|— City —|
|- ISO 9||biškek|
|Shaar||Bishkek (It is, however, the capital of the Chuy Province)|
|- Mayor||Nariman Tuleyev|
|- Total||127 km2 (49 sq mi)|
|Elevation||800 m (2,625 ft)|
|- Density||6,002.4/km2 (15,557.3/sq mi)|
|- Estimate (2007)||1,250,000|
|Time zone||UTC+6 (UTC+6)|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Bishkek (in Kyrgyz and Russian: Бишкек), formerly Pishpek and Frunze, is the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek is also the administrative centre of Chuy Province which surrounds the city, even though the city itself is not part of the province but rather a province-level unit of Kyrgyzstan.
The name is thought to derive from a Kyrgyz word for a churn used to make fermented mare's milk (kumis), the Kyrgyz national drink. Founded in 1825 as the Kyrgyz-Khokand fortress of ""Bishkek", then, in 1862, named as the Russian fortress Pishpek (крепость Пишпек), between 1926 and 1991 it was known as Frunze (Фрунзе), after the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze. The historic name of the city was restored by the Kyrgyz parliament in 1991.
Bishkek, at Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tien Shan mountain range, which rises up to 4,800 metres (16,000 ft) and provides a spectacular backdrop to the city. North of the city, a fertile and gently undulating steppe extends far north into neighboring Kazakhstan. The Chui River drains most of the area. Bishkek is connected to the Turkestan-Siberia Railway by a spur., is situated at about 800 metres (2,600 ft) altitude just off the northern fringe of the Kyrgyz
Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards and, especially outside the city centre, thousands of smaller privately built houses. It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels that water the innumerable trees which provide shade in the hot summers.
Originally a caravan rest stop (possibly founded by the Sogdians) on one of the branches of the Silk Road through the Tien Shan range, the location was fortified in 1825 by the Uzbek khan of Kokhand with a mud fort.
The Kyrgyz legend says that the place was a burial site of the hero Bishkek, the local Kyrgyz war lord who fought for the Kyrgyz independence in the 18th century.
In 1862, the fort was conquered and razed when Tsarist Russia annexed the area. The site became a Russian garrison and was redeveloped and named "Pishpek" from 1877 onward by the Russian government, which encouraged the settlement of Russian peasants by giving them fertile black soil farms to develop. In 1926, the city became the capital of the newly established Kirghiz ASSR and was renamed "Frunze" after Mikhail Frunze, Lenin's close associate who was born in Bishkek and played key roles during the 1905 and 1917 revolutions and during the Russian civil war of the early 1920s.
The early 1990s were tumultuous. In June 1990, a state of emergency was declared following severe riots in southern Kyrgyzstan which threatened to spread to the capital. The city was renamed Bishkek on 5 February 1991 and Kyrgyzstan achieved independence later that year during the breakup of the Soviet Union. Before independence, Bishkek was a "Russified" city, the majority of its population being ethnic Russians. In 2004, Russians made up approximately 20% of the city's population.
Today, Bishkek is a rapidly modernizing city, with many restaurants and cafes and lots of second-hand European and Japanese cars and minibuses crowding its streets. At the same time Bishkek still preserves its former Soviet feel, with Soviet-period buildings and gardens prevailing over newer structures.
Bishkek is also the country's financial centre, with all of the country's 21 commercial banks featuring offices in the city. During the Soviet era, the city was home to a large number of industrial plants, but most have been shut down or operate today on a much reduced scale. One of today's Bishkek's largest employment centres is Dordoy Bazaar, which is one the major entrepôts for Chinese goods imported into CIS countries.
In 2002, the United States obtained the right to use the nearby Manas International Airport as an air base for its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Russia subsequently (2003) established an air base of its own (Kant Air Base) near Kant some 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Bishkek. It is based at a facility that used to be home to a major Soviet military pilot training school; one of its students, Hosni Mubarak, later became president of Egypt.
Bishkek has a continental, semi-arid climate averaging 322 clear days annually due to its mountainous location. Average precipitation is 380 millimetres (15 in) per year. Average daily temperatures range from −4 °C (24.8 °F) in January to about 26 °C (79 °F) during July. The summer months are dominated by dry periods experiencing the occasional thunderstorm which produces strong gusty winds and rare dust storms. The mountains to the south provide a natural boundary to provide protection from much of the damaging weather along with the smaller chain which runs NW to SE. In the winter months, sparse snow storms and frequent heavy fog are the dominating features. When an inversion sets up, the fog can last for days at a time.
Bishkek uses the Kyrgystan currency, the som. The som's value fluctuates regularly, but averages around 43 som per U.S. Dollar as of September 2009. The economy in Bishkek is primarily agricultural with the mass amounts of fruits, vegetables and livestock providing a co-existing system of bartering in the outlying regions. The streets of Bishkek are regularly lined with produce vendors in a market style venue. In the major portions of downtown a regular city scape which provide home to banks, stores, markets and malls. The most sought after of the goods are the prevalent hand-crafted artisan pieces; these include statues, carvings, paintings and many nature based sculptures.
Local government is administered by the Bishkek Mayor's Office. Askarbek Salymbekov was mayor until his resignation in August 2005, following which his deputy Arstanbek Nogoev took over the mayorship. Nogoev was in turn removed from his position in October 2007 through a decree of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and replaced by businessman and former first deputy prime minister Daniar Usenov. In July 2008 former head of the Kyrgyz Railways Nariman Tuleyev was appointed mayor.
Though the city is relatively young, the surrounding area has some sites of interest dating from prehistory, the Greco-Buddhist period, the period of Nestorian influence, the era of the Central Asian khanates, and the Soviet period.
The central part of the city is primarily built on a rectangular grid plan. The city's main street is the east-west Chui Avenue (Prospekt Chui), named after the region's main river. In the Soviet era, it was called Lenin Avenue. Along, or within a block or two from it, many of the most important government buildings, universities, the Academy of Sciences compound, etc., are to be found. The westernmost section of the avenue is known as Deng Xiaoping Avenue.
The main north-south axis is Yusup Abdrakhmanov Street, is still (2007) commonly referred to by its old name, Sovietskaya Street. Its northern and southern sections are called, respectively, Yelebesov and Baityk Batyr Streets. Several major shopping centres are located along it, and in the north it provides access to Dordoy Bazaar.
Erkindik ("Freedom") Boulevard runs north-south, from the main railroad station (Bishkek II) south of Chui Avenue to the museum quarter and sculpture park just north of Chui Avenue, and further north toward the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the past, it was called Dzerzhinsky Boulevard—named after Communist revolutionary, Felix Dzerzhinsky—and its northern continuation is still called Dzerzhinksy Street.
An important east-west street is Jibek Jolu ('Silk Road'). It runs parallel to Chui Avenue about a mile north of it, and is part of the main east-west road of Chui Province. Both the Eastern and Western bus terminals are located along Jibek Jolu.
Educational institutions in Bishkek include:
There is no subway in Bishkek, but the city is considering designing and building a light rail system (Бишкекское лёгкое метро).
There are two main bus stations in Bishkek. The smaller old Eastern Bus Station is primarily the terminal for minibuses to various destinations within or just beyond the eastern suburbs, such as Kant, Tokmok, Kemin, Issyk Ata, or the Korday border crossing.
Long-distance regular bus and minibus services to all parts of the country, as well as to Almaty (the largest city in neighboring Kazakhstan) and Kashgar, China, run mostly from the newer grand Western Bus Station; only a smaller minority of them runs from the Eastern Station.
The Dordoy Bazaar on the north-eastern outskirts of the city also contains makeshift terminals for frequent minibuses to suburban towns in all directions (from Sokuluk in the west to Tokmak in the east) and to some buses taking traders to Kazakhstan and Siberia.
As of 2007, the Bishkek railway station sees only a few trains a day. It offers a popular three-day train service from Bishkek to Moscow.
There are also long-distance trains that leave for Siberia (Novosibirsk and Novokuznetsk), via Almaty, over the Turksib route, and to Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk) in the Urals, via Astana. These services are remarkably slow (over 48 hours to Yekaterinburg), due to long stops at the border and the indirect route (the trains first have to go west for more than a 100 kilometres (62 mi) before they enter the main Turksib line and can continue to the east or north). E.g., as of the fall of 2008, train No. 305 Bishkek-Yekaterinburg was scheduled to take 11 hours to reach the Shu junction—a distance of some 269 kilometres (167 mi) by rail, and less than half of that by road.
Sister cities of Bishkek include:
Bishkek is a relatively new city set along the Tien Shan mountains in the Chui Valley. It is a relatively new city and has little in the way of historical sites, but is a great base for trips to the mountains, Issyk Kul lake and trekking to the south. Bishkek is, however, an interesting example of a planned city; laid on a grid with wide boulevards flanked by irrigation canals and large trees, buildings with marble facades, and Soviet-style apartment complexes. Many young travelers find Bishkek's nightlife a delight and the people are friendly and very hospitable. Bishkek is a city of largely young people that hang out in parks or small cafes.
Bishkek's Manas International Airport (IATA: FRU)  is a forty minute drive from the city center. Most of the international flights depart and arrive at very early hours of the morning.
You can connect to many cities of the world with daily flights on Aeroflot to Moscow's Sheremyetevo Airport and on Turkish Airlines to Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. Aeroflot now uses new Airbus 320 aircraft (instead of the older and slightly cramped Tu-154) making the five-hour flight much more comfortable. Additional flights operate during the summer months. bmi flies four days a week from London Heathrow with a fuel stop in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It is nearly an 11-hour flight, and you are not allowed to leave the plane during the fuel stop. Iran Aseman Airlines flies weekly to Mashad, Iran.
You can find additional flights on local carriers to the following cities:
There are also occasional charter flights to Seoul, New Delhi, Sharjah, and Kabul.
Kyrgyzstan Airlines operates flights to the following domestic locations:
Beware that Kyrgyz airlines do not operate sufficiently on western standards, and all of them are banned from flying over or to the European Union. As there is no state of the art landing system, fog disrupts flights. Be prepared for longer delays in winter.
Residents of the US and most European countries can purchase on arrival a 30-day visa at the airport for US$70. While there are occasional reports of requests for bribes or hassling of passengers, it is very rare. Airport personnel are generally formal and sometimes hospitable. There is an ATM in the basement of the airport, and several small cafes are open around the clock.
Manas International is also home to a US Air Force Base that provides logistics support to the forces in Afghanistan. You can see American fuel tankers and cargo jets sitting alongside old Soviet passenger jets.
Note: There are many aggressive "unofficial" taxi drivers awaiting all incoming flights. The normal rate charged by the major taxi companies to the city center is 350 soms (~$9-10), so you should attempt to bargain for a similar rate if you choose to take one of these taxis. Be very cautious with "unofficial" taxis, there have been robberies.
There is a twice-weekly train service to and from Moscow, called the "Kirgizia" with two days operated by the Kyrgyz railways, and the other two by the Russian railways. The train has 2- and 4-berth sleepers and a restaurant car.
In addition, there is a service that goes to and from Balykchy on the western edge of the Issyk-Kul lake. Although slow and with minimal accommodation, it is one of the most scenic rail trips in Eurasia, sneaking through a thin mountainous alpine pass to the lake.
Bishkek is approximately a 3-1/2 hour drive from Almaty, Kazakhstan along a relatively good highway. There are also additional long distance road connections to Taraz, Kazakhstan (leading to Shymkent & Tashkent, Uzbekistan).
You can also share or rent an entire taxi from Almaty. Both KLM and Lufthansa offer bus service from the Almaty airport to Bishkek and back again so travelers can meet their early morning flights. The normal price for a seat in a shared taxi is approximately 500 som.
Shared taxis go to Bishkek as they fill up from Osh all day long. A seat will cost between 700 and 1000 som. It is also possible to buy a seat from a truck for about 500. The truck leave the bazar in Osh daily at 15:00.
Truly adventuresome travelers may want to attempt to get to Bishkek via the Chinese/Kyrgyz frontier crossing over the Torugart Pass. The pass connects Kashgar via an important route that runs along what was once the ancient Silk Road, linking Western China with the heart of Central Asia. The pass tops off at a height of 3,752 meters and is known as one of the most frustrating passes in Central Asia, as both sides can be closed for holidays, early snowfall, or just for seemingly random reasons. Only attempt this route if you have time and your patience can handle it. You will need a special permit to cross the border at Torugart. For easier crossing from China, go first to Osh through the Irkeshtam Pass.
There are several options for transportation in Bishkek. Generally tourists use the local taxi services which can be reached through several numbers: 150 Euro (Evro) Taxi, 152 Super Taxi , 156 Express Taxi and 188 Salam Taxi, Before 10PM most runs in the city are 75 som and after 100 and 200 som.
There are hundreds of mini-buses (marshrutkas) that ply all parts of the city. They generally cost 5 som for inner-city routes and 7-10 som for longer routes. Ask a local which mini-bus number you should take or buy a map of mini-bus routes at tourist venues. Major stops are near the Tsum department store and Philharmonia. There is also an aging system of electric trolleybuses that run along the major streets for 5 som per trip.
Bishkek is a cheap place to learn Russian (or Kyrgyz). A private 1 1/2 hour lesson with a native Russian speaker should cost between $5-7. Courses are also available at the American University of Central Asia  and the Kyrgyz-Russian-Slavic University.
There is also a private school that caters to individual learning: The London School in Bishkek . This school offers Russian and Kyrgyz to anyone at anytime of the year for as little as 120 soms/hr. During the warmer months they are often full so book in advance.
A number of international organizations have offices in Bishkek, however most employees are recruited from abroad. If you speak Russian, there might be occasional opportunities to find temporary or long-term work. There are also a number of English language schools that will employ native English speakers.
If you want to fit in with the locals, be sure to get one of the stylish Kyrgyz felt hats (kalpaks) worn mainly by men. You can also get textiles such as traditional patterned carpets (shyrdaks), which are well-made but can be expensive. For cheap souvenirs, avoid the Tsum department store and head directly for the Osh Bazaar. You may have to dig around the stalls as there isn't as much variety or quality as in Tsum, but the prices can be far cheaper if you put your bargaining skills to the test.
A typical Kyrgyz meal will feature starchy foods like bread, rice, and potatoes, usually centered around some sort of meat, usually lamb, mutton or beef or even sometimes horse meat. Some of the more popular staples are "plov", a Central Asian dish consisting of a bed of rice cooked in oil, topped with lamb or mutton, shredded carrots, and occasionally whole garlic cloves. Shashlyk, a marinated and grilled lamb, mutton or beef kebab, is popular all over the former Soviet Union and is typically eaten with bread, raw onion slices, a voluminous amount of vodka. Samsas, much like the Indian samosa, are available at roadside stands across the city. Usually these are cooked in a tandoor oven as a puff-baked pastry and filled with onions, mutton and mutton fat.
The national dish of Kyrgyzstan is called besh barmak (literally: five fingers, because the dish is eaten with one's hands). It usually consists of horse meat, although sometimes mutton or beef is substituted in, that has been boiled and served mixed with homemade noodles. A sheep's head is usually served along side it. If you can land an invitation to a wedding in Bishkek, you'll most likely get a chance to eat besh barmak, although you can also find it are traditional restaurants.
Russian dishes are also fairly ubiquitous in Bishkek because of the large number of ethnic Russians who still live in the city. There are a also growing number of restaurants and cafes catering to more varied tastes.
There are hundreds of stands that sell "gamburgers", a local adaptation to the American hamburger but really share little in common. They are sliced döner kebab-style meat served on a bun with cole-slaw, cucumber, mayonnaise, ketchup, and some fries. They usually cost around 20 som. One of the most popular gamburger stands in Bishkek is at the corner of Sovietskaya and Kievskaya, across the street from the main post office. It's a popular area for local students to pick up a cheap meal and they even serve the rare chicken hamburger.
Throughout the city are a lot of street-side vendors selling samsis, which is a staple of most locals' lunch. You can usually find a row of shashlyk grills inside any bazaar or just outside any chaykhana (teahouse).
For some pre-independence nostalgia, try the cafeterias of government ministries and universities. For about a dollar you can experience what it was (and still is) like to eat Soviet-style cafeteria food.
For young and single people, Bishkek's nightlife is impressive. Foreigners are welcomed at most venues with open arms, and many times they do not need to pay a cover charge. See the "Stay Safe" section for more on how be aware while you're having fun in Bishkek.
While relatively safe compared to many major Asian cities, one should use caution after hours in Bishkek. It is highly recommended against taking an unaccompanied stroll after dusk and you definitely avoid parks at night.
Nightclubs and their surrounding areas can be a hotbed for crime in the form of theft, prostitution, or even assault by people waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting traveler or expat. Ask locals or hotel staff which areas are safer than other and take precautions if you plan on club hopping. Do NOT walk from nightclub to nightclub at night; instead spend the 100 som ($2.50) on a taxi. Potential muggers have been known to wait outside bars and clubs (especially the ones frequented by ex-pats), follow drunk ex-pats, and then rob them. Keep a cool head and be aware of your surroundings when hanging out inside and outside of nightclubs. Most clubs have numerous buff, semi-professional security guards, but you should be vigilant nonetheless. Do not leave any belongings on the table while you go to dance. Be careful around the taxi area outside the club; occasionally, unsavory characters pick this location to mug drunk foreigners as they leave the club late at night. You might not get much help from club security when it comes to theft.
Bishkek has a large number of prostitutes and sexual-transmitted diseases are on the rise in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. Always take proper precautions if you plan on being sexually active.
If you are a victim of a crime, you are probably best served by reporting the incident to your embassy, rather than to the militsya (police). Sometimes militsya will approach foreigners and ask them for documents, such as your passport. It's best to keep a photocopy of your passport and leave the original at your hotel if you can. On the rare occasion they try to fine you for having "the wrong visa", you are most likely just being set up for a shake down. Be polite, but firm, in your refusal and insist that you be put in touch with your embassy first.
Irrigation ditches and other holes in the ground can seriously injure the unaware person - especially when walking at night. Many streets are poorly lit or not lit at all, and it is easy to fall into them. Avoid manhole covers, grates, and similar fixtures - they are frequently loose and may also cause you to fall (or they may be missing altogether)!
For some, Bishkek is a little like Eastern Europe 20 years ago; more or less like a museum relic of the Soviet Union. For others, this historical quality may make it seem more like a poor city with little character. Bishkek is not an old city and possesses few, if any, ancient landmarks, aside from those leftover from the Soviet era. For most travelers, it's just a stop on the Silk Road to refresh supplies before the return to the mountains. For many international workers and their visiting guests, however, it is home. If you come with modest expectations, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised!
Thirty minutes outside of Bishkek the 13,000 foot (4,000) meter "foothills" of the Tian Shan range (Celestial Mountains).
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[[File:|thumb|Bishkek city]] Bishkek (Бишкек) is the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. It has a population of 900,000 (2005). Originally founded in 1878 as the Russian fortress of Pishpek (Пишпек), between 1926 and 1991 it was known as Frunze (Фрунзе), after the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze. In Kyrgyz, a Bishkek is a churn used to make stirred horse milk (kumis), the Kyrgyz national drink.