart from several museums, the large Osh Bazaar and the Panfilov Park attract tourists. Otherwise, the city is mainly a starting point for trips to the Tien Shan Mountains and Lake Issyk Kul. Good hotels can be found in all price ranges.

Air connections: Manas International Airport is located about 25 km outside Bishkek. In addition to many connections to the Russian Federation (including Moscow and St. Petersburg), there are also flights to the neighbouring countries Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. For tourists from Europe, there are connections via Istanbul or Dubai. The only domestic flight connection is to Osh in the south of the country.

Rail connections: from the main railway station in Bishkek, which was built in 1946 by German prisoners of war, there are mainly connections via Kazakhstan to the Russian Federation. The connection to Moscow is popular with migrant workers. There are also connections to Siberia. The only domestic connection is to Balykchy on Lake Issyk Kul. This line is the only domestic passenger connection in the whole of Kyrgyzstan.

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