KYRGYZSTAN - Historical Overview - Central Asia


Once off-limits even to the Kyrgyz people themselves, the Tien-Shan's wildest valleys are now open to all. Visitors are confronted with an array of serene walks, treks and climbs through pristine forests of juniper and walnut trees and sweeping meadows of medicinal herbs and other rare plants. Tumbling, crystal-clear mountain streams bring glacial waters to secluded mountain lakes and to Issyk-Kul, the Kyrgyz inland sea. Many snow-covered mountain peaks remain unexplored and unconquered.
The Kyrgyz have inhabited these mountains for over fifteen centuries. Originally nomads, many Kyrgyz continue to live in remote, high-altitude yurt camps, tending vast flocks of sheep and breeding horses. Even town-dwellers own yurts, with many heading off to the jailoos or pastures for summer. Traditional Kyrgyz felt-craft, jewellery-making and horseback sports remain an important form of cultural expression, as yet unspoilt by mass tourism.

Once at the crossroads of Silk-Road caravan routes, Kyrgyzstan's historical and cultural heritage is particularly rich. Besides the ancient cities of Osh, Uzgen and At-Bashi, scattered throughout the mountains and valleys are scores of 2nd century BC rock carvings (petroglyphs) and monuments relating to Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Nestorian Christian traditions. 


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Bishkek - Capital of Kyrgyzstan - Central Asia

Although the Chuy Valley area has been inhabited for over 7,000 years, Bishkek itself is a young city. Founded by the Kokhand Khanate as Pishpek fortress in 1825, the city was razed in 1864 and taken over by the Russians, who in 1877 moved their district administration here from Tokmok. 




The Soviet Revolution was a turbulent time for Pishpek, and the city became known as a hotbed of insurgency and grass roots rebellion against the Bolsheviks. Mikhail Frunze, an ethnic Moldavian born in Pishpek, successfully kept the area under Bolshevik rule and in his honour the city was renamed Frunze in 1926. During the early Soviet years Frunze suffered the effects of five-year plans, two world wars and Stalin's purges. At the same time, Soviet city planners created an urban environment which remains easy to get around, functional and attractive. 

The years of 'stagnation' in the 1970s and 80s were for many citizens a golden era of plentiful food, low prices, guaranteed work and political stability. This time now seems especially rose-tinted in light of the economic hardships and disruptions to utilities, which today beset the lives of ordinary Bishkek residents. 
Just before independence in 1991, Frunze was renamed Bishkek.

Since independence, foreign investment and a market economy have led to new restaurants, bars and shops springing up all over the city, changing its face forever. Today visitors find a small, but vibrant and rapidly developing capital, working to take its place on the world stage.

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