What You Need To Know
Bishkek, formerly Pishpek and Frunze, is the capital and largest city of the Kyrgyz Republic. Bishkek is also the administrative center of the Chuy Region. The province surrounds the city, although the city itself is not part of the province, but rather a province-level unit of Kyrgyzstan. According to post-Soviet research, 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, although not all sources agree on this. The city was founded in 1825 as the Khokand fortress of “Pishpek” in order to control local caravan routes and to collect tribute from Kyrgyz tribes. On 4 September 1860, the fortress was destroyed by Russian forces led by colonel Zimmermann, with the approval of the Kyrgyz. In 1868 a Russian settlement was founded on the fortress’s spot, under its original name, Pishpek. It lay within the General Governorship of Russian Turkestan and its Semirechye Oblast. In 1925, the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast was created in Russian Turkestan, promoting Pishpek to its capital. In 1926, the city was given the name Frunze, after the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze, who was born there. In 1936, the city of Frunze became the capital of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic, during the final stages of the national delimitation in the Soviet Union. In 1991, the Kyrgyz parliament changed the capital’s name to Bishkek. Bishkek is situated at an altitude of about 800 meters (2,600 ft), just off the northern fringe of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tian Shan mountain range. These mountains rise to a height of 4,855 meters (15,928 ft) and provide 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 line. Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards. Mostly outside the city center, there are also 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 that provide shade in the hot summers.
Area: 127 km²
Population: Estimate 944,300 Visit Citypopulation for More.
Tajikistani somoni is the official currencey.
Emissions of air pollutants in Bishkek amounted to 14,400 tons in 2010. Among all cities in Kyrgyzstan, the level of air pollution in Bishkek is the highest, occasionally exceeding maximum allowable concentrations by several times, especially in the city center. For example, concentrations of formaldehyde occasionally exceed maximum allowable limits by a factor of four. Responsibility for ambient air quality monitoring in Bishkek lies with the Kyrgyz State Agency of Hydrometeorology. There are seven air quality monitoring stations in Bishkek, measuring levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde, and ammonia.
Bishkek uses the Kyrgyzstan currency, the som. The som’s value fluctuates regularly, but averaged around 61 som per U.S. dollar as of February 2015. The economy in Bishkek is primarily agricultural, and agricultural products are sometimes bartered in the outlying regions. The streets of Bishkek are regularly lined with produce vendors in a market style venue. In most of the downtown area there is a more urban cityscape with banks, stores, markets and malls. Sought after goods include hand-crafted artisan pieces, such as 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, after 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, who was dismissed by the interim government after 7 April 2010. From April 2010 to February 2011 Isa Omurkulov, also a former head of the Kyrgyz Railways, was an interim mayor, and from 4 February 2011 to 14 December 2013 he was re-elected the mayor of Bishkek. Kubanychbek Kulmatov was nominated for election by parliamentary group of Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan in city kenesh, and he was elected as a new mayor on 15 January 2014, and stepped down on 9 February 2016 The new major Albek Sabirbekovich Ibraimov was also nominated for election by parliamentary group of Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan in city kenesh, and he was elected by Bishkek City Kenesh on 27 February 2016.
As with many cities in Post-Soviet states, housing in Bishkek has undergone extensive changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union. While housing was formerly distributed to citizens in the Soviet-era, housing in Bishkek has since become privatized. Though single family houses are slowly becoming more popular, the majority of the residents live in Soviet-era apartments. Despite the Kyrgyz economy experiencing growth, increases in available housing has been slow with very little new construction. As a result of this growing prosperity and the lack of new formal housing, prices has been rising significantly – doubling from 2001 to 2002. Those unable to afford the high price of housing within Bishkek, notably internal migrants from rural villages and small provincial towns often have to resort to informal squatter settlements on the outskirts of the city. These settlements are estimated to house 400,000 people or about 30 percent of Bishkek’s population. While many of the settlements have lacked basic necessities such as electricity and running water, recently there has been a push by the local government to provide these services.
In popular culture
In the video game Command & Conquer: Generals, GLA forces held this city, capital of a unified Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. They reinforced their forces by railways connected to other areas and locals enraged at the Chinese presence in the area. Black Lotus and her strike team had to destroy the bridge and a sports stadium before they were overrun. Due to the nature of the mission, a covert operation, they were reduced to minimal strength.
In the post-Soviet era, Kyrgyzstan’s health system has suffered increasing shortages of health professionals and medicine. Kyrgyzstan must import nearly all its pharmaceuticals. The increasing role of private health services has supplemented the deteriorating state-supported system. In the early 2000s, public expenditures on health care decreased as a percentage of total expenditures, and the ratio of population to number of doctors increased substantially, from 296 per doctor in 1996 to 355 per doctor in 2001. A national primary-care health system, the Manas Program, was adopted in 1996 to restructure the Soviet system that Kyrgyzstan inherited. The number of people participating in this program has expanded gradually, and province-level family medicine training centers now retrain medical personnel. A mandatory medical insurance fund was established in 1997.
Mass public transport
Public transportation includes buses, electric trolley buses, and public vans (known in Russian as marshrutka). The first bus and trolley bus services in Bishkek were introduced in 1934 and 1951, respectively. Taxi cabs can be found throughout the city. There is no subway in Bishkek, but the city is considering designing and building a light rail system (Russian: Бишкекское лёгкое метро).
Commuter and long-distance buses
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 number 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). For example, 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.
The city is served by Manas International Airport (IATA code FRU), located approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of the city centre, and readily reachable by taxi. In 2002, the United States obtained the right to use 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 dry summer continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dsa). Average precipitation is around 440 millimetres (17 in) per year. Average daily high temperatures range from 3 °C (37.4 °F) in January to about 31 °C (87.8 °F) during July. The summer months are dominated by dry periods, punctuated by the occasional thunderstorm, which produces strong gusty winds and rare dust storms. The mountains to the south provide a natural boundary and protection from much of the damaging weather, as does the smaller mountain chain which runs north-west to south-east. In the winter months, sparse snow storms and frequent heavy fog are the dominating features. There are sometimes temperature inversions, during which the fog can last for days at a time.